Friday, March 31, 2006

Freeper Madness

This letter appeared in the Inquirer this morning (so many unsubstantiated and unattributed charges, so little time)...

It's funny that letter writer Dave Posmontier ("Dereliction of duty," March 9) is supporting Democrats who suddenly pretend to care about crime and ethics, given that their party is historically soft on crime and ethics. The Democrats have long since mastered suppressing investigations, burying evidence, and passing the blame to political foes.

If Democrats are so concerned about ethics in Congress, why are they so silent on the recently released Barrett Report on the Henry Cisneros probe? If Democrats are so honest and ethical, why did independent counsel David Barrett remark in a press release that his report should have been titled, "What we were prevented from investigating"? (The report is available online at

This is only one of numerous Clinton scandals that haunt America. Posmontier is right about one thing: Voters should remember this come Election Day. Remember, also, that, when it comes to dishonesty, corruption and cover-ups, Republicans are rank amateurs compared to Democrats.

Richard Milthem
Newark, Del.
I know I said something awhile back about Barrett's witch hunt on Henry Cisneros, but the information from this link at Talk Left is a good rebuttal also.

It’s Censorship If I Say So

That seems to be the mentality of the right wingers who insist on nitpicking about these Danish cartoons with the unflattering depictions of the prophet Mohammed.

I guess it’s more important for people like Eugene Volokh (who, I have to admit, makes his case without the typical freeper froth and venom that is so tiresome) that we start a riot or endanger people’s lives just to prove a confrontational point. Every excuse I read for the cartoons either not being published or shown cites the same reason: public safety concerns.

Do I think those offended individuals have a right to threaten violence and curtail free speech on this? No, I do not. However, I don’t see where that justifies foolhardy action just for the sake of a provocation. Besides, the cartoons are easy enough to find online with the right search engine and keyword combination.

As I scrolled through the comments regarding Volokh’s post, I came across this one near the end of the thread. I’m highlighting it because I believe the author makes a good point.

Notice how the people who make a great hullabaloo about "free speech" over the Mohammed cartoons are curiously silent about the decision of the New York Theatre Workshop to cancel a play based on the writings of Rachel Corrie because the subject matter was considered "too controversial".
Here is a link to more information on the play “My Name Is Rachel Corrie,” concerning the American who aided Palestinians and was killed by an American-made bulldozer in Gaza.

I would ask that you keep a couple of things in mind.

First, all I know about the play so far is what I’ve read on the Radical Left post. Second, though they have been wronged by Israel, the Palestinians have much to atone for also, and you’re really going to have to word hard to make me feel sympathy towards them.

But I would guess that the point of the play is to get people to think, communicate, and form well-reasoned opinions (with all humility, I should point out that that’s the intended goal for this site also). And I think it is absolutely ridiculous that the play has apparently been banned in this country.

I always believed that we could respectfully disagree on things like this (or even agree somehow). I always thought that’s what thinking, rational adults were supposed to do.

But then again, I guess it’s easier just to scream about a bunch of cartoons instead.

And by the way, speaking of free speech, I’m going to give “Real Time” another shot tonight and see what happens.

Contrition Someday?

We know that a terminally ill young woman in a Florida hospice passed away a year ago today.

But do we all remember the circus atmosphere surrounding her death?

As I’ve said before, some of the columns by Froma Harrop of the Providence Journal are real clunkers. But when she is dead-on, her work is a revelation, and she wrote this excerpt about the story:

We should be grateful that circuses no longer have freak shows. Freak shows put legless men, hairy women and others burdened with physical abnormalities on display. The shows were cruel and tasteless affairs.

The spirit of the freak show, however, lives on in Republican politics. The Republican freak show starts with a perfectly valid issue, then twists it into a weird spectacle. Every week, it seems, GOP leaders offer a new curiosity to amaze us.

There was the Terri Schiavo sideshow. No, tragic Terri was not the freak. The stars were the politicians and their supporting cast of barking pundits, religious militants and various hangers-on.

At this very moment, thousands of good Americans are making painful end-of-life decisions -- and for loved ones who haven't spent the last 15 years in a vegetative state. Yet Republican leaders, from President Bush on down, jumped on this one case -- virtually calling Michael Schiavo a murderer for wanting to remove his wife's feeding tube. And just when you thought the performers had no more top to go over, Tom DeLay made his threat against the judges who sided with Michael.

The issue, when to let a patient die, is a real one. But it belongs in a serious bioethical debate. This land of gray areas doesn't do well under the bright colors of the carnival.
As part of the “freak show,” our elected officials leapt into action in as brazen, self aggrandizing and intrusive a manner as possible (including our own “star” of the 8th U.S. House District, Repug Mike Fitzpatrick), in the form of House Bill S686, otherwise known as the Terri Schiavo Act, in which Congress intervened on a legal matter in the state of Florida by granting jurisdiction to the U.S. District Court in that state to hear her case and render judgment.

And this didn’t help any (from CNN):

(Schiavo’s) feeding tube has been removed twice before, most recently in 2003. That year, Gov. Jeb Bush pushed a law through the Florida Legislature that authorized him to resume the woman's feedings six days after a court stopped them. The Florida Supreme Court later ruled the law unconstitutional.
Why did all of this happen?

Do you remember the memo written from the office of Florida Republican Senator Mel Martinez? The one that stated that the Terri Schiavo tragedy “is a great political issue”?

