Monday, June 30, 2008


There's a fascinating juxtaposition of stories in the Washington Post today. The first one, here, describes how voters in Findlay, Ohio, distrust Obama. To them:

Barack Obama, born in Africa, is a possibly gay Muslim racist who refuses to recite the Pledge of Allegiance.

It's bunk, but it's very effective for getting people to vote for McCain -- probably the most effective tool McCain has.

But McCain could never openly use it, of course. Even the Washington press corps, who think he's the coolest thing they've ever seen, and have given him a bye on one thing after another, would realize that's over the top. So how do you encourage people to think Obama is a gay Muslim racist without actually saying he is?

Here's how!

Sen. John McCain's allies have seized on a new and aggressive line of attack against Sen. Barack Obama, casting the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee as an opportunistic and self-obsessed politician who will do and say anything to get elected. McCain typically leaves the sharpened criticism to others, in the hope of being able to claim the high ground of conducting a "respectful" campaign.

Obama will do and say anything to get elected. He's not what he says he is. Don't trust him.

Swift Boats

I was really happy to see this article in this morning's NY Times. A group of Vietnam Swift Boat veterans is trying to resurrect the honor that should be associated with their service.

My brother-in-law, William, served with honor and bravery on a Swift Boat, and it's not fair to him that the first word many people think of when they hear "Swift Boat" is "liar". There's still a lot of anger about what a very small group of people did.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Heating Oil in Massachusetts

Found this information:

Average heating oil prices in Massachusetts for the week of May 27

2008 average price: 4.59 (high: 4.95, low: 4.22)
2007: 2.51
2006: 2.58
2005: 1.91
2004: 1.54
2003: 1.31
2002: 1.16
2001: 1.31

I suppose they're talking about that in Massachusetts, but I haven't seen anything in the national press about it.

Update: I found this in the Boston Herald:

The gas and electric bill crunch is largely caused by the dismal economy, experts say, but oil presents a nightmare all its own.

“This is the first time that I have felt in years that people will die this winter because they can’t stay warm,” said Joe Kennedy, founder of the nonprofit Citizens Energy Corp. “This is by far the most grim and scary set of storm clouds on the horizon that I have seen in 30 years in trying to address the needs of the poor and elderly, in terms of their heating needs that are coming this winter.”

The skyrocketing cost of oil could saddle consumers with winter heating bills as high as $7,000, according to leading advocates. At the end of trading Friday, oil closed at $139.65 a barrel as a shocking new report from economists at CIBC World Markets predicted that gasoline would hit $7 a gallon by 2010.

The situation is expected to be dire in the Bay State, where about 40 percent of households heat their homes with oil, said Mark Wolfe, executive director of the National Energy Assistance Directors’ Association.

“We’ve gotten to the point where, a year ago, a family could sacrifice to pay their bills. Now it’s more than their monthly income,” said Wolfe, who estimates families will pay about $900 monthly for oil heat.

Background Information

I'm trying to get my thoughts organized to understand what's going on with oil, the environment, and the economy. I think the following videos are helpful in that regard. I don't vouch for anything the people are saying, I'm just saying they're interesting, and, I should probably say, representative of the "The Sky is Falling" school of thinking about the economy. The opinions expressed in these videos do not necessarily represent the opinions of Sempringham.

This one is about exponential growth:

This one is about the concept of Peak Oil:

This one is about how this may affect us in the near term:

And this one is about how this all might affect us in the not-so-near, but not-so-long term:

Like I said, I'm trying to figure this all out. Links to any additional information would be appreciated.

I got these videos at The Oil Drum.

The 48 Hours

The Republican Party's Ministry of Propaganda has produced a news release in which McCain is quoted as saying:

I’ve got to catch up and get ahead. And I expect to do that about 48 hours before the general election.

He's been mocked for this on a lot of the leftie blogs, but I think it's a smart gambit. He's behind in the polls, but everyone who's paid attention during a national election knows that polls taken in June mean nothing, and that races this far apart always get closer by November (just ask Walter Mondale about that!).

Peggy Noonan (blech!) knows that, and writes:

Things will move along, Mr. Obama in the lead. And then, just a few weeks out from the election, something will happen: America will look up and see the inevitability of Mr. Obama, that Mr. Obama has already been "elected," in a way, and America will say, Hey, wait a second, are we sure we want that? And it will tighten indeed.

The race has a subtext, a historic encounter between the Old America and the New, and suddenly the Old America—those who are literally old, who married a guy who fought at the Chosin Reservoir, and those not so old who yet remember, and cherish, the special glories of the Old—will rise, and join in, and make themselves heard. They will not leave without a fight.

And on that day John McCain will suddenly make it a race, as if moved by them and wanting to come through for them one last time. And then on down to the wire. And then . . .

And then. What a year, what an election.

So this election, like all elections, will get closer. People will yearn for the days when America was, well, white -- or, at least seemed so. And McCain will make it look like it was all a result of his brilliant campaign. Columnists will say, "By golly, he was right!" And he'll claim the momentum in the last two days, when it's unverifiable before it doesn't matter anymore.

As General Motors Goes ...

Tom Friedman points out, in his must-read column today called "America in Decline", that General Motors' stock valuation is now $6.47 billion, compared to Toyota's $162.6 billion.

Shouldn't weaning ourselves from oil be part of the national security discussion?

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Interesting Articles

Suellen and I are going to walk to the bank before it gets too hot, so I'll just give some links to some articles I think you'll find interesting:

Peter Wehner at the Washington Post, a Bushie, writes an intelligent column about James Dobson's criticism of Barack Obama here.

Trying to track down the origin of the "Obama is a Muslim" viral email, here.

If you're really interested in oil, this article in the Wall Street Journal is good background.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Conservatives Endorse the "Conservative" New Deal!

In a major step forward, the next wave of conservative "thinkers" (tee-hee) have discovered something good that happened after the 19th Century! According to David Brooks, they
write admiringly about the New Deal. They mention Roosevelt’s economic policies, but they also emphasize the New Deal’s intense social conservatism. Self-conscious maternalists like Eleanor Roosevelt and Frances Perkins ensured that New Deal programs were biased in favor of traditional two-parent families.

Did you catch that: "...the New Deal's intense social conservatism." That sure isn't the way conservatives were talking about it then.

So it only took 70 years for conservative "thinkers" to discover the obvious about the New Deal. Gee, who knows? Maybe some day they'll discover that civil rights and gay liberation were their ideas, too.

Go Back to Bed

Hold on tight, folks. We're in for quite a ride here. I don't usually read this columnist, but I suspect he is right. My problem is, I just don't see us getting out of this without major reductions in our oil consumption. I wish we had a government, worth the name, working on this. It sure looks like our Republican pals, "Market Forces," are about to chew us up and spit us out.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

He Can't Win - Well, Actually He Can

Shelby Steele wrote a very good book many years ago called The Strength of Our Character. I recommend it, even though I don't agree with his politics. Is that open-minded, or what?

