Sunday, April 30, 2006

"Re-arranging the deck chairs on the Hindenburg"

Stephen Colbert hosted the White House Correspondents Association dinner the other night. Gotta give loads of credit to Colbert for having the guts to skewer pretty much everyone in the audience, including the president.
Colbert, who spoke in the guise of his talk show character, who ostensibly supports the president strongly, urged Bush to ignore his low approval ratings, saying they were based on reality, "and reality has a well-known liberal bias."

He attacked those in the press who claim that the shake-up at the White House was merely re-arranging the deck chairs on the Titanic. "This administration is soaring, not sinking," he said. "If anything, they are re-arranging the deck chairs on the Hindenburg."

Editor & Publisher: Colbert lampoons Bush at White House correspondents dinner--President does not seem amused

And here's the video of part of it. C-SPAN covered it. They don't have it on the schedule between now and 10am Monday, but maybe they'll re-run it sometime this week. Here's the link for C-SPAN's schedule. Strangely, it is not in their video download section. A conspiracy to suppress it?

Thursday, April 27, 2006

One more reason to build a commune in Montana

My wife is an educator and receives various education publications. This month's NEA Today has a feature story on girl-on-girl bullying. It's horrible, and it's the second time in four days that I've been exposed to the problem of relational aggression or social aggression. (The first time was during a presentation in my class.)

There is a subarticle about cyberbullying. This is from the lead.
A photo of an overweight student taken by a camera phone in a locker room circulates to her classmates.

That has got to be one of the worst things I have heard in a long time. I would have to sit here for a few minutes and think when I last heard something so horrible. I thought I was going to cry when I read that.

God help us.

Monday, April 24, 2006

"Republicans want your children to die"

For just the second time in my life, I have HBO. Real Time with Bill Maher makes it well worth it.

His "New Rules" this week was hilarious, biting, and right-on-target:
Democrats have to claim their rightful place as the party of environmental protection.
"How can we explain climate change in a 30-second campaign ad?" Oh, I don't know. How about this: "The Republicans want your children to die." There, I did it with 28 seconds left.
How come the Republicans can pick seemingly bogus, random issues like activist judges and boys kissing, and Mexicans pouring over our borders, and get everyone all worked up about it, and the Democrats can't figure out how to demagogue Armageddon? know what else is pouring over our borders? Greenland.
Ladies and gentlemen, I literally fear for my kids' future, and I don't even have kids. Glacier National Park in Montana, you know, named for its glaciers, had 150 glaciers when they opened. It's got 26 left today.

Too bad they don't have the video online because the delivery is priceless, but here's the text.

Saturday, April 22, 2006

Bush's place in history: Wilson, Hoover, LBJ, Nixon

John Dean, White House counsel to Richard Nixon and author of Worse than Watergate, is already predicting that George W. Bush will go down in history with Woodrow Wilson, Herbert Hoover, Lyndon Johnson, and Richard Nixon.
Wilson rode his unpopular League of Nations proposal to his ruin; Hoover refused to let the federal government intervene to prevent or lessen a fiscal depression; Johnson escalated U.S. involvement in Vietnam while misleading Americans (thereby making himself unelectable); and Nixon went down with his bogus defense of Watergate.

George Bush has misled America into a preemptive war in Iraq; he is using terrorism to claim that as Commander-in-Chief, he is above the law; and he refuses to acknowledge that American law prohibits torturing our enemies and warrantlessly wiretapping Americans.

Americans, increasingly, are not buying his justifications for any of these positions. Yet Bush has made no effort to persuade them that his actions are sound, prudent or productive; rather, he takes offense when anyone questions his unilateral powers. He responds as if personally insulted.

Dean bases his analysis on the work of political scientist James Barber, who categorized every president through George H.W. Bush. The categories were based on the following: the president enjoyed the job, did not enjoy the job, was active in the job, or was passive in the job. By combining these elements into four categories- positive/active, positive/passive, negative/active, negative/passive- Barber could detect patterns in how a president's administration played out.

Dubya falls into the negative-active category, according to Dean, and these presidents usually end up on the scrap heap of history.
Active/negative presidents -- Barber tells us, and history shows -- are driven, persistent, and emphatic. Barber says their pervasive feeling is "I must."

Barber's collective portrait of Wilson, Hoover, Johnson and Nixon now fits George W. Bush too: "He sees himself as having begun with a high purpose, but as being continually forced to compromise in order to achieve the end state he vaguely envisions," Barber writes. He continues, "Battered from all sides . . . he begins to feel his integrity slipping away from him . . . [and] after enduring all this for longer than any mortal should, he rebels and stands his ground. Masking his decision in whatever rhetoric is necessary, he rides the tiger to the end."