And do you also remember how the Schindlers, Terri Schiavo’s parents, gave a right-wing group the mailing list of people who supported them and their terminally ill daughter?

The Supreme Court refused several times to hear her case, sending it back to the Florida courts and earning this reprimand from Judge Stanley Birch (as reported by the Inquirer a year ago).

WASHINGTON - The latest rejection of the Terri Schiavo case by a federal court was accompanied by a stinging rebuke of Congress and President Bush from a seemingly unlikely source: Appeals Court Judge Stanley F. Birch Jr., one of the most conservative jurists on the federal bench.

Birch has written opinions upholding Alabama's right to ban the sale of sex toys and Florida's prohibition on adoptions by gay couples. Both rulings drew the ire of liberal activists and the elation of traditional and social conservatives.

Yet, in yesterday's 11th Circuit decision to deny a rehearing to Schiavo's parents, Birch went out of his way to castigate Bush and congressional Republicans for acting "in a manner demonstrably at odds with our Founding Fathers' blueprint for governance of a free people - our Constitution."

Birch said he could not countenance Congress' attempt to "rob" federal courts of the discretion the Constitution gives them. Noting it had become popular among "some members of society, including some members of Congress," to denounce "activist judges," or those who substitute their personal opinions for constitutional imperatives, Birch said lawmakers embarked on their own form of unconstitutional activism.

"This is a judge who, through a political or policy lens, falls pretty squarely in the Scalia/Thomas camp," David Garrow, a law professor and constitutional expert, said, referring to the two most conservative Supreme Court justices. "I think it's a sad commentary that there wasn't a voice like his present in the Congress, because he's saying what a Republican constitutional conservative should be saying."

Jay Sekulow, chief legal counsel for the conservative American Center for Law and Justice, said Birch got it wrong, while two other judges - including one appointed by Bill Clinton - were right to say they would accept the Schiavo case.

"I would think an originalist view of the Constitution would come out differently than what Birch says," said Sekulow, whose center has been consulting with lawyers for Schiavo's parents. Originalists try to adhere to the precise language and intent of the Constitution.

White House spokeswoman Dana Perino declined to address Birch's decision directly, saying Bush "continues to support all those who stand up to defend life."

Birch's criticisms highlight the legal conundrum surrounding the Schiavo case and point to the difficulty it continues to present for some Republicans. Congressional leaders may have believed they were playing to the party's socially conservative wing by taking extraordinary steps to have the federal government intervene. But traditional conservatives have decried their abandonment of the party's adherence to limited government, states' rights and separation of powers.

Additionally, for Schiavo's parents to win in federal court, judges would have to embrace a doctrine of constitutional due process that conservatives have decried. Such "substantive" due process, which Justice Antonin Scalia sharply criticized in a recent speech, is part of the threat that he said would "destroy the Constitution."

"The fact that their best argument would be based on legal thinking that produced cases such as Roe v. Wade and Lawrence v. Texas ought to give them a clue about what they're asking for," said Garrow, referring to cases that legalized abortion and struck down sodomy laws. Garrow said he supported those opinions, but conservatives generally do not because they embrace an expansive view of constitutional rights.

Birch said Congress stepped into territory reserved for the judiciary when it passed the law directing federal courts to hear Schiavo's case without considering its state court history or traditional barriers to federal review.

"Such an act cannot be countenanced," Birch wrote.

Another act that cannot be countenanced, as far as I’m concerned, is Bill Frist’s “diagnosis” of Schiavo on T.V. in January prior to her death.

And what of Schiavo herself? Joan Ryan of the San Francisco Chronicle wrote this column last March.

Outside the Woodside Hospice in Pinellas County, Fla., people have gathered this weekend to pray for 41-year-old Terri Schiavo. She doesn't know they are out there, or that the circumstances of her life dominated the front pages of every newspaper in the country Saturday and incited desperate, unprecedented legislative maneuverings in Washington and Tallahassee.

Her brain stopped sending and receiving anything but the most fundamental and reflexive signals 15 years ago.

Barring the latest machinations by Congress, Friday's removal of her feeding tube -- ordered, once again, by a judge -- will bring about her death within two weeks.

The case made me think about the recent court decision in San Francisco overturning the ban on gay marriage. It made me think, too, about laws governing abortion, stem cell research, assisted suicide.

There is no single right answer to any of these issues, yet I imagine most us would agree on one thing: Whatever the resolutions, we want them to be moral ones.

But as I read the Schiavo stories, with one guy hauling a crucifix to the hospice and others proclaiming the woman's right to die, I keep wondering how legislators go about deciding what's moral. We don't want a religious government guided by the Bible, the Quran, the Torah or any other religious gospel.

But we surely want a moral government. So according to what source, what standard, does a moral but secular government figure out right from wrong? How do lawmakers sort through competing values and beliefs to resolve moral issues that have an impact on the public's well-being?

"It's one of the most important questions out there," said Stanford law professor Hank Greely.

The Constitution isn't the answer, or at least not the entire answer. It spells out immutable principles from which to draw guidance, but it by no means answers all the questions. The founders knew nothing of feeding tubes and cloning and morning-after pills.

So the government, like any government, has two basic choices for defining morality, Greely says: the relativistic approach or the absolute approach.

In the relativistic approach, morality is whatever the culture accepts as moral. Absolute morality means there is one standard, usually from a holy book or the prophets or God.

