Northern Valley Beacon
Information, observations, and analysis from the James River valley on the Northern Plains-----
E-Mail: Enter 'Beacon' in subject box. Send to: Minnekota@Referencedesk.org
Tuesday, November 29, 2005
The talking heads in Lower Colon U.
Over at the Clean Cut Kid blog, there has been a discussion going on about free speech. Chad started it when he commented on something said by a professor on that SDP blog that seemed exceptionally small-minded, intellectually dishonest, and terminally stupid. The post suggested that people contact the President of NSU if they think that paying the professor his salary is a waste and possible misexpenditure of taxpayers' money. Immediately the ultra-regressives, who shouted "traitor" so loudly a year ago anytime someone thought the war on Iraq was a bad idea, charged that the CCK post was advocating a suppression of free speech. They howled in indignation at the idea of a professor's employer monitoring what was said and how and where it was said.
During the course of the discussion, a person who I recently discovered is a college dean on special assignment attempted to explain that free speech does not mean that people cannot respond to what is said. The dean's attempts to invoke the rules that govern academic free speech were largely ignored or misunderstood.
A parallel case is going on in regard to the University of Kansas where a professor said some unflattering things about religious fundamentalists in an e-mail. The AP story in the Kansas City Star gives the full details. The story explains the realities of free speech for professors--and anyone else.
LAWRENCE, Kan. - A University of Kansas religion professor apologized Monday for a recent e-mail that infuriated religious conservatives already upset about his decision to teach a course that equated intelligent design and creationism with mythology.
Also on Monday, the department faculty approved the course but dropped the reference to mythology. The course, originally called "Special Topics in Religion: Intelligent Design, Creationisms and other Religious Mythologies," will instead be called "Intelligent Design and Creationism."The class was added to next spring's curriculum after the Kansas State Board of Education decided to include more criticism of evolution in science standards for elementary and secondary students.
In the e-mail, Paul Mirecki, chairman of the university's Religious Studies Department, called supporters of the teaching of intelligent design and creationism religious "fundies" and said it would be a "nice slap in their big fat face" to teach the
subjects as mythology.
In a written apology Monday, the professor said he
would teach the class "as a serious academic subject and in an manner that respects all points of view."
Mirecki's e-mail was sent Nov. 19 to a list-serve group for the Society of Open-Minded Atheists and Agnostics, a student organization for which Mirecki serves as faculty adviser. Mirecki addressed the message to "my fellow damned" and signed off with: "Doing my part to (tick) off the religious right, Evil Dr. P."
The university on Monday defended the teaching of the class. "Given the current national debate, it is especially appropriate that intelligent design and creationism be treated as academic subjects in a university-level religious studies class," Provost David Shulenburger said in a statement.
During the weekend, Chancellor Robert Hemenway began a review of Mirecki's e-mail, which resulted in Mirecki's apology, issued Monday night in a written statement."I accept full responsibility for an ill-advised e-mail I sent to a small group of students and friends that has unintentionally impugned the integrity and good name of both the university and my faculty colleagues," Mirecki wrote. "My words were offensive, and I apologize to all for that."
He said he had assured the university provost that he would teach the course "as a serious academic subject and in a manner that respects all points of view."
In response to the controversy, talk swirled among legislators about withholding funding from the university.
"If you read his e-mail, it's not a short e-mail. It's not a little blurb. It's venomous," said Rep. Brenda Landwehr, vice chairwoman of the House Appropriations Committee. "He's not sorry he wrote it. He's sorry it became public."
Landwehr, R-Wichita, said withholding funding from the school remained "a very good possibility." She said she would request a hearing with Mirecki and Hemenway before the House Appropriations Committee once the Legislature convenes its 2006 session in January.
Steve Abrams, chairman of the Kansas State Board of Education and chief architect of the board's new science standards, said Mirecki's e-mail shows he "doesn't have much respect for other viewpoints."
Even those who normally support the universities and their faculty have been watching the debate."It's a major concern for us, and it's a major concern for the university," said Donna Shank, chairwoman of the Kansas Board of Regents. "Typically, the board would not get involved in what classes are taught. But obviously, this has struck a nerve and is worth watching." Shank, of Liberal, said teaching a class about intelligent design and creationism was valid, given the timeliness of the topics. But she said Mirecki's motives for teaching the class remain a question.
Vatican determines that gay priests suck
In releasing an official statement on gays in the priesthood, the Vatican said that men with "deep-seated" homosexual tendencies should not be permitted into the priesthood. It did not supply definitions for "deep-seated" or "shallow-seated," which latter condition, we assume, would not disqualify one from presiding in the santuary. Or the confessional. Or primping and wine-tasting in the sacristy. Or cruising the narthex.
Immediately, this caused some of those people within the church who seem to have inordinate interests in gayness in the priesthood and everywhere else to pronounce that the vatican stance will launch an assault on the gay culture of America. The American gay culture in the priesthood immediately adopted a "don-t ask, don't confess" policy in anticipation of mass defrockings.
Monday, November 28, 2005
Democrats are divided on Medicaid cuts
Democrats just can't seem to sit down together and work out solutions to problems. This time it is Democrat governors and Democrat congresspeople who can't seem to understand that what is good for federal budget cuts is bad for state governments, and vice versa.
The Washington Post
analyzes the problem in a story today:
Controversial House legislation designed to gain control of Medicaid growth has split Democrats, with lawmakers in Washington united in their opposition while Democratic governors are quietly supporting the provisions and questioning the party's reflexive denunciations.
The Medicaid provisions have become a flashpoint for the opposition of Democrats -- and some moderate Republicans -- to the $50 billion budget-cutting bill that narrowly passed the House last week. The provisions would reduce Medicaid spending by $12 billion through 2010 and $48 billion over the next decade, in part by making it difficult for more affluent seniors to transfer their assets to relatives, then plead poverty to get Medicaid to pay for them to stay in nursing homes.
The dominance of stupid
It has become a rule of conservative political correctness not to notice when some people demonstrate the fact that they obviously are not well-endowed with brain cells. While they are lavish in their insult and abuse of others, they take violent umbrage when one suggest that one of their number thinks the way he or she does because of insufficient thinking apparatus.
While traveling with a teen-ager over the Thanksgiving holiday and staying at hotels with HBO, we noticed that comedians are focusing on stupidity. George Carlin has noted that in contemporary culture, stupidity is a way of life on which the malling of America seems to be based. The stupid fill themselves with bad food that turns their bodies into ugly lumps as they go around buying useless junk that they cannot afford and for which they have no use. Mencia also does a consistent bit about stupid people seeking each other out so that they can breed and propagate their kind.
We share their alarm. Late at night while dialing through that jungle called talk radio, we heard a host soliciting calls against what he conceives as the liberal agenda. He was talking about the burgeoning deficit and the trade deficit that threatens our economic survival, and he had the cause of it:
It is all the government-run schools and education programs that are undermining our country, he said.
Don't ask us what cause-and-effect factors he was working with. He didn't explain. And we shut off the radio in a hurry. Whatever he had, like the avian flu, might jump species.
Tuesday, November 22, 2005
Closing shop for Thanksgiving
The NVB will not be posting in observance of Thanksgiving.
We are giving particular thanks that we have people like Rep. John Murtha and former Senator Bob Graham who see and speak the right, as God gives them the power so to do.
Railroad to oblivion
The AP wire carried a story today that negotiations between the state railroad authority to sell the Aberdeen to Mitchell and beyond line to Burlington Northern Santa Fe has stalled. The story did not mention that, although the citizens of South Dakota own the line, negotiations are being conducted in secret. It is another case where state officials use some pretext of confidentiality to keep the public from knowing what it has a right to know. We have no idea what is involved in this proposed transaction, other than the taxpayers are getting steam-rollered again.