John Dean: If past is prologue, George Bush is becoming an increasingly dangerous president

Friday, April 21, 2006

A light in the darkness: Our MR neighbors learn about love

There are many reasons to be concerned, worried, down, etc. about the current state of affairs. Anyone who pays attention knows that there are serious issues out there, from Iraq to Iran to the shredding of the Constitution.

And that's why I found this story from the front page of yesterday's New York Times so touching. Persons with mental retardation and other disabilities in New York are learning about love, affection, and sex, courtesy of the Young Adult Institute.

Here's a great quote from one of the clients of the Institute:
"If she wants to sleep with me when we move to the group home, I'm O.K. with that," Mr. Resnick said. "And if not, I'm O.K. with that, too, because what I feel is happy."

The article focuses a lot on sexuality, but the real issue is companionship.
Indeed, Ms. Fyne and others have learned that social isolation is a more pressing issue than sexuality. At an early class, Ms. Fyne asked students whether it was "O.K. to have one partner in the afternoon and another in the evening?"

The response was a wake-up call. "I don't know how to get a date, Bobra," one student called out. "So the rest of this is just garbage."

Through programs like this, citizens with these disabilities have a chance to have companionship and not lead a lonely life. And that's a great thing.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

This is how it starts

After a few posts the last two weeks on Iran, this feels noteworthy. A friend's husband recently left the Marines, for whom he served in Iraq. He is now in graduate school. However, under the "stop loss" clause (or maybe it's Individual Ready Reserves, I don't know), he could still be recalled to active duty.

Well, the military has been in touch to "update" his information. Uh-oh. That probably means one of two things. Either he's heading back to Iraq or they're prepping to send him, uh, somewhere else.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Dog & panchen show in China

Well, the Chinese finally trotted out their choice for Panchen Lama, the second-highest position in Tibetan Buddhism. For background, 11 years ago the Dalai Lama named a six-year-old boy as the 11th incarnation of the Panchen Lama. That boy, his family, and the monks who helped to find him disappeared almost immediately. Today they are believed to be in custody, probably under house arrest. Tibetan groups generally presume that the boy was integrated into Chinese society.

The PRC, that authority on Tibetan Buddhism (well, at least, an authority on destroying Tibetan Buddhism) then chose another boy as the Panchen Lama.

The boy, Gyaltsen Norbu, is now 16 and spoke at the World Buddhist Forum in Hangzhou, China. Although he received applause during his speech, he was ignored by the other delegates at the forum, according to the AP.

For the PRC to pass itself as a protector of Tibetan Buddhism is like George W. Bush passing himself off as a protector of freedom and democracy.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

How I learned to stop worrying and love The Bomb

A little over a year ago, a commentary on claimed that the Bush Administration has the nuking of Mecca on the table to keep al Qaeda from attacking us again. At that time, in those pre-NLM days, I e-mailed a few friends and said that normally I'd assume this came from the lunatic fringe, but with Bush in office, anything is possible.

Now it seems that the lunatic fringe is actually in office, not out there in the hinterlands somewhere planning the bombing of an abortion clinic. No, this crew has bigger fish to fry, so to speak. As you may have heard by now, Seymour Hersh reports in this week's New Yorker that the plans for attacking Iran are already completed, that troops are already in Iran, and that the nuclear option is on the table. Hersh also reports that top generals have threatened to resign if The Bomb is not removed from the plans.

Bush responded by calling it "wild speculation." Some right-wing horn-blowers attacked Hersh's credibility. (Mind you, Hersh broke the Abu Ghraib story before the pictures.) But no one has denied the assertions in the story.

A week before Hersh was doing the Sunday shows, I commented on Charles Krauthammer's take on Iran with the main point being that this crowd lacks the credibility to lead us into yet another conflict.

Trouble is, they may lack the credibility, but they don't lack the power. If we go after Iran militarily, we should be in the streets.

Sunday, April 09, 2006

Dragonfly, I see you look at me with your beautiful eyes

In Japan, the dragonfly is a symbol of happiness, courage, and strength. Enjoy, from National Geographic's most recent issue.

Darwin was right

In the midst of doing research for my grad class, I come across some interesting stuff. For example, while researching interracial marriage and the Loving V. Virginia case, an ACLU case that overturned bans on interracial marriage in 1967, Google directed me to, a website dedicated to commemorating the decision every year on June 12.

Then I also find disturbing images like this one from USA Today. How appropriate that this lady is holding a monkey. He must be a close relative. And is that her closet lover in the background?

The article is on gay adoption. Apparently, Repugnantcans are using it as a get-out-the-vote tactic in some states. Classy.

Monday, April 03, 2006

Road to Nowhere

Is the GOP driving itself to disaster in the immigration debate? Bill Kristol of the Weekly Standard thinks so:
Most Republican officeholders know that the political--and moral--cost of turning the GOP into an anti-immigration, Know Nothing party would be very great. It could easily dash Republican hopes of becoming a long-term governing party. How many Republicans will have the courage to stand up and prevent the yahoos from driving the party off a cliff?

