No More Apples
"Adam ate an apple from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. It's a shame we ran out of apples." -- The Sage.
"The modern conservative is engaged in one of man's oldest exercises in moral philosophy; that is, the search for a superior moral justification for selfishness." -- John Kenneth Galbraith
"Reality has a liberal bias." -- Stephen Colbert
We are proud members of the resistance.
Saturday, July 2
REFLECTIONS ON THE FOURTH OF JULY
When I was a young'un the Fourth of July was a less martial occasion than it seems to be today. There were four basic elements to the celebration. First came the downtown parade with its assembly of marching bands, colorful tissue-encrusted floats, Shriners on their adult tricycles and go-carts, equestrian societies with their mounts beautifully decorated, WWI veterans riding in convertibles and WWII vets marching in formation, Boy and Girl Scouts, the DAR dressed in Martha Washington and Betsy Ross costumes, their husbands dressed as the Founding Fathers, and Uncle Sam on stilts. After the parade family, friends and neighbors would gather for a cookout and then, as twilight fell, walk down the street to watch the fireworks display over the bay. I wrote about the latter when I was in high school:
Fourth of July
So near the bay we lived,
We'd walk down Second Court in loose formation
Past dusty houses with screened porches
And aluminum flamingoes on the door,
Cross Beach Drive towards Jones' Fish Market.
You couldn't see it from the street,
But obscured by masses of palmettoes
Was a little beach known only to old Cove dwellers
And the crews of shrimp boats
Passing on their way to deliver their catch.
We'd spread blankets and place handbags and heavy shoes at each corner
To anchor them in the strong bay breeze.
The younger children would race up and down the beach in their excitement,
And when energy ran down, plunk themselves on the sand
As close to the water as parents would permit.
My elder sisters would gaze wistfully
At the fine big houses up the Cove
And the jaunty sailboats and cruisers whose safety lights surrounded them
With a festive golden aura amid the evening shadows.
I would separate myself from the rest,
Find a large piece of driftwood underneath which I would tuck my sandals for safekeeping.
Barefoot, I would luxuriate in the feel of dry sugar-sand between my toes
And lose myself in romantic imaginings.
The first skyrockets sounding from the marina
And spreading eerie colorful distorted reflections upon the bay waters,
We would reunite at once,
Sharing the anticipation of each,
Feeding upon one another's delight.
This year I would like to forget how our celebration of freedom and love of country has been manipulated into support for foreign adventurism, illegal aggression and wars of choice. But there's no forgetting. There's just my hope that our citizens will take a moment to reflect upon the changes in our national direction under this worst of all administrations, assess them accurately, and resolve to reclaim our national history, values and leadership position in the world not by guns, but by the means that have, in the past, proved so successful: by presenting a living example of good governance, the rule of law and justice for all.
IRAQI UN AMBASSADOR ACCUSES U.S. MARINES OF MURDER
Iraq's ambassador to the UN has accused U.S. marines of killing his cousin in cold blood during a raid on his house.
And the ambassador has been a supporter of the U.S. We seem to be not only creating more terrorists than we're destroying, but also turning friends into enemies with this senseless, ineptly executed war. For all the vaunted arguments that we're there now and have to win (or finish) this thing and that if we do we can transform the Middle East, there's the more effective counter-argument that it's impossible to do so if we don't know HOW to do it and don't have the resources needed to do it. And this administration has given every evidence that it just doesn't.
NEW CANADIAN AMBASSADOR SEES U.S. MEDIA VERY CLEARLY
Canada's new ambassador to the United States is a fast learner.
The "sheer magnitude" of the media in the United States makes it very difficult to get any share of public mind in this country, McKenna said.
"I see potential scandals which surface here every single day which flash across the television screen and disappear into the ether,'' he said. "In Canada (they) would have been enough to bring down the government.''
He cited a newspaper account of Homeland Security spending waste, a story which barely lasted a single news cycle.
"In Canada, that would have been the subject of a multi-year commission of inquiry and would have brought the government to its knees.''
"It was a one-hour story here."
It's a good article. I recommend reading the whole thing.
CONSERVATIVES SEEK TO EDIT LINCOLN MEMORIAL VIDEO
Is nothing sacred to these people? Now they have to convert the Lincoln Memorial into another element of the Vast Right Wing Talk Machine?
UCC TO ENDORSE GAY MARRIAGE?
The United Church of Christ is considering endorsing same-sex marriage.