"Both approaches have serious flaws," Greely said.

Nazi Germany illustrated how dangerous the relativistic approach can be; religious fundamentalist governments show the danger of absolute morality.

The United States uses both approaches: Our morality changes with time, as evidenced by our revulsion now toward slavery, for one example. But we believe in certain "inalienable" values, such as life and liberty.

"We muddle through as best we can," Greely said. He remembers when California voters decided to ban the sale of horsemeat. There was no real public danger in horsemeat. People just thought it was wrong.

"In general, that's how we do it," he said. I thought about what he said, and about what David DeCosse, a religion professor at Santa Clara University's Markkula Center for Applied Ethics, said about the role of public debate.

"No matter what the laws are, in this country people always have access to the whole arena of persuasion," he said. "People who are against an issue have access to the public airwaves and other means to change people's minds."

And there, I think, is my answer. We are the source by which a secular government figures out what is right and wrong. We are the moral tutors to our lawmakers, not the other way around. It is our role, not theirs, to hold an issue up and inspect all the angles, to take it apart and spread the pieces on the table, to do the hard work of thinking and reasoning.

I've heard people complaining about how much debate the Schiavo case has generated. She is just one person, they say, and so many others are dying every day without anyone raising a peep.

But as much as I agree with the judge's decision -- almost every legal expert and court has said he made the right call based on Florida law -- and as much as I disdain Congress for trying to undermine that decision, I know this issue goes deeper than this one woman. It is about who gets to decide when a person's life ends, and who gets to decide when the quality of a person's existence no longer qualifies as actual life.

They are important, complex questions that go to heart of who we are and what we believe as a community. And the only way to figure out the answers is to do exactly what we're doing: talk and think and argue and talk some more, and be open to the possibility that there might be information or points of view we have not considered.

It is a messy, frustrating process. We have to put up with idiots and zealots. But it has to be done, because the center of morality is not on Capitol Hill, or in a judge's chambers, but in our living rooms and on the Internet and community forums at the Kiwanis Club.

Bit by bit, we chip away at an issue, inching closer to the other people with their little pickaxes who are also chipping away. This is how we reach the core of an answer that is both publicly viable and morally right. It might take decades or even centuries.

I get fed up now and then with the talk shows and the blogs. The stream of words can drown a person. The misinformation is staggering. But when I step back, I see the intense public discourse as a sign of a community that cares about doing the right thing, whatever that might look like to each of us.

We will never reach consensus on certain issues. I know that. But I also know this: With a secular government like ours, when we don't have a holy book or a prophet to dictate right and wrong, thoughtful and rigorous debate might be the ultimate moral act.
The circumstances surrounding the death of Terri Schiavo will, I believe, be recorded by history not just as a watershed moment for the evangelical right-wing movement of this country, but as an unholy convergence of politics and belief of such naked aggression between the movement’s crazed followers and the executive and legislative branches of our government that it shook the very foundation and principles upon which our country stands. Court orders, implied principles of state sovereignty in the most personal and private of family issues, any sense of political discretion whatsoever…none of this mattered to those who wanted to overrule Terri Schiavo’s wishes to end her life as communicated by her husband Michael (understanding implicitly that, as her husband, he was assumed to be acting in her interest first and foremost).

This was far worse than standard cheap political theater. It was a profane intrusion by some of our elected leaders who decided to act like spoiled children instead of thinking, reasoning adults.

Let us hope and pray that our country as we know and honor it stands for many, many years to come. But if somehow that tragically does not happen and we degenerate into utter anarchy, this event will be one of the markers along that unholy path.

Thursday, March 30, 2006

Still Second-Class Citizens

I would ask that you read this story (and I also found this analysis to be interesting, though it is a bit dated) and then consider the following (and this is addressed in particular to any red state life forms who may be reading this).

You can get away for now with wrongfully demonizing gays and lesbians in this country and denying them the right to civil unions with the attendant legal rights and benefits of a heterosexual couple (notice I didn’t say marriage…I’m sure this comes as no surprise, but I share John Edwards’ view on this; I am opposed to gay marriage, but I am also opposed to any federal legislation to ban it, and I am DEFINITELY in favor of same-sex couples receiving the benefits I mentioned above, and they should most certainly have the right to adopt also).

You can get away with making same-sex couples engage in this stupid chase across the country to find a place where their union can be legally recognized and enforced. This is what happens when you make this a state-by-state matter, though I grudgingly admit that that may be preferable to federal legislation.

Now is where it starts to get tricky.

With the Supreme Court we currently have, it is only a matter of time until Roe v. Wade is overturned. They will have lots of time and opportunity to find a way to make this happen. Then, access to abortion will become a state-by-state matter.

My question is this: will we punish our mothers, wives and daughters the same way that we are punishing gays and lesbians, making them go state to state to find a health-care provider who will allow them to terminate their pregnancy? Or will we throw the same, holier-than-thou, self-righteous claptrap in their faces too? And why not prosecute and imprison them when they get there, since that is what Pat Robertson (who has been strangely quiet lately, I now realize), James Dobson, Ralph Reed, and all the other self-appointed moralistic phonies want anyway?

In that event, maybe Massachusetts, for example, wouldn’t become “the Las Vegas of same-sex marriage,” as Bushco waterboy Mitt Romney so sarcastically put it. Instead, it could become the epicenter of a real life, full-blown, health care emergency if women trying to end their pregnancies all decide to go there. And will Romney and his sympathizers engage in moralistic grandstanding in that event, when emergency rooms and outpatient facilities are swamped from the volume of patients?

