Friday, January 20, 2006

A Journey To Hell

There are many reasons to go to the T-Nation site, which I frequently do to read about men's health issues, bodybuilding tips which have virtually no impact on anything I do since I spend way too much time sitting behind a workstation plunking on a keyboard (like right now), and a wide variety of other matters which impact the site's predominantly male audience. Also, if you venture to the site, you will probably see some clip art which has appeared from time to time at this location (with the proper attribution in the popup, of course).

I went to the site a few days ago and came across a post by Doug Herman, a USAF veteran, about the war with Iran which I pray to God will only be theoretical, though I am anxious a bit on that because both of the leaders involved (Bush and Ahmadinejad) are, for my money, crazed cowards stoked by their own kind of perverse fervor.

Herman's post is, I think, a tour de force of what we would be looking at in the event of this horrifying development. It is followed by a good deal of thoughtful commentary, mixed in with the requisite Clinton bashing for no particular reason (and some Dubya bashing also, which I believe is completely deserved).

The one area where I disagree with Herman is the aftermath of what he envisions as the assassination of President Pervez Musharraf of Pakistan (probably the scariest possibility for me in that entire region - I think the guy's a thug, but the alternative is far worse...a little similar to the situation in Iraq with Hussein before we launched the war - funny that many people saw that but Dubya didn't).

Let's say Pakistan is taken over by al Qaeda ( gives me a chill also). Who do you think they go after first? My guess would be India, since that feud has been churning for at least 60 years and probably much longer. Can you imagine what would happen to the computer software industry in that event, to say nothing of the human and environmental horrors?

So Pakistan and Iran unite, taking the Shiite-controlled regions of Iraq with them and what's left of India. How do you think Russia and China will respond? My guess is that the two countries form a pact, then move in and take over everything, launching their own aggression against each other after the rest of Asia is controlled by Beijing. And in that scenario, my money is on the Chinese, making THEM the next great superpower with the U.S. officially relegated to permanent third-world status.

I've read that, traditionally, presidential administrations conjure up scenarios such as these as part of foreign policy risk analysis. I have no clue about what Bushco is doing or not doing on this front, and their horrific performance on other matters doesn't make me feel like they're doing what they should here either. I truly pray that there is some pragmatist somewhere in that bunch who doesn't think nuclear war will initiate The Rapture, lifting everyone out of their clothes and onward to Heaven, or whatever other hokum it is that they believe.

As you read Herman's post, I would ask that you keep all of this in mind, as well as the fact that Bushco (restating what I said in the "Boots" post below, I know) will be trying to frighten us with this into November. However, even with these highly unnerving possibilities "on the table," it is still up to us to act with reason and courage and not panic. And as others have pointed out, Bush's staggeringly juvenile reference to Iran as part of the "Axis of Evil" some years ago alienated moderates who supported us in the region and hastened the rise of nationalistic nut cases like the one presently fronting for the mullahs who are really in charge.

Recipe For Japan Beef Stew

I may have mentioned this before, but I’ve really gone back and forth, as it were, on Froma Harrop, the columnist for the Providence Journal. I’ve seen her write some terrific stuff such as her most recent column on the troubles of California congressman Randy “Duke” Cunningham, and I’ve also read some utter dreck from her.

As you keep that in mind, please allow me to say a word or two about “Fast Food Nation,” Eric Schlosser’s landmark novel ostensibly about the fast-food industry. As I noted on the old site at another time and place:

To all of you "blue staters", read the sections of the book that pertain to the meat processing plants and how they're run and please explain to me why we should ever vote for a Republican again. Clinton tried to clean that up, but the Republicans took over Congress in '94, and everything lapsed back to how it was under Reagan and Bush Sr. I don't want to describe anything else, because it is beyond nauseating. To all of you "red staters," don't read it BECAUSE I WOULDN'T WANT YOU TO ACTUALLY THINK AND TRY TO USE YOUR BRAINS, BECAUSE YOU MIGHT HURT YOURSELVES!
OK, I should take it easy on my fellow “red state” Americans, for now (even Cynthia Sneed…I have to “give her a kick” once in a while…don’t I?)