Shelby has a new book out called A Bound Man: Why We Are Excited About Obama and Why He Can't Win. Except that, well, he actually thinks Obama can win.

Here's a clip from Faux News' Sean Hannity (please wash your hands, and resist the urge to plunge sharp sticks into your eyes, after viewing it):

Shelby was a senior at Coe when I was a freshman. People deferred to him. He seemed angry from a distance, but I didn't really know him at all.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Cringe Time

I've tried several different ways of writing about this, but every time I go a little overboard. Suffice it to say that our President is a buffoon.

The Huffington Post called my attention to this transcript from a meeting between Bush and President Arroyo of the Philippines yesterday. In his opening remarks, which I hope to heck he had a staff member prepare for him (so he can fire said staff member) Bush said, "First, I want to tell you how proud I am to be the President of a nation that -- in which there's a lot of Philippine-Americans. They love America and they love their heritage."

Okay, that's clumsy, but for Bush or a high school student, not bad. Then there's this,

And I reminded the President that I am reminded of the great talent of the -- of our Philippine-Americans when I eat dinner at the White House. (Laughter.)


PRESIDENT BUSH: And the chef is a great person and a really good cook, by the way, Madam President.

Mark Kleiman had the best answer to this:

A former student of mine writes that Bush might have added:

"I am reminded of the great talent of the - of our Philippine Americans when I see the 23 year wait time for bringing over the sibling in the Philippines of a U.S. citizen."

"I am reminded of the great talent of the - of our Philippine Americans whenever Cheney has his heart checked by Filipina nurses."

"I am reminded of the great talent of the - of our Philippine Americans whenever I read Major General Antonio M. Taguba's scathing report on Abu Ghraib."

One could question the last one on the grounds that Bush doesn't read much.

The truly disgusting thing about it is that Bush could have mentioned that one-quarter of the foreign-born in the United States armed forces are Filipino. But they wouldn't help out so much at the country club.

Maybe the 40,000 Filipinos in Florida, the 36,000 in Virginia, and the 31,000 Filipinos in Nevada will find some way to contribute to reminding the President of all of this in November...

Maybe I'm overreacting. Being chef at the White House is certainly nothing to sneeze at.

Echoes from the Past

The Writer's Almanac had this entry today:

It was on this day in 1950 that North Korea invaded South Korea, beginning the Korean War. At the end of World War II, Korea had been divided along the 38th
parallel. The Soviet Union controlled the North and the United States controlled the South. When North Korea tried to invade and take over South Korea on this day in 1950, President Harry Truman ordered a military police action to stop the invasion.

Douglas MacArthur led the United States Army, and he almost won the war in what he called his "home by Christmas" offensive. But near the end of November 1950, Chinese forces entered the war and drove MacArthur back to the 38th parallel. MacArthur asked for permission to attack China with nuclear weapons, but Truman refused. MacArthur took his case to the American public, and Truman fired him.

The war dragged on for months. Truce negotiations began the next year, and they were the longest truce negotiations in the history of warfare: They lasted two years and 17 days, with 575 meetings between the opposing sides. Dwight D. Eisenhower ran for president in 1952 on the platform that he would end the war, and when he was elected that's what he did.

The Korean War was the first war the United States had concluded without success. There were no celebrations when it ended. About 37,000 Americans and more than a million Koreans lost their lives.

I understand what the writer is saying, but it's not clear to me that the war "concluded without success." South Korea stayed independent, and eventually grew into a democracy and an economic powerhouse. North Korea, not so good. But the thing that caught my attention was "Dwight D. Eisenhower ran for president in 1952 on the platform that he would end the war...."

The sketch of George Orwell's life is also worth reading.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Some Interesting Developments on the Oil Front

ABC News had a fascinating story on tonight about some effects of increased oil prices. Relying on my cloudy memory, I thought these facts were fascinating:

* The average cost of shipping a container on a container ship from China to California used to be $3,000. It is now $8,000.

* Consequently, manufacturing in China for the American market is not as financially advantageous as it once was. In fact, according to the report, furniture companies in North Carolina are getting work that had been going to China. Companies that had manufactured in China are returning their operations to the United States.

It looks like the American lifestyle is not the only thing dependent on cheap oil. Could it be that the Chinese economy is, too?

It took me a while to find the story on ABC's web site, but here it is. In the process I found this,

George Flint, a lobbyist for the Nevada Brothel Owners' Association, says many of the brothels are seeing decreases in revenue anywhere from 20 to 45 percent [because of higher gasoline prices]. He says he has "never seen it this dramatic" in 48 years.

Another Obama Cultist

I guess I'm not the only one who thinks "Republican" is a dirty word. Senator Gordon Smith is from Oregon. He's a Republican who's running for reelection. Catch this ad, it's amazing:

I got this from ABC News.

George Carlin

Via Crooks & Liars, a remembrance of George Carlin:

Monday, June 23, 2008

Cedar Rapids Follow-up

Don't miss this story about cleaning up in Cedar Rapids.

More than 10 years ago we had 6-8 inches of water in our basement, had to throw out things we had cherished, and I still get nervous when heavy rain is forecast. Fire destroys what you have; water destroys, too, then mocks you. What you had is still there, but it's transformed. And there's nothing to do but haul it out.

By the way, the flood mocked my confident predictions that Coe College was safe, too. I had forgotten about that dip down toward the slough on the northwest corner, where the physical plant is. Electrical power to the campus was off for 8 days! If this is something you're interested in, go here and read from the bottom up.

Sempringham the Naif

Hoist by my own petard!

The NY Times has a story this morning about Obama's connections to the ethanol industry. Like most brilliant people who love their country, I'm taking a second look at whether ethanol is the way to energy independence, but you have to admit it's not surprising that a senator from a corn-growing state would have associations with ethanol. I kept waiting for the first shoe to drop in this story.

The story's thesis:

...when it comes to domestic ethanol, almost all of which is made from corn, [Obama] also has advisers and prominent supporters with close ties to the industry...

And then they procede to name them. Um, him. Tom Daschle.

Still, I didn't remember this little gem (and didn't like being reminded of it):

Not long after arriving in the Senate, Mr. Obama himself briefly provoked a controversy by flying at subsidized rates on corporate airplanes, including twice on jets owned by Archer Daniels Midland, which is the nation’s largest ethanol producer and is based in his home state.

I hope he learned something from that, and that there are no additional "petards".

Sunday, June 22, 2008

McCain the Naif

I don't think McCain is a crook. I really don't. I think he tries to live his life based on the ideals of duty, honor, and country that he grew up with.

But you've got to wonder. Why is it that he keeps "stepping in it"? Years ago he was one of the "Keating Five". Earlier this year, the NY Times reported that members of his staff felt compelled to intervene with him concerning an "appearance of impropriety" involving a lobbyist.