I would like to think that our politicians on the federal and state level are thinking about that (even in South Dakota, which I know is a stretch, as well as hoping and praying that they do the right thing by ALL couples regardless of their sexual orientation). I am also hoping that they will enact legislation and advocate in our courts for those who seek simple, basic fairness.

This is my hope. Maybe someday it will be reality.

Three Lives Changed By Two Bullets

As I read this story about Abu Ali, the American sentenced to 30 years in prison for trying to assassinate George W. Bush and conspiring with al Qaeda, I realized that it’s possible, though not likely, that he could serve a longer jail sentence than John Hinckley, which would be truly odd because no shots were fired in Ali’s case, whereas we all know what Hinckley did 25 years ago today.

One of the mysteries to me was how Hinckley was able to get close enough to Reagan to shoot him and James Brady. It wasn’t like Reagan was getting ready to address a huge crowd of people. He was exiting an office building on his way to the limo, and you would think that only people who had been “vetted” would have been able to get close enough in a situation like that.

For that reason, I think this link has interesting information concerning the link between the Bush and Hinckley families (even including a creepy connection between Hinckley and Mark David Chapman).

Now before I say another word, I should point out that I do not think in any way that there was some deep, dark, mysterious plan concocted by the Bush family to kill Reagan so Poppy could take the reins of power, which he eventually did anyway in 1989. I think the information from WaysandMeans is interesting from a historical perspective and shows what kind of overlapping circles people in power travel in at times, but I think that’s as far as it goes.

I had read that Reagan actually started to go into shock as a result of the attack, which would be understandable, given that he was 70 years old at the time and the bullet barely missed his heart. Despite my many disagreements with him and what his presidency represented and accomplished, I have to give him his due as a towering figure for his time. If anything, his survival from Hinckley’s attack enhanced that reputation at a time when his presidency was sputtering, though it rebounded in part as the recession dissipated. However, it didn’t make some of the Reaganalia in the summer of 2004 (excepting Nancy’s touching moments with his coffin before he was interred) any less sickening.

We know pretty much what happened to Jim Brady as a result of the attack. The man very nearly died and was permanently disabled (indeed, ABC TV news reported that he had died, prompting then-news anchor Frank Reynolds, who hosted the coverage with Peter Jennings and Max Robinson, to scold his staff as he was given conflicting reports about Brady’s condition, saying “Let’s get this right” on the air…and does anyone think that would ever happen now? I ask that question with regret, by the way). Another recollection is Alexander Haig’s famous “I am in charge at this location” line (probably meaning until VP Bush Sr. showed up, though that’s not what he said).

The Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, by the way, is launching a new campaign to stop the flow of illegal guns today to mark the anniversary, and you can read more about it here.

As for Hinckley, let us hope that he never sees the light of day again. As I mentioned before, I almost don’t have the words to communicate my disgust over the fact that he, Chapman, and Mehmet Ali Agca live, while all three of their victims are now dead.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Dr. Kaloogian's New Baghdad Photo

This is the real one. For Sure. Honest.

See, it's safe. Why, they've even built a resort with a winding pool in a huge alcove with Roman pillars. And it's not Caesar's Palace in Las Vegas.

Yep, the webmaster for my site finally got it right this time. This is it.


Update 3/20: Here's more from The Daily Kos.

Hit Andy Where He Lives

Back to the 8th district we go, with this Guest Opinion in the Courier Times this morning from Peter Waitze, who also served in the Air Force (wonder if he knew Earl Tilford?). This is response to what Andy Warren wrote a couple of weeks ago (link here)

Both Andy Warren and Patrick Murphy are experienced public servants, Warren as our county commissioner and Murphy as an officer in the Army. What were the differences in their public service? Andy probably got out of a clean bed, showered, ate breakfast, put on a clean suit, went to Doylestown and from time to time faced hostile constituents who could have hurt his ego with their complaints. Patrick went to Iraq, slept in his uniform, probably ate cold meals three times a day and, on a daily basis, faced hostile and well-armed enemies who were trying to kill him.

Yes, both served us, but with our country at war, we need representatives who, unlike those currently serving in Washington, didn’t shirk their responsibility to our country and who understand what it means to be in combat. I don’t know if Warren served in uniform, and I don’t want to suggest that he didn’t, but I have tremendous respect for those like Murphy who did and were on the front lines.

As Andy noted, Patrick has zero governmental service, but Andy left out that Murphy was intelligent enough to become an instructor at West Point at a tender age, something few Army personnel are able to accomplish. While many years of experience are indeed valuable, so too are intelligence, an open mind and fresh ideas.

As Warren also noted, Murphy never lived in this district until last year, and somehow that fact is supposed to either put into question or disqualify him from representing us, but I am unaware of any law that prohibits Murphy from running. And I doubt that living somewhere else means that he can’t understand our community. Moreover, I suspect our needs are not much different than the needs of the adjoining community where he did live. In other words, the residency argument is an argument that has little relevancy to the candidate’s qualifications to represent us properly.

The tortured logic of residency is used all the time by candidates and I am tired of hearing rhetoric or getting political brochures that tout how long someone has lived in the community. We need people with ideas to solve problems, not people who proclaim living at the same address since childhood is proof of the ability to understand and solve problems.