Schlosser’s book is not only an expose of the fast-food industry, but it really lays bare so much of our unhealthy way of life that I believe it should be required reading for just about everyone. To me, though, aside from Schlosser’s sickening but (I’m sure) utterly accurate descriptions of meat processing plants in this country, such as Con Agra and Excel, the most gut-wrenching and, ultimately, heartbreaking portions of his book had to do with describing the effect of Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE) on humans (especially children) who end up eating meat tainted with disease from brain and spinal cord tissue. I’ll just leave it at that and let you, dear reader, do any further research on that if you so choose. Basically, if you EVER see any portion of a burger or poultry that is even slightly undercooked and you've eaten any of it, stop eating it immediately, save it for possible tests, and be wary for any symptoms you might feel or notice over the next 24-72 hours or so, and be prepared to go to a hospital emergency room if you do (I’m completely serious).

The reason I started out with mentioning Froma Harrop is that she attacked Schlosser over a year ago (cited by the American Meat Institute here) over claims that our packing plants are still unsafe. Harrop advocated a voluntary system of compliance that must have been music to the ears, so to speak, of the meat and poultry producers of this country.

Well, guess what, Ms. Harrop? I’m sure that Japan would tell you at this moment that our supposed voluntary system of compliance is a joke (also, I did some checking around on Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns, and aside from the fact that he used to be a Democrat, I haven’t really found anything else wrong with him, so he may actually be the right person to handle this…Bushco actually does something right for a change – stop the presses!).

I worked for an import/export company at one point in my illustrious career (insert snide remark here), and I can tell you definitively that import requirements for this country are stringent and restrictive in ways that you cannot imagine, and thank God that is the case. I have no familiarity with such requirements for Japan, but I can guess that they are at least as much that way for them, and probably more so.

This is an area where you need EFFECTIVE GOVERNMENT REGULATION AND INTERVENTION. Assuming that everyone involved will otherwise act as good boys and girls is a recipe for suicide.

I don’t know if Bush has cut the budget for enforcement at our plants or loosened food safety regulations. I suspect the answer is yes, but I can’t prove it, so I could be wrong. If I can, and I’m right, I will update this post PDQ (here's some background on other food-related tricks that Bush and his cronies have tried to pull, particularly at the time of the last mad cow scare in December 2003).

As for Ms. Harrop, I will await her next column on this subject.

Time To Fix Our Boots

It may take awhile for me to make this point, but I ask that you work with me on this.

Last night, Turner Classic Movies ran “The Longest Day,” a truly great film adaptation of a truly great book, and I managed to help put the young one to bed and turn on the T.V. in time to watch the very end. I’d seen it before many years ago, and its depiction of D-Day was as involving and realistic as audiences were willing to accept for the year it was made (1962). I believe this is partly because World War II and the Allies’ invasion of Europe at Normandy Beach upon which the book and film were based was probably still a vivid recollection for many people who watched it; I would guess that many people who read the book or watched the movie actually fought on D-Day or know someone who did. Of course, Stephen Spielberg recreated this in a much more realistic manner in “Saving Private Ryan” as we know, and for that, I believe we all owe Spielberg a debt, lest we all forget Robert E. Lee’s quote about war.

Anyway, I was able to watch the movie at the scene where a young PFC, patrolling cautiously near a French farm house, comes across a German soldier. The PFC immediately takes cover, thinking the soldier has his back turned towards him. However, the PFC, seeing that the soldier isn’t moving, comes from behind his cover and moves towards him slowly. As he approaches, he sees that the soldier has a bullet hole near his head and shoulder.

At that moment, a voice calls out from behind, saying, “He’s dead, Yank.” The PFC immediately flips and takes cover once more before he spots the person who spoke to him. It’s a downed British soldier, played by Richard Burton (I think the rank of Burton’s character was major), who is sitting on the ground against the stone farmhouse near some livestock with hay scattered nearby. I don’t know who the actor was who played the PFC – Richard Beymer, maybe – but the PFC approaches Burton and sits down next to him, and both men smoke cigarettes.

Burton’s character tells the PFC that he killed the German from close range, and he asks the PFC if he’s ever killed a man, and the PFC says no. Burton then says that he’s sitting down because he received a shrapnel wound in his leg and, since the doctor ran out of stitching material, he gave Burton a heavy dose of morphine and used staples to close the wound. Burton, obviously still dazed from the morphine, tells the PFC that he hopes it doesn’t wear off before he’s rescued (the PFC glances at the wound and a look of revulsion crosses his face).

Burton then looks over towards the dead German soldier and says, “Do you see anything wrong with him?” The PFC shakes his head no, as they both look at the soldier from behind hanging dead over a wooden fence (Burton does almost all of the talking in this scene until the very end). Burton tells the PFC, “His boots are on backwards,” causing Burton and the PFC to laugh a bit with an expression bordering on disdain and amusement.