Here are the lead graphs from the AP story:
PIERRE, S.D. (AP) -- Negotiations are continuing in an attempt to work out the details of the proposed sale of the state-owned railroad line to the Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway, state Transportation Secretary Judy Payne said Monday.
Payne had been scheduled to talk to the Legislature's Government Operations and Audit Committee on Monday about the deal, but committee officials announced she would not appear because the deal had apparently fallen through.
Payne told The Associated Press that the proposed sale has not fallen through.
Monday, November 21, 2005
Alternatives for Democrats and Republicans
Two groups have emerged on the South Dakota political scene that grew out of dissatisfaction with politics-as-usual. The Mainstream Coalition, which is composed of state legislators from both parties, has stirred up some commotion, particularly in Republican circles. The group is looking for some legislative solutions with a moderate approach to state problems. The other group, Democracy in Action, thinks that energy and effort is being wasted on hot-button items such as abortion at the expense of more relevant and pressing matters facing a majority of citizens.
The groups are looking for nonpartisan solutions on the legislative agenda. That is by no means a new approach in the Dakotas.
In the early part of the 20th century, Arthur Townley started the Nonpartisan League in North Dakota. Townley was a socialist, but the Nonpartisan League worked by making alliances with politicians of both political parties who would work for their agenda.
The major factor in the formation of the Nonpartisan League was the control of agriculture exercised by grain-trade interests. The Nonpartisan League worked to established state-owned grain terminals, mills, grain inspections, and lending banks. Although the League had only a decade of controlling politics in North Dakota, primarily, it managed to free farmers from what they regarded as oppression and economic disaster at the hands of corporations involved in agriculture.
Cooperatives had not worked out. Farmers tended to get bogged down in factional disputes and wrangling over policy. The Nonpartisan League managed to establish grain marketing services that were efficient and stable.
While the Nonpartisan League dealt mostly with agricultural issues, it set an example of an alliance of interests that could use the two-party system to circumvent partisan ideologies and get the legislatures to work on tasks that moved the state ahead.
The Mainstream Coalition and Democracy In Action both look to work on programs through alliances with centrist people in both the Democratic and Republican Parties. When a legislature is locked down by a single party, as in South Dakota, citizens have to find some way to get their representatives to face the real issues and circumvent the partisan barriers.
The frustration of people in South Dakota at politics-as-usual is hard to escape. While the extreme partisans make the noise that gets the attention, the people who want the state to work for them are doing the planning.
No one should discount the power and influence that Democracy In Action and the Mainstream Coalition can wield. People from both parties are looking for something better and a better way to get our political business done.
We might well be replaying a political strategy from 100 years ago. The two organizations offer a way to close partisan divides and allow Republicans and Democrats to relate to each as friends and neighbors once again.
Sunday, November 20, 2005
Winning elections and losing wars and Ms. Herseth
As often as it was quoted at the time we found out he said it, Colin Powell's Pottery Barn Rule has slipped into the clouds of American memory, which has become overcast damn near all the time. When the invasion of Iraq was being discussed, Secretary Powell cited the rule: you break Iraq, you own it.
It doesn't take a Ph.D. in English literature to figure out the analogy. You break a piece of pottery in a pottery barn, you have the obligation to make it right, to make reparations, to compensate the creators and owners of the pottery piece for the damage done. It applies to Iraq. If we went in and broke it, which we did, we owe it to somebody to make it right.
Our problem is that we have not the vaguest notion of how to go about doing that. We don't even understand how Iraq is broke, although we are beginning to grasp that it had fractures and cracks in its culture that goes back generations. We cannot reconcile with a country that can't reconcile with itself.
The reverberations from Iraq's disintegration are causing tremors in our own culture. The schisms between American progressives and conservatives of the fundamentalist strain are getting as irreconcilable as the schisms between Islamic fundamentalists and moderates. About a third of the U.S. did not believe the reasons we invaded Iraq were trustworthy in 2003. We were listening when Germany and France said the WMDs and Hussein's alliance with Al Qaida were simply not established facts. We were listening when our President and his regime conducted a campaign accusing France and German of perfidy. We were listening when members of our own intelligence and military communities explained why they had reservations about the reasons for going to war. And we were listening when Bush and regime slimed Hans Blix, Richard Clarke, Joe Wilson, and Paul O'Neill, who all have accounts of how Bush and regime was so determined to get into a war that they could not tolerate any information or any person that cast doubt on their reasons. We were listening. And the rest of the world was, too. And now a majority of Americans are paying attention.
So now, a majority of Americans agree that we had no business getting into this war. Congress, which gave Bush authorization to go to war, is also backing away from its support. John Murtha made the tough point that our troops have done all they can do to repair the damage we have done to Iraq. He calls for an immediate withdrawal process to begin. He recognizes that military action can do nothing to repair the damage and it is pointless to waste one more American life.
Rep. Stephanie Herseth disagrees with Rep. Murtha. She thinks we ought to see what happens in the December elections in Iraq before we start removing our presence. We get the impression that Rep. Herseth feels that we have not as yet fulfilled the provisions of the Pottery Barn Rule. We have not made adequate reparations for what we broke in Iraq. The issue between her and Rep. Murtha is a matter of whether any more loss of American life will count toward any effective reparations. We don't think so. According to the news accounts
over the weekend, the GAO reports that thousands of the most critical military jobs involved in our efforts in Afghanistan and Iraq are going unfilled. Joining the military is like volunteering for a death sentence. We as yet have not developed an incentive which promises the suicidal a romp in the Garden of Allah with 70 virgins. And so, the military is lagging far behind in reenlistments and recruitments.
The irony in regard to Rep. Herseth is that she is a Democrat in a state that is red from the neck up. She threaded a platform theme that satisfies the conservative mentality while promising the liberal spending that the state is so dependent on. And she has not been in Washington long enough to be accused of declaring it her home. She won two elections.
In being a Blue Dog Democrat, she is suspected, openly, by many in her party of betraying the progressive values in order to get votes. Sometimes her Democratic constituents get down right pissy about it. Oddly, these are some of the same people who chided us when we said that politics is not just about winning elections, but about finding ways to assert values and ideas. We were quickly informed that it is all about winning elections. So, Ms. Herseth won elections. What the hell is the gripe? She supports the war effort. That is what a majority of South Dakotas think. Tom Daschle's "I am saddened" speech about rushing into war was used against him. South Dakota Democrats gained a seat in the House. It probably took someone who could give support to the war to do it.
We need some way out of it. Perhaps Ms. Herseth could put together legislation that would provide any would-be suicide bombers vests full of explosives, and a place where they could all gather surrounded with American flags with replicas of the Twin Towers, the Lincoln and Jefferson Memorials, the White House, the Capitol Building, and Mount Rushmore, and they could blow up themselves and all those symbols in one huge rush to the Garden of Allah and 70 virgins awaiting each bomber. The only question is what enticements does one use for female suicide bombers who are not Islamic lesbians. If there are such things.
We were never for the war on Iraq. While the Bush administration pushed intelligence that seemed to require the war, there was countering intelligence on both the world and national levels that called Bush and regime into question.
But we broke the damned place. So what to do? If we pulled out, it wouldn't make much difference on the world stage. We are not exactly revered throughout the world. There are plans advanced by people who have been there to get some key neighborhoods up and running and keep them safe for people to rebuild their lives. A diplomatic effort on the international front and a rebuilding effort on the home front and ending the loss of lives of our troops are keys to regaining some self-respect and some hope for our own future.
Perhaps, it is time for Rep. Herseth to get together with Rep. Murtha and come up with a plan. We need something.