Murphy’s past voting record is interesting to read but not important unless it is a foolproof indication that he doesn’t intend to vote in the future.

Murphy is accused of being “opportunistic” and this, to Andy, is portrayed as a negative. I disagree with that conclusion. I think that anyone who can take advantage of opportunities is what we need representing us. I want someone who can think fast and take advantage of opportunities as they arise. And I am no longer overly concerned with party affiliation, especially when adhering to a party line becomes more important than acting in the best interests of the people. It is time to recognize that partisan politics should have no role when important national interests are at stake.

At my age, I want our elected and appointed officials to be people of honor and intelligence, and who are more concerned with and courageous enough to do what is in the best interest of the people they represent rather than what is expedient or popular.

Lastly, missing from Warren’s Guest Opinion was a discussion of the serious problems facing us and how he specifically intends to address them. He simply noted his long years in our community, his dissatisfaction with Murphy’s age and the current crowd in Washington. He also focused on party loyalty, but those topics don’t solve problems.

I want people with ideas. From what I’ve seen, Murphy seems to have some. For the rest of the campaign, perhaps we will get lucky and the candidates will stop wasting our time with meaningless statistics and mud slinging, and instead focus on what they hope to accomplish.
To help Patrick, click here.

Update 4/3: More Warren shenanigans alluded to in the St. Patrick's Day post (from "he who does not wish to receive a hat tip," once again many thanks - the suit from Warren challenging the signatures on Patrick Murphy's petition went down in flames).

Gunpoint Gratitude

It’s been a little while since I checked in with Dr. Earl Tilford, that fine, upstanding Christian man who is a professor of history at Grove City College, but in that same, inconvenient manner in which an attack of acid reflux visits one upon driving a car in heavy traffic, he made an appearance again today in the pages of the Bucks County Courier Times, of course.

I was hoping that he had somehow become more enlightened in his views since his last column in which he considered the torture of prisoners at Abu Ghraib to be nothing more than the equivalent of college fraternity pranks. It was my wish that this Air Force veteran would come to understand the impact of our illegal invasion of Iraq upon all who are involved with the conflict “on the ground” in that war-torn area.

Silly me.

As you can read here, Tilford’s column is ostensibly about the rescue of three members of a Christian Peacemaker Team in Iraq by U.S. Special Forces and British Special Air Services. The three individuals who were rescued were Harmeet Sing Sooden and Jim Loney of Canada, along with Norman Kember of Great Britain. The fourth team member, Tom Fox of the U.S., was executed.

Tilford starts grinding his axe immediately by calling the three “useful idiots,” then painstakingly explains the derivation of that phrase. As Tilford continues to attack the team members for apparently not gushing gratitude in the required manner to the individuals who rescued him, he states that they are not merely “useful idiots,” but actually “ungracious idiots.”

Here is more intolerant garbage from Dr. Tilford, as stated in his column:

"Furthermore, (the CPT members') continued carping about “the illegal occupation” and accusations that “thousands of Iraqis are being detained illegally by U.S. and British forces” serves two counter-productive ends. First, such statements undermine the will to continue the struggle in Iraq. If this war is lost, it will be lost at home rather than on the battlefield. Second, such statements encourage our enemies and will result in additional bloodshed. More American soldiers and Marines, more British and other Coalition military personnel and more Iraqi military and security men will die along with those innocent Iraqis about whose suffering the CPT purports to care."
“Purports to care,” huh? Don’t you love it? Typical recycling of the same tired, venomous talking points…”shut up and go along with Bushco or else you’re not supporting our troops and undermining their ability to fight this war, and getting more of them killed in the process.” It almost doesn’t deserve a response any longer at this point.

Well, for additional information on the mission of the Christian Peacemaker Teams, here is more from Geov Parrish of Working for Change, along with an explanation of why their courageous efforts are frequently ignored (I’m a bit uncomfortable with Parrish’s references to the “major media,” but I think he’s basically right).

Also, it is true that hostage Norman Kember did not at first thank the troops who rescued him, but he eventually did so and restated his opposition to our troop presence in Iraq in the process. I guess, as far as Tilford is concerned, that still makes him an “ungracious idiot” because, God forbid, Kember has an actual opinion that runs contrary to Tilford’s unflinching, jackbooted support of this epochal misery.

As far as Jim Loney of Canada is concerned…

For the British soldiers who risked their lives to rescue us, for the Government of Canada who sent a team to Baghdad to help secure our release, for all those who thought about and prayed for us, for all those who spoke for us when we had no voice, I am forever and truly grateful.
I haven’t been able to find a statement yet from Harmeet Sing Sooden. If I do, I’ll update this post.

And believe it or not, there is an individual out there who actually has gone beyond what Tilford said about the Christian Peacemaker Teams on this, and I’ll give you three guesses who I’m talking about (and the first two don’t count).

Whenever I post about a subject involving veterans, I am always respectful of their service because I believe it is the right thing to do as a citizen of this country. I also think it is particularly incumbent on me to do this because I did not serve myself, though some family members of mine did.

However, in the case of Tilford, I’m going to be a bit ungracious and wonder how a veteran could communicate such a voluminous degree of spite and ignorance towards people who are risking their lives on behalf of others who have undergone such a cataclysm because of our preemptive war in Iraq. Is it somehow possible that Tilford is one of these courageous men who, as an Air Force pilot flying on a bombing mission, dumped his load upon a target and then flew off without seeing firsthand the damage on the ground? Is that the reason why he writes as if he has no clue regarding the suffering of innocent Iraqis and how important it is to help them (and yes, there are many, as opposed to terrorist insurgents, or whatever you want to call them)?

