Friday, June 29

Friday Quick Hits

Five U.S. soldiers were killed when a "very large" roadside bomb exploded near their combat patrol in southern Baghdad, a U.S. general said Friday.

A combination of small-arms fire and rocket-propelled grenades followed the blast Thursday, said Army Maj. Gen. Joseph F. Fil Jr., who described the attack as "showing a level of sophistication that we have not often seen so far" during the period of the so-called "surge" in U.S. forces.

Fil said four soldiers were killed initially. Seven others were wounded, he said, and one of those later died.

The New York Times has a new poll out. Here's a clue, it wouldn't be in this blog if it wasn't saying something I would not agree with.

What Women See in Hillary (or not)
from the Nation via Zogby

"I love [Hillary Clinton] so completely that, honestly, she would have to burn down the White House before I would say anything bad about her!" exclaimed Nora Ephron in a 1993 Newsday interview. Three years later, she told the Wellesley class of 1996, "Understand: Every attack on Hillary Clinton for not knowing her place is an attack on you." Come late 2006, however, Ephron was the one on the attack as one of the self-described "Hillary resisters" -- those who believe that "she will do anything to win, who believe she doesn't really take a position unless it's completely safe," as she wrote on her Huffington Post blog, "who believe she has taken the concept of triangulation and pushed it to a geometric level never achieved by anyone including her own husband, who can't stand her position on the war, who don't trust her as far as you can spit."

Hey Guantanamo Detainees, The Court's in Your Favor
The Supreme Court said today that it would review the rights of Guantanamo Bay detainees to challenge their confinements in federal court, reversing a decision in April not to take up that issue.

A Syria-ous Charge
President George W. Bush on Friday banned Syrian and Lebanese officials whom Washington accuses of undermining the Lebanese government from entering the United States, the White House said.

Free Air Better Than Fair Air?
The House voted Thursday to bar the Federal Communications Commission from reinstating the broadcast “fairness doctrine” even though there are no legislative or regulatory proposals to bring back the rule. The bill which was adopted, 309-115, puts the House on record as favoring “freedom on the public airwaves.” This is great news for Rush, Sean, Ann, and less good news for equal press. With consolidation of the airwaves, this points to the need for community radio.

Veggie Booty Might Make You a Sicko
Food poisoning isn't progressive so be aware a recall is underway for snack food Veggie Booty which may have a type of salmonella in it.

Bush "Putin" on the Ritz in Kennebunkport This Weekend For Russian Leader
Caviar from the Caspian Sea will be flown in to the land of lobster as what might be the final meeting between Presidents Bush and Vladimir Putin gets underway in Kennebunkport, Maine.

Dems Challenge Invocation of Executive Privilege
In a letter to White House counsel Fred Fielding, the heads of the Senate and House Judiciary committees demanded an explanation in 10 days of why the White House claimed executive privilege on subpoenaed documents and vowed to invoke "the full force of law."

Homeland's Chertoff: He Don't Like, He Don't Like, He Don't Like--Propane
A long way to go for a pun, but Charles Grassley and Tom Harkin saw problems with new propane regulations proposed by the Department of Homeland Security. The proposal would list propane as a chemical of interest when kept in quantities greater than 7,500 pounds, forcing a costly risk assessment.

No "Sicko" in Johnson County This Week

If you have been eagerly awaiting the release of Michael Moore's SICKO in Johnson County, you'll have to keep waiting or travel to Davenport to the Showcase Cinema on 53rd St. or to Des Moines to the Fleur Cinema. It opens on 441 screens across the nation and only two of them are in Iowa.

As a shop local kind of guy, I will be glad to wait for it and enjoy jazz this weekend.

I've sent an e-mail to Marcus Theatres and will post their response (for the record, Marcus is showing Sicko in only one of their 67 theaters in Illinois, Iowa, North Dakota, Minnesota, Ohio, and Wisconsin this week--so if you happen to be in Madison, WI this weekend, you can also check it out there.

Update: From Marcus Theaters

Thank you for your inquiry. Initially the film Sicko was scheduled to open
in most of our locations starting on June 29th. Unfortunately, Lion's Gate
has decided to scale back on the number of release locations and at this
point we have only been granted one print to play specifically for Madison
at the Eastgate cinemas. We are actively seeking additional placements for
the following weeks. Please keep watching for
additional locations to be added.

Thank you,
Angie Kadis
Guest Services

If You Ever Need Something to Do...

Mona Shaw over at the School of Moral Courage does a wonderful job of keeping the community informed on progressive events in Johnson County and beyond. check out the calendar.

Thursday, June 28

Clinton and Dodd in Johnson County

Ready for Change, Ready to Lead Tour with Bill Clinton
University of Iowa, Memorial Union
Iowa City
July 3, 1:00 PM

River-to-River Bus Tour
St. Morrison Park, 1551 7th Street
July 4, 5:00 PM

Expect Sensible Iowans to be bird-dogging these events.

Tom Harkin Speaks about Guantanamo Bill, the "Cheney" Branch, and more...

Tom Harkin "gets it"...


As of yesterday, at least 3,568 members of the U.S. military have died since the beginning of the Iraq war in March 2003, according to an Associated Press count. The figure includes seven military civilians.

Pay Raise of $4,400 = $30 per Troop Death

The 2.5 % pay raise of $4,400 that Congress is accepting catches my ire because of two things. Last year, Dems said they would not accept a pay-raise until the minimum wage was increased--it was-- on the back of continuing the Iraq War (recall that the minimum wage hike was melded into the supplemental war bill).

So, instead of the Dems saying we will not accept a raise until we withdraw the troops from Iraq, they and their Republican counterparts are accepting the "automatic" pay hike. With about 160 troop deaths since the approval of the supplemetal, is it okay for Congress to get an extra $30 per death?

I don't think any legislator should feel good about accepting a raise since they have not done what many of us sent them there to do--to end this war.

Wednesday, June 27

Questions for the Candidates

Questions to candidates that I'd like to hear on the campaign trail:

What are you doing as a candidate to improve the discourse on "hot button" issues such as immigration, the war, global climate change, same-sex marriage, etc.? What tactics would you decline to use against a political foe?

Don't you think Americans have the ability to process information beyond your last sound bite? (Followed up with why or why not?)

How to you feel bringing your (wife, husband, kids) around the country with you helps people to decide if you are qualified to be president?

Tell us about the worst day in your political life and how you overcame it?

If you had the opportunity to assassinate another country's leader whose policies we disagree with, would you and why or why not?

If you knew that a member of your family would be treated the same way that prisoners of war are treated under rendition or under as enemy combatants, would you support the policy?

What steps will you take to bring our country together to address issues that are potentially divisive such as immigration policy, social security, national health care, etc.?

What countries do you believe pose a threat to the United States and how would you handle that threat?

If you could only accomplish one thing as president, what agenda item would you choose to work on?

Do you believe that the amount of money that is required to run for president artificially limits our choices or do you believe it is simply the free market working as it should?

Tell us about a big idea you have that you haven't raised prior to now that suggests that you have the ability to think creatively about a concern that Americans care about?

If you are named the party candidate, name three people that you would consider as your top-tier vice-presidential candidates, your secretary of state, and your secretary of defense?

What advice would you give to young men and women about whether or not politics is a worthwhile endeavor to dedicate your life toward?

Has there ever been an issue you have supported that you later changed your mind about and why?

There is a likelihood that during your administration that our nation will be in a position to go to war. Under what circumstances would you be willing to sacrifice the lives of our sons and daughters?

Even with the debate about Global Warming/Global Climate Change, isn't it in the best interests of the nations of the world to err on the side of caution? If so, what policies would you promote? If not, why?

Poverty continues to be a huge problem in the US and globally. As President, what, if anything, do you feel could be done to raise the poor out of the depths of poverty and, if so, what would you be committed to do?

Do you see the Constitution as a living document--that is it is subject to interpretation and change, or do you see it as fixed? If the former, what would you change about it? If the latter, what laws might you work to rescind?