Saturday, November 19, 2005
The culture of disaster
A number of pundits have pointed derisively to the rioting in France and said that it can't happen here. Wrong. The conditions for social unrest that breaks into violence are present. And so is a growing distrust of the U.S. by its citizens.
We thought the Katrina business was getting resolved only to find out that FEMA wants to stop paying for the 5000-some hotel rooms that 150,000 Kastrina victims are staying in. These people were evacuated from the areas devastated by Katrina and are trying to rebuild their lives in areas of the country in which they feel disoriented and sometimes alienated.
The Star Tribune
has run a troubling story about a Montevideo, Minn., same-sex couple who took in a three-generation family from New Orleans with an offer to share their house for a year. The arrangement lasted a month because the differing lifestyles grated and caused anger and problems. While private individuals, such as the pair in Montevideo, try to offer help and support for evacuees, the difficulties are immense. There is little help from agencies that are supposed to be assisting in the relocations and rebuilding of lives. In the story, the resentments that can grow into desperation are apparent.
Multiply the problems faced in Montevideo by 150,000, and you come up with a very large segment of our population who have no homes and have no jobs and are beginning to wonder if they have any future. This is coming at a time when good jobs are becoming very scarce.
Bankrupt airlines Northwest and Delta want to cut pilots' pay down to day-labor level. United Airlines has dumped its retired employees' pension default into the hands of government. GM is at the bankruptcy court door with massive layoffs and wage cuts in the offing for its employees. Things are going well in the economic news for those who consider themselves in the managing class, but the middle class is taking tremendous blows. While dealing with the poverty-stricken from Louisiana, the middle class is sinking lower on the economic scale everyday, and the news from Washington is that George Bush's priority is to make the tax cuts for the very wealthy permanent. The values reflected in his policies show a disdain and disregard for people who struggle to hold their families and themselves together.
The ruling mentality is one that takes conservatism back to feudalism. Conservatives, whether they are actually in the managing class or not, see the world as place where "entrepreneurs" have replaced the royalty and nobility as the class to whom the rest of the world must defer. They send our soldiers to slaughter as negligible entities in the important work of managing the economy and world affairs for the benefit of the managing class. They cultivate a culture of disaster and decry the "liberal" philosophies that assert that corporations and organizations are made to serve people. Instead, they practice a philosophy that people are made to serve corporations and organizations run by the managing class, and that people by and large are expendable in their scheme of things.
The anger and resentment at the betrayal by our country of its working and middle classes is seething. We have created a culture of disaster and, just as was the case with Katrina, there are no plans for averting it.
Friday, November 18, 2005
Today's Two Minutes of Hate* (Or, they have orgasms, don't they?)
Today's Two Minutes of Hate
features U.S Rep. John Murtha
and Michael Moore. Using the technique of singling out individuals who have spoken out against the Bush policies and actions for special vilification, Scott McClellan, an administration press officer responded to Rep. Murtha's call for troop withdrawals from Iraq with the following statement:
"Congressman Murtha is a respected veteran and politician who has a record of supporting a strong America. So it is baffling that he is endorsing the policy positions of Michael Moore and the extreme liberal wing of the Democratic party."
The technique works this way: First, one must assemble all manner of derogatory and inflammatory material that will get the ultra-regressives into a froth and frenzy. Then you get Rush Limbaugh to read it with his playground-bully guffaws and make sure the person selected gets the full treatment of regressive ire. After "Fahrenheit 911," the ministry of propaganda put Michael Moore up on a daily basis for its hate sessions to make sure that the regressives were conditioned into identifying the right stimulus for the hate response. They would not want Moore to be confused with W, of course. Not much chance, but you never know with regressives. Once they have firmly established in the brain circuitry of the regressives who is to be hated, then they can use the process of association. Anyone shown next to Moore will be also vilified.
So that is what Scott McClellan was up to yesterday when he made the statement that Murtha has adopted the policies of Michael Moore. The fact that the statement is trying to establish an association between the two men through which the guilt the regressives heap upon Moore can be transferred to Rep. Murtha. It is, of course, an incredibly stupid and cheap propaganda ploy, but in the hands of the Limbaughs and Robertsons, it can work their followers up into a frenzy of orgasmic proportions. After all, it is the only pleasure they have in life, other than hating liberalism in general and thinking they have the power to make a few more soldiers in Iraq die each day.
*Two Minutes of Hate was the daily session described by George Orwell in 1984.
Citizens were required to gather in front of television sets each day for two minutes while the Party led them in hate sessions against their war-enemy and any internal citizens against which the Party wanted to inspire hate for political purposes of eliminating dissent and control the minds of the citizens.
Thursday, November 17, 2005
Who is supporting our troops?
U..S. Rep John Murtha, a Vietnam veteran who retired in 1990 as a colonel in the U.S. Marine Reserves, called for the withdrawal of U. S. troops in Iraq today.
"The United States and coalition troops have done all they can in Iraq. But it's time for a change in direction. Our military is suffering. The future of our country is at risk. We cannot continue on the present course. It is evident that continued military action in Iraq is not in the best interest of the United States of America, the Iraqi people or the Persian Gulf region."
The Republicans in the House put up their usual condemnations of people who find the war an atrocity on our people as they celebrated the deaths of four Marines in Iraq yesterday.
Cheney's Pledge of Allegiance
I pledge allegiance to the bottom line of the united purpose of Halliburton, and to the corporations for which it stands, one company , under God, with perks and profits for all CEOs.
Big Brother vaporizes L.A. Times writer
On Veterans' Day, the Los Angeles Times fired one of its prominent columnists, Robert Scheer, who had pointed out intelligence reports that the WMDs alleged to exist in Iraq and the Iraq links to Al Qaida were questioned by intelligence experts.
Scheer was made a target of the Two Minutes of Hate ritual by hate cheerleaders Rush Limbaugh and Bill O'Reilly. The Los Angeles Times, owned by the Tribune Company, part of the Chicago Tribune chain, caved in and gave Scheer the boot.
This from Fairness & Accuracy in Reporting:
In a pre-war column (8/6/02) that undercuts the current notion that everyone got the WMD story wrong, Scheer wrote that “a consensus of experts” told the Senate that Iraq’s chemical and biological arsenals were “almost totally destroyed during eight years of inspections.” Shortly after George W.
Bush’s “Mission Accomplished” speech, and well ahead of the pack, Scheer (6/3/03) called White House pretexts for war a “big lie.” Scheer was also one of the first columnists to call for withdrawal from Iraq, in a November 4, 2003 column that presaged shifting public opinion on the issue--though his position is still hard to find among his fellow pundits. More than 1,700 U.S. soldiers and tens of thousands of Iraqis have died since Scheer’s call for withdrawal was published.
The brain-washing efforts by the Bush, Cheney, and Rumsfeld propaganda machine may not be believed by 65 percent of the citizens at this point, but they have the media minds quaking in fear of being exterminated as happened to Valerie Plame (for her husband's big mouth), Richard Clark, Paul, O'Neill, and Hans Blix.
For some reason, the brain-washing seems particularly effective on the corporate-based media.
The Big Brother Show playing nightly
"Irresponsible" is good. Now try "reprehensible."
Wednesday, November 16, 2005
Dayamn, that was dumb, says Bill Clinton
Former President Clinton told Arab students Wednesday the United States made a "big mistake" when it invaded Iraq, stoking the partisan debate back home over the war.
Read the full account in the Washington Post
Great job, George. The Bush syndrome infects Aberdeen
Last week a number of people who will advise the elderly on whether they will benefit from the new Medicare prescription plan came to Aberdeen to attend a meeting for explaining the options. Some drove a hundred miles or more. When they trooped to the office where the meeting was to be held, they were met with a sign on the door that the organization had canceled the meeting and was rescheduling it for that evening. Most of the people who came to the meeting could not stay for the evening.
