Friday, November 17, 2006

Friday Videos

R.I.P. Ruth Brown (she was referring to Ahmet Ertegun, the founder of Atlantic Records, in the narration for "Mama, He Treats Your Daughter Mean")...

Happy Birthday to Canadian music icon Gordon Lightfoot ("Song For A Winter's Night," produced with wonderful images by Stonewall Studios)...

Happy Birthday also to Gene Clark of The Byrds ("Turn, Turn, Turn" on "Ed Sullivan" in 1965...good times, good times, and no damn lip-synching for these guys - and yes, that's David Crosby in the pancho - "a time for peace; I swear it's not too late")...

And since it is a Friday after all, let's return to the '80s with Cameo ("Word Up," with LeVar Burton as the detective).

More From Doomsy’s News Desk

I really don’t have much to say about any of these news items that have shown up over the last day or so, but I wanted to point them out:

- Kudos to PA Governor Ed Rendell for advocating deep cuts in mercury emissions from Pennsylvania’s coal-fired power plants (and kudos to the regulatory board that approved the cuts). As the story notes (here), Pennsylvania will be the first major coal-producing state to require a tougher-than-federal limit on mercury emissions from power plants; Pennsylvania is second only to Texas in its level of mercury emissions (mercury is particularly toxic to babies).

(And by the way, I never understood this whole notion of one chronically polluting company being able to buy "credits" from another company that doesn't pollute quite so much. Do the people living near the chronically polluting company have the same risk of becoming ill because of negligence as people living near the company that doesn't pollute to the same extent?)

- Kudos also to Rush Holt, U.S. Congressional rep from New Jersey, for renewing his call for paper ballots as a backup for e-ballots in light of the most recent electronic voting controversy, in Florida of course (and the former congressional district of Katherine Harris, no less).

- Kudos yet again to Russ Feingold for trying to discourage the proliferation of nuclear weapons in light of the agreement Bushco and the Repugs made with India, a country which did not sign the nonproliferation treaty (kind of a shame he’s not going to run in ’08, but the field is getting pretty crowded now on both sides, and he can probably be more effective in his Senate role).

- Let me get this straight, OK? Wal-of-China Mart is mad at John Edwards now because a staffer tried to get a Playstation 3 for the former Senator’s family after Edwards’ criticism of the company (totally justified, and then some)?

Am I the only one who thinks this is incredibly weak?

- And last but not least…Happy Birthday Howie!

For The "Nutritionally Challenged"

With the Thanksgiving holiday coming up next week, it is particularly important that we pay attention to the issue of hunger in America and throughout the world (as we should every day). And in typical Bushco fashion, the Department of Agriculture came up with an interesting way to address it

They decided to remove the word “hunger” from any official correspondence and instead use the term “very low food security” (they might as well have changed the expression to “let them eat cake”).

I’m not going to try and address any statistics on hunger in this country that come from the Department of Agriculture because I trust absolutely nothing that comes from the Bush Administration.

This Philadelphia Inquirer editorial from César Chelala, an international consultant specializing in children’s health, paints a somewhat different picture than that of Bushco and its flunkies (this appeared in September).

While it is normal to expect high levels of hunger and poverty in a developing country, it may come as a surprise to observe a similar epidemic in one of the richest countries in the world. The Food Bank for New York City recently reported that nearly 20 percent of children in the city rely on free food to survive. According to statistics from Bread for the World, 13 million children went to bed hungry in the United States in 2004, the most recent year for which statistics are available.

There's a debate about the real extent of U.S. hunger. The direst statistics, like those above, come (it is claimed) from advocacy groups. Others claim that "the poor here aren't really poor." Another claim is that the numbers are inflated or somehow "aren't that big," given the hugeness of the whole country. We are about to crest the 300 million mark in total population, and 13 million doesn't "sound so big" up against that. Divide 13 million by 50 states and you get about 65,000 hungry kids per state. That isn't so much - is it? Still others say that "the numbers are skewed by how bad the big cities are," as if somehow we shouldn't count the situation in, say, New York, when we look at the entire country's children. If you manhandle the numbers, you can make the problem sound smaller.

While I wish to acknowledge the controversy, I'm really not at all persuaded by these cavils. In my travels around the world, I see a lot of poor children. And I would say that, ironically, hungry children in places like the Philippines or India may be less miserable than hungry children in the United States - simply because the horizons of expectation are so much lower for the Filipino or Indian children. If we have even 10 million truly hungry children in the United States, even five million, we have a crisis, and if they are the world's most miserable children - hungry while the computer age whirls about them, denied entry into that age of plenty - we have a treble crisis.

Let's look closely at New York - that city we shouldn't include in our averages. The latest statistics from the U.S. Census Bureau show that more than one in four New York City children and adolescents younger than 18 live below the federal poverty level. And indeed, this figure is 50 percent higher than the national average. What makes this particularly worrisome is that between 2000 and 2005, the number of children living in poverty in New York City has increased by 5 percent, a trend that will probably continue.

According to recent information from the Food Bank for New York City and City Harvest, published in "Growing Up Hungry in New York City: An Analysis of Hunger Among Children," hunger among children has reached critical levels. Almost a third (29 percent) of New Yorkers who receive emergency food aid are children.

Hunger is one of the clearest expressions of poverty. A child is born into poverty every 17 minutes in New York City. Children who are chronically hungry suffer from malnutrition, which can have devastating effects on their physical and mental development. Malnutrition can result when children are undernourished, or overnourished with the wrong kind of foods, particularly those that are fried and high in fats.

I'll admit that the District of Columbia is in some ways a worst case - and yet, the badness of the actual case can be surprising. The infant mortality rate in the District of Columbia, the nation's capital, is more than twice as high as in Beijing. In 2002 in the district, the number of babies who died before their first birthday was 11.5 per thousand live births versus 4.6 in Beijing. The United Nations Development Program reports that an African American baby in Washington has less chance of surviving its first year than a baby born in urban areas of the state of Kerala in India. The United States ranks 43d in the world in infant mortality levels.

In the United States, it's often said that "it isn't race - it's class." Fine. But the fact is, hunger and race are strongly related: 41.9 percent of African American children and 40 percent of Latino children are chronically hungry, compared to 16.2 percent of white children - and that percentage of white children is terribly high!

UNICEF has indicated that although the United States is still the wealthiest country in the world, with incomes higher than any other country's, it has also one of the highest incidences of child poverty among the rich, industrialized nations. Denmark and Finland have levels of less than 3 percent, closely followed by Norway and Sweden. All of those countries have high levels of social spending.

Several factors contribute to poverty and hunger among children and their families in the United States. Among those factors are poor education; discriminatory practices against minorities and women; limited job opportunities; unstable family life; mental illness; and substance abuse. Perhaps the most important factors are unemployment and gender earning disparities.

Nobel laureate Amartya Sen has stated: "A person may have little means of commanding food if he or she has no job, no other sources of income, no social security. The hunger that will result can coexist with a plentiful supply of food in the economy and the markets." These are conditions that apply to the United States, where there are increasing gaps between the rich and the poor, who remain permanently marginalized and forgotten.