And I thought to myself, that approximates the state we are in at this moment. Our boots, metaphorically speaking, are on backwards. I’ll do my best to explain that.

Given the fact that protective footwear is critical for everyone, especially someone in the midst of a battle, why would a soldier let this happen? Panic (answering the call to battle without enough time to prepare)? Fatigue (exhaustion for any number of reasons)? My guess is that it would be some type of distraction or another.

Could you imagine an army fighting without boots (even though the Viet Cong reportedly fought in the jungles of Southeast Asia wearing sneakers, which I would partly attribute to abject poverty but also because of the terrain)? The boots are insurance of a sort when it’s time to march, charge, attack in close quarters, or take cover. Our “boots” would represent sound, reliable sources of information that we can rely on to form our opinions as we do battle with the distractions all around us in our quest to try and resolve the issues that truly matter (the war in Iraq, jobs, the economy, education, the environment, etc.).

I’m speaking symbolically about “boots,” I know, but I’m being quite literal about everything else. Anyone who believes that we aren’t at war in this country (and I’m not even talking about Iraq) might as well believe in the Easter Bunny as far as I’m concerned.

It is a war of symbols, spin and propaganda that has been foisted on us by the Repugs and their acolytes in the right-wing media echo chamber, and we have no choice but to engage them in it. What’s more, the enemy is gaining around in places that we once held sacrosanct as we tried to form our opinions in as reasonable a manner as possible. CNN (which published what I thought was a truly obnoxious column in the Business section of their site about pensions a few days ago, implying workers were dumb to rely on them instead of private accounts) recently hired right-wing demagogue Glenn Beck to spout his garbage (and by the way, they pretty much blew off Al Gore’s recent excellent speech blasting Dubya’s domestic spying). The Washington Post (the newspaper that stood above all others during the Watergate scandal) recently hired Deborah Howell as ombudsman, a person whose goal seems to be to silence a dissenting point of view (Atrios and others have been all over this for the last couple of days - Update: the reader blog that Howell shut down seems to be up again as of 1/20). The New York Times, the supposed “paper of record” that turned a blind eye to Jayson Blair and Judith Miller, downplayed Gore’s speech also.

I believe that what we’re witnessing are “street skirmishes” being fought by the Repug shock troops in the media at this moment (Chris Matthews comparing bin Laden to Michael Moore, for example, along with other histrionics from Tucker Carlson and Joe Scarborough). That would seem to indicate a lull in the fighting for now, so to speak, in anticipation of major new offensives to distract and manipulate us that would leave us in approximately the same state as the German soldier killed by Burton’s character. And make no mistake…we’ve already seen a preview of things to come with release of the most recent bin Laden tape (at this point, the fact that this guy’s head isn’t rotating and roasting on a spit instead of spewing his cowardly garbage to try and scare us is HIGHLY SUSPICIOUS – and John Kerry was dead-on with his most recent assessment, by the way).

Another tool to try and frighten/distract us will be manipulation of public opinion over the possibility of war with Iran (the subject of a recent Atrios post that was absolutely brilliant and I’ll plan to have more on that soon). I think we can also look forward to the return of color-coded alerts and even the possibility of another Anthrax scare in an effort to get our “lizard brains” pumping into overdrive.

The Repugs, knowing that this has all been done before and that the majority of the voters in this country are FINALLY getting wise to it, will no doubt add new wrinkles of one type or another. They know that this is the only chance they have to hold onto power, because, as Bill Clinton stated at the 2004 Democratic Convention with typical foresight, “they need a divided America, and we don’t.”

The Repugs know that they are losing, and that will make them even more desperate. Their best weapons are our apathy and neglect and a supine opposition party (which makes our task all the more urgent, because both of those discouraging prospects are definitely “in play”).

It is up to us.

This is meant as sort of a “catch all” post, because I know I won’t be able to call them on all of their attempts to distract us, trying to induce panic as we fight off our own fatigue at times (make no mistake…this will be a tiring exercise until it is resolved one way or another in November). I would only ask with all humility that you check back here periodically to obtain the best information that I am able to provide to help you form your opinions. Also, there are plenty of fine, esteemed individuals, some much better than I, who I link to over in the right column to help you in this process.