What is the role of government in today's society and what is the current role of the executive branch vis a vis the other two branches?

The US has more people in prison than any other nation on earth, why is this necessary?

What would you do to make or how can we help make the world more peaceful than it is today?

Can you foresee a time that we will not depend on oil to continue to prosper?

Moore and Peace

This from the Washington Post

Filmmaker Michael Moore on Tuesday launched into the final days before the U.S. debut of his movie "SiCKO" with two things that might surprise his detractors: a call for compassion for others and well wishes for President George W. Bush.

Moore is the director behind 2004's anti-Bush documentary, "Fahrenheit 9/11," and he is back on the attack with this Friday's release of "SiCKO," which aims to expose weaknesses in U.S. health care.

At a rally on Tuesday on the steps of Los Angeles' City Hall, the fiery filmmaker recalled his grandfather as a doctor who "wanted to help people, not make a buck."

Moore remembered nuns who schooled him as a boy and taught "the most important lesson, which is we will be judged by how we treat the least among us."

After his speech, a reporter asked if he had one thing to say to President Bush, what it might be. Moore replied in a soft voice: "I would wish him well, and ask him to please bring the troops (in Iraq) home."

US: Land of the Free--Not As Much As You'd Think

The number of people in US prisons is over 2.2 million--this is more than the populations of Rhode Island and Maine put together (and less than Iowa with a 2006 population of 2.9 million). We also have more prisoners than any other country in the world.

The Justice Department reported on Wednesday that the nation's prison and jail populations increased by more than 62,000 inmates, or 2.8 percent, to about 2,245,000 inmates in the 12-month period that ended on June 30, 2006. It was the biggest jump in numbers and percentage change in six years.

According to the International Centre for Prison Studies at King's College in London, the United States has long had the world's largest prison population, followed by China at 1.5 million and Russia at 885,670.

Criminal justice experts have attributed the record U.S. prison population to tough sentencing laws, record numbers of drug offenders and high crimes rates. It failed to mention the incarcerations of people for political reasons here and elsewhere.

Tuesday, June 26

Elizabeth Edwards Tries to Have a Civil Discussion with Ann Coulter

Elizabeth Edwards addresses Ann Coulter as respectfully as a person reasonably can.

I think this speaks volume. And this.

According to an Edwards campaign aide, Elizabeth Edwards wanted to call into the show when she heard that Coulter would be taking questions, and she called a Hardball producer to get the phone number needed to dial into the show. The result is the exchange below:

Chris Matthews: You know who's on the line? Somebody to respond to what you said Edwards yesterday morning -- Elizabeth Edwards. She wanted to call in today we said she could. Elizabeth Edwards go on the line you're on the line with Ann Coulter

Elizabeth Edwards: Hello, Chris.

CM: You wanna say something directly to the person who's with me?

EE: I'm calling you … in the south when we -- when someone does something that displeases us, we wanna ask them politely to stop doing it. Uh - I'd like to ask Ann Coulter -- if she wants to debate on issues, on positions -- we certainly disagree with nearly everything she said on your show today -- um but uh it's quite another matter for these personal attacks that the things she has said over the years not just about John but about other candidates -- it lowers our political dialogue precisely at the time that we need to raise it. So I want to use the opportunity … to ask her politely stop the personal attacks.

Ann Coulter: OK, so I made a joke -- let's see six months ago -- and as you point out they've been raising money off of it for six months since then.

CM: This is yesterday morning, what you said about him.

AC: I didn't say anything about him actually either time.

EE: Ann, you know that's not true. And once more its been going on for sometime.

AC: I don't mind you trying to raise money. I mean it's better this than giving $50,000 speeches to the poor.

EE: I'm asking you

AC: Just to use my name on the Web pages…

EE: I'm asking you politely…

AC: … but as for a debate with me, um yeah, sure. Yeah, we'll have a debate

EE: I'm asking you politely to stop personal attacks.

AC: How bout you stop raising money on the Web page then?

EE: It didn't start it did not

AC: No you don't have cause I don't mind

EE: It did not start with that you had a column a number of years ago

AC: OK, great the wife of a presidential candidate is calling in asking me to stop speaking

CM: Let her finish the point...

AC: You're asking me to stop speaking stop writing your columns, stop writing your books.

CM: OK, Ann. Please.


EE: You wrote a column a couple years ago which made fun of the moment of Charlie Dean's death, and suggested that my husband had a bumper sticker on the back of his car that said ask me about my dead son. This is not legitimate political dialogue.

AC: That's now three years ago

EE: It debases political dialogue. It drives people away from the process. We can't have a debate about issues if you're using this kind of language.

AC: Yeah why isn't John Edwards making this call?

CM: Well do you want to respond and we'll end this conversation?

EE: I haven't talked to John about his call.

AC: This is just another attempt for –

EE: I'm making this call as a mother. I'm the mother of that boy who died. My children participate -- these young people behind you are the age of my children. You're asking them to participate in a dialogue that's based on hatefulness and ugliness instead of on the issues and I don't think that's serving them or this country very well.


CM: Thank you very much Elizabeth Edwards. Do you want to -- you have all the time in the world to respond.

AC: I think we heard all we need to hear. The wife of a presidential candidate is asking me to stop speaking. No.

Why Ann Coulter is One Sick Pup-ette

How about this statement about John Edwards?

Monday, June 25

Fire Fighters Douse Speeches & Bill/Hill in Iowa City

No speeches will be made by the presidential candidates at the IIAFF meeting tomorrow or Wednesday--says Mike Glover and local insider.

The International Association of Firefighters announced it would reschedule the forum after Labor Day to ensure candidates didn't miss voting on the bill, which would allow changes in the way workers vote on union membership.

Iowa City insider (ICI) says to look for Hillary and Bill Clinton on July 3rd--ICI didn't know whether a saxophone would be involved.

Joe Biden Wants You to Know "Iowa's Important" and Other YouTube

You bet Iowa is important

And this is Why...

(Doesn't hurt that it is Dar Williams providing the soundtrack--she's got the "Iowa" thing down.

Elizabeth Edwards Splits With Husband...On GM

Elizabeth Edwards, wife of Democratic presidential hopeful John Edwards, kicked off San Francisco's annual gay pride parade Sunday by splitting with her husband over support for legalized gay marriage.

"I don't know why someone else's marriage has anything to do with me," Mrs. Edwards said at a news conference before the parade started. "I'm completely comfortable with gay marriage."

She made the remark almost offhandedly in answering a question from reporters after she delivered a standard campaign stump speech during a breakfast hosted by the Alice B. Toklas Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender Democratic Club, an influential San Francisco political organization. California's presidential primary is Feb. 5, one of the earliest contests in the nation.

She conceded her support puts her at odds with her husband, a former senator from North Carolina who she said supports civil unions among gay couples --but not same-sex marriages.

"John has been pretty clear about it, that he is very conflicted," she said. "He has a deeply held belief against any form of discrimination, but that's up against his being raised in the 1950s in a rural southern town."

Richardson at Iowa City Public Library Tomorrow

For all of you non-fire fighters, Governor Bill Richardson will be meeting with Johnson County residents this Tuesday!

Come and interview Governor Richardson for the job!
Time: 10:30 AM - 11:30 AM
Location: Iowa City Public Library - Meeting Room A

123 S Linn Street, Iowa City, Iowa
Event is free and open to the public.
To RSVP or for more information, contact:
Katie McCoid - 319.390.3277 or
Alex Ingham - 641.781.9056 or

Has US ICE Gone Completely Mad?

This is an example of what is wrong in our country. The short story, a 40 woman who was brought to the US when she was less than a year-old is facing deportation charges because she voted. Read on...From the BBC and the AP

Zoila Meyer, 40, was investigated by immigration officials acting on a tip-off after she won election to the city council of Adelanto in 2004.