Yesterday, Interfit Health was contracted to give flu shots at Wal-Mart to the high-risk people. The vaccine was there. Interfit was not. The people who came to get shots had to go home without them.
Furthermore, Aberdeen has not received enough vaccine to distribute to the public. We were told after last year's shortage that it would not happen again.
The level of competence and integrity that the Bush White House has demonstrated in Iraq and the hurricane-ravaged areas seems to have become a model of performance for anyone with anything to do with government programs.
And the people suffer. Oh, some of the ultra-regressives will wail about how we can blame these failings on George Bush. Well, this is the man who campaign on restoring integrity and respect to the nation. He has set the moral and functional agenda.
Great job, George.
Go, fellow Brownies, go.
Tuesday, November 15, 2005
If the Bush Administration was not manipulating the intelligence information about Iraq’s alleged WMDs as its rationale for war, why did it exert such a strenuous effort to discredit chief U.N weapons inspector Hans Blix, the person who possessed the most informed perspective on WMDs?
The fact is that there were plenty of people casting doubt on the integrity and plausibility of the WMD claims prior to the U.S. invasion of Iraq. In a CBS News poll taken in November of 2003, 15 percent of the respondents thought the administration had been mostly lying, and 40 percent thought administration hid data. A majority, 55 percent, then thought the Bush administration manipulated the intelligence.
While Bush and his minions are contending that the charges of perfidy on their part are an irresponsible exploitation of his current political misfortunes, Democrats are asking that their legislators who voted for the invasion of Iraq account for themselves. Many felt that Congress did not demand an honest accounting of the data in support of the war when there was much evidence to cast doubt on it.
That doubt was personified by the chief U.N. weapons inspector, Hans Blix. For those who were paying attention to how the Bush administration was going about its business, Blix’s qualified assessments of Iraq and his advocacy for letting the weapons inspectors finish their jobs was a major obstacle on the trail Bush was blazing into war. The attempts to dismiss the U.N. as an “alien power” and remove Blix from influence were, to many, a patently obvious attempt to suppress and bury any information that might contradict the Bush rationale for war. Furthermore, many people were aware that the Bush faction had discovered the techniques of propaganda intimidation and the efficacy of fabrications that became obvious during the election of 2000.
The Bush camp had circulated rumors about John McCain suffering mental impairment while a POW in order to take him out of the primary. When the 2000 election was in dispute, the Bush character assassin squad went into battle mode against any Democrats who came to Florida to monitor the recounts. The Senate service offices of Tom Daschle were effectively stymied from doing their assigned work because of the telephone calls flooding in at the instigation of Pat Robertson and Rush Limbaugh. Daschle had gone to Florida and the official word from the Bush campaign was that he had no business down there trying to help steal the election.
The Bush Faction used the same technique against Hans Blix when he cast doubt that WMDs in Iraq were a reality.
When George Orwell wrote 1984 and his political satires and commentaries, he thought he was providing perspectives that would help educated citizens avoid the pitfalls in the totalitarian designs of the future. He had no idea that a Dick Cheney, George Bush, and Karl Rove would slaver over the techniques Orwell described of reality control, a mass media turned into a mass monitoring and intimidation device, and the Newspeak contorting of history and facts. He thought he was writing an antidote to orchestrated group think. He thought the Two Minutes of Hate sessions were a possibility among the ignorant with washable brains, and he described the conditions under which people in a democracy could be induced by fear and groupthink indoctrination into choosing a war-based totalitarian regime. Few students of Orwell could conceive that a Rush Limbaugh or Pat Robertson would appropriate the concept of Two Minutes of Hate and stretch it into two hours. It was the weapon used by Bush to circumvent the U.N. and move Hans Blix out of the picture.
The Two Minutes of Hate depicted in 1984 was an exercise during which the people of Oceania were gathered in front of TV sets in order to vilify the designated enemies of the state. Oceania was in perpetual war with Eastasia. The party members who ruled Oceania understood how people in a state of war would unite in a patriotic fervor against their enemy and suspend questioning and dissidence out of fear for their safety and fear at being branded unpatriotic and traitorous. As pictures of their enemies were flashed on the television screen, they would be led in demonstrations of hatred for two minutes. One of the enemies flashed on the screen was the most prominent dissident in Oceania, Emmanuel Goldstein. As his picture appeared, the people were led in exercises to show how much they reviled him.
This is the smear technique that the Bush administration used against Hans Blix. After Blix asked that U.N. inspections of Iraq be resumed, Paul Wolfowitz asked the CIA to investigate Blix’s previous work for a basis to discredit him. The CIA released a report that charged that Blix had not found evidence of Iraq’s nuclear programs prior to the Gulf War. Soon after, the administration started exaggerating its claims of Iraqi WMD activity to lead up to the present war on Iraq. Blix had stated that after 700 inspections of suspected facilities in Iraq, the inspection team had found no evidence.Read an extended version of this post by clicking on the headline for the link to TPM Cafe.
Vine Deloria, Jr., died Sunday
Vine Deloria, Jr., the Standing Rock Sioux who became an intellectual and literary force in liberating American Indians from the European mentality, died Sunday in a Denver hospital from complications from an aortic aneurysm. He was 72.
We knew him as a writer who took up issues of cultural criticism from a perspective that transcended the cliches imposed by the conquerers who dispossessd the American Indian people of their land and their culture. He addressed issues with an insistence on a cultural equality to which Euro-Americans sometimes gave lip service but were incapable of apprehending.
We also knew Vine Deloria, Jr., as a seminary student at the Lutheran School of Theology which shared a campus with Augustana College in Rock Island, Ill. (The seminary relocated to the University of Chicago campus shortly after the Augustana Synod of the Lutheran Church merged into the Lutheran Church in America, which later became the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.) Vine obtained a Master's Degree in Theology from the Seminary. During his time as a student there, he lived in Moline, the neighboring town, where he worked in an automobile body shop to support himself.
Vine Deloria, Jr., understood how the dominant culture had appropriated the indigenous culture as the basis for the better features of American democracy. His friends from the Quad-Cities of Illinois and Iowa will recall him as a man who lived his life according to the highest definition of what it is to be an American.
Monday, November 14, 2005
It is understandable that George W. Bush left for Asia with a grudging whimper about Democrats pointing out what a mess he has made of the country. But it was the former president, Bill Clinton, who went to Jordan after the triple bombing of hotels and exhibited the kind of diplomatic concern that can counteract the shattered international relations that the war on Iraq has caused for the U.S.
The New York Times has an account of Bill, Hillary, and Chelsea Clinton visiting Jordan:
AMMAN, Jordan, Nov. 13 - As former President Bill Clinton and his wife, Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton, walked into the bombed-out ballroom of the Radisson SAS Hotel here Sunday night, the sound of broken water glasses and chandelier shards could be heard crunching beneath their feet. The walls were pockmarked with holes from the nails and ball bearings that had been packed into the bomb to make it deadlier.
Then, at Jordan Hospital and Medical Center, they visited some of the survivors of last week's suicide bombings in three hotels here, which killed 57.
The Clintons, along with their daughter, Chelsea, paid an unannounced visit here on Sunday night to see the damage firsthand and to express their sympathies to King Abdullah II and Queen Rania.
At the hospital, Mr. Clinton played with Ammar Abdel Rahim Keilani, a 4-year-old boy who has not spoken since a piece of shrapnel entered his head during the bombing. The boy sat silently in his bed, clutching a toy Hummer and spinning its rear wheel.
Click the headline to this post to link to the story.
Owner of Aberdeen American News is looking for a buyer for its chain
Knight Ridder Inc., publisher of the Aberdeen American News, the Grand Forks Herald, St. Paul Pioneer Press, the Duluth News-Tribune and a total of 32 newspapers in the U.S. , said this morning it will consider a sale of the company after its biggest shareholders demanded executives stem a 20 percent drop in the stock.