I mentioned that the PFC with Burton in the French farmhouse scene in “The Longest Day” doesn’t say much, but he does have probably the most important line of dialogue. He pauses after Burton takes a long drag on a cigarette, glances towards him as he contemplates the D-Day battle which, at that point, is winding down, and says, “I wonder who won?”

By mid November, let us all hope that we know the resounding answer to that question with an unmatched feeling of pride and accomplishment.

Update 1/20: They couldn't be more obvious, could they?

Update 1/30: Leonard Pitts, Jr. nails it (registration required).

Thursday, January 19, 2006

99 1/2 (Wouldn't Do)

Got to be a hundred…and it was. Nothing but a hundred percent effort coming through in that voice, whether he was singing/shouting “I’m In Love,” “634-5789,” or “Land Of A Thousand Dances.”

The early R&B music from Atlantic is for me, short of The Beatles, the “music of the gods,” and I know he is now in the pantheon.

One Witch Hunt Ends

David Barrett ended the longest investigation conducted by an independent counsel today with the release of 746-page report. Barratt, ostensibly, set out to investigate former Clinton Housing Secretary Henry Cisneros, but, upon realizing there wasn’t anything to investigate, decided to turn the proverbial molehill into a mountain.

Lars-Erik Nelson of The Nation summed up Barrett’s activities as follows (excerpt from this):

The Cisneros prosecution was equally abusive (as that of Mike Espy, former agriculture secretary under Clinton who was the target of another special prosecutor appointed at the behest of the Republican congress). Independent counsel David Barrett charged Cisneros with felonies worth ninety years in prison for concealing the extent of his relationship with a former mistress. Then, on the first day of jury selection, he allowed Cisneros to plead guilty to one misdemeanor and pay a $10,000 fine.
Of course Barrett, being the individual who ran “Lawyers For Reagan” in 1980, refused to take “I give up, you got me,” for an answer. As the blogger Betty The Crow reports, Barrett proceeded to milk his investigation, which he tried to focus on the IRS, for over ten years.

So, out of a prosecution at a cost of $10 grand, he ended up closing out this fandango for a tag of $3 million on our dime (hmmm...shades of Ken Starr?). So what do we get for our money?

This, to quote the CNN report (buried near the bottom of the story):

"The inaccurate statements and unfair insinuations contained in this final report are too numerous to catalogue," said Jo Ann Farrington, former deputy chief of the Justice Department's Public Integrity Section.

Robert S. Litt, one of the Justice Department officials involved, called Barrett's suggestions of obstruction "a scurrilous falsehood," adding that the report was "a fitting conclusion to one of the most embarrassingly incompetent and wasteful episodes in the history of American law enforcement."
One of Barrett’s ridiculous claims is that he was thwarted by Janet Reno into investigating Cisneros’ finances more thoroughly, but as Nelson pointed out in his column, Reno actually antagonized the Clinton Administration by giving Barratt access to a year’s worth of Cisneros’ records, which, given the fact that this was a joke of an investigation anyway, was more than generous.

I’m still “on the fence,” more or less, on the issue of whether or not the independent counsel law should have been allowed to expire (of course, how con-veee-nient is it for the Repugs that it has in light of all of the shenanigans coming out with Jack Abramoff and the “K” Street project), but I’m inclined to believe that it should have been renewed, even with the possibility that political nonsense such as Barrett’s investigation could happen again.

So there we have it, ladies and gentlemen. Our tax dollars in the amount of $3 million down the drain on this nonsense.

It sounds to me like someone should be appointed to prosecute the prosecutor.

Just Call Us Party Animals

In an effort to keep the story of our air strike in Pakistan in the news in as favorable a light as possible (which would be a neat trick in a twisted kind of way, considering the fact that we killed 18 people, and despite any lies that Bushco will try to foist on us, I have a feeling the vast majority of them were innocent), expect the representatives of our government who are carrying out acts of murder in our name to maintain the “drip, drip, drip” of keeping this story alive, continuing to try and spin the words and pictures for a little while.