Ms Meyer, originally from Cuba, quit after 10 weeks in office and applied to become a naturalized citizen.

But this month, she was arrested after investigators turned up at her home.

The mother-of-four had pleaded guilty in April last year to illegally voting in the election three years ago as a non-US citizen.

She was placed on probation and fined after admitting a misdemeanour charge of fraudulent voting.

But on 18 June, immigration officials showed up at her home and told her to go to their San Bernardino office, where she was handcuffed and arrested.

"I'm scared," she told the Associated Press. "How can they just pluck me out of my family, my kids?

"If they can do this to me, they can do it to anybody."

Meyer was bailed and is due to appear on 18 July before an immigration judge, who will decide whether she should be deported to Canada, the last point of entry into the US on her record.

Ms Meyer currently lives in the San Bernardino County desert town of Apple Valley, where she has been studying for degrees to work in the justice system as a forensic nurse.

Lori Haley, a spokeswoman for US Immigration and Customs Enforcement, said: "People are arrested on immigration charges from all walks of life.

"She can plead her case before an immigration judge, if she feels that she has reason to seek release for removal."

From the AP

All of her life, Zoila Meyer believed she was an American. She even won election to the City Council of Adelanto.

But now she is facing a threat of deportation for illegally voting, because she never became a citizen after being brought to this country from Cuba when she was a year old.

On June 18, Meyer said, immigration officials showed up at her home and told her to appear at their San Bernardino office.

Her husband drove her to the office Tuesday, “and they handcuffed me,” Meyer said. “They put me in jail and they frisked me and processed me.”

“I said ‘You’re doing this because I voted?” ’

Meyer was released pending a July 18 appearance before an immigration judge who will determine whether she will be deported to Canada, the last point of entry into the U.S. recorded in her immigration record.

Meyer said she and her parents had visited Canada and she had gone many times to Mexico without anyone ever asking her to prove her citizenship.

Meyer said she does not support illegal immigration but she thinks immigration procedures should be changed to prevent misunderstandings.

“It makes me feel like we’re all just numbers,” she said of her case. “I see people writing ‘this is my country.’ It really isn’t. It belongs to the government and they decide who stays and who goes. ... You think you’re free; you’re really not.”

Sunday, June 24

31 US Troops Killed Last Week

31 US troops were killed last week in Iraq with 12 occurring on Saturday mostly from roadside bombings.

Screening of Sicko with Health Care Lobbyists

Next week "Sicko" opens in theaters everywhere. Michael Moore sent 900 invitations to a screening for lobbyists, 11 showed up. This is worth a watch.

Candidates to Appear in Iowa City

Thanks to the Iowa Chapter of the International Association of Fire Fighters meeting in Iowa City, there will be a plethora of candidates stopping in this week at the Sheraton on Tuesday and Wednesday. Below is the schedule with links to the IAFF Presidential Forum statements made by each candidate on March 14th.

On Tuesday 6/26:

• 8 a.m, U.S. Sen. Chris Dodd (D-Conn.)
• 9:30 a.m, U.S. Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-N.Y.)
• 11:30 a.m, Gov. Bill Richardson (D-N.M.)
• 2:30 p.m, U.S. Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.)
• 8 p.m, Delaware Attorney General Beau Biden (Speaking for Sen. Joe Biden)

On Wednesday 6/27:

• 9:15 a.m, Former U.S. Sen. John Edwards (D-N.C.)

Saturday, June 23

Is It All About the Benjamins in Closing Down North Korea's Reactor?

CNN reports "Pyongyang and Washington have agreed on a three-week timeframe for shutting down the North's plutonium-producing reactor, a top U.S. nuclear envoy said Saturday after returning from a rare visit to the reclusive state.

Christopher Hill -- the chief U.S. negotiator at international talks on North Korea's nuclear programs -- said they were looking at a three-week timeframe for shutting down the Yongbyon reactor, when asked by reporters on his arrival at Tokyo's Haneda Airport."

At the root of negotiations have been frozen North Korean assets that were slow to transfer from a bank in Macau to one in Russia and UN energy aid funds for closing down the reactor.

"North Korea had made the money's release a main condition for its disarmament, and used the financial dispute as a reason to stay away from six-party nuclear talks -- involving the two Koreas, China, Japan, Russia and the U.S. -- for more than a year, during which it conducted its first nuclear test explosion, in October.

North Korea is to ultimately get aid worth 1 million tons of heavy fuel oil and other political concessions when it disables the reactor."

Hear What Scott Ritter Has to Say in "Waging Peace"

Despite identifying himself as a Republican and having voted for George W. Bush in 2000, by 2002 Scott Ritter had become an outspoken critic of the Bush administration’s claims that Iraq possessed significant WMD stocks or manufacturing capabilities, the primary rationale given for the US invasion of Iraq in March of 2003. Checkout this video about his concerns about the peace movement and his new book "Waging Peace". While Ritter can hardly be called a "progressive", his message definitely is a populist one.

Friday, June 22

Is John Edwards in Demand in Iowa City?

John Edwards announced a new "Demand and Be Heard" competition hoping to bring more of his supporters to the website

Edwards is the first candidate to sponsor a competition in which he promises to appear in the city where he is most in demand. In a YouTube video he posted advertising the contest, Edwards promised to answer "at least 10 questions" from those who request him.

Today the residents of Los Angeles are in the lead to see the former senator from North Carolina. Though Edwards remains behind Democrats Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, his popularity on the site has slowly risen since mid-April, and now he has been requested by 4,100 users, according to a chart produced by, a site devoted to monitoring presidential candidates' online campaigns.

What Edwards said about the War in Tama.

CIA...The Good Old Days

The BBC reports

The US Central Intelligence Agency is to declassify hundreds of documents detailing some of the agency's worst illegal abuses from the 1950s to 1970s.

The papers, to be released next week, will detail assassination plots, domestic spying and wiretapping, kidnapping and human experiments.

Many of the incidents are already known, but the documents are expected to give more comprehensive accounts.

It is "unflattering" but part of agency history, CIA chief Michael Hayden said.

"This is about telling the American people what we have done in their name," Gen Hayden told a conference of foreign policy historians.

The documents, dubbed the "Family Jewels", offer a "glimpse of a very different time and a very different agency".

The full 693-page file detailing CIA illegal activities was compiled on the orders of the then CIA director James Schlesinger in 1973.

He had been alarmed by accounts of CIA involvement in the Watergate scandal under his predecessor and asked CIA officials to inform him of all activities that fell outside the agency's legal charter.


Ahead of the documents' release by the CIA, the National Security Archive, an independent research body, on Thursday published related papers it had obtained.

These detail government discussions in 1975 of the CIA abuses and briefings by Mr Schlesinger's successor at the CIA, William Colby, who said the CIA had "done some things it shouldn't have".

Among the incidents that were said to "present legal questions" were:

* the confinement of a Soviet defector in the mid-1960s
* assassination plots of foreign leaders, including Cuba's Fidel Castro
* wiretapping and surveillance of journalists
* behaviour modification experiments on "unwitting" US citizens
* surveillance of dissident groups between 1967 and 1971
* opening from 1953 to 1973 of letters to and from the Soviet Union; from 1969 to 1972 of mail to and from China

The papers also convey mounting concern in President Gerald Ford's administration that what were dubbed the CIA's "skeletons" were surfacing in the media.

Henry Kissinger, then both secretary of state and national security adviser, was against Mr Colby's moves to investigate the CIA's past abuses and the fact that agency secrets were being divulged.

Accusations appearing in the media about the CIA were "worse than in the days of McCarthy", Mr Kissinger said.
Story from BBC NEWS:

Published: 2007/06/22 12:50:34 GMT

School of the Americas Still Open For Business

Despite the efforts of the School of the Americas Watch and support from 203 Congresspersons, the vote to not fund the SOA/WHINSEC (H R 2764 RECORDED VOTE 21-Jun-2007 11:52 PM)was 214-203 against thwe McGovern/Lewis Amendment. Our Iowa delegation was split with Democrats Dave Loebsack, Bruce Braley, and Leonard Boswell voting to close the former School of the Americas and Republicans Latham and King voting to keep it open.