The newspaper business in general has seen declines in circulation and advertising revenue. Stock analysts say, however, the poor performance of newspaper stocks do not offer much attraction for potential buyers.
Sunday, November 13, 2005
The Bush civil rights legacy; the pro-democracy rebuff
Further evidence about the George W. Bush assault on democratic values was reported
over the weekend from the Justice Department civil rights division. The number of cases taken up in behalf of citizens has dropped sharply and the number of lawyers working on such cases has declined severely.
In Bahrain, the U.S. got a cold rebuff
from Egypt for its proposals at the pro-democracy rally. The Arab world does not buy the Bush concept of democracy.
The question is not if the Bush White House lied
The task is how to dig through the many tangled layers of lies.
Here is Josh Marshall's
What a sorry, sorry, unfortunate president -- caught in his lies, his half-truths, his reckless disregard ... caught with, well ... caught with time. Time has finally caught up to him. And now he doesn't have the popularity to beat back all the people trying to call him to account. He could; but now he can't. So he's caught. And his best play is to accuse his critics of rewriting history, of playing fast and loose with the truth -- a sad, pathetic man.
Chronicling the full measure of the Bush administration's mendacity with regards to the war is a difficult task -- not because of a dearth of evidence for it but because of its so many layers, all its multidimensionality. It's almost like one of those Russian egg novelties in which each layer opened reveals another layer beneath it. Hard as it may be, in the interests of getting Mr. Bush past the phases of denial and anger, let's just hit on some of the main themes.
Friday, November 11, 2005
Bush shows trouble with the truth once again
The Bush White House went on the offensive late this week by claiming that critics of the war on Iraq had the same intelligence he did and believed that Iraq had WMDs. The Washington Post has a story that refutes the president's claim:
But Bush and his aides had access to much more voluminous intelligence information than did lawmakers, who were dependent on the administration to provide the material. And the commissions cited by officials, though concluding that the administration did not pressure intelligence analysts to change their conclusions, were not authorized to determine whether the administration exaggerated or distorted those conclusions.
Read the whole story
How are things in Oceania? Are the Pravdas still a-publishing there?
Clean Cut Kid's web log broached some information about the relationship between John Thune and the DME Railroad that put a lot of people's panties in bunches. (I use one of the more vivid figures of speech from the Rapid City Journal blog.) A purpose of blogs is to give political wedgies. That is not the purpose of newspapers. What the Rapid City Journal and AP did with this story is really galling.
Chad Schuldt reported that John Thune has received in stipends and campaign contributions nearly a quarter of a million dollars from DME and its executives. His information was taken from public records. John Thune introduced legislation that would raise a federal transportation authorization fund, from which railroads may borrow, from $3.5 billion to $35 billion, ten times the amount at which it was previously authorized.
At the same time, Thune also voted to cut $35 billion from the federal budget, principally from farm programs and heating assistance programs. DME needs to borrow $2.5 billion to complete its railroad project. Banks have not cottoned to the idea. It seems to put their polyester panties in a bunch. But with the expansion of the Transportation Reauthorization bill to $35 billion at the instigation of the person to whom the railroad has doled out $239,000, DME seems to be the first in line for its $2.5 billion federal loan.
Chad and many of us think the railroad project will be beneficial to South Dakota, but it has a lot of problems. A main one is how what is essentially a 19th century rail line intersects with 21st century highways and towns. And its principal commodity will be coal from Wyoming going to coal-fired generating plants to the east . There is a big push to utilize our coal reserves to cut down our dependence on foreign oil. The question is where this investment in a 19th century infrastructure fits in with 21st century plans for clean and renewable energy sources. However, those questions are major panty-bunchers, and instead of producing answers they produce the spectacle of people writhing on the floor and giving off moans of great discomfort from the regions where the sun don't shine and the moon is in eclipse.
Chad's post, as sometimes happens with web logs, was picked up in a story in the Rapid City Journal, which covers a lot of panty bunching, by Bill Harlan. His story, in turn, was picked up by the Associated Press and was published throughout the state. The story is largely a summary of John Thune's lobbying and a defense against anyone who might question the propriety of a Senator pushing legislation that he openly admits is to provide a privilege for a former client, DME. It is, apparently, based largely on a statement from Thune's office released through his spokesman, Kyle Downey.
We, too, wonder about the propriety of enacting special legislation for the benefit and privilege of a private corporation. This kind of legislation is forbidden by the South Dakota Constitution, as we pointed out in a comment on Clean Cut Kid's site:
Article III: § 23. Private and special laws prohibited. The Legislature is prohibited from enacting any private or special laws in the following cases:
9. Granting to an individual, association or
corporation any special or exclusive privilege, immunity or franchise whatever.
Well, increasing the Transportation Authorization fund 10 times so that DME can get in on the gravy train sounds more than a little bit like a special privilege or franchise. We wondered in a comment on the Clean Cut Kid post if there are any rules in the U.S. Congress similar to what is in the State Constitution.
The Thune spin a la news story refutes that. It says, "Thune's help for a former client is not against the law or against Senate rules, and the lobbying fees are public record." We knew about the public record part, because that is where Chad got his information. We did not know, and still do not know, about the laws and rules that govern the U.S. Congress. The statement that it is okay does not explain the discrepancy between a state principle and federal one. But, by God, we sure got straightened out on that question.
Well, we envy DME a bit and wish we, like they, could go through a life filled with silk boxers or crotchless panties. The snarky irritation in that terse statement about legality and propriety is a prelude to someone either getting it or taking it in the shorts.
Thursday, November 10, 2005
How're you going to keep them down on the farm once they've voted for Thune?
John Thune is fully in the camp that is turning America into a corporate-run autocracy. Clean Cut Kid's blog
is doing a good job of tracking Thune's attitudes and voting record. Thune is clearly jockeying for the position of squad leader in the Bush war on the middle class. And as we look at where the Republicans in Congress want to cut the budget, we cannot but wonder how we became the enemy.
Agriculture, which has been the vehicle that enabled millions of poor and oppressed people to move from the status of serfs to self-sufficient freemen, is the most vulnerable point of attack in the battle against the working classes. For decades, we have pointed to the dangers of consolidation of small farms into huge operations that only corporations can afford to acquire and run. We used to call this process integration--vertical and horizontal--to describe the ways that farmers can be absorbed into the corporate structure. We tried to warn that the success and efficiency of American farming would continued to overproduce and make farm products so cheap that they would not cover the cost of production under the market system that prevailed. We have reached that point. If one were to buy a farm of some of the best Brown County land at today's prevailing prices, there is no way that what the land produces can cover the cost of a mortgage, taxes, seed, fertilizer and chemicals, and the equipment and fuel needed to work that land. Many "family" farms are now corporations, and they are in fact managed by the people who hold the paper on them, not those who work the land.
Three packing houses exercise virtual control of the meat industry. A few grain processors control the grain trade. Food is heading for the same kind of control under a few giant corporations that run the petroleum energy business. Put simply, the massive consolidation of industries into a few giants closes the free market system. Once consumers are made totally dependent on commodities, such as gasoline, fuel oil, and food, they have no part to play in the market system. They are at its mercy. We hope the people found the $3 gasoline enjoyable, because it will return.
Congress had a chance to modify the farm bill that helps keep our few independent farmers in business so that massive subsidies will not go to the biggest, corporate-backed farms. That did not happen. John Thune helped that not to happen.