The last I checked, there were still areas of that country with only intermittent electrical power and reliable water and sewage disposal. And this war has been going on for OVER THREE YEARS! Can you imagine what your life would be like if you had to live like that? Maybe, in the end, I’m a spoiled American also, but I can’t.

Oh, there you go, you “libtard,” some would say. What about our troops and the other soldiers? What about THEIR sacrifice?

Of course that should be respected, honored and supported. Of course we should pray for them and help where we can. But I’ve already spent WAY TOO MUCH TIME on this site explaining that truly supporting the troops and despising this awful war are not incompatible beliefs.

Tilford’s venomous words (as well as those of the OxyContin addict) run contrary to that, of course, and that is why they must be called and refuted. To me, “ungracious idiocy” is having the opportunity to do that but choosing to either ignore them or signing on to the post 9/11 “herd” mentality instead, espoused by Tilford, Limbaugh and others, that got us into this mess to begin with.

Oh, and speaking of Iraq, I would like to see Dr. Tilford’s rebuke of Dr. Kaloogian for this item, as long as Dr. Tilford is so full of self-righteous outrage towards individuals who are actually trying to do some good (to Will Bunch, HuffPo, Atrios, and Gen J.C. Christian, Patriot, hat tips all around).

Update 3/29: Idiot...

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Glib Fib From A Lazy Lib

I want anyone who reads what I have to say here and may or may not be motivated to comment to know four things: 1) You have my thanks, and that goes for some of the freepers also, 2) I’m not going to have the most “cutting edge,” this-just-in breaking story kind of stuff unless it happens to fall squarely in my lap somehow, but you probably know that by now anyway, 3) I’m going to try and have fun if I can and gamble that not too many people are put off by it, and 4) When I find glaring inaccuracies or misrepresentations of history, I’m going to do my best to put things straight, even though it may be a bit of a boring exercise.

It’s possible that this post falls into the fourth category, so I’m letting you know in advance. Now, back to what I’m really talking about (re: a recent column by Richard Cohen of the Washington Post – registration required).

In yet another exercise of wondering aloud whether or not Hillary Clinton is A) going to be the recipient of more conservative ire and why she merits such treatment (of course she is, and is a reason necessary…that Cohen fellow sure is a master of the obvious, isn’t he?), B) trying to follow this DLC-chartered-Third-Way loser course to the legendary “middle” where the myth is that conservative Republicans would somehow vote for her, when in reality they would vote for a Democrat when I magically morph into Jon Bon Jovi overnight, and C) finally, agonizingly, eventually realizing over tortuous hours of Hamlet-like musings whether or not she actually, FOREVER AND FOR REAL is deciding to RUN FOR PRESIDENT ALREADY!, Cohen somehow worked in this paragraph about Eleanor Roosevelt.

…She was even more vilified than Franklin and all she ever did was go down into a coal mine, invite Marian Anderson to sing on the Mall and make some speeches in that high, squeaky voice of hers. Hardly worth hating, you'd think. But, oh, she was certainly hated.
Is that it?

I mean, Cohen is right about the coal mine, and supporting Marian Anderson to sing at the Lincoln Memorial in 1939 against the wishes of the Daughters of the American Revolution (Roosevelt resigned her membership with the organization as a result). And he is also definitely right about how the Roosevelts were hated; J. Edgar Hoover kept a file on her of at least 3,000 pages.

But although many people in this country have an image of her as this doughty woman who quite probably was either a lesbian or bisexual and the wife of the president who served for the longest term in office in our history, I find myself in the amazing position of having to remind someone like Cohen that Eleanor Roosevelt’s accomplishments were legion (I honestly wonder if Cohen realizes that based on what he wrote – what he wrote isn’t actually a lie, but I believe it’s definitely a misrepresentation).

Let’s start with this (here’s an excerpt).

“In one three-month period (after FDR’s election in 1932), Eleanor logged 40,000 miles of travel. She gave lectures, visited schools and factories, and wrote a newspaper column six days a week called, "My Day." In her travels, she witnessed how the Depression had devastated entire industries and regions. She saw, first hand, new government programs at work, and reported back to FDR.”
This pattern continued after World War II began; she traveled extensively to Europe and the Pacific, partly because her three sons were engaged in combat (and also because of her husband's incapacitation due to polio).

Here are some of her other accomplishments as first lady:

- She strongly supported women working outside the home and urged their employment in defense industries. When women workers had trouble finding child care and adequate pay, ER lobbied to have day care centers and take-out kitchens within various factories, and spoke out strongly in favor of equal pay for equal work.
- She played a key role in convincing FDR to establish the Fair Employment Practices Commission, which outlawed racial discrimination in industries that received federal contracts, urged equal treatment for blacks in the military, and helped to ensure that black units, such as the Tuskegee Airmen, had the opportunity to engage in combat.
After leaving the White House, Eleanor Roosevelt served in the United Nations General Assembly, where she took the lead in drafting and completing (in 1948, with other members of the Assembly) the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. In 1988, Sting, Bruce Springsteen, Youssou N’Dor, Tracy Chapman, and Peter Gabriel launched a concert tour to promote the 40th anniversary of the document’s ratification.