I guess it is another victory for "Viva la tormenta!" in Bushland

P.S. 19 representatives didn't even vote--there must be a special place in Hell for folks like that.

Thursday, June 21

For 1/2 the Price of a Football Coach: UI Officially Has a New President

As expected, Purdue Provost Sally Mason has been named the 20th president of the University of Iowa. The Iowa state Board of Regents confirmed Mason this afternoon, after which she gave a brief speech and proceeded to a public reception. Mason will be paid a salary of $450,000.

I hope the UI team has a good year with Coach Mason at the helm.

Change of Date--Greens Offer Movie/Discussion on "The Global Brain"

Film and Discussion - "The Global Brain"
SATURDAY, June 23, 3:30 p.m.
Iowa City public Library, Room D

The Johnson County Greens will sponsor the screening of the film "The Global Brain," followed by a discussion facilitated by John Schumaker, on Sunday, June 24, at 3:30 p.m. in Room D of the Iowa City Public Library.

"The Global Brain" looks at the phenomenon of people throughout the world working in creative ways to improve our lives, resolve societal and political problems and create sustainable and nonviolent ways of living.

Showings of this film are often followed by an audience discussion. John Shumaker, facilitator for Sunday's discussion is a 1979 graduate of the University of Iowa, one of the first graduates in Interdisciplinary Studies ,with a background in Buddhist Studies, cinema, Creative Writing and Peace Studies. He did graduate work at the University of Oregon in Environmental Studies and Native American Oral Literature. He has been active in the Global Nuclear Disarmament movement for 28 years, and has participated in a number of peace marches. He is the author of "E4g Gaia Poems" and his work has been published in many international poetry and essay publications.

He is currently in the process of writing two books and actively partnering in community gardens, eco-villages and sustainable living.

This event is sponsored by the Johnson County Green Party, and is free and open to the public. For more information, lease call 337-7341

Edwards Staff to Give Straight Dope on Gay Issues

-- Pride Month Listening Post with John Edwards Staff --

The John Edwards for President staff in Johnson County are holding a
Pride Month Listening Post at the Iowa City Piano Lounge, 217 Iowa
Ave in Iowa City.

The event will begin at 6pm on Tuesday, June 26.
Light snacks will be provided. This is a good chance to meet some of
the staff in the county as well as to ask questions about LGBT issue

For more information, please contact Craig Leabhart at 338-7268 or
RSVPs are greatly appreciated.

Taser or Torture

Pictures speak louder than words.

Can't We Just Get Along?

So let's see. G-4 talks just failed in Potsdam. NATO is being routed in Afghanistan--Russia and the US are thinking about pointing missiles at each other again. Is it my imagination or are we back to the drawing board in world relations?

The same difficulties we seem to have in Congress apparently are rubbing off in boardrooms and diplomatic quarters. Somewhere anarchists are smiling.

At a time when we are in dire need of cooperation, perhaps for planetary survival, our best negotiators can't seem to find middle ground.

I am not a huge fan of the WTO as it has historically worked, but it has a place with regard to opening up markets and leveling the playing field among nations. True it is not often what happens, but it is a mechanism where it can, if nations were truly cooperated.

With respect to NATO, we are spending many of our resources on a war that should have ended in Iraq and not focusing effort in a place where actual progress was being made--Afghanistan. Why is it that we can't see the forest for the trees?

On the bright side, the US and North Korea are negotiating to turn off North Korea's reactor. If we can succeed there, perhaps we can in Iran.

14 Soldiers Killed in the Last 48 Hours

Fourteen U.S. troops have been killed in attacks over the past two days in Iraq -- 12 soldiers and two Marines -- according to the U.S. military.

In the deadliest attack, a roadside bomb struck a military vehicle on Thursday in northeastern Baghdad, killing five U.S. soldiers, three Iraqi civilians and an Iraqi interpreter.

A U.S. soldier and two civilians were wounded.

Also Thursday, a rocket-propelled grenade struck a U.S. military vehicle in northern Baghdad, killing a soldier and wounding three others.

On Wednesday, a roadside bomb killed two U.S. Task Force Marne troops and wounded four others southwest of Baghdad.

A similar attack in western Baghdad on Wednesday killed four U.S. soldiers and wounded a fifth.
In addition, two Marines were killed in combat operations in Iraq's Anbar province on Wednesday.

With the deaths, 3,545 U.S. military personnel, including seven civilian employees of the Defense Department, have died in the Iraq war -- 68 of them in the month of June.

Chilean Lake Pulls a Houdini

I don't think is directly attributable to global climate change, but it is weird as hell.

From the BBC

Scientists in Chile are investigating the sudden disappearance of a glacial lake in the south of the country.

When park rangers patrolled the area in the Magallanes region in March, the two-hectare (five-acre) lake was its normal size, officials say.

But last month they found a huge dry crater and several stranded chunks of ice that used to float on the water.

One theory is that an earthquake opened up a fissure in the ground, allowing the lake's water to drain through.

"In March we patrolled the area and everything was normal," Juan Jose Romero from Chile's National Forestry Corporation, Conaf, said.

"We went again in May and to our surprise we found that the lake had completely disappeared. All that was left were chunks of ice and an enormous fissure."

Geologists and other experts are being sent to the area, which is some 2,000km (1,250 miles) south of the capital, Santiago, to investigate.

The region is shaken by frequent earth tremors and one idea is that a strong quake which hit the neighbouring region of Aysen in April opened up the fissure in the bottom of the lake.

A glacier specialist, Andres Rivera, told Chilean newspaper La Tercera that the lake's disappearance seemed to be part of the continual reforming of the landscape.

The Magallanes area "has seen interesting changes in the last few decades," he said, noting that the lake itself had not been there 30 years ago.

7/4 BBC Update: Global Climate Change is the culprit

Global warming 'made lake vanish'
Scientists in Chile have blamed climate change for the sudden disappearance of a lake in the south of the country.

Park rangers who patrolled the area in the Magallanes region in March reported that the two-hectare (five-acre) glacial lake was its normal size.

But two months later they found a huge dry crater and stranded chunks of ice that previously floated on the water.

Experts now say melting glaciers put pressure on an ice wall that acted as a dam, causing it to give way.

Water in the lake flowed out of the breach into a nearby fjord and then out to the sea, said Andres Rivera, a glaciologist with Chile's Centre of Scientific Studies.

Melting ice

Mr Rivera flew on Monday in a navy airplane to take hundreds of photographs of the site, which is some 2,000km (1,250 miles) south of the capital, Santiago.

"On one side of the Bernardo glacier one can see a large hole or gap, and we believe that's where the water flowed through," Mr Rivera said in a navy communique.

"This confirms that glaciers in the region are retreating and getting thinner."

He noted that the lake now appears to be filling up again, probably because of the melting of slabs of ice left on the lake bed.

The advance and retreat of glaciers is part of the normal dynamic of the Patagonian region but climate change was distorting the process, Mr Rivera said.

"This would not be happening if the temperature had not increased," he added.
Story from BBC NEWS:

Wednesday, June 20

You Can't Fight City Hall (or in the Bars)

At the end of three rounds, in a unanimous decision, Iowa City councilors said "no" to pugilistic pummeling in local bars. They are practicing the first rule of "Fight Club"--there is no Fight Club--at least in Iowa City.

Iowa City Council has done the right thing in banning "fight nights" from area bars. Drinking and brawling may be a college "rite of passage", but no one wants sweaty, bloody patrons coming between them and their Mojitos.

T n' T: Torture and Tasers

Randi Aho, a Fellow from the Center for Victims of Torture was in town today. The Center is looking for people to help them "bird dog" candidates to find out what their views on torture are (e.g., the ability to send prisoners where torture is condoned) or whether they approve of "enhance interrogation techniques" (EIT) as they are called for the delicate of hearing, code for torture techniques.