We can't totally eliminate poverty or its consequences. We can, however, lower the number of poor by acting on all of the factors that contribute to their poverty. No matter how rich a country is, if it doesn't fill the needs of its children it is, in fact, a poor country.
Also, to find out more information on this issue (as opposed to Bushco propaganda), here is a link to Bread for the World (including more information on hunger issues) and here is a link to World Hunger Year; each site also provides information on food donations – a little late for the holiday next week I know, but not too late to make a difference.

Clap Even Louder!

Is this what you and I voted for last week?

Does this reflect the will of the vast majority of the people of this country who said that we should start drawing down our troops and redeploying them and our “political leadership” should start acting like adults for a change and make SOME gestures towards regional cooperation with neighboring countries?

This is a great big “F.U.” from Bushco aimed right at the new Democratic congress (in lieu of the REAL war this will perpetuate, this is certainly the first shot in a new political war).

Oh, but Dubya is “energizing the base,” isn’t he?

Well, I have news for “the base”… you were a non-factor in the last election. And really, by yourselves, you were a non-factor in 2000 and 20004 also. Without the moderate/swing/values voters (or whatever they’re being called this week by Time and Newsweek), you people would have gotten NOTHING.

And given the ruin that has been wrought by this sick joke of an administration, I think it will be a LONG time before any kind of moderate vote sides with you ever again.

Update: I can't think of anything else to say about this scumwad except to echo the sentiments of the YouTube commenter for this moving video from Peace Takes Courage who said that they wished George W. Bush had never been born.

Update 11/19: For someone who is ostensibly a conservative, I have to give Fareed Zakaria credit for (perhaps) being the only one of his political persuasion who knows what is going on in Iraq.

Dubya Goes To Vietnam At Last

Columnist J.D. Mullane in the Bucks County Courier Times confessed yesterday that he reads some blogs (didn’t mention any names), but grows tired of the ones that continually beat up on George W. Bush.

Well, considering the fluffing Mullane gave to President Stupid Head here, I’m not a bit surprised.

As any reader of this site may have noticed, I try to mix up the posting topics partly because, yes, it would indeed get boring if all I ever did was whack our red state president when he says and does dumb things.

However, there are times when he truly deserves to be pilloried, and in his Most Recent Excellent Adventure in a country where we fought another costly and divisive war 30 or so years ago, he said that the lesson of The Vietnam War was not to give up.


As Molly Ivins has said (among others), the lesson is “if you find yourself digging in a hole, stop digging.”

I realize that it is pointless to try and communicate to this meat sack that the result of his clueless stubbornness is untold injury and death for our men and women in the services as well as (potentially) hundreds of thousands of innocent Iraqis, to say nothing of the costs to families, friends, and the everyday way of life that country once had under Saddam Hussein (and yes, Hussein was a mean, brutal, nasty guy, but the country at least had electricity, running water, and a noticeable lack of rampant sectarian violence).

It is probably also a futile exercise to mention, as Steven Thomma of McClatchy Newspapers pointed out today, that Bush, ever the consummate liar and fraud, has not demonstrated a scintilla of bipartisanship in his actions since professing same after the Democrats won both houses of Congress last week.

As Thomma noted…

“…the agenda he has sent to Congress since then is full of Republican proposals that have no chance of winning bipartisan approval, that enrage Democrats, that rally his conservative base, and that appear intended to paint Democrats as obstructionist.

Bush has resubmitted several judicial nominations that had been blocked before the Nov. 7 elections. He has asked again that the Senate confirm John R. Bolton as ambassador to the United Nations. And he has urged approval of warrantless eavesdropping on terror suspects with no accommodation to Democrats' demands that a court sign off on the surveillance.”

“This week Bush sent to the Senate four appeals-court nominations that waved a red flag before Democratic bulls. They include U.S. District Judge Terrence Boyle of North Carolina, who has been blocked for years by Democrats who accuse him of being hostile to civil rights and often overruled by higher courts, and William G. Haynes, a former Pentagon general counsel whom Democrats have assailed for his role in crafting administration policies on detentions and treatment of suspected enemy combatants.

"Barely a week after the president promised to change course by working in a bipartisan and cooperative way with Congress, it is disappointing that he has decided to stay the course on judicial nominees," said Sen. Patrick J. Leahy (D., Vt.), who will take over as Senate Judiciary Committee chairman in the 110th Congress.”
This is part and parcel of what the Repugs plan to do, and that is to create gridlock for which they intend to blame the Democrats again in two years while “the base” figures out to which Republican they plan to pledge undying fealty in the 2008 presidential election (and again, don’t be surprised if Little Ricky figures into that mix somewhere).

And none of this is really news, I realize – this has been a tried-and-true strategy in the past. However, each election has a different set of dynamics, and anyone who thinks one strategy will work every time should study the differences in the red and blue shadings of our national political map between 2004 and 2006. My main point here, though, is that there is something else to consider.

Most other presidents would now, with about two years left to go in their term (barring impeachment, of course) be concerned about their legacy and place in the history books. Dubya professes to care about that also (he professes to care about a lot of things, I know), but unless he wants to be recorded for all time as the owner of quite probably the lowest presidential approval rating in history as well as a legacy of near-limitless failure (as well as finding himself in the pathetic circumstance of having to rely on members of his father’s presidential administration to bail him out of the mess he created in Iraq), I would say that it’s time for him to emulate conservative icon Ronald Reagan and have a “sit down” for real with the opposition (which, by the way, should not budge one inch in any of this, since they have the weight of public opinion and the force of events on their side – and yes, I know this is perhaps foolish optimism on my part).

Given the state in which this administration finds itself, maybe the ideas in this almost-year-old post aren’t so tongue-in-cheek after all (if he followed up, it would certainly seize the attention of our corporate media cousins at least, and Dubya would be remembered to posterity for certain).

Update 11/20: In the "legacy of this nightmare of a presidency" category, John Grogan of the Philadelphia Inquirer had a good idea here, though we'll never see it in a million years.

I also got a kick out of this bit of editorializing by AP writer Terence Hunt in his story on Dubya’s latest diversion…

Bush will draw on his powers of personal diplomacy in meetings Saturday and Sunday with Russia's Vladimir Putin, China's Hu Jintao, Japan's Shinzo Abe and South Korea's Roh Moo-hyun. All are partners with the United States in talks aimed at persuading a defiant North Korea to abandon its nuclear weapons.
Yep, I’d say were “fracked” for sure now.

Update 11/18: By the way, stuck somewhere in the middle of this story with the fawning pro-Bush headline is this inconvenient fact, which happens to be the whole point of the story:

"But while cheered with the APEC statement against North Korea, Bush failed to win South Korea's support for intercepting ships suspected of carrying supplies possibly bound for North Korea's nuclear weapons program."
So much for Dubya's "powers of personal diplomacy."

Update 11/20: Leave it to Keith Olbermann to "cut to the chase" (Lyndon Johnson will also be partly remembered for The Great Society, but Olbermann is right; he will be remembered primarily for Vietnam).

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Thursday Videos

Happy Birthday to Chi Coltrane ("Thunder and Lightning" from '73 - an early crush for your humble narrator)...