The direction that people like John Thune is pushing agriculture is "conservative" in the sense that it is headed back for that time in the Old World when nobles and royalty owned the land, and serfs did the work on it under survival conditions. The conservative movement is driven by a vision of a new royalty composed of CEOs, like we saw in Enron, who live lavishly and ostentatiously and glamorously, and the peasants are supposed to ignore their own misery while they adore the people who are their superiors and rulers. The problem is that so many of those hard-working people who love America and the opportunities it provided their familes are unaware that those opportunities no longer exist and we are regressing back to feudalism.
For people who do not want to let go of America, we can't afford not to watch every move politicians like John Thune makes, every word he utters, and every breath he takes. He did almost nothing in the House, but he did follow the regressive line faithfully. Only a few seemed to notice. In his campaign for Senate, he showed a vicious and predatory streak, but only a minority took notice of where John Thune was on the issues and the moral and social implications of his attitude.
One of the biggest questions in South Dakota's agriculture-based economy is how far it is from absolute corporate control. Only a minority is aware that we are on the verge of becoming a corporate state, and John Thune is fulfilling his promise to make it happen.
Tuesday, November 08, 2005
The Washinton Post ran a story last week that the CIA had set up secret detention prisons in foreign countries. Sen. Frist, Senate Majority Leader, and Dennis Hastert, House Majority Leader, have written letters to the chairs of their respective intelligence committee chairs calling for an investigation into who leaked the information about the detention centers to the press.
In journalistic circles, the informed speculation is that the information probably came from foreign sources. However, unlike the Democrats who sent the Senate into closed session to get the intelligence committee to get serious about the Valerie Plame Wilson leak, the Republicans have control of the legislature and investigations into any leaks about the secret detention centers are expected to proceed post haste.
Read the whole New York Times story by clicking on the headline above.
When America died
The Washington Post/ABC News poll indicates that 55 percent of Americans think they were deliberately misled into the war on Iraq by the Bush administration. Actually that is no change from what other polls indicated during the months following our invasion of Iraq in 2003.
In a summary of a CBS News poll in www.pollingreport.com
, over the fall months of 2003, 40 percent of the people believed that the Bush administration hid elements of the information presented to the people and 15 percent thought it was outright lying. That is 55 percent of the people who believed they were not receiving the full truth right after the invasion, the same as those who currently believe the Bush administration was fooling them.
On the question of whether the people believed the administration line on weapons of mass destruction in 2003, 67 percent did. But 31 percent believed they were misled about WMDs. From the outset of the war and the propaganda blitz leading up to it, there has been a very sizable group of skeptics.
The big question is why the skeptics among us did not receive more acknowledgment in Congress. Terry Neal
in the Washington Post reviews that situation today.
"After issuing a string of confusing comments about where he stood on his vote to authorize war in Iraq, Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.), has finally taken a stand -- albeit a year too late for his political aspirations.
"Several other high-profile Democrats, including Sens. Jay Rockefeller (W.Va.), the ranking Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee, Diane Feinstein (Calif.), Tom Harkin (Iowa) and Christopher Dodd (Conn.) are stepping up as well and expressing regret for voting for the resolution authorizing the war in Iraq.
"As a majority of the American public has reached the conclusion that they have been, as Malcolm X might have once put it, "hoodwinked, bamboozled, led astray, and run amok," some Democratic leaders in Washington are finding it comfortable to publicly renounce their votes in favor of the war resolution."
In a report from the Press Project on the way the media handled propaganda during the 2004 campaign, some of the analysts have suggested that we are, indeed, in the age of George Orwell's Oceania in which the citizens are kept in a state of cowering obeisance by the use of media that monitors everything they do and washes their brains with a constant stream of what they are to perceive and what they are to think. For many of us Democrats, we feel betrayed by representatives who did not give more credence to that 55 percent of citizens who had serious doubts about the veracity of what they were being told in 2003. We thought we were being fooled then and we think so now. (We love the slogan of a South Dakota blog that says, "You can fool some of the people some of the time, and that's enough.")
The Press Project does analysis of the kind of rhetoric and style used in the campaign, particularly about the war on Iraq. The analysis points out that the rhetoric of the American right is almost all based on ad hominem
attacks--defamation, character assassination, false accusations--and upon a bullying belligerence that has little concern about what is true and what is not.
The discomfiting aspect is that a majority of Americans were ignored by a politicians who were cowed into submission for fear that they would be called unpatriotic and traitorous if they questioned the information that was used to justify the war on Iraq. Their cowering tremors turned into violent quaking when they saw what the administration did to its critics Hans Blix, Paul O'Neill, and Richard Clarke.
But that 55 percent of Americans who doubted the Bush line did not push on their representatives to challenge that information--until the Bush administration had crumbled into such a state of pathetic disarray that it had no credibility, and the Senate found courage to throw itself into closed session to prosecute the search for the lies about Iraq.
In the face of Bush's corporate autocracy, there were few legislators and few citizens who dared to defy Big Brother Bush. The America that produced the Greatest Generation is fast dying--if it isn't dead already.
Monday, November 07, 2005
Vice President Cheney is in South Dakota on annual hunting trip
Vice President Dick Cheney landed at the Pierre airport about 10:30 this morning for his annual hunting trip to South Dakota. He is staying at an undisclosed game lodge near Gettysburg. Here he is shown in a duck blind with officials from the South Dakota Republican Party. "I thought you were here to hunt pheasants," said Gov. Rounds from somewhere in the bottom of the blind. "Pheasants, ducks, detainees, Libby--what the hey," said Cheney. He said he would be hunting in the state for as long as it takes.
Jesse Jackson was here, too, telling how bad it is
Tom Daschle spoke in Des Moines, Bill Clinton spoke in Minneapolis, and Jesse Jackson spoke at Northfield, Minn., at St. Olaf College Sunday night. While some pundits are making conjectures over why these prominent progressive figures are coming to this part of the Midwest, the shrewder analysts are pointing out that they were invited to speak. The Midwest is looking for alternatives to the Bush culture.
The Rev. Jesse Jackson says from the miseries of the still-ravaged Gulf Coast to the increasingly bloody battlefronts in Iraq, the Bush administration has shown the rest of the world a toxic mix of arrogance, ineptitude and corruption.
"After [Hurricane] Katrina, the president watched people floating face down in the water or stranded on rooftops while the whole world watched," Jackson said Sunday night. "The whole world watched that, too, and it's going to define America for a long time."
In Iraq, "we have fought ourselves into isolation," he said. "Any nations that supported us have slowly stepped away. It's our war. Lives, money and honor are being lost in that war."
The Star Tribune
carries a story.
Sunday, November 06, 2005
What Bill Clinton said yesterday (he gave a speech, too)
While South Dakota got exercised yesterday because Tom Daschle was giving a major speech in Des Moines, and while the nation continued to divide itself because George W. Bush was getting snubbed by leaders and vilified by protesters in Brazil, Bill Clinton was speaking last night in Minneapolis.
According to a political analyst I worked with in another state (he detests being called a poltical scientist, but prefers to be called a scholar), former politcal leaders, whether termed out or displaced, are often more important in shaping policy than the leaders who hold office. That is because, he says, they can discuss political issues without worrying about the effect on the ballot box. They speak from experience, knowledge, and a proven record of performance. Even if people disagree with their politics, they listen with interest to what they say. So, last night Tom Daschle and Bill Clinton were speaking to issues in ways that may well shape the way the public thinks about them.
Bill Clinton said Saturday night that America's safety and security in the future depends on how it acts today - while it's still the only global superpower. The direction that the world takes will be largely determined by the influence and leadership the U.S. demonstrates.
Clinton urged the development of world trade as a means to reduce the poverty in undeveloped countries, which he said is at the root of much of the animosity against the U.S. Meanwhile, George Bush met stern rebuffs from Latin American leaders as he sought to establish a western hemisphere trading zone in the Americas.