- Did you know that the military can not engage in torture, but the CIA can?
- Did you know that EIT that includes organ failure is not considered torture?
- Did you know that the Israelis, who used to allow torture as a legal activity, made it illegal
after it was discovered that it failed to yield better information from those they interrogated?

Here in Iowa City, we are looking at a different type of torture technique called "Tasering". Imagine a electrified barb being shot from 21 feet that would send 50,000 volts of electricity (500 times the electricity in your average electrical socket or 5555 times more jolt than licking a 9 volt battery) into your body and you have a beginning to understanding what a Taser can do.

Our city council is considering (and currently, is unanimously in favor of) allowing our PD to carry Tasers in addition to their service revolvers. The research on the use of Tasers is not huge, but a recent article by the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel showed that Tasers were used some 262 times in the first year they were deployed with the Milwaukee Police Department. There have been numerous deaths by Taser, 156 in 2006 in the US (illegal drug use, mental illness and Tasers don't mix).

According to another report, the rise in deaths accompanies a marked increase in the number of U.S. law enforcement agencies employing devices made by Taser International of Scottsdale, Ariz. About 1,000 of the country’s 18,000 police agencies used Tasers in 2001; more than 7,000 departments had them last year, according to a government study.

Police had used Tasers more than 70,000 times as of last year, Congress’ Government Accountability Office said.

Stem Cell Bill Vetoed Again By Bush

From Yahoo and Delaware online

Vetoing a stem cell bill for the second time, President Bush on Wednesday sought to placate those who disagree with him by signing an executive order urging scientists toward what he termed "ethically responsible"* research in the field.

Bush announced no new federal dollars for stem cell research, which supporters say holds the promise of disease cures, and his order would not allow researchers to do anything they couldn't do under existing restrictions.

Announcing his veto to a roomful of supporters, Bush said, "If this legislation became law, it would compel American taxpayers for the first time in our history to support the deliberate destruction of human embryos. I made it clear to Congress and to the American people that I will not allow our nation to cross this moral line."

He vetoed similar embryonic stem cell legislation last July.

“We think we have 66” of the 67 votes needed to override in the Senate, said Rep. Diana DeGette, a Colorado Democrat. “So we just need one more and then it will go to the House, where we are short but are picking up more” support.

The legislation would allow federal funding for stem-cell research using excess human embryos that were created for fertility treatments and would otherwise be discarded.

Advocates say scientists may be able to replicate human tissue cells taken from discarded human embryos, possibly leading to cures for diseases such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, juvenile diabetes and other ailments. Castle and DeGette are co-chairs of the congressional diabetes caucus.

* I wonder what "ethically responsible enhanced interrogation techniques" means.

Sally Mason to be UI President

The Press-Citizen and Gazette are reporting that the top post at the University of Iowa has been offered to Dr. Sally Mason of Purdue University. Dr. Mason will be the second woman to serve in this position (Current University of Michigan president Mary Sue Coleman was U of I's president from 1995-2002).

Though the Board of Regents at the University of Iowa aren’t expected to vote until Thursday, the board is expected to name Provost Sally Mason as the university’s next president.

The Des Moines Register reported today that sources at Iowa expect Mason to be the board’s top pick.

The regents' first attempt to name a successor failed last November when none of the finalists were judged to have sufficient experience in running a health science center.

Given the long job search and antagonism raised in the search process, I wish Dr. Mason a long stay in Iowa City.

Greenwald Latest: "Don't Ask"

At bravenewfilms

Tuesday, June 19

Nussle Hustles to Washington to be BD

Former House member, Iowa Governor-wannabe, and current Rudolph Guiliani campaign aide, Jim Nussle, was named by George W. Bush to replace Rob Portman as the White House Budget Director. As has been the rule as of late among aides to the WH, Portman is leaving because "I need to be home more. I've got three kids ages 12 to 17."

At the press conference announcing his nomination, Nussle said, "Mr. President, I look forward to the awesome responsibility you've placed upon me. If I'm fortunate enough to be confirmed, I feel confident that my experiences in Congress and as the House Budget Chair have prepared me well for the challenges that lay ahead. I'm excited to help tackle our nation's priorities and work again with my friends and colleagues in the House and Senate. I want to say also a few words about my home, Iowa, and also my family and the people who make up that great state. They've given me incredible opportunities throughout my life. My experience, my optimism -- and sometimes humor -- work ethic and success have all come from my family and friends and the people in Iowa, and I want to thank you for the incredible foundation that you've given me."

When asked for his reaction to the Nussle appointment, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer of Maryland had little to say. ``I don't know Mr. Nussle very well,'' he said, "Next question?"

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said that Nussle's tenure as House Budget Committee chairman, and his personal relationships with members of Congress, will serve him well.
Nussle ``knows a lot about the process,'' McConnell said. ``He's a good choice.''

Stan Collender, a former analyst for both the House and Senate Budget Committees who is now managing director of Qorvis Communications in Washington. ``Given that there's no one else in the administration with any credibility on the budget or economy, this could put a big crimp in the war on appropriations. [Nussle] will have to establish and build his own credibility before he can fully lead the administration's efforts on the budget.''

Among Republicans, who are trying to shift the "tax and spend" back to the Democrats, came these remarks in support of Nussle.

"Jim's strong convictions about the need to restrain government spending ... will be crucial to this administration," said Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, top Republican on the House Budget Committee.

House Minority leader John Boehner said in a press release, "I'm pleased that Jim Nussle will soon take the reins at OMB. Jim and I worked together before in the early 1990s as part of the Gang of Seven where we fought to make the House more transparent and accountable. I know he'll work with House Republicans closely - just as Rob did - to reform the way Washington spends taxpayer dollars, and to fight against wasteful and excessive spending. House Republicans are committed to sustaining any Presidential veto over excessive spending by Democrats, and I look forward to working with Jim in that effort this year."

It should be an interesting time in Washington.


From NBC's Chuck Todd Pres. Bush's gain is Rudy Giuliani's loss. Former Iowa GOP Rep. Jim Nussle's decision to accept Bush's appointment as Budget Dir. means Giuliani loses his main Iowa sherpa. Nussle was always a good answer to the question: "Who's handling your Iowa campaign, mister mayor?" And the answer "Nussle" was usually enough to keep the "Rudy's got no organization in Iowa" griping at bay. But with Nussle gone, the answer of "Paul Pate" (the person who is Giuliani's state chair) won't be satisfactory to some Iowa observers. Giuliani heads to Iowa tomorrow to give a fiscal discipline speech (Nussle would be proud) but he also needs to get some bigger names on board to convince folks that he is, indeed, trying to "win" Iowa. Remember, Giuliani can "win" Iowa without coming in first, but he certainly has to play if he wants to make a second place showing a "win."

Monday, June 18

Bordering on Perverse

From Corporate Watch

For context, Maquiladoras are manufacturing and assembly plants that exist in border towns of Mexico and the US. A report issued by Global Insight, a Boston-based trade economic research consultancy, estimates that the number of maquiladoras on the border increased from 2,267 to over 3,400 in the first five years after NAFTA started, while employment at these factories almost doubled, from 681,000 to 1.31 million by 2004. But over the next five years, the overall trend has reversed, falling to 2,800 factories with 1.13 million workers by late 2004. Economic investment has also drifted downwards after peaking in 1999.

The Life and Death of a Border Town

by David Martinez, Special to CorpWatch
June 12th, 2007

cartoon by Khalil Bendib

In the town of Nuevo Laredo, Mexico, close to the U.S. border, two streets intersect: one is called Progreso (Progress) and the other is Fabrica (Factory). They are aptly named streets because they are thoroughfares that only house manufacturing plants called maquiladoras - giant mall sized buildings ringed with fences and with guardhouses posted out front. There are no houses or shops here – indeed, the sidewalks on Progreso and Fabrica are empty, and the only noise that can be heard during a workday are the trucks that drop off supplies and pick up finished goods.

