Friday, June 01, 2007

Friday Videos

The New Pornographers ("Use It")...

...Happy 45th birthday to Corey Hart ("Sunglasses At Night" - a triumph of '80s fashion and Top 40 radio "sensibility")...

...Happy Birthday to Ron Wood (here he is with Faces performing "Miss Judy's Farm" live at the BBC in 1971 with Rod Stewart back when he was still cool)...

...and lest we all forget, today marks the 40th anniversary of the debut of "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band," by The Beatles.

Where The Rubber Meets The Road (6/1/07)

As reported in last Sunday's Philadelphia Inquirer, here is how Philadelphia-area members of Congress were recorded on major roll-call votes last week.


War funding. The House approved, 280-142, and sent to the Senate $96 billion in Iraq and Afghanistan war appropriations through Sept. 30. The bill specifies political, security and economic benchmarks on which the Iraqi government must show progress.
A yes vote was to pass HR 2206.

Voting yes: Robert E. Andrews (D., N.J.), Michael N. Castle (R., Del.), Charles W. Dent (R., Pa.), Jim Gerlach (R., Pa.), Tim Holden (D., Pa.), Frank A. LoBiondo (R., N.J.), Joseph R. Pitts (R., Pa.), H. James Saxton (R., N.J.), Allyson Schwartz (D., Pa.), Joe Sestak (D., Pa.) and Christopher H. Smith (R., N.J.).

Voting no: Robert A. Brady (D., Pa.), Chaka Fattah (D., Pa.) and Patrick Murphy (D., Pa.).
As we know, the No votes were necessitated by the removal of the withdrawal deadline of March 2008 (good for Patrick, as well as Brady and Fattah).

I’ll give Admiral Joe the benefit of the doubt on trying to do right by our military, though I know he wants to end this war. However, I don’t believe I can say the same thing about Rob Andrews, Tim Holden and Allyson Schwartz.

Minimum wage. The House passed, 348-73, a bill to raise the minimum wage from $5.15 per hour to $7.25 per hour over 26 months and provide about $17 billion in domestic spending. The legislation was later combined with HR 2206 (above).

A yes vote was to raise the minimum wage.

Voting yes: Andrews, Brady, Castle, Dent, Fattah, Gerlach, Holden, LoBiondo, Murphy, Saxton, Schwartz, Sestak and Smith.

Voting no: Pitts.
Is there a way we could get Pitts forcibly transplanted below the Mason-Dixon line somewhere? His votes are almost beyond parody at this point.

Lobbyist oversight. The House passed, 396-22, and sent to the Senate a bill to increase regulation and public scrutiny of the thousands of registered lobbyists on Capitol Hill. The bill (HR 2316) requires lobbyists to publish detailed reports of their activities on the Internet and imposing jail time for violations. The House also passed, 382-37, a bill (HR 2317) requiring lobbyists to file quarterly Internet disclosures of their "bundling" activities. Bundling is combining scores or hundreds of small individual donations into large campaign contributions to members of Congress.

All Philadelphia-area representatives voted for both bills.

Gasoline prices. The House passed, 284-141, and sent to the Senate a bill to give the Federal Trade Commission and state attorneys general tools for prosecuting energy firms suspected of charging "unconscionably excessive" wholesale or retail prices.

A yes vote was to pass HR 1252.

Voting yes: Andrews, Brady, Castle, Dent, Fattah, Gerlach, Holden, LoBiondo, Murphy, Saxton, Schwartz, Sestak and Smith.

Voting no: Pitts.
By the way (as noted here), Pitts also voted against against HR 5253 last year directing the Federal Trade Commission to investigate and prosecute price-gouging by sellers of gasoline and other fuels.

U.S. attorneys. The House passed, 306-114, and sent to President Bush a bill to repeal a USA Patriot Act provision used by the administration to appoint U.S. attorneys without Senate confirmation. The provision is central to the ongoing controversy over the administration's firing of U.S. attorneys.

A yes vote was to pass S 214.

Voting yes: Andrews, Brady, Castle, Dent, Fattah, Gerlach, Holden, LoBiondo, Murphy, Saxton, Schwartz, Sestak and Smith.

Voting no: Pitts.
Here’s more on the provision (please run again against Pancake Joe next year, Lois, by the way – what a laughingstock).

Murtha dispute. The House killed, 219-189, a GOP bid for a reprimand of Rep. John Murtha (D., Pa.) for his official conduct. The GOP alleges Murtha vowed improper legislative action against a Republican member who had upset him.

A yes vote opposed any reprimand of Murtha.

Voting yes: Andrews, Brady, Fattah, Holden, Murphy, Schwartz and Sestak.

Voting no: Castle, Dent, Gerlach, LoBiondo, Pitts, Saxton and Smith.
Sounds like much ado about nothing; Rogers acts like he’ll vote to kill a $23 mil earmark in Murtha’s district, Murtha stands up and threatens in return…if Rogers is going to make that kind of noise, he should expect that kind of response, though it sounds like, “no blood, no foul” to me.

Somehow I have a feeling that if the Dems sought motions to reprimand Repugs on a “tit for tat” basis, nothing at all would get done.

And by the way, Murtha apologized.


War funding. Senators approved, 80-14, and sent to President Bush a bill providing $96 billion for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and raising the minimum wage (HR 2206, above).

All Philadelphia-area senators voted for the bill.
Including Bob Casey, who totally caved on Reid-Feingold; I hold him to a different standard than other Dems because he was elected to change things (and the answer to the question, by the way, is no – I’ll never let him forget that vote.)

Immigration. Senators refused, 66-29, to strip a pending immigration bill (S 1348) of its section providing America's 12 million illegal immigrants with legal status if they pay heavy fines, clear criminal checks and meet other requirements.

All Philadelphia-area senators voted to keep the legalization program.

Guest workers. The Senate (voted) 74-24 to scale back the guest-worker program in a pending immigration bill (S 1348, above). The vote capped guest-worker visas at 200,000 annually, down from 400,000 or more in the underlying bill.

A yes vote was to scale back the guest-worker program.

Voting yes: Joseph R. Biden Jr. (D., Del.), Thomas Carper (D., Del.), Bob Casey Jr. (D., Pa.), Frank Lautenberg (D., N.J.) and Robert Menendez (D., N.J.).

Voting no: Arlen Specter (R., Pa.).
Regarding the guest worker program, I came across this from New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg in this article (probably the most astute words on this subject I’ve heard yet from a Repug)…

Mr. Bloomberg was especially critical of the guest-worker provision of the Senate bill, strongly supported by many in his own Republican Party. Immigrants would enter the country for three stints of two years each, going home for one year between each stint and returning home permanently after the third.

“The guest-worker program is a joke,” he said. “Nobody’s going to go home for a year and come back. Nobody could ever enforce that. Nobody in their right mind would ever try to do it.”
Makes me wonder why Arlen voted against scaling it back, then.