...and XTC performs "Generals and Majors" (and no, I don't know what Richard Branson is doing in this video either - kind of had this song in my head since the story today about Zinni and Abizaid...I respect both men, but I, like most of this country, are tired of the horrific status quo in Iraq, and their testimony seemed to encourage it today; also, it sounds like, according to georgia10 at The Daily Kos, that Jim "The Fixer" Baker's precious Iraq Study is telling us now to Clap Louder after it said earlier that the Iraq war is unwinnable - as a commenter said, I think we need an antiwar movement for real in this country).

Don’t Think We Haven’t Noticed

This comment from g7enn at The Huffington Post is so good (in response to this post from Jerry and Joe Long at HuffPo) that I’m highlighting it here regarding recently elected House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (for anyone who thinks I take it easy too much on Dems).

Potential Tom DeLay clone, Steny Hoyer's selection as house majority leader means lobbyist control of the House and stay the course in Iraq:

"Hoyer's Own K Street Project," about how he was starting a fund-raising operation to shake down corporate lobbyists for cash. Hoyer made sure he was featured in The Hill newspaper reassuring the corporate community that he "has sought to make himself the first contact for K Street" and that he would continue holding regular meetings with their lobbyists." was Hoyer - the Democratic Whip - who refused to whip votes together to try to defeat the corporate-written Central American Free Trade Agreement. was Hoyer, the second-ranking Democrat in the House, who not only didn't whip against the bankruptcy bill, but actually voted for it, after pocketing massive campaign contributions from the banking industry. ...Hoyer was voting for the Iraq War. ..the GOP Energy Bill, it was Hoyer who voted for the nauseating legislation after pocketing more than $300,000 from energy/natural resource industry cash. That legislation that literally gave away billions of taxpayer dollars to the energy industry profiteers who proceeded to bilk Americans with higher and higher gas prices."

(related Common Dreams article
And I don’t want to hear about John Murtha and ABSCAM, by the way. He was recorded as saying something that could give the impression that he might be susceptible to a bribe, but he never took any money.

I’ll be honest – Hoyer concerns me, though I realize that moving him up the chain based on senority is the "safe" move. Murtha doesn’t have the same trail behind him and at least double the courage and integrity.

But what’s done is done (sorry to participate in this circus after I decried it yesterday).

Trent Lott's Greatest Hits

Our dear corporate media cousins are currently swooning over Trent Lott and his resurgence after his exile from power (with the story line of Dubya and Karl Rove initiating his fall from grace after Lott’s infamous remarks at Strom Thurmond's birthday party some years ago, as I referred to here). Implicit in this “reporting” is some sort of praise directed towards Lott for his recovery.

This is all utter garbage.

To begin, I should point out that when Trent Lott uttered his infamous "all these problems" quote, that was not the first time he had uttered a fondness for the confederacy (see the Jefferson Davis can read more on Lott’s affiliations with organizations trying to cultivate the worst Jim Crow racism here).

Also, here are some true lowlights from Trent Lott’s voting record, which were published at the time he ran for re-election to the Senate in 2002 (I’m really trying not to say what I really think of the people in Mississippi who voted to send this cretin back to Washington at all, let alone the ones who decided to give Lott a position of leadership)…

From here…

Voted NO to expand definition of hate crimes to include sexual orientation

Voted NO on prohibiting job discrimination based on sexual orientation

Voted NO on repealing tax subsidy for companies which move US jobs offshore

Voted YES on restricting rules on personal bankruptcy

Voted YES on limiting product liability punitive damage awards

Voted YES on restricting class-action lawsuits

Voted NO on shifting $11B from corporate tax loopholes to education

Voted YES on $75M for abstinence education ($75 million??!!)

Voted NO on disallowing an oil leasing program in Alaska's AMWR

Voted NO on banning drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge

Voted YES on drilling ANWR on national security grounds.

Voted YES on terminating CAFE standards within 15 months

Voted YES on defunding renewable and solar energy
There’s much, MUCH more from the “On The Issues” link that may cause the bile to rise to your throat (I hope not, but be forewarned).

And finally, let us not forget how Lott piled onto Al Gore in 1999 after Wired magazine deliberately misquoted Gore on the role he played in securing funding for development of the Internet (actually, it’s a stretch for Lott to claim that he could summon the technical know how to master using a paper clip, let alone creating one).

With Lott as the minority Whip, we can look forward to at least two more years of distraction and attempts at division as the Repugs fight Harry Reid and the Democratic majority every inch of the way.

Don't Reward Terrorism Unpunished

Five years ago today, the Capitol Hill office of Democratic Senator Patrick Leahy of Vermont, incoming chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, received letters laced with anthrax, a case which, as the Bulldog noted some time ago in this great post, has yet to be solved.

This is particularly important as far as I’m concerned because the person who should have resolved this officially (as former Health and Human Services director) is Tommy Thompson who, conveniently enough, announced that he’s going to seek the nomination of the Republican Party for president in ’08 (God, we just got through one election, and it’s starting all over again…).

As I noted in this fit of posting brilliance (insert your snark here)…

Actually, I have to admit that (incoming HHS Head Mike) Leavitt has a tough act to follow coming into the job after Tommy Thompson, who once wondered aloud at a Congressional hearing why al Qaeda had not yet poisoned our food supply. I think he was “put out to pasture” soon after that. This excerpt from a CNN article that I link to later was, shall we say, an “interesting” way to pay tribute to him also.

During his tenure, Thompson has led the department through the discovery of the first U.S. case of mad cow disease; the lethal spread of anthrax-laced letters and this year's shortage of the flu vaccine.
I was never able to determine what exactly it was that Thompson did to “lead the department through the first discovery of mad cow disease,” and the distribution of flu vaccine in this country has NEVER been handled properly by ANY HHS director under Bushco, but I KNOW he never solved the case of the letters laced with anthrax.

My guess is that Thompson, despite his claims in today’s CNN story, will be weeded out in the primaries pretty quickly, along with Rudy Giuliani (sooo funny that he thinks the Fundies will go for him since he’s a divorced, pro-choice Repug from a blue state). And if that’s the worst punishment Thompson is ever forced to endure, he should count his blessings.

Marching With "General" Reynolds

While researching a post that may or may not happen (not sure at the moment), I came across today’s column by editorial (supposed) genius Howard Kurtz of the Washington Post which seems to do mainly with how that maverick John McCain is “bucking the odds again” by declaring that more troops are needed for the Iraq war, a claim which, as far as I'm concerned, requires no courage whatsoever.

I guess this is something like a “political potpourri” column from Kurtz (any minute now I’m sure I’ll be sued by former Jesuit Dr. McLaughlin for using that phrase), though I wouldn’t know for sure since I’ve learned not to pay too much attention to what Kurtz and his fellow travelers tell us (though it is perversely amusing to read Kurtz say that he isn't taking sides in one paragraph, then endorses more troops in the next paragraph).