The whole article is worth a read, especially if you are a lefty rubbing your hands in anticipation of November. If you're a Republican wondering how to save the party, uh, nothing to see here.

Sunday, April 02, 2006

Thoughts on V for Vendetta

"Beneath this mask there is more than flesh. There is an idea, Mr. Creedy, and ideas are bulletproof." -- V

I saw it this afternoon. This was some movie. If you don't know about it, in short, Great Britain is ruled at a future point (at least after 2015) by a tyrannical government. The government imposes curfews, crushes free speech, lies to the people about significant events, and bans the Koran in homes, among other things. V is a freedom fighter who uses violence to ignite a revolution, and he wears a mask with the face of Guy Fawkes, who tried to blow up parliament in 1609.

Considering it from a political view, it asks an age old question: Where is the line that a government must cross before violence against it becomes necessary? That's probably a question that cannot be answered on an internet blog. For one, it probably just can't be answered. Who knows where that line is? Maybe it's like obscenity: We'll know it when we see it.

Also, discussing such a thing on the internet is probably not wise.

I do think we are lucky in the United States to have a variety of options in place to keep us from reaching that point. First and foremost, we have the three, co-equal branches of government. Although the Congress has become a rubber stamp (or a more graphic term that comes to mind) for the Prez, the judiciary at least maintains its independence and recognizes that it is supposed to be a check on the other two branches, even if the judiciary continues to be attacked by zealots.

Second, we have the ballot box, which allows us to kick people out of office. Although the cards are sometimes stacked heavily in one direction, that option is there. In a recent report in Time, strategists had this to say:
In recent weeks, a startling realization has begun to take hold: if the elections were held today, top strategists of both parties say privately, the Republicans would probably lose the 15 seats they need to keep control of the House of Representatives and could come within a seat or two of losing the Senate as well.

Lastly, there are public interest organizations with teeth that use the system to hold the government accountable when it violates the rights of the people. Although there are several of them out there, I'm thinking mainly of the American Civil Liberties Union. Throughout our country's history, the greatest threat to freedom has not been invading powers but the government itself, and the ACLU, along with others, keeps it in check.

Considering V for Vendetta from a cinematic view, there is ambiguity in the film. While the government is clearly the villain, V is not clearly a hero. His first act of significant violence occurs before it's clear just how evil the government is. I had yet to buy into V-as-hero when that first act occurred. Perhaps that was the filmmakers' intent. The Wachowski brothers of Matrix fame wrote the screenplay.

However, later in the film, V is light-hearted enough that he seems human, even if he is hidden behind the mask the entire movie.

There were echoes of our modern day plight: Manipulation of religion (our religion good, your religion bad), using national security as justification for oppressive policies. In fact, the slogan "For Your Protection" is blazed across the back of police vehicles.

Finally, I must say that this quote went through my head several times while watching the film:
"There is no doubt that constitutional freedoms will never be abolished in one fell swoop, for the American people cherish their freedoms, and would not tolerate such a loss if they could perceive it. But the erosion of freedom rarely comes as an all-out frontal assault but rather as a gradual, noxious creeping, cloaked in secrecy, and glossed over by reassurances of greater security." --Senator Robert Byrd (D-WV)

If you're OK with some violence and a dark movie that will hang around for hours afterwards, go see V for Vendetta.

Fool me, you can't get fooled again

For fun: "Fool me once, shame on...shame on you...Fool me, you can't get fooled again."

But seriously...

The sub-headline of Charles Krauthammer's back page essay in last week's Time was this: What's at stake in the dispute over Iranian nukes? Ultimately, human survival

Here we go.

The piece itself includes this:
Iran is the test case. It is the most dangerous political entity on the planet, and yet the world response has been catastrophically slow and reluctant. Years of knowingly useless negotiations, followed by hesitant international resolutions, have brought us to only the most tentative of steps--referral to a Security Council that lacks unity and resolve. Iran knows this and therefore defiantly and openly resumes its headlong march to nuclear status. If we fail to prevent an Iranian regime run by apocalyptic fanatics from going nuclear, we will have reached a point of no return. It is not just that Iran might be the source of a great conflagration but that we will have demonstrated to the world that for those similarly inclined there is no serious impediment.

Don't get me wrong. I'm worried about Iran, for the reasons that Krauthammer outlines and for reasons detailed in an article on Iran's pursuit of nukes in the same issue.

But here is where the Iraq debacle is so devastating. Why should I follow the lead of opinion pushers like Krauthammer and the politicians who think like them on Iran when they did us so wrong on Iraq? Making matters worse, if Iran really is a problem, we are militarily handicapped because of what is happening in Iraq.

To borrow Newt's suggestion for the Dems' '06 campaign slogan: Had enough?