This link contains a great deal of information on her extensive involvement in the Civil Rights movement that began in the 1950s also. This excerpt shows but a small part of her efforts:

The challenge that she presented to the public, liberals, and the party through her (newspaper) columns was just as uncompromising. "It seems a pity that there has to be argument about the best way to assure part of our citizenry the rights that it should automatically enjoy," she wrote in mid-February. "In looking back over the many years since Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation . . . how little we have to be proud of." When Clarence Mitchell informed her that Democratic whips were being outmaneuvered on roll calls because Republicans were calling for votes in the evening when the liberals had left the floor, ER scathingly reproached those Democrats who seemed to be more interested in watching the clock than passing legislation. "No liberal should be more than five minutes away from where he can be reached in case of a vote until the continuous session is over," she wrote in a "My Day" column which appeared in the midst of the filibuster.

"A liberal cannot give lip service to civil rights. He must be on hand if a vote is going to be obtained on the civil rights bill in this session."
As long as this post is at the moment, it would grow considerably longer if I were to start listing more of Eleanor Roosevelt’s accomplishments. Suffice it to say that many of the liberal causes that we represent, advocate and support in our way probably wouldn’t exist if it weren’t for her. I simply can’t imagine what this country would be like had it not been for her lifetime of service.

I sincerely hope that Richard Cohen remembers that somehow the next time he writes about something as comparatively trivial as partisan political gossip.

Update 3/31: Apparently Cohen has another column to atone for (hat tip to Atrios).

Adios To Cap The Knife

Picture Bobby Darin crooning and snapping his fingers while a big band swells in the background, OK?

Was a lark, right, under Ronnie
‘Til that Hinckley cat, he took his shot
Then the jobs tanked, but
Stockman pleaded
“Let that ‘trickle down’ work, it’s not a plot”

The Beirut bombing was plenty awful
But in
Grenada, we saved the day
Before Olympics, those jobs did come back
So in ’84, we won L.A.

Then Ronnie baby ran for a second term
Against that Mondale cat – he had no chance
Cap loved “Star Wars” to fight the Russkies
In Afghanistan, we came to dance

Now that
Eddie Meese, yeah, he shredded papers
Proving Ronnie and Cap traded arms to Iran
And Fawn Hall hid those files in her bloomers
That’s a
Boland no-no, but a groovy plan

Don’t you know that wall in Berlin…ho, ho…it sure did come down
They shot
Ceausescu and his ol’ lady dead
‘Cos of glasnost, commies sunk in deep “borscht”
With Yeltsin hiding, drunk ‘neath the bed

So they both have left us, that
Cap and Ronnie
Lyn Nofziger, they’ll party down
Wond’ring who’s next, maybe George Schultz
Now that Cap is out of town

And Cappy ain’t coming back!

Respect Of (No) More Time

Does anyone seriously think this will matter (didn't know Powerline used the "Yawn" line until just now)...

Yep, I think Charles Schumer actually summed it up with his “deck chairs on the Titanic” remark.

The following excerpt from this Source Watch article caught my eye in particular:

Card helped coordinate the White House campaign for an Iraq invasion. The New York Times in September 2002 quoted Card as saying, "From a marketing point of view you don't introduce new products in August." Card was explaining what the Times characterized as a "meticulously planned strategy to persuade the public, the Congress, and the allies of the need to confront the threat from Saddam Hussein." George W. Bush credited Card with the idea for Bush's brief visit to 600 U.S. soldiers celebrating Thanksgiving in Baghdad in 2003.
I wonder if it was Card’s idea to use that laminated turkey as a prop too for the all-important photo of Dubya pretending to “chow down” with our service people?

And of course, I will remember Card for his statement after the 2004 election, when questions started to emerge about the Ohio results, in which he said that Bush wanted to give John Kerry “the respect of more time,” which translated to me was, “hurry up and concede, you out-of-touch blueblood liberal, so we can get this party started!”

So what does Card do now, I wonder? Retire to some cushy K Street lobbying firm, or head off to academia and do his best to condition impressionable young minds in the ways of conservative intolerance?

It’s time, then, for him to try and wash his hands of the mess he helped create and then slink off barely noticed, not unlike a rat fleeing a sinking ship (and all I know about this Josh Bolten person is that he was Card’s deputy, so he moves up one rung on the ladder in typically corporate, methodical Bushco fashion).

Good riddance. I’m sure Card can land a cushy executive job somewhere. He should bring along Ben Domenech also, so he can impart his “dark art” to a willing apprentice.

Update: Here's more from georgia10 at The Daily Kos.

Monday, March 27, 2006

Keep Scratching The Itch

It took me forever to do it, but I finally saw “Good Night, and Good Luck” a few days ago. This review concludes by stating that the film, “accurately depicts an important episode in American history, and it deserves a far wider audience than it is likely to get.”

I don’t know what the earnings numbers are on the film, but I suspect that that’s true.

I thought it was a mesmerizing account of the events leading up to the “See It Now” broadcast on Sen. Joseph McCarthy in 1954. As vividly recreated in the movie, Edward R. Murrow allowed McCarthy’s own words and pictures to make the case. When McCarthy responded a few weeks later, he engaged in typical demagoguery and character assassination against Murrow and others whom he felt aided the communist cause (as I watched the movie, I felt you could insert the word “terrorist” for “communist” and you would just about be making a documentary on the last five years of this country).