And now this (read through the second paragraph, at least).

If this were a story about Barack Obama, how do you think the Republicans might spin that second paragraph? You don't have to think too hard, do you?

And I'm tellin' ya: this is not the end of it. Where there are lobbyists, there is conflict of interest; and McCain is crawlin' with lobbyists.

Alan Keyes, I hope your suit is pressed.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Musical Interlude -- God Shuffled His Feet

I have an iTunes folder I call Theology 101. This was one of the first songs to go into it. It's by a group called Crash Test Dummies. They've got another good one called Superman's Song. The group's lead singer, Brad Roberts, was a philosophy student. It shows.

He sings pretty clearly, but just in case, here are the lyrics:

"God Shuffled His Feet"

After seven days
He was quite tired so God said:
"Let there be a day
Just for picnics, with wine and bread"
He gathered up some people he had made
Created blankets and laid back in the shade

The people sipped their wine
And what with God there, asked him questions
Like: do you have to eat
Or get your hair cut in heaven?
If your eye got poked out in this life
Would it be waiting up in heaven with your wife?

God shuffled his feet and glanced around at them;
The people cleared their throats and stared right back at him

So he said:"Once there was a boy
Who woke up with blue hair
To him it was a joy
Until he ran out into the warm air
He thought of how his friends would come to see;
Would they laugh, or had he got some strange disease?"

God shuffled his feet and glanced around at them;
The people cleared their throats and stared right back at him

The people sat waiting
Out on their blankets in the garden
But God said nothing
So someone asked him: "Beg your pardon:
I'm not quite clear about what you just spoke
Was that a parable, or a very subtle joke?"

God shuffled his feet and glanced around at them;
The people cleared their throats and stared right back at him

For the Record

Yes, I'm disappointed with Obama's position on telecomm immunity.

Yes, I think Obama could have done a more convincing job of explaining why he is opting out of public financing of his campaign. As somebody on the radio said, if you're his campaign manager, you could be accused of malpractice if you opted in; but I thought his video explanation was feeble.

I've supported McCain/Feingold and other attempts at campaign finance reform. We've been struggling, unsuccessfully, since Watergate to find a way to remove Big Money's influence on the electoral process. Public financing was a path to that goal, but not the goal itself.

Obama's success at raising money on the internet suggests there's a new way to do it that wasn't available when we first started thinking about the problem. There are still limits on the amount individual donors can give, so no individual donor or group of donors can buy him.

Nevertheless, the fact that I'm prepared to abandon public financing the first time Democrats are outraising Republicans is not lost on me. I guess I think it's more important to throw the idiots out. And make no mistake about it: McCain is opting in because it's to his advantage.

How's that for a rationalization?

Thinking Ahead for the Republicans (Because Somebody Has To!)

Everybody was predicting a polling jump for Obama after Hillary endorsed him, but this was more than I was expecting: Newsweek is showing Obama with a 51% to 36% lead nationally!

Which brings me back to a suggestion I made earlier: will the Republicans, who are already running scared about all the signals that they're about to be returned to the oblivion they so richly deserve, start getting cold feet about running McCain? He's really been an awful candidate so far, flip-flopping on almost every issue from one day to the next. He looks sickly. And let's face it, oratory is not his strong suit.

The Republican National Convention is not until September! There's still plenty of time for them to change course. Could the McCain delegates change their minds? Are they legally bound to vote for him at the convention? Could McCain be persuaded to withdraw? Not now, of course, but maybe by the end of July or early August, if the coming carnage seems clearer.

Since I'm probably the only person in the country that's done any thinking about this possibility (I'm alpha on it, as they say, or maybe used to say, in the advertising industry), I have the perfect suggestion for his replacement. A man who embodies conservative "principles" (giggle). A man who has already been tested in the firestorm of presidential politics. A man whose Republican credentials are unimpeachable.* A man who will instantly neutralize one of Obama's most attractive qualities.

That man is: Alan Keyes!

*Actually, Alan left the Republican Party this year when they refused to let him play in their debates. But I'm sure he could be persuaded to come back.


Update -- I guess I should explain this joke for the benefit of those who are not familiar with Illinois politics. When Obama was running for the Senate, his Republican opponent was discovered to be a scoundrel before the election. Drat the luck! The Republican Party in Illinois (like the national party) is a sorry bunch, and they couldn't find anybody willing to take the Bozo's place on their ticket. So they went to New York and asked Alan Keyes, who is sort of a modern-day Harold Stassen, only crazy. Alan agreed to do it, and rented an apartment in Chicago to establish "residency". His campaign was a total joke, and Obama, of course, destroyed him.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Just Walkin' Around

Suellen had an appointment in the Loop the other day, so I tagged along and walked around with the G9 while she was busy. Nothing special, but I liked it.


There's a great 8-minute video about WeeGee, photographer of the New York demimonde in the 30's and 40's, at the New York Times.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

They Didn't Like Foreign Countries Anyway

The New Republic has a chilling article, called "Travel Advisory", that discusses whether it is likely the persons responsible for turning America into a torturing nation will be held responsible.

It's conclusion:

Is it likely that prosecutions will be brought overseas? Yes. It is reasonably likely. [Philippe] Sands's book [The Torture Team] contains an interview with an investigating magistrate in a European nation, which he describes as a NATO nation with a solidly pro-American orientation which supported U.S. engagement in Iraq with its own soldiers. The magistrate makes clear that he is already assembling a case, and is focused on American policymakers. I read these remarks and they seemed very familiar to me. In the past two years, I have spoken with two investigating magistrates in two different European nations, both pro-Iraq war NATO allies. Both were assembling war crimes charges against a small group of Bush administration officials. "You can rest assured that no charges will be brought before January 20, 2009," one told me. And after that? "It depends. We don't expect extradition. But if one of the targets lands on our territory or on the territory of one of our cooperating jurisdictions, then we'll be prepared to act."

Viewed in this light, the Bush Administration figures involved in the formation of torture policy face no immediate threat of prosecution for war crimes. But Colin Powell's chief of staff, Colonel Larry Wilkerson, nails it: "Haynes, Feith, Yoo, Bybee, Gonzales and--at the apex--Addington, should never travel outside the U.S., except perhaps to Saudi Arabia and Israel. They broke the law; they violated their professional ethical code. In the future, some government may build the case necessary to prosecute them in a foreign court, or in an international court." Augusto Pinochet made a trip to London, and his life was never the same afterwards.

The Bush administration officials who pushed torture will need to be careful about their travel plans.

Based on recent news stories, there may be other names that could be added to that list. Unfortunately, we're going to be dealing with the mess created by the Bush Administration long after they're gone.

The Bush/Cheney Oil Flim-Flam

You have to hand it to Bush and Cheney. They do not quit.