So according to the first rumor, we had killed the No. 2 guy in al Qaeda, which has been beaten to death already by this administration. Now, we have supposedly killed “a chemical weapons expert.” In an effort to keep this story in front of everybody, I think we can look forward to the following additional deaths:

- Second in charge of munitions
- Third in charge of management of illegal funds from Bahrain
- Second in charge of regional topography maps
- Propaganda liaison with Al Jazeera
- Coordinator of linens, sandals and prayer rugs responsible for laundering (hey, YOU try to get sand and powder burns out of a white linen ihram, OK?)
- First in charge of maintaining notebook PCs with wireless access to pick up video streaming from CNN and Fox News
- Omar Sharif (hey, if you’ve been out of the public eye for awhile, death can be a great career move for some people)
- Al Qaeda intern in charge of beard trimming and removal of camel manure
- Second in charge of management of illegal funds from Bahrain
- Third in charge of maintaining supply of rocket launchers and surface-to-air missiles
- Fourth in charge of munitions (claims that this person was actually second propaganda liaison with Al Jazeera proved not to be credible)
- Custodial administrator and bathroom attendant at what is reputed to be a terrorist training camp on Seram Island near Jakarta, Indonesia
- Vanilla Ice (see Omar Sharif)
- The author of the "Mujahedeen Data Form" (at long last!)
- Third ancillary operative in support of second-in-charge administrative functionary to the recruitment officer for al Qaeda expansion across Europe and central Asia (hey, Bushco will find somebody, even if they have to invent this person)
Yes, I know this is more stupid than funny. That's my intention, given the story.

And by the way, The Bulldog is absolutely right.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

I Prefer Mocha Espresso Chip

Has Ray Nagin lost his mind? Or does he just see "the handwriting on the wall"? (or maybe he’s getting “a piece of the action”…)

I’d heard about his most recent remarks about rebuilding New Orleans, which I hate to admit is problematic all by itself because Bushco refuses to support a plan to restore the area in a way that would better protect it from future hurricanes.

Well, I just went to Brandoland and read the latest from Brendan on this, and he urges all “Google monkeys” to go to work and find out more on Joseph C. Canizaro. This is important because of the following excerpt from the L.A. Times:

Despite Nagin's effort to ease tensions, residents across racial and class lines lashed out Wednesday at what they considered a land grab engineered by the city's elite.

Much of their ire was heaped on New Orleans developer Joseph C. Canizaro, a key architect of the plan, whose name elicited boos from the standing-room-only auditorium crowd.

"How many people from my backyard are up there?" Harvey Bender, a laid-off city maintenance worker from eastern New Orleans, yelled at the officials. "I'm ready to rebuild and I'm not letting you take mine," he said. "I'm going to fight, whatever it takes, to rebuild my property. It's going to be baby Iraq for Joe Canizaro."

Under the plan — which can go forward with Nagin's approval — New Orleans would impose a moratorium Jan. 20 on building permits in the areas hardest hit by Katrina's floodwaters.

To accelerate the process, Nagin's commission is asking the Federal Emergency Management Agency to release updated flood plain maps, which could effectively make the decision for many homeowners by raising home insurance rates and setting other new financial barriers to redevelopment.

Neighborhoods that failed to meet the critical-mass test would be shrunk or eliminated altogether; a new city agency called the Crescent City Redevelopment Corp. then would buy out residents OR SEIZE THEIR PROPERTIES THROUGH EMINENT DOMAIN (Brendan's emphasis).
Oh, goody.

I tried not to lift everything from Brendan’s great post, but only to provide context. There’s other stuff that he points out about how the residents of “chocolate city” (and by the way, how far would a Caucasian get if he or she said something like that?) would get compensated for, at best, 60 percent of the pre-Katrina value of their property without the right to negotiate a deal for themselves.

Update 1/18: OK Ray, I'll cut you some slack for now.

I made a joke the other day about Pat Robertson going back to NoLA after it’s rebuilt and having buildings collapse on him because Halliburton didn’t construct them properly (and make no mistake, they’ll make out on this through KBR, their subsidiary), but after reading this, I almost would like to see that happen to the “have mores” who would stand to make out on this.

Well, getting back to Canizaro, I feel almost embarrassed to point this out because it was too easy to find, but after doing my “Google monkey” thing, guess what I came up with?


Here’s more on Canizaro (and Sue Ellen? What about Jock and J.R.?)

(…dated ‘80s reference – sorry.)

Another thing…can we have a moratorium on people invoking God for a little while (C. Ray, that means you, along with Wingnut Pat and everyone else)? She just gave me a call because she wants everybody to knock it off :- )

Party On, Dude!

Oh, I’ve seen this guy!

Yeah, I know it was him. He and his old lady were stumbling out of Condom Nation on South Street the other night, clutching tight onto a couple of bottles of Pabst Blue Ribbon. He was getting really loud too, trying to hail a cab. He kept yelling out that he was late for a “kegger” at a buddy’s house at 3rd and Pine, and he had to make a stop there and then head north to Market Street before the Funk-O-Mart closed. I think he was looking for rims, but I didn’t have the heart to tell him that I don’t think they had any. Oh well.