My father-in-law was, and several good friends are, members of the UCC, and I always had the impression that it was a particularly conservative denomination, perhaps because they don't as a rule use musical instruments in their services. But apparently, the same goals of "(1) de-emphasizing denominational differences and being “Christians only,” (2) looking to the Bible only, instead of denominational manuals, to establish policy for worship and Christian living, and (3) attempting to restore the spirit and simple practices of Christianity depicted in the New Testament" that discourage the use of musical instruments have also led them to a leadership position among denominations in the area of love and tolerance:
But the church's support for gays and lesbians is not new. In the early 1970s, the church became the first major Christian body to ordain an openly gay minister. It also established a gay caucus.
Twenty years ago, the church declared itself to be ''open and affirming" of gays and lesbians, and since then, nearly 600 congregations have independently done the same.
REPUBLICANS PUSHING PRIVATE RETIREMENT ACCOUNTS, NOT SOCIAL SECURITY SOLVENCY
Seems the Rethugs are having a dispute over whether to propose measures to increase Social Security solvency or just concentrate on passing private retirement accounts. This needs to be spread all over the media; the people need to know the truth, that the administration is using the whole "Social Security is going broke" argument is a smokescreen for killing the program altogether. Bush's purpose all along has been to destroy the most effective and popular government program in history (and a feather in the cap of the Democratic Party), and this spat merely demonstrates that financial preservation of Social Security matters not in the least to the administration -- it's just a ruse to carve out private retirement accounts, the first step in their plan.
And how do the Rethugs propose we finance the private accounts? By draining the Social Security cash reserve.
While Republicans might want to avoid the political risk of making benefit cuts to address solvency, such a move has its own peril. It would call into question the urgency of President George W. Bush's demand for an immediate overhaul of Social Security to secure its finances.
Last week, House and Senate Republicans unveiled legislation that would use the cash reserve of Social Security to create the accounts. Bush proposes letting workers younger than 55 divert as much as a third of the 12.4 percent Social Security payroll tax into personal accounts that could be invested in stock and bond funds. The administration estimates it would cost the government $754 billion in revenue over 10 years.
Representative James McCrery, a Louisiana Republican who heads the Social Security subcommittee, outlined the plan to fund private accounts with the Social Security reserve to Republicans in a meeting yesterday.
``No member who talked about this, and dozens of members did, had a single negative comment,'' said Representative Roy Blunt of Missouri, the No. 3 Republican.
The legislation on its own would pass the House if voted on now, Blunt said.
Democrats said they aren't budging from near-unanimous opposition to any bill with accounts, which they charge would destroy the current system by draining it of funding.
``It's directly contrary to what we'd agree is prudent public policy,'' said Representative Earl Pomeroy, a North Dakota Democrat who's a member of the Social Security subcommittee. ``This is the time we ought to be shoring up'' the system, not diverting money to accounts, he said.
So the Rethugs say the House would pass the proposed legislation. But, thank God, at this point there aren't enough votes in the Senate. The very real intentions, however, of the Republicans should be one of the primary issues of the 2006 elections. The people should be told, over and over again, how real the peril to Social Security is should Congress remain in the hands of the R's.
Friday, July 1
GEORGE WASHINGTON ON OUR "CHRISTIAN" NATION
Next time you hear the wingnuts screeching about the Founding Fathers and their intentions that this be a Christian nation, remind them of this:
Courtesy of Ed Thibodeau, at Nonplussed:
It’s the law of the land, as negotiated by George Washington in a treaty with the nation of Tripoli on November 4, 1796, and ratified by the United States Senate on June 10, 1797:
As the government of the United States of America is not in any sense founded on the Christian Religion, — as it has in itself no character of enmity against the laws, religion or tranquility of Musselmen, — and as the said States never have entered into any war or act of hostility against any Mehomitan nation, it is declared by the parties that no pretext arising from religious opinions shall ever produce an interruption of the harmony existing between the two countries.
Thursday, June 30
Well, it's not a sprained ankle after all. I have, in fact, a broken (in two places) leg that I've been toting around on crutches for a week. It was the excruciating, and continuing, pain that made me suspect that something more was going on. Yesterday I got the soft cast and today I get the hard cast.
Is there ever a convenient time to have a broken leg? If there is, this isn't one of those times.
Tuesday, June 28
SUPPORT THE TROOPS...REALLY
Rep. Louise Slaughter (D-NY) is spreading the word that Republicans defeated a Democratic attempt to address the $1 billion shortfall in this year's VA budget for veteran health care.