Just as they seized upon the September 11 attacks to throw taxpayers' money to their shady buddies in the "defense" industry (read: Halliburton, Blackwater), they're trying to use the oil price shock as a way to set up their buddies in the oil business.

It's worrisome, because right now polls show that Americans are so upset about gas prices that they want more drilling. Once again it's a battle of emotion versus facts, and in the Bush Administration, emotion wins every time. My hope is that since they've screwed up everything else so badly, people will see them as crying "Wolf" once again, and they're going to get nowhere with this. That's my hope.

Meanwhile Senator McCain, the "man of principles", the "maverick", who opposed turning the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge over to the oil companies before he was for it, has signed on to the Bush/Cheney giveaway. What a leader! What strength of character!

Each day I log onto, I look wistfully at the countdown clock. Today it's reading 214 days -- and excruciating days they will be.

Well, it's time to arm yourself for battle. I highly recommend today's NY Times editorial, The Big Pander to Big Oil. It suggests that the United States, "a country that consumes one-quarter of the world’s oil supply but owns only 3 percent of its reserves", might not be able drill its way to lower gas prices.

I've also found (thanks, Paul Krugman) a very interesting blog called The Oil Drum. If you're interested in the issue of peak oil, this is a good place to go. But even if you're not, I recommend you take a look at this graph they've prepared on world cement production. Amazing.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

McCain's Military Record

I suppose it was inevitable that McCain's military record would get a raking over. In the 2004 election, the Torture Party showed they had no compunction about trying to destroy Kerry by attacking the most honorable thing he had done in his life. That lesson has not been lost. And if there's one thing everybody knows about McCain, it's that he was a prisoner of war in Vietnam for 5 years.

So, for the past several days the internet has been swarming with stories about McCain's military service. There are stories that are the left-wing equivalent of "Barack Obama is a Muslim", and there are others that are still not complimentary of McCain, but seem to be getting some things right and are telling us parts of the story we didn't know.

Among the latter is this article at the Huffington Post. It's an interesting article, and for the rest of this post to make sense, you need to read it first.

Okay, now that you've read the article --

It just so happens that my brother, Mike, was also a Navy officer who served in Vietnam. So I sent him the article and asked for his comments on it. He sent me the following, which I thought was so interesting that I asked him if I could share it:

You are well to question the reliability of this story...but it does have something of a ring of truth to it (the story, not the writer's conclusion). One error that jumped out at me was his assertion that since McCain was assigned to an attack squadron, not a fighter squadron, he was at the low end of the Navy flyer totem pole. In the Navy the low end of the Brown Shoe Navy (i.e. aviators) is multi-engined aircraft and helicopters. Mr. Klein would be well advised to steer clear of any Navy attack squadron pilots at this time. It may very well be that McCain was not considered for a fighter squadron because of his marginal flying performance but awarded an attack squadron, not a multi-engine or helo squadron, because of his Navy "heritage" i.e. #2, definitely NOT #3 or #4.

If what Klein says about his marginal record (he crashed a damn lot of aircraft) is true, it would have taken more than his dad and granddad's stars to get him promoted to admiral (ask Randy "Duke" Cunningham) and believe it or not, being a POW is not considered by the Navy to be "career enhancing". It might boost your rank by one grade (gratitude of a thankful nation, etc.) but making flag rank would be bulldozing, not pushing, the envelope.

In short Bob, there's a great deal to this story that sounds believable. But I don't understand why is it important? Again, if true, his various air "disasters" are all in the record. Is there supposed to be some kind of horrible secret that would torpedo his presidential chances. Despite what Mr. Klein may think, making captain is, in the Navy I grew up in, considered par for the course for an academy grad, even those at or near the bottom of their class. And the Navy (again in my opinion) is pretty picky about who gets two star admiral (the rank of one star admiral is confined to war; in peacetime you would be "selected but not promoted" to one star admiral and carry the honorary rank of "commodore" but still wear your captain's rank, 4 stripes, not one star).

Hope this helps. I don't see any monsters in the closet here (and I'm certainly NOT a McCain supporter).

When giving me his consent to share this, Mike said "but understand that now I'll have to avoid my Navy helo and multi-engine pilot friends for awhile."

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

McCain's 100 Years has its first ad out for the 2008 election:

My first impression is that this ad will be very effective with people who weren't going to vote for McCain anyway. I don't think it speaks so well to people who value military service as an honorable thing, and I think plays into a "peacenik" stereotype. But that's just me.

McCain clearly said he had no problem with American troops being in Iraq for 100 years as long as they're not being shot at, and seems to have a problem understanding why anybody could have a problem with that (using Korea, Germany, and Japan as examples). It doesn't seem to have occurred to him that even that might not be a good idea, even if our troops are not being shot at. Or that it might be a very long time before we get to the point that they're not being shot at.

Somewhere I heard McCain's position on Iraq described as "We'll stay there until they stop fighting us, and then, since they've stopped fighting, there's no reason not to stay."

I guess television commercials are not about policy discussions.

Wesley Clark

Wesley Clark is continuing to improve his VP creds:

He was a Hillary supporter who has handled the transition well. Surprisingly, if I recall correctly (I can't find the story now), he was not on the list of candidates that was supposedly being vetted by Obama's three-person (now two-person) VP search team. Clark would certainly bring national security gravitas to the ticket. He is becoming a more effective speaker, in my opinion, than he was 4 years ago. But VP nominees are often people who will hopefully carry their home state. What state does Clark come from? Yeah, that's my point. But I like him anyway.

Thanks to Digby at Hullabaloo for pointing me to the video.

I've seen a lot of stuff lately intended to raise questions about McCain's war record and national security credentials -- from relatively high level criticism, like Clark's, to stuff about how McCain supposedly snubbed the Vietnamese man who saved him from drowning, and from an angry crowd, when McCain was shot down. I guess I'd be naive if I thought that was all a coincidence, too. [The "too" here is a reference to a post yesterday with "coincidence" in the title.]

For the record, I don't think much of the betrayal article. But I really don't see much from the McCain campaign countering this stuff. Maybe it's because I don't read much about McCain. But maybe it's because McCain is running such a poor campaign that he could actually be replaced as the Republican nominee by the time of the convention.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Susie Tompkins Buell

Kevin Drum, who writes at the Washington Monthly's blog, Political Animal, is concerned that some Clinton supporters are furious that Patti Solis Doyle, Hillary Clinton's first campaign manager, was selected by Obama to serve on his staff.

A story in the Washington Post quotes Clinton "confidante" Susie Tompkins Buell as saying the appointment was "a slap in the face", because Hillary and her team are all very, very mad at Patti Solis Doyle. In fact, they're not talking to her! The reason seems to be that Hillary's loss was Patti Solis Doyle's fault. Everybody else on her team performed wonderfully, I guess.