As of now, Congress is in recess until June 4, which means that I won’t be able to post on their votes for the next couple of weeks.

A Child Arrived Just The Other Day

I wanted to take a few minutes here and welcome Samuel Cheney to the world (as noted here).

Any life is a gift, and I wish Mary Cheney and her companion Heather Poe all the best as they raise him (assuming Heather Poe will be in the picture, so to speak – it would have been nice if Dick and Lynne had decided to include them in the photo and make a statement once and for all to the fundie zealot nut jobs who constitute much of “the base” that yes, we stand beside our daughter and her partner, and if you people don’t like the way they live their lives, drop dead).

Now that you have arrived, Samuel, you will be presented a bill for approximately $28,000; it may actually be more than that – I’m just approximating. You see, that is how much you automatically owe the U.S. government (the same goes for every other man, woman and child). The last person I know of who attempted to calculate the debt owed by all of us because of the staggering fiscal irresponsibility of your grandfather, his “boss,” and the now-happily-gone 109th Republican congress that owed its allegiance to both of them was a lady named Lois Herr who ran for the U.S. Congressional 16th District seat in Pennsylvania last year (Lois referred to it as the “birth tax”).

Young Samuel, you will end up presiding over the precipitous decline of the standard of living in this country that has proceeded unceasingly during the nightmarish regime presided over principally by your grandfather (let’s “cut to the chase” concerning “Deadeye Dick” and his role here, OK?). This has been marked by a complete and total disregard for the well-being of this country’s middle class, which built everything that many of us have taken for granted for far too long in the aftermath of World War II (you’ll read about it in the history books I’m sure; if your grandfather and his chimp-like accomplice have anything more to do with it, that’s the only place you’ll be able to find any trace of it).

Part of all of this includes the exporting of our jobs, including much of our intellectual capital and technical innovation, offshore principally to China and India in the name of consolidating wealth for the financial elites. It also has been low-lighted by an almost pathological attack on the environment and scientific thought and analysis. And as far as serving us in a capacity envisioned by our founding fathers and the authors of the Constitution (the document that serves as the framework for our system of government), your grandfather and like-minded others who have held power since 2001 have done everything they possibly could (and continue in this course of action almost unabated) to demonize, propagandize, and ultimately destroy our institutions that, among other things, administer the rule of law fairly, maintain the safety of our workplaces, protect the integrity of our food and medicines, care for our other children as well as yourself, and ensure that we are safe to fly in our planes, drive in our cars, ride on our trains, drink our water, and breathe our air.

And since your are newborn to this world, I will spare you any details of the Iraq war, an evil, monstrous enterprise borne of deceit and fear in the wake of the worst domestic terrorist attack our country ever suffered. I don’t want to give you nightmares describing how your grandfather, principally among others, encourages this almost unspeakable carnage in the name of profit undeterred by any notion of conscience whatsoever for the purposes of securing the oil of a country that has been referred to as the birthplace of civilization.

It is enough for now that you are here and well. Trouble yourself with nothing; give no thought to any question you may have of what I’ve just said about the man who will happily bounce you on his knee one day, I’m sure.

I am a parent also, and I can assure you that the day for questions that he hopefully will answer honestly will come soon enough.

Heaven Help Us

Even though it is still way too early for this stuff, I know, it looks as if the presidential primaries are starting to get serious (better hurry up and join in, Newt, so we can abuse you all over again).

I say this because they’re starting to talk about God more and more (that is, if this CNN story is any indication).

And am I the only one who is taking note of the irony that all of the leading Repug candidates at this point have issues in this area? John McCain divorced and remarried, Rudy Giuliani has had some rather celebrated family blowups, and some fundie zealots consider Mitt Romney’s Mormonism to be a cult (he has tried to steer clear of any discussion on it, which would actually look smart for a change if he wasn’t trying to be the standard bearer for the party of intolerance).

Also, the CNN article notes that second-tier Repug candidate Sam Brownback acknowledged in a debate that he didn’t believe in evolution. I thought that was interesting given what he had to say about the subject in a New York Times editorial yesterday (here)…

The question of evolution goes to the heart of this issue. If belief in evolution means simply assenting to microevolution, small changes over time within a species, I am happy to say, as I have in the past, that I believe it to be true. If, on the other hand, it means assenting to an exclusively materialistic, deterministic vision of the world that holds no place for a guiding intelligence, then I reject it.
Why Sam, that sounds positively “Clinton-esque,” as you and your fellow travelers might say (and I don’t know of anyone who holds the point of view noted in that second sentence).

Well, since all of these individuals seemed to be seized by some notion of spirituality, I thought I would make a contribution also (realizing, as I always do, that I am a highly imperfect instrument when it comes to these things)…

O Lord, in thine infinite mercy
We beseech steadfast tolerance in your name
In the face of high-office opportunists seeking our votes
Endow us with purpose and wisdom
As we hear the pleadings of
a serial adulterer
Who professes to be the hero of our darkest day
But in fact
neglects firemen and abuses civil liberties
Show us how to respond to a courageous Vietnam War pilot
Who seeketh high office following a path
as “straight” as a pretzel
And lend us the blessing of good judgment
Towards a governor asking for our support, implicitly as your agent
imagines a conspiracy of all Mideast countries against us
And wants to
double the size of our most notorious prison
allowing to escape our country’s greatest enemy
Likewise, set firm our wary eye
As we listen to an earnest Senator from New York and former White House resident
ceaselessly runs away from her vote on the Iraq war
Temper our enthusiasm towards a fine candidate,
much maligned
Who persuades us all but about who little is known
And deliver us once and for all from
the seeming pestilence
Of well-to-do homes, hedge fund participation and $400 haircuts
Give them all the gifts of understanding and humility
So that it may cast aside their smarmy unction
With the hope that the best Democrat may emerge triumphant
And thus never again feel the need
To invoke your name in debates, press conferences
Or pre-screened candidate forums with like-minded special interest groups
And lead us not into a recount and court challenge
But deliver us to blessed sanity once more after eight years of utter darkness
To close, I want to note what former president John Kennedy said about religion here (as follows)…

I believe in an America where the separation of church and state is absolute… where no public official either requests or accepts instructions on public policy from the Pope, the National Council of Churches or any other ecclesiastical source.
Would that all of the candidates took his advice.

(All that being said, though, here is an example of someone who has managed to blend public service with living a life of faith - he made the news recently for his appointment to head Common Cause; as I've said before, there are a few maxims I have in life, and one of them is that if Bob Edgar is involved, it's probably a good thing.)

Update 1: Et tu, Kos?

Update 2: I was a little hard on HRC above - this is important to keep in mind also.