Murrow responded point-by-point to McCarthy’s accusations, saying that the charge that Murrow was a member of the IWWW, a Communist Party organization which McCarthy also referred to as a “terrorist” organization (thanks to the Rotten Tomatoes blog for jogging my memory on that one), was false. McCarthy also charged that Murrow wrote a book dedication for a British scientist who was an alleged Communist sympathizer, and Murrow said that that was true; the man respected Murrow for his legendary reporting during the bombing of London in World War II.

I also thought it was interesting that, according to the movie, William Buckley wanted to make a rebuttal on behalf of McCarthy, but William Paley, the head of the CBS television network, said no. Also, when Paley sat Murrow and producer Fred Friendly down in Paley’s office to tell them at first not to go ahead with the program on McCarthy, Paley tells them, “you should teach journalism,” and Friendly did later on at Columbia University.

I think it should be noted that, though the showdown with McCarthy was a pioneering moment for T.V. news journalism, it was a costly one. The Alcoa company pulled its advertising from the network as a result of this story and that of Air Force Reserve lieutenant Milo Radulovich which led up to the McCarthy program. Subsequent to that, there were layoffs in CBS’s news division, as portrayed in the movie in a scene where Jeff Daniels, playing a CBS executive, breaks the news to Joe and Shirley Wershba, played by Robert Downey, Jr. and Patricia Clarkson (the Wershbas were advisors on the film and no doubt provided many character details; they are featured prominently – by the way, it’s good to see that Robert Downey, Jr. has straightened himself out to the point where he can handle these types of roles again). Also, Paley moved “See It Now” from prime time to Sunday afternoons, eventually leading to the show’s cancellation four years later.

Another casualty of the McCarthy episode was journalist Don Hollenbeck, portrayed in the movie by Ray Wise, who appeared in the T.V. series “Twin Peaks” (man, that was an odd one) as Laura Palmer’s father who was “possessed by the spirit of ‘Bob’” (you don’t want to know), and he also portrayed a member of criminal Clarence Boddicker’s gang in the original “RoboCop.”

The opening and closing moments of “Good Night, And Good Luck” have to do with Murrow’s speech to the Radio-Television News Directors Association and Foundation on October 15, 1958. The entire speech is challenging and cautionary for the present day as well, but I thought these passages were particularly interesting:

Heywood Broun once said, "No body politic is healthy until it begins to itch." I would like television to produce some itching pills rather than this endless outpouring of tranquilizers.

I began by saying that our history will be what we make it. If we go on as we are, then history will take its revenge, and retribution will not limp in catching up with us.

We are to a large extent an imitative society. If one or two or three corporations would undertake to devote just a small traction of their advertising appropriation along the lines that I have suggested, the procedure would grow by contagion; the economic burden would be bearable, and there might ensue a most exciting adventure--exposure to ideas and the bringing of reality into the homes of the nation.

To those who say people wouldn't look; they wouldn't be interested; they're too complacent, indifferent and insulated, I can only reply: There is, in one reporter's opinion, considerable evidence against that contention. But even if they are right, what have they got to lose? Because if they are right, and this instrument is good for nothing but to entertain, amuse and insulate, then the tube is flickering now and we will soon see that the whole struggle is lost.
Murrow of course was primarily talking about television, but I think was he said could be applied to all electronic and online media also.

He and others of his day blazed the trail. It is up to us to follow, frequently re-fighting old battles as well as new ones, but follow we must if we are to honor their legacy.

Heckuva Job, Snowy

I don’t really have a quota I have to meet for posts about what has been happening to the economy in this country for the “non-haves-and-have-mores” – it just seems that way.

Well, here we go again. The Wall Street Journal produced this story with Treasury Secretary John Snow basically patting us all on the head and saying, “oh, don’t you worry, you little American worker. You’ll have more jobs and wage increases that actually will outpace health care costs and adjustment for inflation one of these days, heh, heh.”

Since this administration can’t be counted on to tell us the truth on this matter and just about everything else, here is some more unpleasant reality on this subject from Paul Craig Roberts (and John Edwards also caught Snow in a moment of candor on this last week, but Heaven forefend that the august WSJ would actually be impudent enough to call him on it).

Also, if you want to read an example of another “titan of industry” from abroad and his frugality (in stark contrast to the Fortune 500 crowd in this country), check this out (courtesy of The Huffington Post).

Sunday, March 26, 2006

A Dick That Sings

Happily, the vast majority of the people of this country stopped listening to the tune a long time ago.

Looks like our veracity-challenged vice president is at it again (or, as a commenter on The Huffington Post noted so astutely, what a waste of a perfectly good pacemaker).

From "The Chickenhawk Database" of the New Hampshire Gazette:

Name: Richard "Dick" Cheney (R-WY)
Born: 1942
Employer: The U.S. Taxpayer
Conflict Avoided: Vietnam
Notes: Says he had "other priorities." You bet he had other priorities. Imagine how early in life you must begin scheming to get away with what this guy has. He was too busy thinking about Halliburton to go fight Charlie.
The information from this link tells you who has and has not served in Congress (a bit dated, but it still provides some illuminating information). It's pretty clear to me who should be leading this country based on prior military service alone.

For "a stroll down memory sewer," here are more episodes of Delusional Dick in action.

Update 3/27: Damn that Christopher Durang for being so talented..!!