Well anyway, buried in Kurtz’s column (bottom of page 2) is this nugget from Glenn “Instapundit” Reynolds (commenting on the Senate testimony from Generals Anthony Zinni and John Abizaid that seems to advocate the status quo of sending no more troops but keeping the ones already there – I give McCain some credit, though, for actually pointing out to Abizaid that, based on last week’s election, the majority of the people of this country said loud and clear that that isn’t acceptable any more)...

"So we had these hearings on Iraq, and generals Abizaid and Zinni are arguing against timetables for withdrawal, which has been the Democrats' main policy proposal.

"Did the Democrats know beforehand that this is what the generals thought? If so, were they dishonest in not taking it into account? Maybe they were relying on this sort of thing to keep from having to do what the MoveOn crowd wants, but what they know is wrong?

"Or did they not know, making them clueless? Neither one's impressive. But since the big criticism of Rumsfeld, which led to his defenestration, was that he 'didn't listen to the generals,' what are the Democrats to do now that the generals have spoken?"
I realize it’s Reynolds’ job to create straw men for no good reason, helped by throwing around big words no one understands in a manner emblematic of most academics, so I’ll avoid the absurdity of his notion that the new Democratic congress is somehow beholden to “the MoveOn crowd,” as well as his criticism of Democrats for apparently lacking clairvoyance regarding Abizaid and Zinni’s testimony.

I only wish to point out the following statement from General Zinni (noted here)…

In the lead-up to the Iraq war and its later conduct, I saw, at a minimum, true dereliction, negligence, and irresponsibility; at worst, lying, incompetence, and corruption.
Based on this quote from General Zinni, it doesn’t sound like he’s arguing for troop reductions, I’ll admit. It sounds instead like he’s arguing that our troops should never have gotten stuck in this unholy mess in Iraq to begin with.

And as far as General Abizaid is concerned, he has spoken these wise words: "More U.S. troops will lead to less consent for our presence among the Iraqis."

General Abizaid has also said, by the way (as noted in this article) that the roots of terrorism "certainly don’t lend themselves easily to military solutions."

I believe what Reynolds is looking for here are cheerleaders for his chickenhawk policy of continuing to slog it out in this mess in Iraq, and tar the Democrats as beholden to “the MoveOn crowd” at the same time. If he’s looking for generals to help him with this pointless exercise, he’d do better to try this with Peter Pace or George Casey than men such as Generals Zinni and Abizaid.

And by the way, do you really have to ask whether or not Reynolds served in the military?

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Wednesday Videos

Audioslave ("Be Yourself" - I meant to get to this last night)...

...and celebrating a birthday today is '60s icon Petula Clark, so let's do the hippy hippy shake up and down Carnaby street to "A Sign Of The Times" baay-baay (oh, behave - I hope the dancer remembered to go back and pick up his hat).

Tomlinson: NFW for BBG

So after the voters of this country provided a REAL mandate for change in Washington, what is the first act of our red state president after the dismissal of Donald Rumsfeld (which was a foregone conclusion anyway as things turned out, and Lukery at Wot Is It Good 4 tracked down some stuff on Robert Gates that portrays him as a card-carrying member of the Bushco cabal)?

Why, Dubya decides to try and “un-freeze” the nomination of Kenneth Tomlinson for the Broadcast Board of Governors.

The more things change…

The "War On Christmas" Begins

(I know, I know, it’s that time of year again already…)

Here’s one for you, O’Reilly!

It’s easy for you to bray all over the place about how our “Christian values” are being compromised when the clerk at Target wishes you “Happy Holidays” instead of “Merry Christmas,” and it’s good sport for you to malign the ACLU when they request that a menorah or a nativity scene is removed from in front of a government building (the latter is important to me personally, but I realize many other people in this country don’t share my faith, and they might object to it).

But try telling that to the Marines!

You heard me.

C’mon now, be consistent. If you’re going to attack one group, you should attack all.

Tell Bill Grein, vice president of the Marine Toys for Tots Foundation in Quantico, Virginia that he’s a knot head for refusing some Jesus dolls offered to him by the Beverly Hills Teddy Bear Company of Valencia, California.

Go ahead. I’ll be sure to call the rescue squad for you when the time comes to remove the boot after it is firmly inserted you-know-where.

Update 11/16: Looks like the Marines reconsidered (praise the Lord - this is a flaky Comcast link).

A Loss, Not Win, And Freeper Spin

George Will echoed the sentiments of many conservatives with this attempt to take the sting out of the fact that the Repugs lost both houses of Congress a week ago (the problem, of course, is that many of these sentiments are shared by our corporate media which allegedly suffers from the dreaded “liberal bias”).

Will throws a jibe or two at the Democrats here, specifically Nancy Pelosi from that den of liberal iniquity known as San Francisco, but he does show moments of sensibility here (only moments, though).

A loss's silver lining

At least Republicans now know where the "Bridge to Nowhere" leads: to the political wilderness. But there are three reasons for conservatives to temper their despondency.

First, they were punished not for pursuing but for forgetting conservatism. Second, they admire market rationality, and the political market has worked. Third, on various important fronts, conservatism continued its advance Tuesday.
I don’t know what Will means by “the political market has worked”…it usually does, except in November 2000 of course, and it did a week ago for both parties.

Of course the election-turning issue was not that $223 million bridge in Alaska or even the vice of which it is emblematic — incontinent spending by a Republican-controlled Congress trying to purchase permanent power. Crass spending (the farm and highway bills, the nearly eightfold increase in the number of earmarks since 1994) and other pandering (e.g., the Terri Schiavo intervention) have intensified as Republicans' memories of why they originally sought power have faded.
There’s are a few points in this column that I agreed with, actually, and I should mention that Will has taken the Republicans to task in that erudite way of his where he masks his insults in multi-syllabic language. But he saves his true venom for Democrats/liberals/progressives, of course.

But Republicans sank beneath the weight of Iraq, the lesson of which is patent: Wars of choice should be won swiftly rather than lost protractedly.
“Wars of choice” should not be fought at all! On second thought, though, I guess this is what you would expect from someone who ducked from Vietnam (as noted in the graphic).

On election eve the president, perhaps thinking one should not tinker with success, promised that his secretary of defense would remain.
How anyone could consider Iraq “success” is something I don’t want to think about for too long, but I’m sure Will is being tongue-in-cheek here (I hope so anyway).

That promise perished yesterday as a result of Tuesday's repudiation of Republican stewardship, which, although emphatic, was not inordinate, considering the offense that provoked it — war leadership even worse than during the War of 1812.
I’m not about to dust off my Britannicas to read up on President James Madison and that era, but I don’t recall that any elected representative sent sexually suggestive messages to Congressional pages, rewrote the rules so politicians could dictate the qualifications of lobbyists seeking favors, or decided that it was appropriate to spy on all American citizens without probable cause in the hope of finding any who may be terrorists (working for the British back then, I guess).

And “Emphatic, but not inordinate,” huh? Please…

Tuesday's House result — the end of 12 years of Republican control — was normal; the reason for it was unprecedented. The Democrats' 40 years of control of the House before 1994 was aberrant: In the 140 years since 1866, the first post-Civil War election, party control of the House has now changed 15 times — an average of once every 9.3 years. But never before has a midterm election so severely repudiated a president for a single policy.
It was one policy failure in particular, though it was sympomatic of a much larger case of "voter's remorse."