Thursday, May 31, 2007

Thursday Videos

Fountains Of Wayne ("Someone To Love" - glad it didn't take the cheapie, fa la la typical music video way out of the story)...

...drummer extraordinaire John Bonham of Led Zeppelin would have been 59 today ("The Rover" - I'd prefer live action videos instead of slide shows, but this is a great song and the photos from the group's heyday are still pretty cool).

Why Bloggers Exist

Because of corporate media nonsense like this...

Flunk NCLB Once And For All

What follows is an excerpt from education writer Alfie Kohn’s column in USA Today about No Child Left Behind, one of the grossest frauds in education ever perpetrated by Bushco, a regime that seems to manufacture them on a daily basis (though I will admit that they didn't act alone in this, but they own it).

…according to a recent 50-state survey by Teachers Network, a non-profit education organization, exactly 3% of teachers think NCLB helps them to teach more effectively. No wonder 129 education and civil rights organizations have endorsed a letter to Congress deploring the law's overemphasis on standardized testing and punitive sanctions. No wonder 30,000 people (so far) have signed a petition at calling the law "too destructive to salvage."

NCLB didn't invent the scourge of high-stakes testing, nor is it responsible for the egregious disparity between the education received by America's haves and have-nots. But by intensifying the former, it exacerbates the latter.

This law cannot be fixed by sanding its rough edges. It must be replaced with a policy that honors local autonomy, employs better assessments, addresses the root causes of inequity and supports a rich curriculum. The question isn't how to save NCLB; it's how to save our schools - and kids -from NCLB.
I would add that due to the emphasis on testing, what can happen when a child doesn’t measure up in the face of the relentless “teach to the test” onslaught is that the door opens for consultants in the “learning” business to come into the picture and tutor the child to in the hope of producing better test results. Some of these people are superbly talented professionals doing their best to help, and some are utter hacks whose only goal is to keep the parents paying them and thus justify their existence (even going so far as to encourage the family to climb onto the merry-go-round, so to speak, of endless counseling to address one type of perceived inadequacy or another, which subsequently generates even more money both for themselves and another education “consultant”).

This curse of an administration will be remembered most infamously for the Iraq war followed by Katrina and its aftermath, but the pox of NCLB will rank in its top five list of failures (and before anyone waxes apoplectic over Ted Kennedy's involvement in this, I should note that he has opposed the paltry funding of this law; I respectfully disagree with his call for renewing NCLB here).

How We Got Here (5/31/07)

I started this in March, and to follow up, here's more from Bob Woodward’s “State Of Denial,” the third book in his "Bush At War" series.

And to make it easier to go back and read prior posts related to Woodward's book, I set up an index page of sorts here.

I overlooked a recent birthday on Sunday, and I want to note it with this post; that would be to mark the 84th year of the existence of Henry Kissinger on this earth.

And after you read this excerpt dealing with Kissinger and his impact on this White House, you will realize how his monstrous presence infects its every move in Iraq and elsewhere.

pp. 406-410

Former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger had a powerful, largely invisible influence on the foreign policy of the Bush administration.

“Of the outside people that I talk to in this job,” Vice President Cheney told me in the summer of 2005, “I probably talk to Henry Kissinger more than I talk to anybody else. He just comes by and I guess at least once a month, Scooter and I sit down with him.”

Cheney had worked closely with Kissinger in the (Gerald) Ford administration, when Cheney was deputy and later chief of staff. Kissinger at first had been both secretary of state and national security adviser, an arrangement that every subsequent secretary of state had envied. Kissinger’s ego was monumental, but Cheney found his hard-line advice useful after 9/11. They shared a worldview that international relations were a matter of military and economic power. Diplomatic power derived from threatening to use and then actually using that power. In its rawest form, using the military sent a useful message to the world; it’s dangerous to be an enemy of the United States.

The president also met privately with Kissinger every couple of months, making the former secretary the most regular and frequent outside adviser to Bush on foreign affairs. Bush, according to Cheney, was “a big fan” of Kissinger. Of the Bush-Kissinger meetings, (Donald) Rumsfeld said, “I helped set it up.” The president, who generally discounts the importance of outside advisers, found his discussions with Kissinger important, according to Cheney, Rumsfeld, and others in the White House.

(Chief of staff Andrew) Card and the president’s personal office staff knew that Kissinger was one of the few nonfamily outsiders with a standing invitation to call whenever he was coming to Washington to see if the president was available. By Card’s calculation, about half of the meetings were just the president and Kissinger. Either he or (Condoleezza) Rice attended the other half.

No one in the American foreign policy establishment was more controversial or carried more baggage than Kissinger, then 82 years old.

Vietnam was like a stone around his neck and the prism through which he saw the world. After Lyndon Johnson, Richard Nixon and Robert McNamara, probably no one else was so associated with that war. He had been the architect with Nixon, and later Ford, of U.S. foreign policy from 1969 to 1975. In his writing, speeches and private comments, Kissinger claimed that the United States had essentially won the war in 1972, only to lose it because of weakened resolve by the public and Congress.

If Kissinger felt he had something to say, he generally wrote about it, often in opinion pieces in The Washington Post. He had lots of thoughts about Iraq and Bush. He supported the war. Though he had little problem with Bush’s second inaugural (speech) urging the spread of democracy and the end of tyranny, Kissinger would have been more modest in applying it. “We cannot abandon national security in pursuit of virtue,” he had written in his 1999 book Years Of Renewal on the Ford presidency. The United States “must temper its missionary spirit with a concept of national interest and rely on its head as well as its heart in defining its duty to the world.”

In a practical sense, Kissinger was not at all certain that Iraq was ready for democracy, and he had reservations about using American combat troops in a massive effort to train a foreign military. In addition, since most Iraqis identified first and foremost with their tribal or religious sectarian background – Sunni, Shiite, or Kurd – the question was how to encourage the development of a national Iraqi identity. Closely related was the critical question of who the Iraqi army would fight for.

Kissinger liked Bush personally, though he told colleagues that it was not clear to him that the president really knew how to run the government. One of the big problems, he felt, was that Bush did not have the people or a system of national security policy decision making that ensured careful examination of the downsides of major decisions.

Kissinger sensed wobbliness everywhere on Iraq, and he increasingly saw it through his Vietnam prism. For Kissinger, the overriding lesson of Vietnam is to stick it out.

His column in the Post on August 12, 2005 was entitle “Lessons for an Exit Strategy.” It was almost as long as Bush’s second inaugural address. In the key line, Kissinger wrote, “Victory over the insurgency is the only meaningful exit strategy.” He then made the rounds at the White House with Bush, Cheney and Hadley. Victory had to be the goal, he told all. Don’t let it happen again. Don’t give an inch, or else the media, the Congress and the American culture of avoiding hardship will walk you back. He also said that the eventual outcome in Iraq was more important than Vietnam had been. A radical Islamic or Taliban-style government in Iraq would be a model that could challenge the internal stability of the key countries in the Middle East and elsewhere.

