Friday, October 26, 2007

A Simple Man/Elvis Sings for Hillary/Rockies Lose, Where's God?

Is Fred Thompson a serious fellow? A few months ago, as I've previously noted, he joined the ranks of global warming deniers. On Wednesday, while campaigning, he described the conflict in Iraq in rather simplistic terms. Discussing why it was necessary for the United States to remain in Iraq, he referred to the Iraqi insurgency as "a bunch of kids with improvised explosive devices." And he noted that if the United States couldn't defeat such an enemy, it would look weak.

Is that what Iraq is about? The mighty American military versus kids with IEDs? Such a view leaves out all the sectarian and geopolitical rivalries and complexities driving the conflict. Thompson fans like to say that he has a bit of Reagan in him when it comes to details--meaning, he's a big picture guy who can articulate larger themes without getting bogged down in policy wonkery. But at least Ronald Reagan read Reader's Digest . Thompson just seems to pop off. For instance, he talks about reforming Social Security without knowing the specifics of the last policy debate on Social Security.

Given the demands that will be placed on the next president (thanks to the actions of this president), a candidate who can tell you what he thinks about policy matters (in folksy fashion, of course) without being able to talk about the details might not be the appropriate fella for the job.

WHAT'S SO FUNNY? Last night, Elvis Costello played at the birthday-bash-fundraiser for Hillary Clinton, and one number he chose to feature was "(What's So Funny About) Peace, Love and Understanding?" This for a woman who voted to give George W. Bush the authority to invade Iraq on his own say-so, and who then stuck by the war...until she saw that her potential competitors in the Democratic presidential contest could run as antiwar candidates against her. She then slowly changed her position, from resisting timetables for disengagement to vowing to the end the war ASAP. In the strategic play of the campaign, she managed to make sure there was little daylight between her and Barack Obama or John Edwards on the number-one issue of the election. What's so funny about that? Not much.

WATCHING THE WATCHDOG. In her take on hitting it big with The New York Times , Huffington Post's Rachel Sklar writes of the PinkerCorn diavlog featured by the Times ,

Fun fact: Today's vid is billed as "A Discussion of Baseball, Politics and God" which Corn launches by inveighing against sportswriters who invoke God to explain the outcome of athletic events--which is ironic, because I, too, have mocked a sportswriter in print for so wondering "how else to explain" the White Sox victory two years ago. Where is the irony, you ask? In the sportswriter: It was Tyler Kepner...of the New York Times! What a coincidence! God must totally have made it happen.

A correction, if I may. I never inveighed against sportswriters for citing divine intervention. I inveighed against the general manager of the Colorado Rockies for telling USA Today --in all seriousness--that God had a hand in the Rockies' success on the playing field. I thought I was clear on that point.

Meanwhile, in our continuing God Is Great feature, let us note that last night the Red Sox beat the God-is-on-our-side Rockies, 2 to 1, and took a 2 to 0 lead in the World Series. I know, I know--this is all a setup for the coming Rockies' resurrection. God likes a good show.

Posted by David Corn at October 26, 2007 09:20 AM


capt said...

Lightning and Enlightenment - Ben Franklin and the Lightning Rod

Christians used to believe that thunder storms and lightning bolts were directed by God to "discipline his servants and teach us important lessons," or they were directed by Satan ("the Prince of the Power of the Air") and his demons, or they were called forth by "witches" to "try and destroy God's holy sanctuaries and ministers." Such "sacred" explanations were vouched for by leading Christian authorities. For instance, the Catholic theologian, Thomas Aquinas wrote, "It is a dogma of faith that demons can produce winds, storms, and rains of fire (lightning) from heaven." While, Pope Gregory XIII advocated "exorcising the demons" who "do stir up the clouds." The Protestant theologian, Martin Luther supported the superstition even more zealously, asserting at times his belief that the winds themselves are only good or evil spirits, and declaring that a stone thrown into a certain pond in his native region would cause a dreadful storm because of the devils kept prisoners there.

Numerous pious authors also testified how well the old "sacred" remedies succeeded in protecting churches and cathedrals from the ravages of lightning strikes and storms. Such "sacred" remedies included ringing church-bells and reciting special prayers. Hence, when Benjamin Franklin invented his "lightning rod" in 1752, most Christians were far from eager to place a "rod of iron" designed by an "arch-heretic" at the top of their churches near the holy cross of Christ. Neither did they desire to abandon the ancient Christian game of praising God (or blaming the devil), for lightning strikes and storms.

In America the earthquake of 1755 was widely ascribed, especially in Massachusetts, to Franklin's rod. The Rev. Thomas Prince, pastor of the Old South Church, published a sermon on the subject, and in the appendix expressed the opinion that the frequency of earthquakes may be due to the erection of "iron points invented by the sagacious Mr. Franklin." He goes on to argue that "in Boston are more erected than anywhere else in New England, and Boston seems to be more dreadfully shaken. Oh! There is no getting out of the mighty hand of God."