To many people in the Americas, including growing numbers in the U.S., free trade is the means that global corporations use to enthrall people under capitalist imperialism. There is clearly something that Bill Clinton needs to explain, in light of the growing resentment and opposition to free trade.
We hope he speaks further on this issue and clarifies so that Americans will know and understand the distinctions between global totalitarianism and free trade that supports the people in the world who do the work.
You want more on Clinton's speech? Do a search on the Google News engine: http://news.google.com/news?ned=us&topic=n
Friday, November 04, 2005
Knight Ridder newspaper chain under pressure to sell
Knight Ridder, the parent company of the Aberdeen American News, is under pressure by its leading stockholders to sell off the company. While the possibility is alarming to the newspaper industry in general, it offers some encouraging hope to the constituents of newspapers like the Aberdeen American News for improvement in what is their only major news source.
In the region, Knight Ridder owns the St. Paul Pioneer Press and the Grand Forks Herald.
Knight Ridder is feeling the dissatisfaction of investors holding newspaper stock at a time when newspapers are losing readers and revenue to cable television and the internet.
Three of Knight Ridder's major corporate investors have called for the company to sell out. The most logical buyer of Knight Ridder would be Gannett Co., which includes the Sioux Falls Argus Leader in its chain, or Chicago-based Tribune Co., investment analysts say. But Tribune Co. has problems of its own that probably would prevent it from buying Knight Ridder.
Complete stories are in the St. Paul Pioneer Press
, and the Star Tribune
Sign Tom Daschle's petition to bring our troops home
Tom Daschle has a petition you can sign online at his New Leadership for America website to bring our troops home. The site also has a link to his Northwestern University speech which details his proposal.
Here is the full link:http://www.newleadershipforamerica.com/index.php?option=com_philaform&Itemid=34&form_id=2
Thursday, November 03, 2005
Six in ten question Bush's honesty
In the Washington Post-ABC News poll released today, 58 percent question President Bush's honesty and integrity. Additionally, 51 percent do not approve of the way he leads in war on terror. Things do change in a year. Read the full report
on the poll.
Why people are thinking of a Tom Daschle presidency
Shortly after the election of 2004, when I and my family were traveling out-of-state on family business, we got tired of "What the f--- is wrong with you people in South Dakota?" They were referring to Tom Daschle being voted out of office. It was a question that employment interviewers asked, which we found strange, until we realized they were genuinely puzzled.
Even my friend Col. Mac, a retired Army Ranger from WW II through Viet Nam and who watches that O'Reilly thing, asked the question. Mac never leaves the f-word unembellished, and he made it abundantly clear that he thought the state did something unusually stupid on election day a year ago. He knows that my spouse was a Daschle Senate staffer and that I hold an office in the county Democrats and did a lot of work on the Daschle campaign. Still, he posed the question as if we were members of an operational squad that screwed up and let the state go awry.
We came to realize that people outside South Dakota were puzzled because they had not witnessed the campaign that took place inside South Dakota. When we informed them of the blitz of character assassination and malevolent fabrications that were the basis of the Thune campaign, their puzzlement was not reduced. They asked if people really fell for tactics like that. We did not answer. The election results spoke to the answer. So does the continuing scurrility on some web logs. There is an appreciable number of people who get viciously resentful when someone from South Dakota is successful on a national level, and they have to fabricate reasons to justify their hatred and their petulant resentment. This attitude is evident to all but those who are possessed by it.
People outside the state did not perceive Tom Daschle as an obstructionist. They saw him as a man with a legitimate political viewpoint that he presented to the opposition party, despite their constant whining that he would not roll over for them. They saw him as a master politician who represented his constituents and his party with integrity and effectiveness. They saw him as a man with whom they could disagree, but not distrust. They saw him as a national leader who had successfully worked in the D.C. milieu and they understood that when senators buy houses in D.C., they are making life more efficient in the place they have to work; they are not abandoning their constituents. When we pointed out that Tom Daschle's house in D.C. became a serious campaign issue, Mac said of South Dakota, how can you stand to live there?
People constantly remarked that Tom Daschle was too valuable and effective a force in public service to lose. The work of his Senate staffs in South Dakota was the envy and often the resentment of colleagues in both parties. It was not unusual for people from other states who were encountering problems with bureaucracies to ask if he, as minority leader, could take on their cases. In the campaign, Tom Daschle made clear that he would not stoop to the level of his opponent and expected those working in his behalf to present themselves accordingly.
We now have a senator who has still to answer for his debased campaign. And we have an ex-senator who is remembered for his skill, his absence of malice, and his integrity.
Beginning the night after the election, people were asking Tom Daschle what he planned to do next. Their questions were phrased to indicate that they assumed anything he would do next would be something in the realm of public service that would affect the political climate of the nation. After the performance of the Bush administration, people are naturally thinking of a president who can turn the country from the belligerent dishonesty of Enron, the war on Iraq, the war profiteering, the refusal to take environmental responsibilities, the insidious war against the poor and working people, the catering to groups that want to oppress and disenfranchise those against whom they hold prejudices, and who can replace incompetence with competence.
Whether Tom Daschle is entertaining a run for the presidency is, at this time, totally a matter of conjecture. He has many other ways to effect change in the American political climate and in restoring the nation to integrity and responsibility. He works as a policy consultant and recently joined the think tank Center for American Progress. South Dakota will not be much of a factor in determining Tom Daschle's future. There are too many people throughout the nation that now realize that our nation has taken a five-year slide into disrepute. They are looking for leadership of the quality they have seen on the Senate floor. Whatever role Tom Daschle plays on the national scene, it will be one he serves at the urging of an enlightened people.
Wednesday, November 02, 2005
No room at the news desk for Aaron Brown
Aaron Brown is on vacation this week from his CNN news show "Newsnight." He won't be coming back. His bosses have decided to replace him with Anderson Cooper. He received a call from his boss with the good news while vacationing.
Jonathan Klein, the president of CNN/U.S., said today that he and Mr. Brown had mutually agreed that Mr. Brown would leave the cable news network because the new CNN lineup left "no options" for a program that would include Mr. Brown. "It is, unfortunately, a zero-sum game," Mr. Klein said.
We have no complaint about Anderson Cooper. He seems to do his job and he has the glitzy personality that goes with newstainment. Aaron Brown was more straightforward with a sardonic air that pretty well marked what was real news and what was audience-appeal pap. For people who want real news, as Ted Turner once produced it, Aaron Brown was a relief from the cutesy pie inanities that often clutter the CNN air waves.
Media-mind Klein explained it forthrightly. "Newsnight" numbers went up when Anderson Cooper joined the show with Brown. And getting those audience numbers up is the name of the game. News and how it is presented is incidental to the sensational and smarmy, and CNN is creeping a few steps closer to Faux News in its zeal.
This wouldn't be disturbing, except that people who want news done by real news professionals, instead of self-preening fops, are finding it increasingly difficult to find well-reported, well-written news. With the constant threat of pulling funds and people from public broadcasting, there is no pure news source that can be relied upon. We saw what happened when the media minds came into National Public Radio and dumped Bob Edward, who started Morning Edition and anchored it for a couple of decades. It was a show that we could rely upon for totally professional news and no vapid chatter that compromises most of what is excreted as news on the airways.
It is not merely that Aaron Brown is leaving; it's that he is being dumped in a hugely public demonstration that human life and talent is ultimately expendable. Putting together news shows that present real news instead of marketable personalities is simply not on the agenda. News networks shove talent into the cold with the same aplomb that the German cost accountants of the 1930s shoved the halt and feeble into the Zyklon ovens. Life, after all, is a matter of bottom lines.
Ted Turner, where are you when we really need you? The damned bean counters have taken over again.