Kissinger told Rice that in Vietnam they didn’t have the time, focus, energy or support at home to get the politics in place. That’s why it had collapsed like a house of cards. He urged that the Bush administration get the politics right, both in Iraq and on the home front. Partially withdrawing troops had its own dangers. Even entertaining the idea of withdrawing any troops could create momentum for an exit that was less than victory.

Rice understood that Kissinger’s message reinforced a conviction that the President already held.


In early September 2005,
Michael Gerson went to see Kissinger in New York City.

“Why did you support the Iraq War?” Gerson asked him.

“Because Afghanistan wasn’t enough,” Kissinger answered. In the conflict with radical Islam, he said, they want to humiliate us. “And we need to humiliate them.” The American response to 9/11 had essentially to be more than proportionate – on a larger scale than simply invading Afghanistan and overthrowing the Taliban. Something else was needed. The Iraq War was essential to send a larger message “in order to make a point that we’re not going to live in this world that they want for us.” He said he had defended the war ever since. In Manhattan, this position got him into trouble, particularly at cocktail parties, he noted with a smile.

Gerson understood that Kissinger viewed Iraq purely in the context of power politics. It was not idealism. He didn’t seem to connect with Bush’s goal of promoting democracy. “What did you think of the second inaugural (address)?” Gerson asked him.
I should remind us here that Dubya’s second inaugural address, written by Gerson, was full of transformational stuff about how we were going to remake the world in what Bush defined as our image (these guys were flush with electoral victory at the time, see, believing that they had a mandate based on winning absolutely no more than 51 percent of the popular vote, assuming that that was “on the square” of course).

“At first I was appalled,” Kissinger said, carefully covering himself because that was what he had told others, and continued to say in private. On reflection, he claimed, he now believed the speech served a purpose and was a very smart move, setting the war on terror and overall U.S. foreign policy in the context of American values. That would help sustain a long campaign.

On Iran, Kissinger said it was absolutely critical that Iran not be allowed to gain nuclear capability and nuclear weapons. If it does, he said, all of the powers in the region – Turkey, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the others – would go nuclear. “That would be one of the worst strategic nightmares that America could imagine,” he said. That could dwarf the uncertainties of the Cold War.

Returning to Iraq, Kissinger told Gerson that Bush needed to resist the pressure to withdraw American troops, repeating his axiom that the only meaningful exit strategy was victory. “The president can’t be talking about troop reductions as a centerpiece,” Kissinger said. “You may want to reduce troops.” But troop reduction should not be the objective. “This is not where you put the emphasis.”

He then gave Gerson a copy of his so-called salted peanuts memo, written during the first year of the Nixon administration. In the memo to President Nixon, dated September 10, 1969, Kissinger warned, “Withdrawal of U.S. troops will become like salted peanuts to the American public; the more U.S. troops come home, the more will be demanded.” The policy of “Vietnamization,” turning the fight over to the South Vietnamese military, Kissinger wrote, might increase pressure to end the war because the American public wanted a quick resolution. Troop withdrawals would only encourage the enemy. “It will become harder and harder to maintain the morale of those who remain, not to speak of their mothers.”

For Kissinger, Iraq was the Vietnam sequel. He replayed for Gerson his version of the end of the Vietnam War. The public, the Congress, the Defense Department and the military had all lost their will. At one point, he said, he had proposed to President Nixon a major ultimatum to the North Vietnamese, with dire consequences if they did not negotiate peace. But it didn’t happen, the former national security adviser said wistfully. “I didn’t have enough power.”
A man who was once both national security adviser and secretary of state laments “I didn’t have enough power.” I am just about speechless at the gall and egomania of this individual.

And by the way, this notes one occasion where Kissinger didn’t get what he wanted, and as a result, Congress halted funding for the bombing of Cambodia on this day in 1973 (I’m sure Kissinger blamed that on “the American culture of avoiding hardship” also – Congressional Dems, take note; this is what you do when you’re trying to stop a war).

When this man leaves us one day, I promise you I will not convey even the slightest hint of remorse.

Patrick On The Environment

This letter appeared in the Bucks County Courier Times today…

Congressman Patrick Murphy has received a lot of press for his strong stance against the war in Iraq. What may be less glamorous but equally impressive is the stellar environmental record he has established in his short time in office.

In order to set us on the path to energy independence, he has co-sponsored the Clean Energy Act of 2007, which repeals Big Oil subsidies; the Udall-Platts Renewable Energy Portfolio Standard, which requires utilities to create or buy 20 percent clean energy by 2020, thus creating almost 350,000 jobs; and the Markey-Platts Fuel Economy Bill, which requires the fuel economy standards for cars and light trucks to be increased by at least 4 percent a year in order to achieve an average fleet-wide fuel economy of 35 miles per gallon by 2018.

Among his conservation efforts, he has co-sponsored the Healthy Farms, Foods and Fuels Act, which increases funding for conservation incentives and assistance to farmers, ranchers, and forest landowners, and wetlands protection, wildlife habitats, and conserving farm, ranch, and forest lands from sprawl; and the Open Space and Farmland Preservation Act of 2007, which encourages greater cooperation and coordination in conservation efforts. Additionally, he is pushing for permanent tax credits for conservation easements, supporting the Highlands Conservation Partnership, and working with the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation to bring grants to the 8th District.

A member of the House Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Caucus & BioFuels Caucus, he has also co-sponsored or voted for five additional bills, to fight global warming, keep our waters clean, and create a cleaner energy infrastructure.

Commendations to Congressman Murphy for keeping his campaign promise to support clean energy and renewable fuels in order to protect our environment.

Don Berk
Doylestown, PA
To learn more about Patrick, click here. (Sorry if the link is flaky - I double checked the URL and it should work.)

And speaking of the environment, file this under "do as I say, not as I do" as per usual for this guy.

The Latest From Vlad “Michael Medved” Putin

It looks like our ol’ buddy Russian President Vladimir Putin (who is scheduled to meet with Dubya in early July, by the way – that should be pleasant) has now embarked on a career as a social critic based on this story.

If he wants to promote “homegrown, Russian culture,” then a good way to do that would be to produce television shows with those themes in mind. And I’m here to help with these suggestions…

"The Sopranskis" (A Politburo member operates a “waste disposal” business, and in that capacity, extorts international petrochemical companies, funds paramilitary groups that commit assorted human rights violations, all in the name of fighting terrorism, and floods the computer software market with virus and spy ware-infected products at a fraction of market cost. Oh, and did I mention his latest scam of sponsoring Russian brides through an Internet dating service who obtain U.S. citizenship to act as drug “mules,” with said girls being, in reality, go-go dancers at his strip club called “Bada Bingski”?)