The Iraq war, like the Alaska bridge, pungently proclaims how Republicans earned their rebuke. They are guilty of apostasy from conservative principles at home (frugality, limited government) and embrace of anti-conservative principles abroad (nation-building grandiosity pursued incompetently).

About $2.6 billion was spent on the 468 House and Senate races. (Scandalized? Don't be. Americans spend that much on chocolate every two months.)
What the hell does that mean? An ungodly sum of $2.6 billion on all elections in this country is somewhat acceptable to Will? Does he have any idea whatsoever of the many, many ways that that money could have been put to better use? Does Will think that consumption of chocolate, then, is some insidious liberal plot?

That amount SCREAMS for campaign finance reform FOR REAL, as far as I’m concerned.

Although Republicans had more money, its effectiveness was blunted because Democrats at last practiced what they incessantly preach to others — diversity. Diversity of thought, no less: Some of their winners even respect the Second Amendment.
Of course, Will has to toss a bone to the “God and Guns” crowd, such as those life forms in Lancaster County who decisively voted for Pancake Joe Pitts last week (if the election there had even been reasonably close, Lois Herr would be in Washington today). As I noted to a commenter, I hope none of these people lose family members to Dubya’s Now And Forever You Goddamn Liberal And I Don’t Give A Hoot In Hell What Jim Baker’s Iraq Study Group Says Global War On Terror, otherwise known as the slaughter in Iraq (and hopefully they won’t have to fear Joe’s Fatherhood Task Force or whatever that nonsense was he was talking about concerning “family values” either).

Free markets, including political markets, equilibrate, producing supplies to meet demands. The Democratic Party, a slow learner but educable, has dropped the subject of gun control and welcomed candidates opposed to parts or even all of the abortion rights agenda.
That’s because the Democrats recognize that, first and foremost, “it’s the war, stupid.” Also on the list is embryonic stem cell research, tax relief, job growth (remember that one? Gosh, that so “Clinton and the ‘90s,” I know), and fixing Medicare Part D and crafting something approaching universal health care, which would thus bring us up to speed with every other industrialized nation on earth.

The issues Will mentions, pure red meat for the freepers, are still very much in play; just ask South Dakota, by the way, which voted to repeal most of the restrictions of its horrible anti-abortion law, and big-city mayors of both major political persuasions (including, notably, Republican Michael Bloomberg in NYC) will continue to face off with state legislators over stemming the insane flow of guns into and throughout our cities.

This vindicates the candidate recruitment by Rep. Rahm Emanuel and Sen. Chuck Schumer, chairmen of the Democratic House and Senate campaign committees, respectively. Karl Rove fancies himself a second iteration of Mark Hanna, architect of the Republican ascendancy secured by William McKinley's 1896 election. In Emanuel, Democrats may have found another Jim Farley, the political mechanic who kept FDR's potentially discordant coalition running smoothly through the 1930s.
At this point, it’s time for your humble narrator to eat a bit of crow. There was a time when I thought there was no conceivable way Bob Casey could beat Rick Santorum. But putting aside the fact that Santorum said and did just about everything wrong you can imagine – as I pointed out along with others, his campaign made no sense until you realize that what he was really trying to do was energize his true freeper followers for a White House run (God help us) in ’08 – Casey ran a smart, cautious enough campaign where the weights of events and the conduct of his opposition firmly favored him, and in this climate for a Democrat, that was just enough (I favored Chuck Pennacchio, who would have been a great candidate also, but I just don’t know if he would have pulled in enough of Casey’s turf as well as the dreaded mid-state “T” region where few Democrats fear to tread). The decision to run Casey, as far as I’ve been able to determine, was Schumer’s along with Ed Rendell, so props to them.

Emanuel, though, just hasn’t sold me, partly because he was a bit late to criticize Bush and the Repugs on Iraq (as noted here by Arianna Huffington). Howard Dean was the first to do that and everyone thought he was nuts. Then Ned Lamont did that and staged an upset in the Democratic primary (reversed, sadly, in the general election). As the tide turned, it appeared to me that Emanuel joined in after the wave had already broken.

I can see that Will would like Emanuel because he’s an “inside” guy and is a known commodity as far as the incestuous Beltway maneuverings are concerned.

Making the Democratic House majority run smoothly will require delicacy. The six elections beginning with 1994 produced Republican majorities averaging just 10 seats. The six elections before 1994 produced Democratic majorities averaging 44. Nancy Pelosi's majority will be less than half that. The most left-wing speaker in U.S. history will return to being minority leader in 2009 unless she eschews an agenda that cannot be enacted without requiring the many Democrats elected from Republican-leaning districts to jeopardize their seats.
“The most left-wing speaker in U.S. history “ huh, George? Just a bit of hyperbole, wouldn’t you say?

This year Democrats tacitly accepted much of the country's rightward movement over the past quarter-century. They did not call for restoring the 70 percent marginal tax rates that Ronald Reagan repealed. And although Pelosi and 15 of the 21 likely chairmen of committees in the coming Congress voted against the 1996 welfare reform, which has helped reduce welfare rolls by roughly 60 percent, Democrats this year did not talk about repealing it.
No one in their right mind would discuss either of these topics, which are legitimate only in the minds of delusional conservatives (redundant?). As noted here, the top rate is only 39.5 percent anyway, which was enacted under Clinton (A jump from 39.5 to 70? Tell me when the spaceship lands, George). And though we should be looking at the supposed welfare “reform” (any numbers on recipients finding jobs paying non-starvation wages, George?), that’s not going to happen in this climate either.

The property rights movement gained ground Tuesday as voters in nine states passed measures to restrict governments from exercising eminent domain in order to enlarge their tax revenue.
Which of course may not stand up to court challenges anyway (I don’t enjoy pointing that out...and how again is that a "conservative" issue?).

In Michigan, opponents of racial preferences in public hiring, education and contracting easily passed their referendum, 58 to 42 percent, in spite of being outspent more than three to one. In Minnesota — the only state Democrats have carried in each of the past eight presidential elections, but one that is becoming a swing state — Republican Gov. Tim Pawlenty was reelected. And, come January, the number of Republicans in the House (at least 200) will still be larger than the largest number during the Reagan years (192 in 1981-83).
Yeah, George is trying really hard to find stuff he likes, I know.

Update: And oh yeah...speaking of Minnesota, I wonder if Will knows that that state just elected the first Muslim congressman (a Dem, of course)? Right-wing bigot and hammerhead Glenn Beck sure knows.

Update 11/16: Here's more from Chris Bowers on Democratic election victories outside of Washington, D.C.

As noted in this Wikipedia link…

Democrats won Republican-held governorships in Colorado, Arkansas, Maryland, Ohio, New York, and Massachusetts, while retaining all of their currently-held seats.
And here is a link to the House and Senate results (get back to us on those House numbers in a couple of years, George, and let us know how they’re trending, OK?)…

The country remains receptive to conservatism. That doctrine — were it to become constraining on, rather than merely avowed by, congressional Republicans — can be their bridge back from the wilderness.
Fair enough, but you guys weren’t singing this song after Dubya and Cheney parked their butts in the Oval Office in January 2001 and people like Fred Barnes were crowing about a conservative ascendancy lasting into the next millennia since Dubya is “a new kind of conservative,” were you?