I don't think we need to get excited about this one, though. Susie Tompkins Buell is a very angry person, and EVERYTHING to her is a slap at Hillary. On June 11 the Times ran a story that quoted her, too:

“I won’t forget these people,” said Susie Tompkins Buell, a co-founder of the Esprit clothing company and a longtime friend of the Clintons who describes herself as “a soul sister” to Mrs. Clinton.

When asked to name “these people,” Ms. Buell specifies “all the women who sold out Hillary.” She declined to volunteer names on her list but answered “all of the above” when read a roster of prominent women supporting Mr. Obama that includes Senator Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota, Gov. Janet Napolitano of Arizona and Gov. Kathleen Sebelius of Kansas.

In fact, Susie Tompkins Buell is the go-to person if you want to write a column about angry Clinton supporters. I just googled "Susie Tompkins Buell" and "angry" and got 1,420 hits!

And I thought I was mad at George W. Bush!

It's Just a Coincidence!

On Saturday, McCain held a conference call with Hillary supporters who refuse to endorse Obama.

The call was organized by a lady named Paula Abeles, whose husband led the fight to keep Sally Hemmings' descendants out of the Monticello Association, an organization of (so far) white descendants of Thomas Jefferson. Ms. Abeles had apparently played a role in that activity, too, including impersonating a 67-year-old black woman in an internet chat room.

The story at Politico.

The Changing News Business

There's an interesting post on the FireDogLake blog (with appropriate links) that says the Associated Press has begun threatening legal action against blogs that quote too much of their stories. The reason, of course, is copyright. They presumably believe, not without justification, that they pay the salaries and expenses of the people who write the stories they publish, the stories are copyrighted, and they are entitled to exclusive use of those stories.

I'm getting to be an old guy now, so this makes perfect sense to me.

But does it? Jane Hamsher writes:

This is but one of the many conflicts that is going to arise between old a new media, whose rules and customs are dictated by differing economic and technological factors.

The AP will probably be slow to learn the lesson, because it will see no immediate impact if people like me won't link to them any more because we don't want to be sued. I mean in our world, how crazy is that? Like I'm going to sue Atrios for linking to me? That's just insane. We live on traffic, our revenues are based on pageviews. The same can be said for the online outlets that the AP is selling its product to -- newspapers across the country. It's the Washington Post and the Houston Chronicle who will feel it if nobody will link to their AP stories. They are, in effect, buying a product that will not generate traffic they need in order to sell ads to support themselves.

If I were running a major metropolitan daily, and I saw my advertising revenues shrinking and my newsroom personnel diminishing as the dead tree business died, and I knew how important it was to generate online traffic to keep the doors open, I'd be thinking ... Reuters. McClatchy. Bloomberg. Anything but AP.

Why pay for a newswire that's going to sue people for linking to you?

Why indeed? Comments?

Saturday, June 14, 2008

A Great Obit

I have a fondness for well-written obituaries. You may have read this one before. It was once featured on Car Talk.

LEWISBURG - Louis J. Casimir Jr. bought the farm Thursday, Feb. 5, 2004, having lived more than twice as long as he had expected and probably three or four times as long as he deserved.

Although he was born into an impecunious family, in a backward and benighted part of the country at the beginning of the Great Depression, he never in his life suffered any real hardships.

Many of his childhood friends who weren't killed or maimed in various wars became petty criminals, prostitutes, and/or Republicans.

He survived three years overseas in an infantry regiment in excellent health, then university for four years on the GI bill, and never thereafter had to do an honest day's work.

He was loved by good women, had loyal friends, and all his children were healthy, handsome and bright.

For more than six decades, he smoked, drank and ate lots of animal fat, but never had a serious illness or injury.

His last wish was that everyone could be as lucky as he had been, even through his demise was probably iatrogenic.

He was preceded in death by his wife of 43 years, Judy.

He is survived by his brother Jack of Houston, Texas; and his children, Randall Kent of Brunswick, Ga., Louis John III (Trey) of Lewisburg, Thomas Bettis of Lewisburg and Edith Austin Wheat of Austin, Texas.

Lou was a daredevil: his last words were "Watch this!"

A memorial service and barbecue will be held on Labor Day at Lou's place.

Donations may be made in Lou's memory to the Union County Public Library, 205 Reitz Blvd., Lewisburg, PA 17837.

Funeral arrangements were by Shaw Funeral Home, Milton.

Editor's note: This obituary was provided by the family.

As far as I can tell, this is a real obituary, written for himself by a retired Bucknell University professor.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Cataloging Their Idiocies

Paul Krugman seems to be getting over Hillary's loss and focusing again on the big picture items.

Blind Men Describing an Elephant

Well, a donkey, actually. But you'll see what I mean.

My friend, Dave Lewis, sent me this article from The New Republic. It has the twin virtues of being interesting and short!

The article is about how Obama is attracting many of the late "conservative movement's" enablers to his side. "... those of us on the right who pay attention to think tanks, blogs, and little magazines have watched Obama compile a coterie drawn from the movement's most stalwart and impressive thinkers." (Tee-hee!) I'm sorry, but I can't help but laugh at this guy's self-importance, which has been a hallmark of "the movement" since its inception. Anyway, he says it's a group that will no doubt grow even larger in the coming months. They manage to see hints of the same "values" in this guy, who the National Journal called the most liberal Senator in 2007.

My favorite passages:
"His goal is not more government so that we can all be caught up in some giant, expressive exercise of collectively enforcing our collective will on all the other people standing around us in the collective; his goal is improving transparency and minimizing government intrusion while rectifying specific outcomes."

Yeah, like providing health insurance. Uh, guys, that makes him a liberal. All that business about collectivism is just cant.

[Conservative "impressive thinker" Larry Hunter] views the Republican Party as a "dead, rotting carcass with a few decrepit old leaders stumbling around like zombies in a horror version of Weekend at Bernie's, handcuffed to a corpse."

Well, change "Republican Party" to "Conservative Movement" and you've got it spot on!

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Flooding in Cedar Rapids #2

According to the Cedar Rapids Gazette:

Water is currently rising at a rate of two inches per hour. Residents close to the water's edge need to take precautions and evacuate immediately.

The Cedar River is predicted to crest 7 a.m. Friday at 32 feet, according to the National Weather Service.

The river is not predicted to go below the former 20-foot record crest until next Wednesday. That record was set March 18, 1929, and June 1, 1851.
Flood stage at Cedar Rapids is 12 feet.

Go to the Gazette for pictures. For those who know the city, here's a video. For old timers, the Crowne Plaza is the former Roosevelt Hotel.

"Not Too Important"

Sen. McCain has been criticized for saying it is "not too important" when the American troops come home from Iraq. He argues that the videos that showed this remark did not give the full context, and provides this longer video:

Mark Kleiberg at The Reality-Based Community still has a problem with it.