Some of the factories belong to well-known companies like Caterpillar or Sony, others to less well-known companies like Delphi. Early every morning at the beginning of the workday, special buses arrive from specific neighborhoods carrying workers, while others arrive in their own vehicles. They are smartly dressed young women and men whose jobs range from assembling videotapes to refurbishing defective machines. The factories are huge, employ thousands of workers and do brisk business. It is hard to imagine that they could ever pack up and leave, but it is a distinct possibility in the chaotic world of border economics.

The number of maquiladoras began increasing in Nuevo Laredo and other border towns after the North American Free Trade Agreement, or NAFTA was signed in 1994. At the time there was much ado about NAFTA, and "free trade" entered the popular lexicon, with its proponents claiming it would bring prosperity to the impoverished population of Mexico, and its detractors predicting doom for U.S. workers and their Mexican counterparts.

What, then, is the reality of "free trade" more than a dozen years later? Did thousands of jobs come to Mexico, as promised by the NAFTA boosters? Or was it a disaster for Mexicans, driving them deeper into poverty and dependence? The answer, as usual, is more complex than can be explained on the nightly news, and is best told in the plain words of the people who experienced it first hand. More here

Surf the Artic

The BBC Reports this bit of disturbing news.

Ice in north-east Greenland is melting an average of 14.6 days earlier than in the mid-1990s, bringing forward the date plants flower and birds lay eggs.

The team warned that the observed changes could disrupt the region's ecosystems and food chain, affecting the long-term survival of some species.

The findings have been published in the journal Current Biology.

The scientists assessed how a range of species' behaviour was affected by the changing climate in Zackenberg, north-east Greenland, between 1996 and 2005.

Observation of 21 species - six plants, 12 arthropods and three birds - revealed that the organisms had brought forward their flowering, emergence or egg-laying in line with the earlier ice melt.

"We were particularly surprised to see the trends were so strong when considering that the entire summer is very short in the High Arctic - just three or four months from snowmelt to freeze-up," said co-author Toke Hoye, from the University of Aarhus.

And This Year's Most Unstable Nation is...

From Reuters

Iraq has emerged as the world's second most unstable country, behind Sudan, more than four years after President George W. Bush ordered the U.S. invasion to topple Saddam Hussein, according to a survey released on Monday.

The 2007 Failed States Index*, produced by Foreign Policy magazine and the Fund for Peace, said Iraq suffered a third straight year of deterioration in 2006 with diminished results across a range of social, economic, political and military indicators. Iraq ranked fourth last year.
Afghanistan, another war-torn country where U.S. and NATO forces are battling a Taliban insurgency nearly six years after a U.S.-led invasion, was in eighth place.

"Iraq and Afghanistan, the two main fronts in the global war on terror, both suffered over the past year," a report that accompanied the figures said.

"Their experiences show that billions of dollars in development and security aid may be futile unless accompanied by a functioning government, trustworthy leaders, and realistic plans to keep the peace and develop the economy."

The index said Sudan, the world's worst failed state, appears to be dragging down its neighbors Central African Republic and Chad, with violence in the Darfur region responsible for at least 200,000 deaths and the displacement of 2 million to 3 million.

The authors of the index said one of the leading benchmarks for failed state status is the loss of physical control of territory or a monopoly on the legitimate use of force.

Other attributes include the erosion of legitimate authority, an inability to provide reasonable public services and the inability to interact with other states as a full member of the international community.

Foreign Policy magazine is published by the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, a Washington-based think tank. The Fund for Peace is an independent research group devoted to preventing and resolving conflicts.

The Top Ten Failed States are:

1) Sudan
2) Iraq
3) Somalia
4) Zimbabwe
5) Chad
6) Cote d'Ivoire
7) Democratic Republic of Congo
8) Afghanistan
9) Guinea
10) Central African Republic

The United States is ranked in the top 20 of least failed states. The Least Failed State? This year's winner is Norway.

* The 2007 Failed States Index (FSI) ranks 177 countries based on their social, economic, and political pressures. The Ploughshares Fund supports the work of the Fund for Peace to produce this comprehensive index.The FSI was first introduced in the July/August 2005 issue of Foreign Policy magazine. The second FSI was published in the May/June issue and the 2007 edition returned to the July/August issue. In 2005, we rated 75 countries; in 2006, we expanded the Index to include 146 countries.

Elizabeth Edwards, Tipton, and the New York Times

On the Campaign Trail With Elizabeth Edwards

Elizabeth Edwards was holding court in the sweltering basement at the Cedar County Courthouse in Tipton, Iowa, where local Democrats fanned themselves under fluorescent light.

Her husband, John Edwards, watched and winced as Mrs. Edwards quizzed her audience about what they knew about the biography of her husband, who is making his second bid for the presidency.

“How many know how many members of his family went to college before he did?” Mrs. Edwards inquired.

The correct response emerged in the form of murmured guesses from a few members of the audience: None.

Mrs. Edwards nodded approvingly, and went on to question No. 2.
“How many people know what his father did?”

Again, the correct response could be heard from a few people in the audience who recalled the stock line from Mr. Edwards’ 2004 campaign speech: Worked in a mill.

Mrs. Edwards nodded proudly, so she moved in for the final question.

“How many people know the price of his most expensive haircut?”

The room burst out in a roar of laughter. Mr. Edwards grinned, barely if gamely, at the reference at the $400 hair cut that made him the subject of some derision here.

“She’s been doing this joke all day,” Mr. Edwards said to the audience.

Mrs. Elizabeth was laughing at her husband with her audience. “I’m having fun,” she said. “How about you guys?” More

Iowa Native Killed in Iraq

Pfc. Michael P. Pittman who was born in Davenport, was killed Friday in Baghdad, Iraq, from what his wife called an "ambush from a complex IED," or improvised explosive device, while he was on patrol in a Humvee.He had been serving in Iraq since February. It was his first deployment.

Pittman was born in Davenport and attended high school in Rock Island, Ill. He and his wife, Jennefer moved from the Quad Cities in 2005 when he joined the Army. He leaves behind four children.

The 34-year-old Pittman was a member of a Calvary Regiment based at Fort Riley, Kan.

Jennefer Pittman said her husband was a selfless person who cared about everyone and loved giving to people. She said her husband will be cremated and that a memorial service is scheduled for next week in Kansas.
He died for what he believed in. He died for his country," his mother, the Rev. Sandra Hughes, Rock Island, said Sunday.

Her son, who was living in Fort Riley, Kan., with his wife Jennifer and their four children, joined the Army for what it could do for him, said Rev. Hughes, of Road to Recovery Church of the Quad-Cities, Moline.

"He wanted some stability for his family," she said "He wanted what the military could offer him as a career."

The Pittmans also wanted to travel, and saw the military as a way to do it, she said.

Mrs. Pittman said from Fort Riley that her family and friends are keeping her company.
"I'm still in shock," she said Sunday. "Sometimes, it doesn't seem like it really happened. Other times, I'm bawling. I don't really know how to take this."

Services in the Quad Cities are pending.

Wedge Issue 2007: Immigration

In 2004, the Iraq War was the wedge issue used to scare voters into re-electing president Bush--if you aren't supporting the war, you are helping the terrorists was the battle sound bite (and may the deity or non-deity of your choice help you, if you "flip-flopped").

Fast forward to 2007 and it is those darn illegal immigrants that we have to watch out for. First of all, they are all terrorists--otherwise why else would they sneak in to our country? We must erect a wall to keep them out--it worked in Berlin didn't it?

If you are in the labor movement, they are taking your high paying American jobs (particularly the one's where you shoot nails into the heads of cattle to kill them and/or clean their guts off the rendering floor). Worse than that, they are keeping you from unionizing more folks--what with their willingness to work for less than you--and off the books too!