This is disgraceful, but they keep getting away with it. Just let them shout, "Support the troops!" and that's sufficient to cover a multitude of sins: failure to provide sufficient armor and ammunition for our soldiers, slashing veterans' benefits. If veterans, and current military, would just think about it, it's evidence of a huge disrespect on the part of the Rethugs. They obviously think the military is so uber-patriotic (or moronic) that they'll offer their bodies as sacrifice no matter what...so doing right by them doesn't matter. They can apply themselves to more important, and urgent priorities, such as tax cuts for billionaires, legislation to restore Terri Schiavo's feeding tube, and constitutional amendments forbidding gay marriage and the burning of flags.
I'm sick of the spectacle of hypocrites wearing yellow ribbons on their lapels and weeping great crocodile tears over our fighting men and women even as they decry the Democratic Party as "appeasers" who are undermining our military's morale and putting our troops in jeopardy. Then they go out and say, "Tough luck, kid, but we lost so much revenue from our tax cuts and spent so much on our missile defense systems that don't work that there's nothing left to spend on your health. And so sorry, by the way, that you lost your legs because you had to use sandbags you scrounged to armor your Humvee."
This should be an issue tied around the Bush administration's neck and weighted down with an anchor.
UPDATE: This subject is today's "Daily Outrage" at The Nation.
RICK SANTORUM, MENTAL MIDGET, CITES LIBERALISM AS CAUSE FOR PEDOPHILE PRIESTS
Sen. Rick Santorum (R-PA) writing about the pedophile priests scandal in the Catholic Church and blaming it on liberals:
It is startling that those in the media and academia appear most disturbed by this aberrant behavior, since they have zealously promoted moral relativism by sanctioning "private" moral matters such as alternative lifestyles. Priests, like all of us, are affected by culture. When the culture is sick, every element in it becomes infected. While it is no excuse for this scandal, it is no surprise that Boston, a seat of academic, political and cultural liberalism in America, lies at the center of the storm.
The whole thing is such an egregious example of mushy, florid writing and thinking that by the end of it I had nearly lost my outrage at the paragraph above in my pity for this idiot.
But not quite. Let's take another scandal, that of the Air Force Academy ignoring or covering up charges by female cadets of rape and sexual assault by their male classmates. It's a story that is getting hotter, and very quickly on the heels of charges of widespread Christian proselytizing and harassment of non-Christian cadets at the Academy and its subsequent removal of a chaplain who confirmed those charges. Let's take these two situations and see if we can conflate them as well as Santorum did pedophilia and liberalism.
Santorum: priestly pedophilia = big problem in Boston area (liberal domain), ergo liberalism causes pedophilia
Me: rape and sexual assault = big problem at AF Academy (Christian domain), ergo Christianity causes rape and sexual assault.
Is there anything wrong with my parallel reasoning?
Sunday, June 26
TWO BILLYS: GRAHAM AND CLINTON
Priceless!!! And true.
Just saw a clip of Billy Graham's latest, and declared-last, evangelistic crusade in the U.S. He introduced his special guests, Bill and Hillary Clinton. Said, "Years ago after following Bill Clinton on a platform I said he ought to be an evangelist -- and leave his wife to run the country."
RUSSERT V. RUMSFELD
Here's a quick report on Rumsfeld's appearance on MTP today. Note the bolded sections. "I DON'T REMEMBER"?????
It's so convenient, how the Iraqi government is "sovereign" any time we want them to take the blame for something.
RUMMY: Wars are tough things. Solid progress is being made. The political progress is considerable. Economic progress is being made. And yet Zarqawi and his people continue to kill people, and that's what the media reports, and that's all the American people see. But I think solid progress is being made.
Hagel is flat wrong. We are not losing in Iraq. Myers and Abizaid say we're not in a quagmire, we're making good progress. Afghanistan is terrific, women voting, etc., but Iraq's behind that a little. The progress is impressive and we just have to recognize that it's tough, it's difficult. The terrorists have no cause, they're opposing an elected Iraqi government. That isn't a long-term formula for success.
RUSSERT: Are we negotiating with the insurgency?
RUMMY: The government in Iraq is sovereign, they're the ones reaching out to those opposing the government, not to terrorists with blood on their hands. We'll facilitate those conversations from time to time. The sweep of human history is to freedom. We can be optimistic about the future but there will be a lot of bumps in the road between now and then.
RUSSERT: Any misjudgments by you or the administration about Iraq?
RUMMY: In any war the battle plan doesn't survive first contact with the enemy. We're constantly adapting to the enemy, but that's not a mistake. Our military is the finest on the face of the earth, best-trained, best-equipped, best-led, and they're doing a fine job. Iraqi security forces are getting better every day. This is the reality of war, that there's violence, it's tough, and that's why it's everyone's last choice.
RUSSERT: Cheney predicting our being greeted as liberators. Misjudgment?