She was making a racket too. Wearing a pair of denim chinos and a leather jacket with a bandana that looked like the US Flag wrapped around her head. She looked familiar too. I think it was Betsy Ross.

OK, enough – “National Lampoon” has nothing to worry about from me.

To commemorate Ben Franklin’s 300th birthday, The Philadelphia Inquirer has published a whole bunch of related print and online content – I’m gradually making my way through it. Franklin, as we know, was truly a citizen of the world, being a true genius and also a world-class master of intrigue. However, his imprint on life in Philadelphia is absolutely indelible, as it should be.

I thought this article conveys a bit of Franklin’s importance, though I would have to make this post considerable longer to truly do him justice (and if he were alive today and writing a blog, I guarantee you that his site would have more hits than anyone else).

Entrepreneurial genius
By Stacey Burling
Inquirer Staff Writer

Ben Franklin may be best known for taming lightning and governments, but what made his storied contributions to mankind possible were his hard work and skill as a businessman.

He arrived in Philadelphia a nearly penniless teenager and retired at age 42, rich enough to lead a comfortable middle-class life while pursuing his real passions, science and politics. In an endearing gesture that seems almost inconceivable by today's avaricious standards, he gave away to society the ideas for inventions that could have made him even more money: the lightning rod, the Franklin stove and bifocals.

The hero of this quintessentially American rags-to-riches story combines the industriousness and frugality that his Poor Richard made famous with shrewdness, great timing, clever self-promotion, prodigious social skills and - here's the part that makes his act hardest to follow - a really great brain.

"This guy may have more neurons than any American who's ever lived," said Michael Zuckerman, a Franklin expert at the University of Pennsylvania.

Tied to Franklin's 300th birthday Jan. 17, the city is now heading into months of celebration and marketing of what those neurons wrought in business, science, civic life and literature.

Franklin seems so singular a personality that one wonders how he would fare in the modern corporate world. In fact, a slew of historians couldn't come up with a single modern American who embodies his remarkable range: the insatiable curiosity coupled with practicality, the business acumen, the political skill and scientific insight, the craftiness and charm, the desire to do public good.

Everyone falls short.

"Trying to find his analogue today is next to impossible," said Rosalind Remer, a historian who, as executive director of the Benjamin Franklin Tercentenary, is in charge of the national birthday celebration.

The best we can do is an amalgam of many people with big, but not big enough, personalities. Oprah Winfrey? New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg? Jimmy Carter? Google founders Sergey Brin and Larry Page? Financier George Soros? Morals pundit Bill Bennett? The Daily Show's Jon Stewart?

Franklin was, of course, the product of a different time, one with far fewer people and institutions and much less information. This much blanker slate made it easier, though no less admirable, for the self-educated Franklin to found a hospital, a library, a university and a trade group while being one of the best writers and scientists of his time.

"To look for a Franklinian person today, you would have to go outside the United States," said James Green, librarian at the Library Company of Philadelphia, which Franklin founded.

Printing was the field that Franklin's candlemaker father chose for his fifteenth child. Midway through training with his brother in Boston, the ambitious Franklin fled to Philadelphia, where he eventually started his own printing business.

Hard work played a part in it, but Franklin used networking and charm as well to gain backing from rich patrons. He also started a group, the Leather Apron Club, meant to elevate craftsmen like himself through networking. As a bonus, the group helped him. Throughout his businessman period, his many relationships and even his first forays into politics fed his business.

He was "interested in anything that will serve his interest and the public interest at the same time," said David Waldstreicher, a Temple University history professor who has written about Franklin and slavery.

Franklin quickly realized that printing alone was not the best strategy to obtain security and wealth. The most successful printers also controlled content and accepted financial risk, so he also became a publisher.

He bought and improved a newspaper, the Pennsylvania Gazette, that became the most popular in all the colonies, said J.A. Leo Lemay, a University of Delaware English professor and Franklin expert. Thanks to Franklin's gifts as a writer, the paper was livelier than others of its time, more local, and open to more points of view, historians say. Then he created the very popular Poor Richard's Almanack.

Franklin thought big. Though his methods weren't unheard of at the time, he was one of few entrepreneurs to attempt vertical integration, or franchising.