If you are a conservative, well of course "those people" are wasting your tax money which the government ought not have in the first place, screwing up the schools for your kids--so much so, that you are homeschooling them or sending them to St. Somebody for a decent education, and making your health care costs sky-rocket, what with all the free medical care they are scarfing down.

Add to that they don't all speak, read, or write in English! As a person whose relatives came to the US speaking Russian, Slavic tongues, and German, I know that language acquisition takes time, but people do learn the language (free market economics tells you why--to better yourself and have more options). Yes it is scary when people speak a different language (particularly when you are sure they talking about you)

Supposedly there are over 12 million of those rascals running around our fair nation-- that's 4.1% of the population (using 2005 census figures), roughly the same as the number of people in the US over the age of 83 (and don't get me started on those freeloading octogenarians).

Think of all the damage those people are doing to our country. They are artificially keeping the price of our food supply down by working for lower wages than 99% of Americans are willing to work for. They are doing the kinds of work that are considered highly dangerous by OSHA, the kinds of work that a considered menial by us long-timers, and the kinds of work which allow the rest of us to go to work while our children, parents, mentally ill and physically sick are cared for. They are overpaying for poor quality housing, medical, and basic services, not able to report abuses by those who profiteer from their presence.

So it makes all the sense in the world to round them up and, at the very least, make them pay our government for the privilege of serving us, allow them to work here without hope for citizenship or rights (except if they are willing to serve in our military), and send them packing at the whim of our corporations or political breeze.

This is where I get on my high horse...give me a second. Okay, there.

We love to forget that we are an immigrant nation. We love to forget that many of the comforts we enjoy today were due to the industriousness of those who came here seeking the freedoms we enjoy. We love to forget we displaced a native population to have what we have. What we don't love to admit is that "different" scares many of us. We hate to admit we are enamored with "cheap" over "fair"--we love a bargain and illegal immigrants are a price we willingly pay.

Because we also love the ideals of our democracy, these workers serve to remind us that we aren't living up to them. As a result of our tortured national psyche, most of us can't decide what to do and so we either turn a blind eye or act with vigilante justice.

So as both sides exploit our fears and hopes, let it be you that decides if immigration policy is a your issue.

As for me, I say "bring me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free." If the free market economy does anything, it will tell folks when it is not worth their effort to come. And, not for nothing, I actually like what our Senator Tom Harkin says on dealing with the realities of this subject.

Saturday, June 16

Edwards Looking for Union Label To Help Campaign

The Press-Citizen reports:

Labor unions will play a key part in expanding the American middle class, Democratic presidential hopeful John Edwards said Saturday.

“If we want to strengthen and grow the middle class, … the organized labor component is critical for that,” said Edwards, a former senator from North Carolina.

The comments, part of a 15-minute address before about 75 state union leaders, came at the Iowa Change to Win conference Saturday at Northwest Junior High. The conference was a meeting for a consortium of seven labor unions.

Edwards, who later spoke at a town hall meeting at the Johnson County Fairgrounds and appeared without wife Elizabeth Edwards, said labor unions provided workers a voice in the workplace. He advocated for the banning of the hiring of permanent replacements for striking workers and said workers should be able to unionize without opposition from businesses.

“If anybody can join the Republican Party by signing a card, I think anybody should be able to join a labor union in the same way,” he said to applause.

He also pushed for his universal health care plan, which he said would be paid for by revoking tax cuts President Bush pushed through in 2002. He said health care coverage was needed for workers to get the pay and benefits they seek in negotiations. More from the Press-Citizen

3521 Reasons to End the War

U.S. Deaths Confirmed By The DoD: 3516
Reported U.S. Deaths Pending DoD Confirmation: 5
Total 3521

Contract with America: The Other Warriors

According to the Washington Post, "Private security companies, funded by billions of dollars in U.S. military and State Department contracts, are fighting insurgents on a widening scale in Iraq, enduring daily attacks, returning fire and taking hundreds of casualties that have been underreported and sometimes concealed, according to U.S. and Iraqi officials and company representatives." To those contractors who will not be home for Father's Day, be safe.

Security contractors employed by private companies are fighting a parallel war in Iraq. The buildup of this private force, which guards convoys, sites and personnel, has mirrored the increase of U.S. troops.

[Graph: Attacks on convoys, 2004-07]

Pride Cometh Before Sun Stroke

Okay, I'm back from the Pride Festival where I was marching with my Unitarian Universalist compatriots. It was great to see so many groups supporting the GLBTQ community, but it was incredibly hot. The parade included everyone from leather boys to UI Anti War protesters shown above, in addition to political groups from the Dodd, Obama, Richardson, Edwards, and Clinton camps.

Speakers in front of the Gold Dome included Rep. Dave Loebsack, State Senator Joe Bolkcom, State Rep. Mary Mascher, and Iowa City Human Rights Commissioner Sara Baird. Council member Regenia Bailey, North Liberty councilman James Moody, and Coralville councilman Tom McGill all read proclamations from their respective cities declaring June Pride month. There were many kudos for the anti-bullying bill and addition of sexual orientation to the state's civil rights law. It is also the 30th anniversary of Iowa City passing its human rights ordinance. Dave Leshtz and Janelle Rettig were recognized by Congressman Loebsack for their efforts on human rights.

John Deeth and others from the blogosphere were out and about.

As sun stroke was setting in, I left the grounds with visions of the Quire singing in my head.

If you are out and about the rest of the festivities are in Upper City Park--who knows wh0 might show up...

More from the Gazette, Daily-Iowan and sadly, not the Press-Citizen.

Friday, June 15

Can you say "Conflict of Interest"?

The Washington Post reports that the Justice Department is investigating whether Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales sought to improperly influence the testimony of a departing senior aide. How can officials working for Alberto Gonzales conduct such an investigation without prejudice or fear of reprisal?

according to the Post, the Justice Department officials, in a letter released yesterday by the Senate Judiciary Committee, said their inquiry into the firings of nine U.S. attorneys includes an examination of a meeting Gonzales held in mid-March with his then-aide Monica M. Goodling, who testified last month that the attorney general's comments during the session made her feel "a little uncomfortable."

The topic of discussion at the meeting was what had happened in the months leading up to firings of the U.S. attorneys, and Gonzales recounted his recollection of events before asking for her reaction, according to Goodling's congressional testimony in May. She said Gonzales's comments discomfited her because both Congress and the Justice Department had already launched investigations of the dismissals.

Goodling's account attracted attention partly because Gonzales had told Congress that he could not remember numerous details about the prosecutors' dismissals because he had purposely avoided discussing the issue with other potential "fact witnesses."

Justice Department spokesman Brian Roehrkasse repeated yesterday a previous statement by Gonzales that the attorney general never sought to influence Goodling's testimony. A White House spokesman also reiterated that President Bush "fully supports the attorney general," who this week was the target of an unsuccessful no-confidence vote organized by Senate Democrats.
The announcement that Gonzales's conduct would be examined came from Justice Department Inspector General Glenn A. Fine and H. Marshall Jarrett, counsel of the Office of Professional Responsibility. "This is to confirm that the scope of our investigation does include this matter," Fine and Jarrett said in a letter to Patrick J. Leahy (D-Vt.) and Arlen Specter (R-Pa.), the chairman and ranking minority member, respectively, of the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Several legal experts said the federal laws that could apply to wrongdoing such as witness tampering, suborning perjury or obstruction of justice all require evidence of corrupt or improper motives on the part of a potential defendant. Gillers said Goodling's description of her meeting with Gonzales amounts to a "vague narrative" that would potentially pose difficulties for a prosecutor.

"It really depends on what the person's intent was, and you can infer intent from words and conduct and tone," said James A. Cohen, an associate professor at Fordham University Law School and an expert on witness-tampering statutes.

"There is something fundamentally inappropriate about the attorney general of the United States recounting his recollection to a subordinate in this type of situation," Cohen said. "But it may not be subornation of perjury or witness tampering or obstruction of justice."