*****end of clip*****

Operationally, God is beginning to resemble not a ruler but the last fading smile of a cosmic Cheshire cat.
~ Sir Julian Huxley (1887 - 1975)


capt said...

Putin gives stark missile warning

Russian President Vladimir Putin says US plans for a missile shield could precipitate a situation similar to the Cuban missile crisis of the 1960s.

Mr Putin was speaking after a summit with EU leaders in Portugal aimed at deepening ties despite disagreements over human rights and foreign policy.

Russia has long opposed US plans to build missile bases in European states once in the Soviet sphere of influence.

The Cuba crisis saw the Soviet Union and US go to the brink of nuclear war.

The 1962 stand-off was triggered when US spy planes discovered Soviet missile bases in Cuba, within striking distance of the American mainland.

Moscow's decision to deploy these weapons in Cuba was at the time seen as a response to the build-up of powerful US missiles in Europe.

Tensions were only defused when Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev agreed to dismantle the bases in return for guarantees that Washington would not attack communist Cuba.


*****end of clip*****

Maybe Bush making threats about World War 3 (or 4) is not such a great idea?

If Bunnypants called me “Pooty-poot” I would be offended, even if my name sounded like Putin.

I think Vlad is a very serious chap - not to be ignored.


capt said...

'US Unilateralism Is Risky and Unnecessary'

Rather than wait for the UN to agree on sanctions against Iran, Washington has decided to go it alone, imposing tough unilateral sanctions on the mullah regime. German commentators on Friday are divided on whether the move will have the desired effect.

The US seems to have run out of patience with the international community on Thursday, opting to impose sweeping sanctions against Iran on its own rather than wait for China and Russia to sign up to tougher United Nations measures.

The administration slapped sanctions on Iran's Revolutionary Guard Corps, three of its biggest banks and eight people that it said are engaged in missile trade and who back extremist groups throughout the Middle East.

The sanctions, announced by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson, cut off key Iranian military and banking institutions from the American financial system, and put pressure on the rest of the world to fall in line by subjecting foreign firms to US sanctions if they do business with those bodies.

The White House is justifying the unilateral move on the basis of what it sees as Tehran's nuclear weapons ambitions and its alleged support for terrorism.

Rice insisted the tough sanctions were not a prelude to military action and that the offer of negotiations with Iran over its nuclear program was still on the table. The US and other Western countries suspect Iran of enriching uranium in order to eventually develop nuclear weapons, while Tehran insists it only intends to produce civilian nuclear energy.

"Unfortunately, the Iranian government continues to spurn our offer of open negotiations, instead threatening peace and security," Rice said, accusing Iran of producing and exporting ballistic missiles and backing Shiite insurgents in Iraq, as well as the Taliban in Afghanistan, Hezbollah in Lebanon and Hamas in Gaza.

German commentators Friday are divided on whether the US sanctions will have an impact on Iran's policies but there is agreement that they are preferable to military action.


*****end of clip*****

Some of the leading papers and their take on Bush re: Iran. It is always interesting to look at America from the perspective of another country.


capt said...

Bush says he'll veto health bill again

President Bush accused Democratic lawmakers on Friday of wasting time by passing legislation to expand children's health coverage, knowing that he would veto it again. At the same time, he criticized Congress for failing to approve spending bills to keep the government running.

Bush said Congress had "set a record they should not be proud of: October 26 is the latest date in 20 years that Congress has failed to get a single annual appropriations bill to the president's desk."

He also complained that Congress had failed to pass a permanent extension of a moratorium on state and local taxes on Internet access, and that the Senate had not yet confirmed Michael Mukasey as attorney general. Further, he chided Congress for failing to approve more money for Iraq and Afghanistan.

The Senate on Thursday night approved a seven-year extension of the Internet tax moratorium; differences with a House-passed version still have to be worked out.

Bush made his comments to reporters in the Roosevelt Room a day after the House passed new legislation to expand children's health coverage. Bush vetoed an earlier version, and Republicans argued the latest bill was little changed from the earlier measure. The bill - approved with less than the two-thirds majority needed to overturn another veto - now goes to the Senate. The House vote was 265-142.

Bush said that Congress needs to "stop wasting time and get essential work done on behalf of the American people."

Democrats said Republicans were making a mistake in opposing the children's health bill.

"They won't take yes for an answer," Rep. Rahm Emanuel, D-Ill., said of Republicans.

He said that in the week since they failed to override Bush's first veto, Democrats had systematically addressed earlier complaints that the bill failed to place a priority on low-income children, did not effectively bar illegal immigrants from qualifying for benefits and was overly generous to adults.