“Lugovoi’s Island” (Seven journalists embark on what is alleged to be merely “a three-hour tour” in the Black Sea for fact-finding on
South Ossetia’s push for autonomy from the country of Georgia, but instead become trapped on a secluded island. Each is killed off one at a time at the conclusion of each episode by poisoning or gunshots, and the last one still alive will be granted an interview with the man accused of poisoning a Russian spy in London of 2006.)

“Legacy Of The KGB” (Tune in for an informative look at how the Russian government “protects” its people through strength and resolve, and not through brutal coercion and outright murder as some have alleged, in particular, regarding
the 2003 Beslan school massacre.)
Better yet, Vlad could see to it that a show is produced documenting what has become of the legacy of glasnost and perestroika, hallmarks of the era of former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev. He could call it “Lost.”

Or, if Vlad gets really desperate, he could try something like this (only about the first two minutes of this apply to this post – I’m reaching here, I know).

And in a related story, as they say...

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Who Will Own The Airwaves?

The latest from

The federal government is on the verge of turning over a huge portion of our public airwaves to companies like AT&T, Verizon, and Comcast—who will use them for private gain instead of the public good.

These newly available airwaves are a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to revolutionize Internet access—beaming high-speed Internet signals to every park bench, coffee shop, workplace, and home in America at more affordable prices than current Internet service. Phone and cable companies don't want this competition to their Internet service—they'd rather purchase the airwaves at auction and sit on them.1

In June, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) will make a major decision: Use the public airwaves for the public good, or turn them over to big companies who will stifle competition, innovation, and the wireless Internet revolution.

The FCC is only accepting public comments for a few more days. Can you sign this petition to them today, and send it to your friends?

"The public airwaves should be used for the public good. The government must protect our airwaves from corporate gatekeepers who would stifle innovation and competition in the wireless Internet market."

Sign here.

We'll deliver your petition signature and any accompanying note directly to the FCC's public comment record, which FCC Commissioners use to guide their decisions.

There are many innovative companies jumping at the opportunity to forge ahead with the wireless Internet revolution—bringing us high-speed wireless networks from coast to coast and all sorts of innovative wireless devices. But the old phone and cable companies are aggressively trying to block this progress. They've spent billions laying wires, and they enjoy having their customers locked in with few alternatives.

Without access to the public airwaves, wireless innovators can't enter the marketplace. So the strategy of companies like AT&T, Verizon, and Comcast is to buy the administrative rights of our airwaves at auction—and then use those rights to block competition. They also stifle the development of new wireless devices by only letting their own endorsed products work on their networks.

We're urging the FCC to protect the public good by setting auction rules that prohibit this anti-competitive behavior. If the government auctioned off the right to maintain a public highway to Ford, we would certainly not let Ford block Toyotas from the roads. Likewise, big phone and cable should not be able to keep innovative companies off our airwaves.

They also shouldn't be able to tell their wireless Internet customers which websites they can access—as they do now. And just as phone companies can't tell customers what phones can be plugged into a wall jack, cell and wireless companies should not be able to dictate which phones or wireless devices people use on their networks.

The opportunity to revolutionize the Internet and wireless world is at our fingertips. The only question is whether our government will embrace it, and whether regular people will fight for it.

The FCC is only accepting public comments for a few more days. Can you sign the petition to them today, and send it to your friends?

Sign here.

Thanks for all you do.
–Adam Green, Civic Action
Tuesday, May 29th, 2007

PS—Most people haven't heard about this critical issue yet—so it's really important that we spread the word and get others involved. As you consider who else to tell about this issue, here's what innovation and competition in the wireless world means for regular people:

Families would no longer be forced to choose solely between high-priced phone and cable Internet. A new wireless market—including lots of competition within that market—would mean more affordable Internet access for families.

Poor and rural communities which phone and cable companies never bothered to wire with high-speed Internet access could now have high-speed Internet signals beamed directly into their homes.

Blackberry and other handheld wireless users are currently blocked by phone companies from accessing Internet-based phone service and other innovative services.2 The FCC could stop these anti-competitive, anti-consumer practices by mandating wireless Net Neutrality.

Socially responsible buyers could someday go to a store, scan the bar codes of products with an Internet-equipped cell phone, and find out which items are socially responsible. Phone companies can currently block such innovations from working with their devices (they often try to shake down innovators into giving them a massive cut of their profits)—but the FCC can prohibit such practices on these newly available airwaves.

Technology consumers in America are currently denied all sorts of cutting-edge technology that people in other countries have—like using Internet-equipped cell phones to buy products, transfer money, or give to charity. By opening the doors to competition and innovation, the FCC can change that.

P.P.S. Can you support this people-powered campaign today? As corporations like AT&T and Verizon spend millions to get public policy skewed in their favor, we will win these fights because of the power of regular people. A donation of $10, $20, or more would go a long way. You can donate


1. Paper describing "warehousing" of airwaves by dominant companies to keep competition out of the market—by Simon Wilkie, Director of Center for Communication Law and Policy at the University of Southern California, March 26, 2007 (

2. "Wireless Net Neutrality: Cellular Carterfone and Consumer Choice in Mobile Broadband," Working Paper by Prof. Tim Wu, February 15, 2007 (

Hooking Up," Prof. Tim Wu commentary in Forbes, May 18, 2007 (

3. "Use spare spectrum for the Net; High-speed internet should be one of the FCC's priorities as it auctions valuable airwave rights," Los Angeles Times editorial, April 13, 2007 (
I know that's a lot to digest, but this goes right to the heart of what we try to do here online. Let's do what we can on this, OK?

A Little Late For Sanctions

I thought this was a good analysis of Dubya’s latest attempt to do something about the Darfur crisis; an agreement was brokered by new World Bank head Bob Zoellick last May between the Sudanese Liberation Army and the government backing the janjaweed militia (as noted here), but it fell apart.

Also, I’m not trying to make a case that the issues behind this catastrophe are simplistic; they are anything but that. But when you’re talking about a crisis that has claimed the lives of possibly 300,000 people, to me, that calls for some type of action, and the whys and wherefores can be examined at another time.

If we really want Sudanese president Omar al Bashir to stop acting like a terrorist, however, I think this column from the Times of London provides a much better idea (trying to get a resolution on this past China would be almost impossible, but I think a battle like this must be fought anyway).