The inquisition of Tom Daschle [and the Supreme Court?]
The Catholic Church maintains its firm alliance with the ultra-regressives in its vendetta against Tom Daschle. That is good. It reminds us of the original motives behind the Reformation and why our ancestors emigrated to America when the protestant state churches intruded themselves into their private lives in their homelands. It recalls Roger Williams, the first American to articulate the principle of separation of church and state, when he said "God requireth not an uniformity of religion to be enacted and enforced in any civil state, which enforced uniformity (sooner or later) is the greatest occasion of civil war, ravishing of conscience, persecution of Christ Jesus in his servants, and of the hypocrisy and destruction of millions of souls."
The ultra-regressives are complaining that Tom Daschle is still in evidence on the political scene. Alternatives to their neo-fascist concepts of returning to the feudalism of lords (aka CEOs in our time) and clerics who will dictate all terms of life to a huge serfdom sends them into sputtering rages. Tom Daschle represented the forward embrace of gains our civilization made in civil rights, privacy and individual freedom, equality and equity, and a state of intelligent peace as opposed to a war of mindless belligerence. Those concepts of personal freedom and equity are what the ultra-regressives call "liberalism." To most of us, they represent the only state of tolerable existence.
The main charge against Tom Daschle is that he is one of those liberals. He advocates a form of democracy that gives ordinary people the power and resources to live independent from those who would hold them in thralldom. Sometimes that means a government big enough and strong enough to enforce the concepts of equal justice. That does not necessarily mean big government, but it does mean effective government in enforcing democracy for all. The ultra-regressives want to see the gains in individual liberty and autonomy turned back. They challenge affirmative action, collective bargaining, healthcare for all, freedom from poverty, and freedom of choice.
Tom Daschle is a Roman Catholic and a devout American. Some in the Roman Catholic church say he cannot be both. While the ultra-regressives are howling in great discomfort that Tom Daschle is still around, they raise their pitch to a screech on his stand on abortion. Tom Daschle has stated, repeatedly, that he does not approve of abortion. He has stated and acted, repeatedly, on the premise that abortion is a matter for a woman to decide with her physician. Tom Daschle's stance is consistent with what a majority of Americans have expressed, repeatedly, through polls.
While we do not approve of abortion, neither do we approve of government dictating to people the decisions they make about their personal lives. The belief that the government should make criminals out of people who violate our religiously-derived moral preferences is, to many us, a concession to those forces who would take our civil liberties and dictate the conditions of our personal lives. Abortion is a dilemma, but like Roger Williams, we think it must be decided not through the contrivance of law, but through "that sword which is only (in soul matters) able to conquer, to wit, the sword of God's spirit, the word of God." Although the anti-abortion militants have erected an elaborate argument that abortion is baby-killing and murder, their position is not held as credible by many governments in the civilized world and by many cultural practices that have existed in our own country. The theological and legal certitudes that the anti-abortion militants proclaim do not have the universal theological and scientific credibility.
Tom Daschle is still a player on the political stage, and that in itself is a source of great fury among the ultra-regressives. He represents an obstacle to their moral bullying. But when he appeared at fund-raiser for the Planned Parenthood organization in Santa Barbara, Calif., he set off the old clamor about him being a hypocrite for disapproving of abortion and supporting the right-to-choose at the same time. The neo-regressives cannot deal with the concept that one can disapprove of abortion but think it is more wrong to have government dictate to women how they are to make crucial choices about their personal lives. It is a matter of whether the state should become the instrument of a theocracy.
A number of web logs have taken up the matter of Tom Daschle's speech to the Planned Parenthood group. According to the news reports, he said "he has always had a special affinity for the organization, as the two have similar enemies within the Religious Right and elsewhere."
In a practice of using partial quotations and false paraphrases familiar to readers of ultra-regressive blogs, a Catholic cleric renders the report as, "The erstwhile public official assured his audience that he has always had an affinity for the organization because they shared similar foes, especially pro-life groups."
The issue goes beyond abortion. Tom Daschle, and those identified as liberals, have enemies among the religious and other ultra-regressives. To identify them, one need only recall who sponsored the advertisements of character assassination and false accusations of the political campaign a year ago. Where Monsignor Charles M. Mangan, writing in Catholic Online, is challenged by truth and accuracy is when he changes "Religious Right and elsewhere" to "especially pro-life groups." Daschle is speaking against those religious groups who would impose their sectarian preferences and brands of oppression through government law. Msgr. Mangan, in one of those Orwellian word-shifts of denotation, tries to make it sound as if Tom Daschle was singling out pro-life groups as his enemy. He says in good inquisitional style that Tom Daschle "attended a function that can only be termed a pitiful 'celebration' of abortion."
According to the doctrine of religious intolerance expressed in Catholic Online, one cannot be pro-life and pro-choice. Tom Daschle, and most of the country, are pro-life but anti-totalitarian. Our ancestors fought this battle throughout the centuries as they formed an American government that separates theocratic dictatorship from democratic rule, and we don't really want to fight it again.
So, Tom Daschle, that "erstwhile elected official" continues to be the subject of an inquisition. That raises some questions about the Supreme Court. If a former Senator is subject to such agitation from the Catholic Church, how about other government officials. If Samuel Alito's nomination to the Supreme Court is approved, here is how the court will look according to religious affiliation:
John Roberts (Chief Justice) --Catholic
Stephen G. Breyer --Jewish
Ruth Bader Ginsburg --Jewish
Anthony M. Kennedy --Catholic
Antonin Scalia --Catholic
David H. Souter --Episcopalian
John Paul Stevens --Protestant
Clarence Thomas --Catholic
Samuel Alito --Catholic
We can only hope, to paraphrase John Kennedy, that the five Catholic justices would be primarily Supreme Court justices who happen to be Catholic, not Catholics who became Supreme Court justices.
Msgr. Mangan closes his tome against Tom Daschle with a benediction that sounds more like a malediction loaded with purgatorial menace: "May God have mercy on that former elected official."
May our Supreme Court be free of that kind of blessing. We depend upon it to keep us all free from that kind of blessing.
Tuesday, November 01, 2005
Behind the Democrat decision to put the Senate into secret session
When the Democratic leader Harry Reid moved that the Senate adjourn into secret session, the immediate response from Majority Leader Bill Frist is that it was a stunt.
You don't have to be very astute to know that the pressures on the Democrats to do something about the war on Iraq are immense. This was no mere power stunt. Progressives, including some Republicans, have been saying that if the Democrats, many of whom voted authorization for the war, cannot force the administration to make a full public disclosure on the intelligence and how it was used to get us into that war, they will have to answer to their constituents as the 2006 election comes around. A majority of Americans now think the war is a mistake.
Anyone who has participated in the exchanges on the war among Democratic politicians can tell you that they were angry and the electorate is tired of getting jerked around by the Bush administration while Democrats have stood by and let it happen.
The nomination of Samuel Alito and other initiatives taken by Bush this week have been recognized as attempts to misdirect attention away from the administration's failures and deceptions through forcing a fight between Republicans and Democrats over the Supreme Court. This web log, and others, warned against that happening yesterday. Yes, we need to fill the Supreme Court vacancy and, yes, we need to prepare for the possible mutation of avian flu, but we had better not take attention from Iraq, the hurricane devastation, and the seething mass of corruption bubbling up in the halls of Congress.
Once and for all, the question about invading Iraq and losing more than 2,000 of our troops in the process needs answers.
Democratic leaders cannot afford to make nice any longer. Their constituents are demanding an accounting and if the Democrats do not deliver it, the voters will seek out people who can and will. The Libby indictment did not answer the question of whether someone in the White House leaked the information that exposure Valerie Plame. Now the Senate can take on the task, among many other matters of restoring the country to integrity and security.