A White House spokesman, Tony Fratto, mocked the suggestion that Democrats - and Emanuel in particular - were acting on principle. "I think the last principal Rahm Emanuel knew was in high school." Told of the remark, Emanuel chuckled.

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer of Maryland raised the possibility that additional changes were possible before the bill would be sent to the White House.

At the same time, he added, "I don't want to be strung along" by Republicans merely feigning an interest in bipartisan compromise.

Senate passage is highly likely, particularly with senior Republican Sens. Chuck Grassley of Iowa and Orrin Hatch of Utah among the bill's most persistent supporters.

The legislation is designed chiefly to provide coverage for children whose families make too much money to qualify for Medicaid but not enough to purchase private insurance.

In general, supporters said it would extend coverage to children of families making up to 300 percent of the federal poverty level, or about $62,000 for a family of four.

At that level, congressional officials said, it would cover about 4 million children who now go without, raising the total for the program overall to 10 million kids. The $35 billion cost over five years would be covered by an increase in the tobacco tax of 61 cents a pack.

The vote unfolded one week after the House failed to override Bush's earlier veto, and indicated that the changes Democrats had made failed to attract much, if any, additional support.

The 265 votes cast for the measure came up seven shy of the two-thirds majority needed to override a veto. In addition, 14 Republicans who voted to sustain Bush's original veto were absent.

Public opinion polls show widespread support for the issue, and the political subtext was never far from the surface on a day of acrimony.


*****end of clip*****

This is how Bush compromises - his way for his reasons or the highway.


capt said...

Maliki Ordered Personal Approval of Gov't Corruption Probes

Condoleezza Rice took pains to insist today that the U.S. "would not support a policy that would prevent investigations" in Iraq of government officials for corruption charges. But she repeatedly demurred from passing judgment on a decree signed by Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's office manager, which was provided to the House oversight committee by former top corruption judge Radhi Hamza al-Radhi. In that document, Maliki informs corruption judges that his approval is required before bringing charges against practically any senior government official. Here's the document (pdf), signed April 1, 2007:


*****end of clip*****

More on corruption.


capt said...

CNN's Jack Cafferty Calls On Viewers to Overthrow Bush [VIDEO]

CNN commentator Jack Cafferty speculated on Wednesday about how George W. Bush's unilateral grab for presidential power might be reversed.

"The president of the United States didn't have the power to spy on Americans ... operate secret prisons ... suspend due process ... torture ... hide the conduct of the government from the public," Cafferty stated. "It's not like anybody gave President Bush any of these powers -- he took them, as a brain-dead Congress just stood there and watched."

Cafferty pointed out that Hillary Clinton has said she would relinquish some of those powers if elected -- but without saying which ones. "What powers should the next president be willing to surrender?" Cafferty asked his audience.

In the follow-up segment, Cafferty read a selection of emails from clearly outraged -- and outspoken -- viewers.

"Remember the 60's?" wrote one Baby Boomer. "Well, they're back. Only this time it's not a decade. It's the age on our driver's licenses. Let's start another revolution. ... It's time to overthrow the government."

Another viewer stated more cynically, "King Bush. Queen Hillary. America is now a democratic dictatorship, nobody is going to change that. Power is everything; get used to it."

And a third suggested. "George Bush is the next president. He and Darth Cheney will be surrendering none of their bounty. Forty years of planning to hand it all to Hillary Clinton? Not a chance. If you think there'll be a November 8 election, give my regards to the Easter Bunny."

The following video is from CNN's Cafferty File Jack Cafferty, broadcast on October 24, 2007


*****end of clip*****

I have always said - nobody steals all that power just to give it away. The very idea is contrary to the process.


David B. Benson said...

Article isn't very good, but the cartoon at the top is worth the click:

Al Gore is 'Up Against the Wall'


Ivory Bill Woodpecker said...

The Chimperor and Darth Cheney are chickenhawks pretending to be badasses.

Putin is a genuine badass.

When Putin looked into Chimpy's eyes, under all his outward politeness, he was probably thinking something like, "I've BROKEN better men than you".

David B. Benson said...

King coal in China:

Coal use grows despite warming worries

There is no intelligent life on earth.

capt said...


This Week: "The Undertaking" (60 minutes),
Tuesday, Oct. 30 at 9pm on PBS (check local listings)
Live Discussion: Chat with producers Karen O'Connor and Miri Navasky Wed., Oct. 31, at 11 am ET

Every so often we have the occasion to write a special note about a FRONTLINE program, and this is one of them.

Tuesday night's "The Undertaking" is a film about death and dying, grief and bereavement -- subjects we all are uncomfortable talking about, but not subjects we don't think about. And yet, this is not a depressing film. It is tender, poignant and life-affirming.