Flaw And Ardor

I don’t suppose too many people reading about Fred Thompson from this site would be disposed to consider voting for him should be actually win the Repug nomination for president, but in case anyone out there does, I’d like to point out a few things (according to this Wikipedia article):

- He is a Visiting Fellow (love some of these academic titles) of the American Enterprise Institute (whose imprint is all over Bushco, particularly regarding the Iraq war and its fantasies of globalist domination).
- He was a Washington, D.C. lobbyist for 17 years (from 1975-1992, and one of his clients was G.E., helping him transition into a job with NBC on the show “Law And Order” later on – that’s a worrisome pedigree to be sure as far as I’m concerned).
- As part of this job, he lobbied for deregulation of the Savings and Loan industry in 1982, helping to pass the Garn – St. Germain Depository Institutions Act of 1982 which effectively killed the S&Ls in this country (thus ensuring that we would never see a 6 percent return on a passbook savings account again).
- Thompson was also responsible for investigating the supposed scandal of Chinese influence in American politics prior to 1996 (re: another attempt to throw mud at Bill Clinton and Al Gore in the hope that any of it would stick), which was no doubt another stupendous waste of our taxpayer dollars.
- The Wikipedia article also states that Thompson “was appointed to an informal position by President George W. Bush to help guide the nomination of John Roberts through the United States Senate confirmation process”…so we can thank Thompson also for, among other horrendous rulings by the Supremes with Hangin’ Judge J.R. in charge,
this latest one that limited the ability of employees to sue in pay discrimination actions.
I give Thompson credit for trying to live his life as normally as possible while recovering from cancer, and I sympathize with the sorrowful loss of his daughter years ago, but let’s not get fooled again by another Republican actor, shall we?

Update 1 5/31/07: And gosh, Fred was so "spot on" concerning Scooter Libby, wasn't he? (and such an astute political observer also)

Update 2 5/31/07: Kos is absolutely spot-on with his observation at the end here.

Bushco's Waterboy Can't Find The Leak

(In Valerie Plame’s recent testimony before Congress, that is…).

Does it really matter at this point who sent Joe Wilson to Niger to investigate the claim that Saddam Hussein was trying to purchase uranium prior to the Iraq war (and of course, as we know from our history, the claim worked its way into Dubya’s State of the Union address in 2003 and has since been proven completely false).

Apparently, it does to Senate Repug Kit Bond of Missouri, as noted here.

Well, at least when it comes to Plame, the wingnutosphere has been consistent (consistently wrong, that is, as noted by Glenn Greenwald here – h/t Atrios).

And once more, here is Bill Maher's final word on "Real Time" from a little while back that explains why all of this matters (h/t Rising Hegemon).

Bushco Has No Seoul

In yet another attempt to frame the tragic spectacle of Iraq against another questionable war, P.R. flak Tony Snow said that Dubya “would like to see a U.S. role in Iraq ultimately similar to that in South Korea” here.

To say that this reflects a flawed notion of history is an understatement.

As this Wikipedia article describes, the division of Korea was a legacy from World War II in which Roosevelt and General George Marshall allowed Joseph Stalin to liberate a “buffer zone” of Korea extending to the 38th parallel in order to preserve our troop strength somewhat so we wouldn’t have to accomplish this for the entire country. At the time, our government envisioned the partitioning of Korea in this way to last for about only four years.

More to the point, though, we became involved with Korea to liberate it from the Japanese. And Bushco propaganda notwithstanding, we entered Iraq with no such pending necessity, violating a nation’s sovereignty against a leader who we now know had no such designs of global conquest.

Also, I took note of Snow’s use of the phrase “over-the-horizon support.”

Gee, I wonder where I first heard that discussed (maybe here in Section 2 of the joint resolution on the Iraq war - it was also envisioned by Patrick Murphy during his campaign last year; I’d link to what Patrick said, but the old campaign site is now inactive).

If Dubya is going to steal ideas from the Democrats, the least he can do is bother to give credit where its due.

Will He Rock Their World (Bank)?

So let's see what qualifies Friend of the Preznit Bob Zoellick to run the World Bank, OK?

- He made a big deal out of trying to break up a North Korean counterfeiting ring last June at the expense of disarmament talks (and I think that had more than a little bit to do with that country's launch of a test missile a month later; as I noted at the time, the whole "risk-reward" part of that didn't make any sense).

- Towing the Bushco line as slavishly as possible, he advocates high tariffs and completely restrictive intellectual property rules towards third world countries that make it very difficult for them to market their products and buy or develop their own drugs (noted here).

- He brought his free-trade mantra to Darfur, of all places, in November 2005 (and we can see how much it actually helped).

- And, as noted in the November 2005 post, Zoellick has a past connection to Enron (he was a paid consultant on their advisory board).

And, as kos notes here, what was required from the next head of the World Bank after Wolfie was someone "with a proven track record of leadership and experience of managing a large, international organization." But Zoellick is who we got.

Heckuva job, Dubya.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Tuesday Videos

Puddle Of Mudd ("Famous" - a few "F" bombs, but a great song)...

...Happy 40th Birthday to Noel Gallagher of Oasis, who hopefully won't make a total fool of himself partying over it (an acoustic version of "Champagne Supernova" performed by Ben Folds Five I believe, with video of Oasis performing)...

...Happy Birthday also to Gary Brooker of Procal Harum ("Conquistador" recorded on German TV in 1976; yes, I know the video and vocals are out of sync, but I love this version - at the time, the band consisted of Brooker on piano, Chris Copping on Hammond organ, Mick Grabham on guitar, Alan Cartwright on bass, and the drummer was probably B.J. Wilson)...

...and this would have been the 90th birthday of President John F. Kennedy; here he is speaking about freedom of the press with images that are largely relevant to the present day, and I know there is little I need say to point out the sad irony of his fine words.

Thanks, Cindy

In response to this story, I just want to pay tribute to a woman I consider to be determined and courageous who stood up and said that the Iraq war was wrong at a time when way too many people thought it was just dandy and while we’re sorry for her loss why the hell doesn’t she just sit down, Shut Up And Clap Louder anyway.

I can’t imagine the pain she lives with every day, and though she has my sympathies, I hope I never do. On top of that, I’m not sure I can imagine what it took for her to persevere as long as she did, including carrying on despite disgusting, cowardly episodes like this.

Before approximately 70 percent of this country realized at long last that the Iraq war was wrong, there were people like Cindy Sheehan and The Dixie Chicks standing up and saying so despite the threats and the name calling.

I thank them for that, and I hope Cindy Sheehan can find some measure of peace in her life. And though she would have chosen to pass up all of this celebrity and recognition to have her son back, she should realize somehow, somewhere, someday, that she stirred the slumbering conscience of this nation to life so that everyone could understand what she already knew.

To say that this country owes her a debt is a huge understatement (and a dishonorable mention goes to the congressional Democrats whose cowardly endorsement of Bush’s tragic folly made her finally give up).

A Last-Minute Falwell Tribute?

Gee, I wonder where Ewa Sowinska got this idea? Yet another Polish joke apparently (Eh ohhh)…

And speaking of Falwell, I didn’t see anything like the information communicated here from Pastor Dan in the various obits (which isn’t surprising, really), but I want to mention it below (re: the fact that Falwell and “the base” didn’t do much by themselves to elect Republicans)…

…What Falwell and (James) Dobson particularly excelled at was creating an activist base. Which is to say, a group of people who followed the news, wrote letters, made phone calls, staffed campaigns and did a thousand other scut jobs to fuel the conservative movement.