RUMMY: Before the war I drew up a long list of the things that could go wrong. A great many of the bad things that could have happened didn't because of the terrific job Franks did. A lot of Iraqi people did feel relief that Saddam was gone. On the other hand, the Sunnis, the people who lost out, didn't like it.
RUSSERT: Was a robust insurgency on your list of things that could go wrong?
RUMMY: I don't remember.
RUSSERT: IS the insurgency in its "last throes?"
RUMMY: There are various ways to measure it. If you measure the number of incidents, it's going down. If you measure the lethalities of those attacks, it's going up. The way to think of it is, the insurgents are foreigners in significant numbers, they're attacking Iraqis, they're opposing the government, they know if Iraq becomes a representative democracy, it's going to hurt them badly. If the constitution gets written, if we get past this and have more of an Iraqi face on this, over time -- foreign troops won't beat the insurgency, Iraqi people can beat the insurgency.
RUSSERT: We are in for a very long haul, right?
RUMMY: In October we'll have about 200,000 Iraqi forces.
RUSSERT: How many will be combat-ready?
RUMMY: You can't do it that way. You have to say, what are you trying to achieve with which groups. The biggest problems aren't numbers, they're the agencies, the chain of command.
I think you'll see the coalition forces being reduced over time. One variable is, the number and quality of the Iraqi security forces. Another variable is the intensity of the insurgency. The interaction of all those things will determine the pace of a draw-down. A heavy U.S. footprint, intrusive behavior, encourages the insurgency, so our generals are keeping it light.
RUSSERT: (Tim keeps showing quotes and video clips of administration predictions before the war. Rumsfeld keeps saying the generals determine(d) the force levels.) Downing Street Memo and WMD? After-war planning?
RUMMY: Great deal of post-combat planning. Commanders have an obligation for post-combat stabilization plan, and they did. Over time, there's no doubt that Iraq will have to finance its own reconstruction, and that will take a long time.
RUSSERT: Did you make a mistake in estimating the costs of the war?
RUMMY: I never estimated it. There are always unknowns. Anyone who tries to estimate the end, the time, the casualties in a war is making a big mistake. War is always a last choice and as George Washington said, you don't get out once you're in.
RUSSERT: What is the problem with armoring our Humvees?
RUMMY: It's being done. Each military branch is responsible for equipping their units. They've been working their heads off at doing it, and they've done it at a rapid clip.
RUSSERT: Recruiting shortfalls?
RUMMY: It's off, but the goal is higher than ever before. Army retention among those who've served in Iraq and Afghanistan is higher than for those who haven't. Navy, Air Force, Marine recruiting and retention is good. We'll be able to meet our recruiting goals for next year.
RUSSERT: Prisoner abuse: would you support an independent investigation?
RUMMY: The president and his advisers decided at the beginning that the WOT is different from any other war. The people at Gitmo are bad people. I agree with POTUS that you do treat terrorists differently than you do those in the criminal justice system.
RUSSERT: Are we creating more terrorists than we're killing?
RUMMY: Tough to know. The moderate Muslims will have to defeat the terrorists.
RUSSERT: (Re Karl Rove remarks) Are you comfortable with the way liberals responded after 9/11?
RUMMY: The bottom line is, do you want to treat terrorists with indictments or get them off the battlefield and get information that will stop other terrorist attacks? And that has been done, I assure you.
RUSSERT: But liberals opposed that?
RUMMY: I didn't suggest that. My impression is that Rove was referring to moveon.org and said so.
GIVE 'EM HELL, HOWARD
Howard Dean restores a fiery tradition.
When Howard was in Dallas a couple of weeks ago, about 200 of us gathered in an air-conditioned tent in the sideyard of a couple of Dallas asbestos litigators to hear him speak, and we weren't disappointed. He speaks naturally but with conviction. He delivers short, clear statements that prompt cheers and applause, which build adrenaline in the crowd. By the end, we were ready to carry him out on our shoulders. It's not soaring rhetoric that characterizes his talk -- it's plain truths that can be understood, and accepted, by anyone. It's painful truth we progressives contemplate every day, but he offers an implacable confidence that justice and wisdom will prevail, and it is such a relief to absorb that confidence, even briefly. He outlines specific counters to Bush policies, and they can be understood by Everyman. I truly believe he can win Southern hourly workers who have Confederate flag stickers displayed on their pickups.
Howard's demeanor also is appealing. He's serious, but has a twinkle ready at appropriate moments. He seems the antidote to media-made politicos, very real and human but not of the Bush variety which has no substance -- on the contrary, he projects a laser-like program for party organization and policy advocacy. He inspires trust, confidence, empowerment.
Howard for '08.