He helped set up friends and relatives in print shops that also sold his products throughout the colonies. He sold supplies for paper making and made his own ink.
On the political side, his connections as clerk of the Pennsylvania Assembly got him a government printing contract. As postmaster, he got free mail privileges and the opportunity to make mail routes, and hence distribution of his products, far more efficient.

"He was really good at surveying the landscape to see where the weaknesses were and exploiting the holes," Remer said. Franklin's scope as a businessman, she said, made him one of the first to think of the colonies as a whole.

Through it all, he cleverly promoted his products and honed his own image. Some find his manipulativeness unappealing, and he takes flak from Waldstreicher for owning slaves and accepting ads for runaway slaves and indentured servants.

Nonetheless, biographer Walter Isaacson calls Franklin the best American business strategist of his time and the country's "first great publicist."

He also credits Franklin with helping create the middle class through his support of craftspeople and shopkeepers.

For all his business success, money was not Franklin's prime goal. He quit with enough to live well, but not ostentatiously, in retirement.

"I don't think he was that interested in wealth," Waldstreicher said. "He was interested in control, in power, in power to do good things and to become a bigger person in the world."

In a famous letter to his mother, said Montana State University historian Billy Smith, Franklin wrote, "I would rather have it said, He lived usefully, than, He died rich."

While his electrical experiments began during his printer phase, most of the scientific and political work for which he is remembered took place during the more gentlemanly decades of his life.

"Making a lot of money by the time you're 42 is the easiest of all the things Franklin did," said Richard Shell, professor of legal studies and management at Penn's Wharton School.

If Franklin was working now, what would the corporate world do with him?

Even among the modern multitudes, he'd still stand out, his admirers say.

Although far fewer people were alive in his day, Franklin was nonetheless world-famous.

"He was not a big fish in a small pond," Yale historian Edmund Morgan said. "He was a big fish in a big pond."

All of the qualities that made him so successful in his time are just as useful today.

"It's hard to apply a 300-year-old intelligence to the world we have now," Shell said. "Of all the founding fathers, he seems to be the one, if you plopped him down today, would adapt."

Smart as he was, Franklin would have to specialize nowadays. You can't learn physics in a couple of years anymore. Few think he'd want to spend years mastering the minutiae of 21st-century genetics.

"The only thing that's clear is that he wants to be great," Zuckerman said. "He wants to be recognized for his greatness. What that would translate to now? Maybe a rock musician."

Shell sees him as an "extraordinary blogger."

Others agree he'd thrive in the information age. "He was entrepreneurial," Isaacson said. "He loved new technology. He loved science. He loved inventions, and he would be the master of the digital revolution today."

More pieces of Benjamin Franklin's resume will appear in coming editions. For the complete resume,
go here.
Bill Bennett my ass...

Update: Here's some great stuff from Bill in Portland, Maine, courtesy of The Daily Kos.

Our Daily Dose Of Dread

Gee, I wonder if there’s a connection between this….

…and this?

It seems like every time Bushco gets some bad numbers, they have to “poke us with a stick” via their bought-and-paid-for corporate media.

Henry Crumpton appears to be an able administrator in the counterterrorism field by all appearances (based on my admittedly limited investigation), but with the pronouncements he recently made in London, he appears to have made it clear that he is now a Bushco shill (assuming he wasn’t already).

“Al Qaeda is coming to murder you in your beds, dear little children. They’re going to use nukes and or chemical weapons. Trust Great White Father Dubya to protect you and never question him, even when he is illegally spying on you.”

Ambassador Crumpton, I have a simple request. Please confine your public comments to factual information that can be reasonably corroborated and treat us like adults. That would be a refreshing change for this administration.

Does any other country on earth have to be subjected to this vile crap?

Update 1/19: And CNN willfully plays along also (yes, I know they have to report it, but I definitely question their methods...what an act of journalistic genius to hire right-wing fascist Glenn Beck, by the way).

Monday, January 16, 2006

Legacy Of A Dream

Profmarcus at Take It Personally has some good words about the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., whose birthday we are commemorating today (linking to an extended post by Juan Cole). Also, here is more from a diarist at The Daily Kos. Finally, Geov Parrish at Working For Change has some chastening words (some of it is a bit of a stretch, but I think he's basically correct).

The Philadelphia Inquirer also had an excellent editorial today (trying to recover from their horrific endorsement of Alito yesterday). The paper also had a story on Friday of students at Barratt School in South Philadelphia watching a speech that King gave at the school in 1967 and how moving an experience it was for them (registration required for both).