Just three points on the substance, ...:

1. For lots of the folks in Iraq — the Guardsmen and reservists who didn't expect to be deployed to a war zone when they signed up — service in Iraq is a substantial hardship, even if no one gets hit. From them and their families, when they get to come home and resume their normal lives is, indeed, "that important."

2. Troops tied down in Iraq aren't available for duty elsewhere. That reduces our leverage in every potential conflict everywhere in the world.

3. The McCain strategy amounts to leaving our troops in harm's way and hoping that the various armed groups in Iraq eventually decide to stop shooting at them. Under the McCain plan, our enemies get to decide how long our soldiers keep dying. Under the Obama plan, we get to decide. Which plan do you prefer?

There Will Always Be An England

Yesterday the US Supreme Court ruled that suspected terrorists being held at Guantanamo Bay have the right to challenge their detention -- through petitions of habeas corpus -- in federal courts.

From Politico, we learn that Senator Lindsey Graham has a problem with that:

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) vowed Thursday to do everything in his power to overturn the Supreme Court’s decision on Guantanamo Bay detainees, saying that, “if necessary,” he would push for a constitutional amendment to modify the decision.

A former military prosecutor, Graham blasted the decision as “irresponsible and outrageous,” echoing the sentiments of many congressional Republicans and President Bush.

Coincidentally, a similar issue is being argued in Parliament: Should the police be allowed to hold suspected terrorists for 42 days without charge, instead of 28 days as provided by current law?

Thanks to Steve Clemons at The Washington Note for pointing me to this video of the issue being debated by Gordon Brown and David Cameron. It's a little over 8 minutes long, but if you've got the time, I highly recommend it. It's the Brits at their best.

If you don't have the time, then allow me to share with you the coup de grace. David Cameron, the Conservative Party leader, argues:

Is there not a danger that as well as being unnecessary, it will be counter-productive? When former Attorneys-General and soldiers who served against the IRA in Northern Ireland are all saying that this sort of measure could help the terrorists rather than hurt them, are we not taking a bad step? Is it not clear that the terrorists want to destroy our freedom, and that when we trash our liberties we do their work for them?

Prepare to Throw Up

If you read the same blogs I do, you can't miss this. But maybe you don't.

Faux News, known for years as the propaganda arm of the Torture Party, has apparently got a contract with the White Citizens Council, too. See this.

Flooding in Cedar Rapids

In Cedar Rapids, Iowa, they've announced a mandatory evacuation of the river's 500-year flood plain. The Cedar River is supposed to crest at about 1 a.m. Friday, but that's only if it doesn't rain again. Another 1 to 4 inches of rain is expected today.

There are pictures and a map of the 500-year flood plain here. Coe College is safe, because it's on a bluff, but you'd be able to throw a rock into the flood waters from there.

This is gonna hurt.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

The Search for the Bonhomme Richard

When I was a tadpole, John Paul Jones was my hero. I read a Landmark biography of him, and I'm sure there were comic books about him, too. My interest in history comes from those days.

So my heart went pitapat when I saw that the US Navy is helping in the search for his famous flagship, the Bonhomme Richard. It was from that ship's deck that Jones shouted his famous, "I have not yet begun to fight!"

Of course, as always happens with heroes, it turns out Jones was a more "complicated" person than Landmark Books ever suggested.

Two in the Times

If you're looking for reasons to be happy Hillary lost, try this article in the Times. I'm wary of playing into stereotypes about the Clintons, but it still creeped me out.

Meanwhile, Friedman's column confirms what I've written about before: that we can make a huge step toward restoring American prestige in the world by electing Obama. Friedman says a couple of weird things to sound even-handed (exactly how is serving as a POW in Hanoi "looking at America from the outside in"?), but his conversations with Egyptians are interesting. Of course, as Friedman points out, getting elected is one thing; Obama having to make difficult decisions that they don't like is another.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Chicago Gas Update

Click on the picture for a better look.

The Failures of the "Conservative Movement" (10)

This from a right-wingnut "news" site called

Televangelist Bill Keller, founder of an interactive Christian website, says while only God knows the hearts of men, he has his doubts about Barack Obama's claims of being a Christian...

"A lot of the things that he is saying really call into question whether he really is a Christian," says Keller, offering up as an example Obama's statement that there are many roads that lead to God. "He has consistently been on record that he's willing to give away part of the land that God himself gave to the children of Israel directly to their enemies," he adds.
Well, I guess no "true" Christian could ever have those ideas.

Monday, June 09, 2008

Music to My Ears

From the Moonie newspaper, The Washington Times:

Two years after he resigned from the House, former Republican leader Tom DeLay says conservatives haven't bottomed out from their 2006 election losses, Democrats are "cleaning their clock," and it will take years before the Republican Party can compete with the operation Democrats have built.

We have been very lucky to have Howard Dean as chairman of the Democratic National Committee (DNC) since February 2005. It was Dean that fought for the "50-state strategy"; i.e., that Democrats should devote resources to building the Democratic Party in all 50 states, not just so-called "swing states". You might think to yourself, "Well, duh!", but the Clinton organization, led by Terry McAuliffe, Dean's predecessor at the DNC, had adhered to the "swing state" model.

This morning I was one of several million people who got an email from Obama (he calls me "Robert L", a private joke between us) that said:
Today, I am proud to announce that our presidential campaign will be the first in a generation to deploy and maintain staff in every single state.

This guy knows what he's doing.

Update: If your appetite for Republican woe is not yet satisfied, head over here for more!


I went to the Lincoln Park Zoo today with Anneliese, the fun-loving daughter of our friend, Emily, and we had a great time. I took the Canon G9 with me, and wasn't disappointed. But I might take an SLR with me the next time; the ability to take pictures in quick succession would have been nice.

Meerkats are great. They're always posing for the camera. Polar bears are more into action pictures.

Talkin' Gas Prices

I can't say the increase in gas prices has caused Suellen and me any hardship, but thinking about the gas pump crossing $50 for a fill-up makes us think twice about driving sometimes. Suellen and I are doing more walking now that the snow and ice are gone. Most of the places we go are walkable, so we get a double cardiac/pocketbook benefit if we leave the car in the garage. I bought a bicycle a couple of weeks ago, and it is now a transportation option, too.

So the gas prices haven't been a real burden to us in Chicago. But this article in today's NY Times makes it clear that they've been a disaster in rural areas. It's definitely worth the read. Even if you don't read it, take a look at their map of gas purchases expressed as a percent of income. This is pretty sobering. These folks need help.

I didn't know I'd be writing this when I posted the Iris DeMent song, below, but it is certainly apropos.

Sunday, June 08, 2008

Musical Interlude - Iris DeMent

Iris has a voice that either you can get into or you can't. But if you can, this song of hers will reward a listening. It was the last song played on the TV series, Northern Exposure.