And it would have been nice if your precious conservative cause had been helped along by re-electing actual conservatives such as Conrad Burns, George Felix Macaca Allen and Jim No-Talent in the Senate and Crazy Curt Weldon and Mike Fitzpatrick in the House, wouldn’t it?

And speaking of the soon-to-be-former senator from Virginia, all I can say is that if his successor Jim Webb is a “conservative” based on this, then sign me up.

Of course, this is part and parcel of the Repugs’ effort (along with their media acolytes) to reframe this in Will-esque fashion. Here are two examples: this from DownWithTyranny, and this from Bloomberg news (“Conservatives may emerge stronger,” or they could tear themselves to pieces in hopeless disagreement also).

In a scenario like this, I’d rather be a “divided” winner than a “united” loser any day.

The Nancy, John, Steny and Newt Show

Did you know that, when Newt Gingrich became Speaker of the U.S. House for the Republican Majority in 1994, he did the following (as Lou Dubose notes here):

Gingrich dismantled the committee system that had evolved in the decades following the revolt against Speaker Joe Cannon in 1911. He reduced committee staffs, diminished the authority of committee chairs, and reached around ranking Republican committee members to promote his loyalists, ignoring the established seniority system. The chairs he put in place were required to take loyalty oaths, making them an extension of the leadership office. Gingrich also reserved a large number of desirable committee appointments for freshman he helped elect in 1994. The result was a shift from a “committee-based process” to a “partisan leadership-based process.” Power that had been diffused among committee chairs was and remains concentrated in the leadership.
The reason why I’m pointing this out is because I, for one, am getting sick and tired of reading these stories about how the supposed “battle” for House Majority Leader between John Murtha and Steny Hoyer is turning into some kind of a ballyhooed smack-down festival illustrating yet again how the Democratic House leadership under soon-to-be-speaker Pelosi is terminally “divided.”

I don’t recall that all of this attention was paid to House appointments by Gingrich and company in 1994 when they took over (as you can see, Newt had his favorites, just as Pelosi prefers Murtha, but so what?). In fact, what I DO recall (as Media Matters pointed out so well here) was that our dear MSM cousins bent over backwards to point out how unified the Republicans were and politely declined to report on the internal scuffles which no doubt took place as Republican House members tried to secure key committee leadership positions. And besides, whatever is taking place in the House, as Dubose noted, is part of the “partisan leadership-based process” that Gingrich enshrined anyway.

But we all know what is REALLY going on here anyway, don’t we?

It’s more sensational for our august corporate media to report on a woman Democratic politician wielding power than a male of any political persuasion, especially in the case of Nancy Pelosi, who George Will described as “the most left-wing speaker in U.S. history” recently (wondering what kind of a barometer he used for that one – I’ll try to address his column on that shortly). It’s nice for our information handlers who have initials denoting their corporate affiliation to conjure up some kind of daytime soap-opera-ish scenarios involving a woman in a visible position of power.

How about commenting on the fact that, by naming Mel Martinez to head the Republican National Committee and Trent Lott as Senate Minority Leader (as I noted yesterday), the Repugs have sent a pretty clear message that they intend to budge NOT ONE INCH for at least the next two years while Pelosi, on the other hand, wrote an op-ed piece published in the Philadelphia Inquirer yesterday pledging bipartisanship (and I know how it goes over time with that, but it was still a nice first step).

I’ll tell you the truth; this is what scares me to death about nominating Hillary Clinton for president (as well as how that might be received in the Middle East where women are treated as little more than cattle anyway). I know that’s not fair, since she may emerge as the most qualified individual from the Democratic Party (a strong probability of that, as far as I can see right now), but our clueless media will dwell on every trivial circumstance with her for which most men would get a pass (especially David Broder, who once wrote that the state of the Clinton marriage was fair game, though he was “bored” by the entire Valerie Plame scandal).

As far as Democratic politicians versus our media, is a “David vs. Goliath” scenario. As far as Democratic women politicians in leadership versus our media, is David vs. about TEN goliaths.

Is Pelosi perfect? Hardly. I’m just wondering why it’s apparently impossible to afford her the same courtesy as we once afforded Newt and the boys (I guess I already answered that question...sigh).

Update 11/16: Now that this "non-story" is over, can we please just "move on," as someone once said?

Update 11/17: What Glenn Greenwald and Digby say (hat tips for both to Atrios)...

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Thanks To The Repugs

Yes, you read that right, and here’s why:

- They just chose Florida Senator Mel Martinez to head the Republican National Committee (you know, the guy who sent the letter with “talking points” for senators to use in the Terri Schiavo case). Also, if you hear the Repugs screaming about John Edwards’ experience as a trial lawyer if he runs for president, tell them to ask their chairman about that, since he made a fortune in that area before running for the Senate himself.

- It looks like Trent
“All These Problems” Lott is going to be the new Senate Minority Leader (and maybe he’s acquired some more understanding into the carnage in Iraq since he uttered these unfortunate words). It would have been more entertaining had they nominated Foghorn Leghorn, but this is a good choice for that also.
That’s what I like about the South!

He's Fair Game Now

This is just the beginning, by the way.

Bushco’s power has been steadily eroding for months, and last Tuesday set the stage for what should be (emphasis on "should") a battle with a no-longer-compliant Congress to set policy and attempt to right some of the more egregious wrongs of the last six years, ensuring that the erosion will continue.

And then, when this nightmare of a presidency is finally, mercifully OVER (and their power is gone), Bush, Cheney and the other criminals won’t be able to claim immunity from prosecution in the International Criminal Court.

I believe that none of these people will see a second of jail time, of course, but knowing that they have been punished by the international community (for reasons outlined pretty thoroughly here in Rumsfeld’s case) will be justice of a sort. And that’s probably, short of impeachment, the best we can expect.

Trying To Steal An Icon

This doesn’t have anything to do with politics (the kind I usually post about, anyway), but I would like to add to the chorus of individuals and concerned interests that are trying to keep the painting The Gross Clinic” in Philadelphia. It is perhaps the masterwork of Thomas Eakins of Philadelphia, one of the greatest portrait painters who ever lived.

Eakins painted rowers along the Schuylkill River through part of his career, but he is most remembered for his portraiture which brought to bear his skills as an anatomist (capturing the poses of his subjects with uncommon precision). The realism of his paintings, which was largely unappreciated during his lifetime unfortunately, is what established Eakins as a “father” to American painting (as noted in the Wikipedia article).

The Philadelphia Inquirer has covered this story extensively for the last several days, noting the almost universal outrage over the pending sale. The news of the sale broke on Saturday.

As noted here…

The canvas, which Eakins saw as testimony to the city's educational and medical achievements, has never resided outside of Philadelphia - beyond temporary exhibition-related sojourns - since it was painted here in 1875. Jefferson alumni bought it for $200 and gave it to the university in 1878.
At the moment, the painting resides in the hospital lobby, and it is a big mural (about 6 by 8 feet, as I recall – it’s been awhile since I’ve seen it, though I guarantee you that you never forget it after you do…the screen images in this post really don’t do it justice).