Update: By the way, check out The Raw Story for info on Al Gore's speech invoking King and attacking Bushco for its assault on the Constitution (hat tips to Atrios and Brandoland). posted a link to an excerpt of King's Barratt School speech; it was truly wonderful to watch and listen once more. I've tested this and it should work fine (best for broadband). Here's the link.

Sunday, January 15, 2006

Go, Ginny, Go!

Local Pa politics...

As some of us know, Patrick Murphy and Andy "Mr. Warmth" Warren are running against Repug incumbent Mike Fitzpatrick for the 8th district U.S. House seat. In 2004 and 2002, Ginny Schrader ran for the seat against Fitzpatrick and Jim Greenwood, respectively, and of course lost both times. Many people thought that Ginny was aiming a bit too high and that she should run for local or statewide office before she took a shot at Washington, especially since she didn't have a record of government service. I thought that was partly a bum rap, because Ginny has a lot to offer, and being a woman, I think she has to meet a lot higher of a standard than a man would have to meet when trying to do the same thing.

Also, I've met Ginny a couple of times and spoken with her, and I have no doubt that she would be a bright, able legislator. However, in this bedrock Republican area where I live, the fact that she's a working woman in somewhat of a Hillary Clinton mode automatically turns people off. That's not fair, but that's the reality.

Ginny had tough fights the two times she ran previously for different reasons. Running against an entrenched incumbent like Greenwood who actually was moderate on a few issues was just about an unwinable campaign from the start, but when Greenwood bailed in '04, that evened the field for her. However, the Repugs revved up their slime machine and poured a ton of dough into Fitzpatrick's campaign, and that ultimately made the difference (at one point, they ran an attack ad claiming that Ginny, a Jew, contributed money to Hezbollah...Ginny was correct to blame Fitzpatrick for that before the start of one of the debates, though he sat impassively and claimed that he knew nothing - which is pretty cowardly, I think - angering Ginny to the point where she stormed out after tossing a file of documentation on him; Ginny was right on principle, but unfortunately, she lost on that in the court of public opinion).

Well, she's going to give it another shot, running against Joe Conti for the PA State Senate. Good for her.

I think she has a shot because the Repugs are divided on Conti, and also because Conti took some heat for a time for refusing to reimburse the state for that horrible pay raise they tried to sneak through last summer. It should be noted that Conti eventually did reimburse the state for the raise.

The Repugs are partly divided on Conti because they're in typical "take no prisoners" mode, trying to unseat him the same way they tried to unseat Arlen Specter by running anti-abortion zealot Pat Toomey against him in '04 Repug primary, with Specter beating back that challenge (I was actually rooting for Toomey because I thought Joe Hoeffel would be able to beat him in the general election...oh well).

I went to the Grassroots PA site, which is basically another Repug mouthpiece, and I read a post from July '04 where they basically beat up Conti for voting for "the infamous Ed Rendell tax increase" (which was meant to restore education funding and balance the state budget, but heaven forbid that a politician handle finances responsibly as far as the Repugs are concerned...don't tell me that they know what they're doing in that area when even John Bogle of Vanguard, a lifelong registered Republican, can't understand them any more). They also go after Conti for accepting "controversial campaign contributions from strip club owners."

Oh mah gawd! No wonder these Repug "pillars of moral virtue" are all in a tizzy! Call James Dobson and Pat Robertson immediately! I think we need an intervention here!

If Ginny runs a skilled, issues-based campaign - which I believe she is certainly capable of doing - then I believe this race could be won, especially if somehow Conti is knocked off in the primary by an ultra-right Repug nut case in the Toomey mold. What is ironic is that, except for Conti's misstep on the pay raise issue, I think he's actually done not too bad of a job. Before he left office to cash out and take the "Big Pharma" job, Greenwood had actually pegged Conti for his U.S. House seat, but that didn't sit well with Harry Fawkes, Bucks County PA GOP chairman (I believe I confused him with Hank Miller sometime ago in another post having to do with local politics - oops). Fawkes had Fitzpatrick in mind all along, because that played better with the fundamentalist stooges currently calling the shots for the Repugs in Washington (Fitzpatrick being Catholic and all that), so it was "exit, stage left" for Conti.

So it sounds like we're off and running, and here's to a better outcome for Ginny in November.

Besides, I think we've received the first positive sign already; J.D. Mullane said she's making a mistake (I'd worry if he agreed with her).