Edwards Betting the Farm on Iowa

A cut and paste from the Des Moines Register's Mike Glover. I actually think that Edwards is correct in his analysis.

John Edwards said Friday he's essentially banking his presidential hopes on a strong showing in Iowa's leadoff precinct caucuses.

Edwards, a former senator from North Carolina, said it will be difficult for any Democratic candidate to win the party's nomination without faring well in Iowa.

"I think that anybody who wants this nomination - not just me, but it would apply to me - if you don't do well in Iowa it is very hard to win this nomination," said Edwards. "I think John Kerry effectively won the nomination in 2004 when he won the Iowa caucuses."

Edwards credited Kerry with having a better understanding of the caucus' significance. Edwards was second in 2004, a surprising finish that earned him a spot as Kerry's running mate.

"I actually give him (Kerry) credit for that," said Edwards. "If you remember, he figured it out, he closed his operations everywhere else and moved everything to Iowa. I and other people didn't do that."

Edwards spoke during a taping of Iowa Public Television's "Iowa Press" program, airing this weekend. In the interview, he defended his low-key campaign approach, which has often drawn smaller crowds than have turned out for Democratic rivals Sens. Hillary Rodham Clinton and Barack Obama.

"I know what it takes to campaign in Iowa," said Edwards. "You can't just go to events where there are 2,000, 3,000 people. You've got to get into people's homes, you've got to get into smaller town and communities and you've got to do the work, you've got to do the organizing."

The primary calendar has changed dramatically since the last election cycle, with many states moving up to Feb. 5 or even earlier. Due to the earlier elections, the Democratic nomination will likely be settled by Feb. 5, and Edwards said the nominee could be apparent after the Iowa caucuses.

"If you don't do well here, it's very hard to win the nomination," he said.

Iowa Outlook: Relatively Healthy

Iowa is doing very well compared to other states in keeping people healthy the Commonwealth Fund's State Scorecard shows. It also points out that the US can do a whole lot better. Go to their website for the full story or check out this article in the Gazette.

Friday Quick Hits

Congressman Dave Loebsack has updated his website. It is much more useful and includes recent votes, help with constituent casework and other helpful features.

Come to the war protest today between 5:15 and 5:45 on the corner of Washington and Clinton Sts in Iowa City. One of these days we won't have to say "see you next week".

Saturday 6/16 is Iowa City Pride Festival in College Green Park and the Pride Picnic in Upper City Park. A parade, which I and other PFLAG members will be a part of, begins at 12 pm. It has been a really good year for GLBTQ rights in Iowa and elsewhere, so there is a lot to feel pride about. I'm sure you'll see politicians and wanna be ones (such as Mike Wright) there making speeches and hanging around. If you are around at 2:30 in Upper City Park, be sure to check out Katie Roche and the Awful Purdies.

And speaking of "awful purdies" (my apologies to Edwards supporter, Tom Carsner, but really can you blame me?) Saturday, Presidential Candidate John Edwards and his wife, Elizabeth will be at the Johnson County Fairgrounds at 12:30 in building 5. Edwards does have support in the GLBTQ community.

Finally, next Wednesday (6/20) a meeting with Randi Aho from the Center for Victims of Torture will be held at the County Administration Building which is intended to get Iowa Citians engaged to help stop global torture. If you want to attend or help, contact Tom Slockett at 356-6004.

Thursday, June 14

Camp Cropper: An American Tragedy

Google These words "Camp Cropper" and your stomach will turn. Read stories of this American-run prison (this is where Saddam Hussein was held and eventually executed) and you will wonder what kind of people we have there running them.

Check out these links:

Robert Fisk's A Torture Story to Shame Us All
Earlier Jail Seen as Incubator for Abuses in Iraq

The latest is this charming tale about the commanding officer.

Lt. Colonel William Steele, a former military police commander at the Camp Cropper prison where Saddam Hussein and other top detainees were held, is also accused of having an inappropriate relationship with a female interpreter, failing to obey orders and possessing pornographic videos.

At a hearing in Baghdad last month, witnesses testified that Steele approved buying Cuban cigars for Saddam, fraternized with a detainee's daughter, used his service pistol to intimidate tower guards, and improperly stored classified information.

The 51-year-old Army reservist from Prince George, Va., has been in custody since March.
The U.S. military said the charges were referred to a general court-martial on Sunday, and were served to Steele on Tuesday. The government must wait five days before arraigning him, it said.
The military had the option of recommending that no action be taken, that some or all of the charges be dismissed, or that a court-martial be held.

The alleged incidents took place from October 2005 to February 2007, starting when Steele was commander of the 451st Military Police Detachment at Camp Cropper prison and in his later post as a senior patrol officer at nearby Camp Victory with the 89th Military Police Brigade.

Iowa City's Bar Brawl

Okay, its not exactly the Sharks and the Jets, but the Iowa City Council will decide next Tuesday how it wants to handle a proposal to make it illegal for people younger than 21 to be in establishments that serve alcohol after 10 p.m. It can either come up with a ordinance to do it or leave it until November for the voters to decide.

the Council will also consider a resolution banning spectator boxing/martial arts matches at local bars. Alos, in the near future, it will pick up on the ongoing negotiations to approve fire safety measures such as sprinkler systems in bars.

I'm going to guess that no one will run in the fall for city council using the pledge/slogan "I'm behind bars"...

Note to FBI: Depeche Mode Not Only Violators

It's a stretch to connect iconic bands to federal agencies, but the rest of the story is deadly serious. According to Reuters and the Washington Post

An internal FBI audit has found the agency violated rules more than 1,000 times while collecting data on domestic phone calls, e-mails and financial transactions in recent years, The Washington Post reported on Thursday.

The number of violations uncovered by the audit was far greater than those previously documented in a Justice Department report in March, the Post said.

The vast majority of newly discovered violations were instances in which telephone companies and Internet providers gave agents phone and e-mail records the agents did not request and were not authorized to collect, the Post said.

The agents retained the information in their files, which mostly concerned suspected terrorist or espionage activities, according to the report.

The new audit covers just 10 percent of the FBI's national security investigations since 2002, so the actual number of violations in the FBI's domestic surveillance efforts probably number several thousand, bureau officials told the newspaper in interviews.

The Justice Department audit found 22 violations in a much smaller sampling.

Of the more than 1,000 violations uncovered by the new audit, about 700 involved the provision of information by phone companies and other communications firms that exceeded what the FBI's National Security Letters had sought, the Post said.

I Have a DREAM --Dept. of Defense Goes Mercenary

From Press ESC

A senior US defense official today urged the Congress to fast track a section of the stalled immigration bill that would allow the military to recruit illegal aliens, after recruitment figures released by Pentagon showed that the Army failed to reach its targets for May.

The Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors, or DREAM, provision in the immigration bill was expected to help boost military recruiting by allowing illegal aliens to enlist as way to obtain citizenship, Bill Carr, acting deputy undersecretary of defense for military personnel policy, told a veterans’ group representatives.

“In other words, if you had come across (the border) with your parents, yet you were a minor child and have been in the U.S. school system for a number of years, then you could be eligible to enlist,” he said. “And at the end of that enlistment, then you would be eligible to become a citizen.”

Carr's remarks came as Defense Department figures showed that the Army only recruited 5,101 active-duty soldiers in May, 399 short of its 5,500-soldier goal. The Army National Guard fell 12 percent short of its goal while the Air National Guard numbers were 23 percent below the target.

Deployed troops reported during surveys that they are “a few percentage points” less inclined to re-enlist, but Carr said the “flat” overall retention picture suggests that current retention trends will continue, at least for the near term

That flat projection is expected to apply to recruiting, too, with no major shifts expected in the propensity of young people to join the military, he said.

This outlook isn’t as positive among influencers and parents, those adults who help young people make decisions about joining the military. Support among this group “continues to dwindle as the war progresses,” Carr said.