What happened exactly? As noted in the lede of Saturday’s Inquirer story…

Thomas Jefferson University (is ready to sell the painting) for a record $68 million to a partnership of the National Gallery of Art in Washington and a new museum planned by Wal-Mart heirs in Arkansas.
(Feel free to insert your own “Wal-Of-China-Mart” related snark here, by the way…they may try to put a yellow smiley face on it somewhere, they’ll sell reproductions made in a third-world country for about 25 cents marked up to $29.95 in a point-of-purchase display next to about five hundred copies of the DVD “Click” starring Adam Sandler for $9.99 in time for Christmas, etc.).

By the way, I wonder how many of the people who got themselves so exercised about that dumb Rocky statue give a fig about this potential tragedy (Tony Auth’s cartoon in the Inquirer this morning nailed it - can't find it online yet).

And, as a sidebar under the “It Figures” category, the story notes that one of the board members of Thomas Jefferson Hospital who approved the sale is none other than Brian Tierney of Philadelphia Media Holdings LLC, who was conveniently of the country the day news of the sale broke.

And how does Thomas Jefferson University defend this monstrous development?

“…Jefferson officials are frank about their desire to cash in on the robust art market, arguing that they are ill-equipped to care for the work and that the funds could be put to more ‘mission-related’ purposes.

"This is a big undertaking, a transformational undertaking, and it requires a redirection of our assets," said Robert Barchi, Jefferson's president, discussing the planned $400 million to $500 million university expansion.

"We're not a museum. We're not in the business of art education," he added.
Mr. Barchi, you just earned my vote for Weasel Of The Year with that disgusting quote.

Let me make a suggestion, OK? I can respect the fact that you need funds for the hospital, so here’s what you do; put a tip jar next to the painting and state that any funds people may wish to contribute would be used for hospital renovation and expansion as well as costs to maintain Eakins’ great work so it can be viewed for current and future generations.

As noted in the Inquirer today, many doctors are furious over this development, with Herbert Cohn, Jefferson’s vice chair for surgery, noting that, despite the revenue generated from the sale for building expansion, “In 30 years, the building is obsolete and you have no Gross Clinic.”

Another incredibly repugnant aspect of this, aside from the secrecy involved with the sale (the city wasn’t invited in the bidding process), is the fact that Philadelphia only has 45 days to match the proposed new buyers’ offer.

If anyone who may read this knows of a site for raising money to keep The Gross Clinic in Philadelphia, please let me know so I can link to it from here.

The painting is the work of one of Philadelphia’s greatest artists. It was painted for a Philadelphia institution. It is a Philadelphia landmark.

It belongs in Philadelphia!

Update 11/16: This requires registration with the Inquirer to read, but I'm including this opinion column from Steven Conn because it is excellent.

Unintended Consequences

This was a good editorial that appeared in the Bucks County Courier Times this morning regarding the recently-ended campaign for the PA-08 U.S. House seat still occupied by Mike Fitzpatrick for a few more weeks, though Patrick Murphy will be sworn into office replacing Mikey in January (I had been meaning to point this out).

Isn't it ironic? When the 8th Congressional district was last redrawn (with Republicans in charge) several years ago, it was purposely gerrymandered to include slivers of Montgomery County and Philadelphia.

The thinking obviously was that popular Bucks County congressman Jim Greenwood never would have to worry about the potential number of Democratic votes from those two areas because he was protected by the large GOP registration edge in Bucks. And putting Democratic voters into the 8th could perhaps help a Republican colleague in a neighboring district.

Sweet it must be then for the Democratic Party, then, that the bed the Republicans made for themselves with their "creative" redistricting was full of bugs last Tuesday, when challenger Patrick Murphy unseated incumbent Michael Fitzpatrick on the strength of Democratic votes from Montgomery County and Philadelphia - the so-called "Greenwood gash."

According to unofficial numbers, Fitzpatrick won by more than a thousand votes in Bucks, which makes up virtually all of the district and which witnessed virtually all of the campaign sparring between the two candidates. But Murphy prevailed sufficiently in the non-Bucks portions of the district to tip the election in his favor.

The lesson for both parties here might be this: Beware of engaging in funny business when redrawing congressional boundaries.

Of course, Murphy's victory cannot be attributed entirely to how the district was drawn. The candidate did run a very competitive race in Bucks, a far cry from some of the challengers who went up against Greenwood during his 12 years in office. There was also a general and widespread dissatisfaction with Republican policies this year, particularly having to do with the war in Iraq.

There's no telling which party will have the upper hand when the next congressional redistricting takes place after the 2010 census. But both should look back on Election 2006 for guidance on what can happen when district maps take on the look of abstract art.
Yep (and by the way, I meant to add this link earlier; it seems that resistance from some neighbors over the proposed veterans cemetery in Upper Makefield, Pa. helped undo Fitzpatrick also).

Monday, November 13, 2006

Monday Videos

Here's a belated Happy Birthday wish to the one and only Neil Young, who hit Number 61 yesterday. This is "The Needle And The Damage Done/No More," from '91, I believe...


And here's "Families," from "Living With War."

A New Mission

The latest from the Congressman-elect of PA-08...

Dear Friends,

Thank you. You put your hopes and hearts in my hands - and for that I will be more grateful then I can ever express or you might ever realize.

For me the journey began in 138 degree heat, on the streets of Baghdad. We were sent to battle without enough troops and without a plan to win the peace. 19 guys from my unit, who never made it home, deserved a government as honest and as decent as they were.

Now begins the real journey - not just for me, but for all of us here in the 8th district. We are going to bring back optimism. We are going to bring back hope. And, we are going to bring back possibility.

As your Congressman-Elect I am more humbled, more hopeful and more assured in my faith and in the American people than I ever could have imagined when I began this journey over a year ago.

Thank you for your support. Thank you for your trust. And I promise you one thing - I will make you proud.

Patrick J. Murphy
Just one word of advice, Patrick; even though it will cause a strain, don't try to commute every day from D.C. - it will be too much.

We know you'll do your best, and the party leadership had better show us something, but if you represent us the way you ran your campaign (and I don't know why you wouldn't), you'll be fine.

He's Going To Be Trouble

I read an analysis of last week’s election by Dick Polman of the Philadelphia Inquirer that nailed a few things right, reminding me once more why he gets paid to do this sort of thing and I don’t.

And unfortunately, one of his spot-on points is that Joe Lieberman, despite the wondrous challenge of Ned Lamont in the spring Democratic primary, ended up as a winner.

I’ve spent some intermittent periods in Connecticut in my life (brief stays but mainly drive-throughs), and as far as I’m concerned, there’s a reason why the state motto is “We’re Full Of Surprises” (I know there are great bloggers in that area too such as My Left Nutmeg).

Individuals such as Markos Moulitsas at The Daily Kos, rightly esteemed in many “A” list circles, can state as much as he wants that Lieberman has been marginalized. But that simply isn’t true (and as noted here, Lieberman is in line to head the Senate Homeland Security Committee, so he’ll have a big audience who will be forced to endure six more years of his pious-sounding, holier-than-thou whining).