Obama's "Terrorist Fist Jab"

Barack and Michelle Obama were caught on national television giving each other the well-known "terrorist fist jab", a secret handshake the CIA first learned of from a tortured taxi driver, then shared with Faux News on deep background.

The Bush Administration is deeply concerned about how frequently this tell-tale symbol of terrorist sympathies is popping up, particularly in the American League:

Thanks to Faux News for calling our attention to this worrisome development.

Obama Abroad

Frank Rich ends his column today raising an interesting thing to think about:
Anything can happen in politics, and there are five months to go. But Tuesday night’s McCain pratfall — three weeks in the planning by his campaign, according to Fox News [Rich is referring here to McCain's disastrous "green" speech] — should be a clear indication that Mr. Obama must accept Mr. McCain’s invitation to weekly debates at once. Tomorrow if possible, and, yes, bring on the green!

Mr. Obama must also heed Mr. McCain’s directive that he visit Iraq — as long as he avoids Baghdad markets and hits other foreign capitals on route. When the world gets a firsthand look at the new America Mr. Obama offers as an alternative to Mr. McCain’s truculent stay-the-course, the public pandemonium may make J.F.K.’s “Ich bin ein Berliner” visit to the Berlin Wall look like a warm-up act.

In response to taunting from McCain, Obama has already said he's planning to visit Iraq and other countries before the election in November. Considering the high public interest in him around the world, he is likely to be treated like royalty. Certainly better than Bush. The contrast would not be lost on the electorate back home. Once again, it looks like McCain has shot himself in the foot.

Friday, June 06, 2008

A McCain Ad

What do you think?

It doesn't strike me as particularly effective, but what do I know? I think the lighting decision was a little unusual.

Clem Miller

Back in the fall of 1969 I was a college student, and I was on Washington Term, an opportunity my school provided to students who wanted to study in Washington, D.C. My brother, Ted, had done Washington Term before me, and will be attending a reunion of participants this weekend.

When I was there, we had a course taught by a curator at the National Gallery, a course taught by a lobbyist, and an independent study. (I did a study of the groups opposed to the development of anti-ballistic missiles, and their tactics. Fascinating, huh?) It was a great time to be in D.C. The anti-Vietnam War movement sort of climaxed on November 15 of that year, with the Mobilization to End the War, which brought hundreds of thousands of people to the city. It scared the wits out of Nixon's Attorney General, John Mitchell. Mitchell's wife, Martha (remember her, anybody?), said it reminded her of the Russian Revolution, much to their delight.

Washington was a different city then than it is now. A scruffy student, I was allowed to wander aimlessly around the halls of power. There was a little electric subway, with open-top cars, that ran between the Capitol building and the Senate and Congressional office buildings, and anybody could ride it. You just got on and sat down. The only time it was restricted was when there was a quorum call, and then a bell would ring and the legislators would stream out of their offices and back to the floors of their respective houses of Congress. I don't remember everybody I sat next to on that subway, but I do remember chatting with Senator Howard Baker. I did a little volunteer work in a tiny basement office used by Senator George McGovern's staff. I typed mailing lists into a machine that produced long strips of yellow paper, translating the letters to holes in the paper, which were later translated back to letters. I have no doubt McGovern's failure to win in 1972 was the result of my failure to do this more diligently.

Well, anyway. The lobbyist who taught our government class gave us a book to read, a collection of letters to his constituents from Congressman Clem Miller of California. I don't think Clem served very long -- he was killed in a plane crash in the early 60's -- but his letters were one of the best explanations of how our government works that I've ever read. I had my own copy, but the last time I remember seeing it was when we lived in Pittsburgh (five homes ago).

And though I may be conflating this with other memories, I'm pretty sure he had a discussion of lobbyists. Clem actually thought lobbyists served a useful purpose, because they provided information, and he thought intelligent legislation required information. I have no doubt that some lobbyists provided money to candidates in those days, but I'm pretty sure it was described as "corruption". Nowadays Congressmen say there's nothing wrong with taking money from lobbyists who support your positions. Of course, we don't know which came first, the money or the position, do we?

Obama is refusing to take money from lobbyists for his campaign. Now that he is in charge of the party, he has established the principle that the Democratic National Committee will not accept money from lobbyists. This is in contrast to John McCain, whose entire campaign staff is awash with lobbyists of the most venal sort. Let's keep our fingers crossed.

Thursday, June 05, 2008

McCain Takes a Stand

News from Obamaland

My sister-in-law, Laura, just mentioned, in an "Oh, by the way" kind of way, that she is friends with Susan Axelrod, wife of David Axelrod, Obama's chief strategist. Laura got a call from Susan, and ... well, let Laura describe it:

Yesterday my friend Susan Axelrod called me ... and told me she was coming here on the "campaign plane" and was going to put my name on the VIP list to get into the rally. I met her at the [St. Paul] convention center and we got to sit in one of the back rooms with the Obamas and about 10 other people.

She goes on to say,

The attached picture shows them watching Hillary's speech before O. went out to give his speech.
The other picture shows him signing books after the speech.

This was a pretty spectacular time to be in the same room as Obama. Hillary was giving her non-concession speech. It's not fair! Laura doesn't even have a blog!

Laura didn't mention, but a well-placed nonagenarian has confirmed to this reporter, that Susan spent the night at the Miller home.

News from World War II

There seems to be a lot happening on the World War II front this week:

  • Japan is searching for six mass graves containing their soldiers killed in a battle on the Aleutian island of Attu.
    Attu was one of the deadliest conflicts in the Pacific in terms of the percentage of troops killed. Japanese troops invaded Attu and the neighboring island of Kiska in June 1942, in the only occupation of U.S. land during the war. No one was living on Kiska, but the Japanese captured a small Aleut community when they seized Attu. Almost half of the 45 residents taken to Hokkaido, Japan, died during internment.

    American forces arrived at Attu the following May, waging a 19-day campaign before they retook the island. Most of the fighting was hand-to-hand combat in 120 mph winds, driving rain and dense, damp fog.

    Of an estimated 2,500 Japanese troops on Attu, only 28 were taken prisoner. The others died in battle or committed suicide with their own grenades.

    American deaths numbered about 550 among more than 15,000 troops. The dead were temporarily buried at two cemeteries on the island, then exhumed and reburied in locations designated by their families.
  • An unexploded WWII bomb was found near a tube station in London, causing the line to be shut down for a while.
  • A Mark5 tank was found buried under a road near Chartres. It was said to be in "near perfect condition". You can be the judge of that, but I must say that if that was the description on eBay, I would have something bad to say about the seller.