It's just that that never really translated into that many votes. None that weren't already headed into the Republican column, anyway. Falwell and the Religious Right leaders who came after him may have helped sustain the conservative tide in the 70s and 80s, in other words, but there's little evidence that they did much to create it. That work was largely done through an economic realignment that favored the South and West, particularly in the military-industrial complex, and by coded racial appeals in the same areas. But of course it's not nice to tell a partisan base that their core principles are racism and self-interest, so the fiction of the Moral Majority suited everyone's needs. Falwell, Dobson, et. al., got to feel important, and the conservative movement had a moral face to show the rest of the country. That's why Rove was so eager to blow kisses at the evangelical leaders in the pre-9/11 days, before the Bush regime based its moral authority on the War on Terror.
When our corporate media decides to “lie down” with the Tony Perkins, Gary Bauer and Dobson crowd (deferring to them in their coverage to lend them an authenticity they don’t have and probably never will), they end up looking as credible and realistic as Tinky Winky.

It's Money That Matters

(I know we knew that, but it bears repeating.)

About a week ago, the U.S. lobbied the U.N. Human Rights Council to keep Belarus out and allow Bosnia to get in, as noted here.

I’m not saying we should reward bad guys, but there are a couple of double standards here as far as I’m concerned.

As noted in this Wikipedia article, the U.S. doesn’t even have a seat on the council, though Dubya did pledge to former U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan that he would “help the council financially” (it would be nice if he was as good as his word for a change).

I think this excerpt gives the reason why we’re not slated to join the council, by the way (from the Wikipedia article)…

(Former) U.S. Ambassador John R. Bolton rejected a reporter's question which asked him if the United States thought that, after the alleged abuses in the Abu Ghraib prison and at Guantánamo Bay, the United States would be unable to muster the 96 votes from the General Assembly necessary to gain a seat.
Also, if we’re going to be serious about trying to get Belarus to clean up its human rights act (and, based on the information from this link to the State Department, they have a long way to go under strongman Alexander Lukashenko), then we should hit them where it hurts.

There’s a lot of software development going on in Belarus, and if this government were really serious about trying to pressure them, they’d cut off the exporting of jobs to that country until they decided that maybe arbitrary detentions and punishment without trial, as well as preventing citizens of that country from assembling peaceably and worshiping as they choose (to say nothing of beating opposition party candidates with truncheons) might not be good ideas after all.

And if we wanted to start applying that kind of pressure, we could begin with the following businesses (here, here, and this company in Texas that uses this outsourcing service - it would be a challenge because of the portability of these jobs all over the world, but sometimes just making noise is all it takes).

Asked And Answered

Oh, by the way, has anyone noticed that we have a brand new arms race with the Russians?

Dubya approached our old buddy Vlad about joining our little missile defense shield club earlier this month (of course, putting aside the fact that Repugs have been trying to figure out a way for this to work at least as far back as Reagan and have had no luck whatsoever).

I think this can safely be considered as Vlad’s response.

Diplomacy Lurching To Life?

At least some communication typical of most adults between our country and Iran would help to free Haleh Esfandiari (her story is noted here), though between Dubya and some of these criminals in the country principally enabling the violence in Iraq, it’s hard to find anything positive about one versus the other.

And I dare anyone in the White House press corps or the august Beltway punditocracy to refer to the dialogue as “peace talks” (which, in fact, is what they are).

Oh, and is it asking too much for everyone to speak a common language?

Turn On, Tune In, Drop Out BoBo

On this beautiful, sunny day, I settled in with a cup of coffee, some orange juice and a croissant, and opened up today’s issue of The New York Times.

And upon turning to the Op-Ed page, I encountered a truly awful smear of Al Gore (by David Brooks, which made me think of the Timothy Leary quote above somehow).

This also made me recall what surely must be one of the wingnut canons; when someone of “the left” writes or creates anything for a mass market, it must be ridiculed as soon as possible, and the more childishly this is done, the better.

I will probably read Gore’s “The Assault On Reason” one day, but I don’t see that happening anytime soon (staggering to the end of “State Of Denial,” and I haven’t forgotten about the “How We Got Here” posts, by the way – I just haven’t had time for them).

Brooks begins by assaulting Gore’s writing style, which admittedly is verbose (and I know a thing or two about that, I’ll admit). And in BoBo’s mind (since we’re talking about Al Gore, and Brooks must continue to reinforce the election year 2000 narrative of Gore being “wooden” and “not like us,” of course), that equates with pomposity.

And here is how Brooks pretends to compliment the book but instead tries to be witty…

“…Al Gore’s ‘The Assault On Reason’ is well worth reading. It reminds us that whatever the effects of our homogenizing mass culture, it is still possible for exceedingly strange individuals to rise to the top.”
So Gore writes run-on sentences, making him pompous, but it also makes him strange as well - ??

Brooks notes what Gore says about the importance of the development of the printing press (that is, giving more and more ordinary citizens access to information to use as a source of one type of power or another), but ridicules Gore for criticizing the role TV plays in not just our political discourse, but everything else as well.

Here is what Gore said, according to Brooks…

“In Gore’s view, TV immobilizes the brain and stimulates the primitive, instinctive parts. TV creates a ‘visceral vividness’ that is not ‘modulated by logic, reason, and reflective thought’.”

“T.V. allows political demagogues to exaggerate danger and stoke up fear…”
Gore then compliments the Internet as, “perhaps the greatest source of hope for re-establishing an open communications environment in which the conversation of democracy can flourish,” thus giving Brooks an excuse to malign “most political blogs.”

Brooks then goes on to render something that I suppose is meant as a scientific criticism of Gore’s analysis, including such gems as, “without emotions like fear, the ‘logical’ mind can’t reach conclusions.”

Of course, Brooks is going to dismiss Gore’s concern about the influence of T.V. on what passes for political discourse in this country (and though the Internet isn’t too far removed from it, it does allow for interaction, of course). This is because without T.V., it is impossible for a political demagogue to hold sway and repeat lies to the point where they become if not actual truth, then some sort of accepted belief (of course, it is necessary to have an utterly pliant media to accomplish this also). And I’m not some whiz-bang New York Times columnist, but even I know that.

Brooks dismisses the danger of T.V.-oriented communications and interpretation of reality, but fortunately, other legitimate life sciences professionals don’t. In an excerpt from this article, Susan R. Johnson, M.D. writes on the effect of excessive television in early childhood development (and though Brooks, Gore and yours truly are attempting to communicate primarily to adults, I think some of what Johnson describes here is taking place with that audience also).