We will also be forced to endure this act of “you’d better give me everything I want, Democrats, because I got help from a lot of GOP donors while you turned your backs on me, and I may just switch my party allegiance because, though I’m a cagey enough political animal to resuscitate my career, I’m also a consummate weasel” (Joe won’t name John Kerry or Russ Feingold, who did the right thing in principle, though Bill Clinton and Barbara Boxer look smart now for courting Lieberman earlier). And all it takes is for Lieberman to become a Repug and the Senate is 50-50 again with “Deadeye Dick” Cheney as the tiebreaker in the Senate.

There is much to look forward to from this new Congress, but I’m afraid Holy Joe’s potentially dangerous moments of pique and self-infatuation will be not unlike the cold dawn of a morning hangover after a really great party.

First Sublime, Then Ridiculous

Welcome to Remedial English, class. I’m your instructor, Professor Doomsy (a last-minute replacement for Dr. Staff).

As your first assignment, please explain to me what is wrong with this sentence…

“Dr. King showed us that a life of conscious and purpose can lift up many souls, and on this ground a monument will rise that preserves his legacy for the ages…”
That’s not the entire sentence, but that’s enough.

The Free Online Dictionary defines “conscious” (adj.) as follows…

- Having an awareness of one's environment and one's own existence, sensations, and thoughts.
- Mentally perceptive or alert; awake
Yes, I realize that this wouldn’t describe our president and he surely must be talking about someone else (bonus points for anyone who mentioned that).

However, the main point here is that the word “conscious” is an adjective and to state that someone lived “a life of conscious” is nonsense. However, in the event that the president meant to say that “Dr. King lived a life of conscience,” he would be correct (vague, but correct – Dr. King is worthy of this and other accolades in accordance with this story).

What is even more preposterous than the fact that this was uttered by the President of the United States is that it was dutifully recorded BY A MAJOR ONLINE NEWS ORGANIZATION WITH NO ANNOTATION DENOTING THAT IT IS GRAMMATICALLY INCORRECT!

What was that? Oh, I’m sorry – you’re now telling me that some of you want to transfer? Well, seeing as how it’s not required for your declared major, it’s OK by me.

I know there wasn’t much of a line at registration for Introduction to Basket Weaving or Bowling Theory and Concepts, so you may be in luck. Class Dismissed.

Update: And speaking of Dubya, here's the latest from Ann Coulter...

President Bush says he is protecting us from terrorism and terrorists. Well, so far he's been in the White House six years. We have had 9/11 and four years of the going nowhere War in Iraq. To date, 3,000 troops killed, 20,000 in veterans hospitals, a flood of illegal immigrants crossing the Mexican border. How many are terrorists? I don't think our country can stand anymore (sic) of him.

It's about time President Bush and the Republican Party took responsibility and stopped blaming the Democratic Party. We managed to win World War II in four years. What is taking you so long, Mr. Bush? Maybe because we, the Democrats, had a plan.
Once again, that would be Ann Coulter of Bensalem, Pa., and her letter to the editor appeared in the Bucks County Courier Times this morning.

The Enablers Of Deceit

I found nary a mention in the news of the fact that today is a rather infamous anniversary (though it did appear on Yahoo, to be fair).

Twenty years ago, President Ronald Reagan spoke to the nation and said that he’d…

“…authorized the transfer of small amounts of defensive weapons and spare parts for defensive systems to Iran. My purpose was to convince Tehran that our negotiators were acting with my authority, to send a signal that the United States was prepared to replace the animosity between us with a new relationship.

That initiative was undertaken for the simplest and best of reasons: to renew a relationship with the nation of Iran, to bring an honorable end to the bloody 6-year war between Iran and Iraq, to eliminate state-sponsored terrorism and subversion, and to effect the safe return of all hostages.”
But Reagan was adamant about the following point:

“The charge has been made that the United States has shipped weapons to Iran as ransom payment for the release of American hostages in Lebanon, that the United States undercut its allies and secretly violated American policy against trafficking with terrorists. Those charges are utterly false.”
No, actually, they were utterly true (hostages Father Lawrence Janco and David Jacobsen were released as a result of the transfer). And the funds acquired from the arms sale were used to aid the Nicaraguan Contras fighting the Sandinista regime in that country. And one of the problems with this deal is that it violated the Boland Amendment, which expressly forbade assistance to the Contras.

For more background on the Iran-Contra fiasco which was brought to light as a result of Reagan’s speech, here is an article from George Cave, who participated in the mission to Tehran with Lt. Col. Oliver North and former national security adviser Robert McFarlane, among others. In Cave’s article, one name that figures prominently is that of arms dealer Manucher Ghorbanifar, who we relied on as an intermediary between our representatives and the Iranian government.

As a result of Iran-Contra, Ghorbanifar was labeled as an unreliable source by the CIA, though, as James Risen noted in this New York Times article dated December 2003…

As part of its review of intelligence agencies' work before the war in Iraq, the Senate Intelligence Committee is also examining the influence of a small group of analysts working for Douglas J. Feith, under secretary of defense for policy and planning. The Pentagon officials who met with Mr. Ghorbanifar worked in Mr. Feith's policy office.

Mr. Ghorbanifar's involvement caused concern within the Bush administration because it evoked memories of Iran-contra and questions about whether the Pentagon was engaging in rogue covert operations. The Pentagon has conducted its own internal review of the Ghorbanifar matter, officials said.
It can be argued that the person who gave Ghorbanifar more credence than he should have was Michael Ledeen, another conservative ideologue who himself was involved in Iran-Contra as a national security representative and who also was a prominent voice in the run-up to the Iraq War. Risen’s article does not state that Ledeen helped orchestrate a meeting between Ghorbanifar, Pentagon officials and Iranian representatives in 2002 without White House clearance, though Risen did state the following:

Mr. Ledeen blamed the C.I.A. and the State Department for the administration decision to abandon the contacts. He said he was later told by officials that the information provided by the Iranians had "saved American lives" in Afghanistan. He said he believed that it was a mistake to abandon the contacts.
This, of course, is typical behavior when ideologues are given free rein and feel unrestricted by the framework of accountability and checks and balances in our government, as Ledeen apparently did (if Ledeen had a case to make that Ghorbanifar and his contacts had actually amounted to something and saved American lives, he should have made it).

To some, resurrecting the memory of Iran-Contra is sort of like blowing thick dust off a long-since-shelved historical artifact. However, I believe that when it comes to this miserable affair (and it is commonly accepted that this cast a shadow of sorts over the remainder of the Reagan presidency, which wasn’t that great anyway as far as I’m concerned), it is a cautionary lesson in operating outside of government and relying on unreliable individuals that wasn’t learned at all by the current cabal in the White House, some of whom (including Ledeen and Ghorbanifar as well as John Negroponte) are holdovers from twenty years ago anyway.

And the Iraq war, as we know all too well by now, is a much worse consequence of that mentality than Iran-Contra (past, sadly, was prologue for Reagan and Bushco once again).