The Failures of the "Conservative Movement" (9)

Bush and Cheney should be held accountable, but I don't know how. You've already seen this, I hope. A bipartisan majority (10-5) of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence released the final two sections of its Phase II report on Iraq pre-war intelligence. According to a news release from Senator Jay Rockefeller, the Committee's investigation disclosed that:

* Statements and implications by the President and Secretary of State suggesting that Iraq and al-Qa’ida had a partnership, or that Iraq had provided al-Qa’ida with weapons training, were not substantiated by the intelligence.

* Statements by the President and the Vice President indicating that Saddam Hussein was prepared to give weapons of mass destruction to terrorist groups for attacks against the United States were contradicted by available intelligence information.

* Statements by President Bush and Vice President Cheney regarding the postwar situation in Iraq, in terms of the political, security, and economic, did not reflect the concerns and uncertainties expressed in the intelligence products.

* Statements by the President and Vice President prior to the October 2002 National Intelligence Estimate regarding Iraq’s chemical weapons production capability and activities did not reflect the intelligence community’s uncertainties as to whether such production was ongoing.

* The Secretary of Defense’s statement that the Iraqi government operated underground WMD facilities that were not vulnerable to conventional airstrikes because they were underground and deeply buried was not substantiated by available intelligence information.

* The Intelligence Community did not confirm that Muhammad Atta met an Iraqi intelligence officer in Prague in 2001 as the Vice President repeatedly claimed.

This war has cost more than 4,000 loyal American soldiers and sailors their lives. The total bill for the war is expected to reach $3 trillion, money Bush said we couldn't afford to make sure we have full Social Security for the next 75 years. But think of the lives. Think of the maimed. Think of all you've seen about soldiers returning with PTSD. Now read that summary again.

These people should be held accountable. These are not white lies. This is betrayal.

Update: Dan Froomkin has more on the report here.

Keep Smiling

The thing I like best about the internet is that I don't have to have cable TV or a satellite dish. I just watch it on the internet. Witness:

A Cure for Feelings of Doom

This story from the NY Times about a revived paper mill in the Adirondacks got my day off on a positive note.

One thing that keeps amazing me is how cheaply you can live if you move to paradise. Of course, the nearest cardiologist is probably 100+ miles away. But I'll bet you get treated like a real person in that 20-bed hospital.

Follow that up with this story in the Washington Post about how positively Obama's victory is being regarded around the world. I don't crave their approval, but the world is a safer place for Americans if people in other countries admire us than if they despise us.

Finally, read Digby's June 4 comments on the Clintons (titled Coda) at Hullabaloo. The future looks bright.

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

The VEEP Poll

Well, wasn't THAT interesting? Three votes for Richardson, two for Clark, and one for Webb. Our readership is small, but we're weird.

Republicans Are From a Different Planet

Harri Anne Smith is running for the Republican Congressional nomination for southeastern Alabama. Yesterday she came in second in the primary, but nobody got a majority, so she'll be in a run-off in July. These campaign ads speak for themselves:

Yup. It's about time they show us some gratitude.

"I hate taxes! And I haven't had a real thought since high school."

19 Years Ago Today

This is from The Writer's Almanac:
It was on this day in 1989 that the Chinese troops stormed Beijing's Tiananmen Square to crack down on students conducting pro-democracy demonstrations. The demonstrations had begun months earlier, after the government accused them of planning a coup d'etat. They drew thousands of supporters from three dozen universities and staged hunger strikes and sit-ins. The Chinese government declared martial law, and troops approached the square with tanks in the late evening of June 3.

Ordinary workers had gathered along the nearby roads. They had been demonstrating in support of the students for weeks, and they crowded into the streets to block the advance of the tanks toward the square. Though the event would come to be called the Tianamen Square massacre, almost all the people killed were the ordinary people in the streets outside the square. Violence broke out around midnight on this day in 1989, with some people throwing rocks and Molotov cocktails at the troops, and the troops responding with gunfire.

The violence continued in and around the square for the rest of the day. The famous photograph of a student staring down a tank was taken by an American Associated Press photographer named Jeff Widener. He went to the top of a hotel near the square and began to take pictures of the tanks clearing the last remnants of people from the streets. Then he saw one man walk up to a tank and stand in its path, refusing to move. He took several photographs and then the man was grabbed by bystanders and pulled out of the tank's path. Widener asked another journalist to hide the film in his underwear to smuggle it out of the country.

The identity of the protester in the photograph is not known with any certainty, but he's been called one of the most influential revolutionaries of the twentieth century.
Okay, so that last comment is a little over the top, but we should remember that day.

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

The Failures of the "Conservative Movement" (8)

Yeah, this is the kind of people you want running a country. What's that? The science says the earth is warming? What should we do?

Suppress it, of course. Ah, Conservative leadership.

This was the modus operandi for the Bush Administration, by the way. At the Social Security Administration the career professionals in the press office, who thought it was their job to be as helpful and forthcoming to the press as possible, were pushed to the side by the Bush political appointees. They had an agenda, and they didn't want non-True Believers to get in their way. Commissioner Barnhart lectured the Agency's Public Affairs Specialists, gathered from their local offices around the country, that the press was their enemy, not their friend. This was a surprise to many who had spent 20 years or more cultivating a good and trusting relationship with their local reporters.

From Our
In January 2001, when Bush was assuming the presidency, the right-wing Heritage Foundation issued a white paper: Taking Charge of Federal Personnel.

That report effectively counseled Bush to suffocate the ability of our civil servants to provide objective and factual information, making it impossible for the public to make informed decisions and communicate our will to policymakers in Washington.

It sniffed at the "Public Administration Model" of government as "emphasiz[ing] the Progressive ideal--a value-free 'scientific' program of government administration."

Instead, it preferred the "Political Administration Model" which it defined as "providing presidential leadership to committed top political officials...holding them and their subordinates personally accountable for achievement of the President's election-endorsed and value-defined program."

Have you ever read a better recipe for corruption?

We Haven't Gotten Any Smarter

I haven't seen anything about this in the American press, but the BBC reports that starting next year the Department of Homeland Security will require all visitors entering the USA from Japan and Western Europe -- visitors who do not require visas -- to register with them online three days before their visit.

I haven't thought about it long enough to decide if it's a good idea or not. On the one hand, we seem to keep making it harder and harder for people to visit the USA. On the other hand, this doesn't seem like an excruciating burden.

But the fact that it's coming from Michael Chertoff's Department of Homeland Security almost makes it stupid by default. And it does not gain gravitas from the questions that will be asked of visitors:
That information includes passport number, country of residence, and any involvement in terror activities.

It reminds me of the manifest record that was created for my grandmother, and the 3-year-old who would become my mother, when they sailed from France to Ellis Island in 1920:

The answers to questions 22 and 23 were "No," by the way. I've never seen a report of how many anarchists and polygamists were caught in this cunning sting.

The Case for Wesley Clark

The blog Open Left has an article on why Wesley Clark would be a good VP, and there's some realist commentary at The Reality-Based Community.