Watching television has been characterized as multi-leveled sensory deprivation that may be stunting the growth of our children's brains. Brain size has been shown to decrease 20-30% if a child is not touched, played with or talked to (Healy 1990). In addition when young animals were placed in an enclosed area where they could only watch other animals play, their brain growth decreased in proportion to the time spent inactively watching (Healy 1990). Television really only presents information to two senses: hearing and sight. In addition, the poor quality of reproduced sound presented to our hearing and the flashing, colored, fluorescent over-stimulating images presented to our eyes cause problems in the development and proper function of these two critical sense organs (Poplawski 1998).

Reading a book, walking in nature, or having a conversation with another human being, where one takes the time to ponder and think, are far more educational than watching TV. The television -- and computer games -- are replacing these invaluable experiences of human conversations, storytelling, reading books, playing "pretend" (using internal images created by the child rather than the fixed external images copied from television), and exploring nature. Viewing television represents an endless, purposeless, physically unfulfilling activity for a child. Unlike eating until one is full or sleeping until one is no longer tired, watching television has no built-in endpoint. It makes a child want more and more without ever being satisfied (Buzzell 1998).
This describes to me why nothing substitutes for the experience of reading a good book (and it also explains why I was so enraged by this story over the weekend).

If Brooks had decided to criticize Gore for recycling previously documented theories and concepts, that would have been one thing; books such as “A Nation Of Sheep” by William J. Lederer and “The Hidden Persuaders” by Vance Packard have covered some of this territory before, though Gore, to his credit, updates this information with copious annotations in a scholarly manner. This was undoubtedly threatening to Brooks, who desires to monopolize any independent thought on these subjects and sees Gore as an intellectual threat.

With his incessant, utterly gratuitous personal attacks on Gore, though (to say nothing of his misinterpretation of what Gore says), Brooks ended up validating much of what Gore has so carefully documented and argued in his book. And if the consequences weren’t so tragic for our country, it would be worth it just to have a good laugh at Brooks’ expense.

And by the way, here is a much more substantive review of Gore’s book (from Brooks’ own newspaper, no less).

Update 5/30/07: Benjamin R. Barber of HuffPo has more.

Monday, May 28, 2007

Monday Videos

Two videos to commemorate this day - "Tell Mama," by Shawn Pander; proceeds for the song go to the VFW (I don't know what his politics are or if he really has any, but I just thought this was good)...

...and "Goodnight, Saigon" by Billy Joel.

The Question Of The Day

W.D. Ehrhart asked it last Friday in this Inquirer column.

What are we fighting for?
The rhetoric, the substance of patriotism

W.D. Ehrhart
earned the Purple Heart, the Navy Combat Action Ribbon, and two Presidential Unit Citations in Vietnam

When I was a boy, Memorial Day was my favorite holiday. Its arrival meant that school would soon be over for another year. It was also the day the local swimming pool opened for the summer. Best of all, it afforded me that only-once-a-year opportunity to decorate my bicycle with red, white and blue crepe paper and join the high school marching band and the trucks of the volunteer fire company in the big parade up Fifth Street to the town's war memorial.

And the crowning moment, the apex of it all, was when the American Legion color guard fired its 21-gun salute for America's fallen heroes. That sharp crack was the real thing. Not the adolescent "Bang! Bang!" of our imaginary guns, but the genuine ear-splitting thunder of rifles. My playmates and I always waited impatiently for the bugler to finish playing Taps so we could scramble after the empty brass casings we treasured as souvenirs.

It simply wasn't possible for a 10-year-old to comprehend what Memorial Day really meant. Only when I got to Vietnam as an 18-year-old Marine volunteer did I come to understand that real guns shatter people's skulls and scatter their brains like spilled pudding, or rip their insides to shreds and leave them screaming for their mothers. Only then did I realize that all the pageantry every year was designed to make people believe that it was somehow noble and heroic to send our children off to be maimed, mutilated and butchered, while attempting to inflict that sort of punishment upon others.

My grandfather's generation fought in the war to end all wars. My father's generation fought in the war to rid the world of fascism. My generation fought in Vietnam to - to what? What was it for that time? Nothing that mattered, we came to realize, but only after the damage had been done.

And the killing just goes on and on. Since my generation stopped dying in Vietnam, American soldiers have died in Cambodia, Iran, Lebanon, Grenada, El Salvador, Panama, Kuwait, Iraq, Somalia, Yemen, Afghanistan, and now Iraq again.
I begin to suspect that the politicians and generals who tell us that we must sacrifice our children for the cause of peace are perhaps being just a bit disingenuous. I didn't see any politicians in the rice fields of Vietnam, and precious few generals died there.

Kenny Worman and Randy Moore died there, kids who used to ride their bikes in Perkasie's Memorial Day parade with me. Kids who had no quarrel with the people who killed them. Kids who died merely because powerful people who would never have to face death in battle told them it was their duty to die.

More recently, we were told repeatedly that we had to send our children into harm's way because Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction that posed a direct and immediate threat to the peace and security of our country. Four years later, 3,200 more young Americans are dead, and 30,000 have been wounded. We all know that we went to war for a lie; Mr. Bush asks us to be patient; Congress dithers over nonbinding resolutions; and there is no end in sight.

Have the dead and wounded of our latest war sacrificed for their country? I don't think so. Nor do I think my friends Kenny and Randy died for their country in Vietnam. They died for the fantasies and machinations of arrogant powerbrokers the American people repeatedly and mistakenly put our confidence in, generation after generation, too ignorant ourselves, or too spineless, to separate the rhetoric of patriotism from the substance of patriotism.

I don't go to Memorial Day parades anymore. It seems to me that if we really want to honor our fallen heroes, we might try a little harder to keep any more of them from falling. We might try to be a little less gullible when politicians and generals tell us the next war is necessary. We might take a moment to consider that the ones who start these wars for peace are seldom the ones who do the killing or the dying.
As his bio notes, W.D. Ehrhart teaches at the Haverford School in Pennsylvania.

And on days like this, I find myself recalling this column from E.L. Doctorow.

Update 5/30?07: I meant to link to this column from Paul Krugman earlier and highlight the end, as follows...

Here's the way it ought to be: When Rudy Giuliani says that Iran, which had nothing to do with 9/11, is part of a "movement" that "has already displayed more aggressive tendencies by coming here and killing us," he should be treated as a lunatic.

When Mitt Romney says that a coalition of "Shia and Sunni and Hezbollah and Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood and Al Qaeda" wants to "bring down the West," he should be ridiculed for his ignorance.

And when John McCain says that Osama, who isn't in Iraq, will "follow us home" if we leave, he should be laughed at.

But they aren't, at least not yet. And until belligerent, uninformed posturing starts being treated with the contempt it deserves, men who know nothing of the cost of war will keep sending other people's children to graves at Arlington.
Sad but true.

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