It features Thomas Lynch, a writer, poet and funeral director. For three generations he and his family have cared for the dead -- and the living -- in a small town in southcentral Michigan.

Producers Karen O'Connor and Miri Navasky obtained rare access into the world of Lynch & Sons. They interweave the details of their work caring for the dead -- the embalming, the dressing of the body -- with the intimate stories of the families who come to the funeral home to plan the rituals that will honor the life of a loved one. Throughout the program, O'Connor and Navasky include excerpts from Lynch's award-winning book, "The Undertaking: Life Studies From the Dismal Trade." In the end, their film beomes a deeply moving meditation on the journey that is taken between the living and the dead when someone dies, and how the rituals of a funeral help us, in the words of Lynch, " make some sense of life and living, dying and the dead."

A colleague of ours had an early look at it and wrote back the next day --

"I'm someone who has always been very fearful of death, and I can honestly say I haven't stopped thinking about the film. It has made me view my life and my little ones differently. My husband and I discussed afterward that we wanted to tell everyone we knew to watch it -- but it also seems like a difficult film to spread word-of-mouth..."

So we want to get the word out here: "The Undertaking" is an extraordinary film and we hope you will join us Tuesday night.

And don't forget that you can watch it anytime on our Web site, where you also can explore more about the Lynches and the stories of the individual families, and share your thoughts in our "Join the Discussion"area of the site.

Marrie Campbell
Editorial Director

+ Live Online Discussion on ...

Producers Karen O'Connor and Miri Navasky will be online this Wednesday, Oct 31, at 11am ET, to discuss "The Undertaking"

For details, see:HERE

capt said...

"For in every city these two opposite parties [people vs aristocracy] are to be found, arising from the desire of the populace to avoid oppression of the great, and the desire of the great to command and oppress the people....For when the nobility see that they are unable to resist the people, they unite in exalting one of their number and creating him prince, so as to be able to carry out their own designs under the shadow of his authority." Machiavelli, The Prince, ch. IX

"Protest that moved by a hope far more modest than that of public success: namely, the hope of preserving qualities in one's own heart and spirit that would be destroyed by acquiescence." Wendell Berry

For the saddest words of tongue or pen these are : " It might have been". John Greenleaf Whittier

"War is like a big machine that no one really knows how to run and when it gets out of control it ends up destroying the things you thought you were fighting for, and a lot of other things you kinda forgot you had." : Anonymous


Thanks ICH Newsletter!

capt said...

When shame replaces pride

More reasons to question our country's leadership


An email from an active-duty Marine suggests the phony press conference staged by the Federal Emergency Management Agency during the California wildfires last week wasn’t the only skullduggery pulled by the Bush administration during that state’s emergency.

The Marine, home between deployments in Iraq, says he was sent to California to help in rescue and relief efforts but was ordered to not wear his USMC basic utilities but instead was given a uniform of the Army National Guard.

The uniform switch, he feels, was part of a deliberate effort to conceal the fact that California lacks enough available National Guardsmen and Reservists who respond to the emergency because they are overseas fighting in President George W. Bush’s Iraq war.

“I am a Marine,” he said in his email. “I am proud to be a Marine. I am not proud of my country when they ask me to wear the uniform of another branch of service in order to deceive the very citizens I am sworn to serve.”

At his request, I am not using his name, although he did provide enough information to verify that he is, in fact, a member of the Corps. I cannot confirm that his story is true but, given the history of the Bush administration when it comes to lies and other public deceptions, I have no reason to doubt the veracity of his claim.

Governors, both Democratic and Republican, have expressed concern over the depletion of National Guard and Reserve units to fight in Bush’s unpopular war. Gulf Coast states dodged a bullet this year when the hurricane season did not produce any Katrina-level storms. When the wildfires began to approach disaster proportions, the Bush administration panicked, sensing another public relations debacle.

We saw the level of that panic last week when FEMA staged a press conference with their own staff members posing as reporters. We saw Bush hustled aboard Air Force One for one of his photo op flyovers of the fire area out West. And we most likely saw the Pentagon try to pass off active duty personnel from other branches of the armed forces as National Guard members and reservists.

We truly have reached a low point in this nation when it is too easy to believe that our government is lying to us. Public opinion polls give Bush the lowest job approval rating of any President in modern times. The same polls show most Americans believe the President routinely lies. Another poll out Friday says 75 percent of Americans believe Congress is “doing a lousy job.”

Other polls suggest an increasing number of us no longer feel pride in being an American. I saw this recently at lunch with an old friend, a Vietnam veteran who said he will no longer participate in our local Veteran’s Day festivities.

“The country I fought for no longer exists,” he said. “I cannot feel pride in the America that exists today. I am ashamed of my country. I never thought that would happen.”

Neither did I, old friend. Neither did I.


capt said...

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