Monday, July 31, 2006
As you listen to Carly Simon's "You're So Vain," read the Satirical Political Report's version, dedicated to George Bush:
You walked in, to the White HouseFor rest of the song, see The Satirical Political Report.
Like you were walking into a frat
Your stands strategically tipped to please the Right
Your bearing was “spoiled brat”
You had no eyes on the Neo-Cons
As you joined them in their lies
And your own Dad dreamed that you’d been aborted
You’d been aborted, and
You’re so lame
You probably think Iraq was the right move
You’re so lame
I’ll bet you think Iraq was the right move
Don’t you? Don’t you?
You fooled them several years ago
When many were still naive
You said you’re a compassionate conservative
And that you would not deceive
But you gave away the surpluses
And our cred-i-bil-ity
I had some dreams that the ballots were counted
Ballots were counted, and
You’re so lame
You probably think Iraq was the right move
You’re so lame
I’ll bet you think Iraq was the right move
Don’t you? Don’t you?
(Carly Simon Video -- Live - 1972)
UPDATE: And if you liked that, you should also check out American Lie, a sequel to American Pie, set to music. Lyrics at The Satirical Political Report.
Sunday, July 30, 2006
On our first full day in Atlanta, we went to an Atlanta Braves baseball game. Not that you'd know from me, but the Braves lost, Mets hammer Hudson, Braves. It was a perfect baseball day, the weather was beautiful and our seats were covered, so we were shaded from the sun.
There were 12 of us in our group, scattered throughout our section of Turner Field. I know I've mentioned before that I'm not a sports fan (see e.g. Hall of Shame?), but if I had to pick, baseball is definitely an enjoyable sport and the fans are friendly. My loquacious husband Dave met everyone around us by the end of the game. The family behind us was originally from New York, so they were Mets fans, and in the small world department, the mother of the husband is from Scranton, our home town.
(I had to take pictures of Turner Field (& statue of Hank Aaron) to prove I was there)
NY Times reports House Passes Minimum Wage Increase that:
The House approved an increase in the federal minimum wage on Saturday, but its future was clouded because Republicans tied the pay change to an estate tax cut that had been blocked in the Senate.The Times noted:
Representative Zach Wamp, Republican of Tennessee, said Democrats were upset with the legislation because Republicans had found a clever way to link the two. “You have seen us outfox you on this issue tonight,” Mr. Wamp told Democrats in the floor debate.As I discovered in Civil Rights & Estate Taxes, the the number of taxable estates has dropped from more than 50,000 in 2000 to fewer than 13,000 in 2006 (see The State of the Estate Tax as of 2006), and the number of black Americans subject to the tax is 59 (see Think Progress). In light of these numbers, I can certainly understand why Bush and the Republicans in Congress believes that eliminating the estate tax is a priority.
Kevin Drum of the Washington Monthly's Political Animal, in Rags to Riches, provides perpective:
Clearly, the Republican Party is the party of common sense. After all, if you give a few hundred dollars a month to the poorest of the working poor, it's only fair that you also give several million dollars to the richest of the idle rich.Right.
Saturday, July 29, 2006
This Daily Show skit on the religious tension behind the Lebanon/Israeli conflict is the perfect take on the situation. That is, despite the belief of each religious groups that God is on "our side" -- God is really playing a joke on everyone . . . .
The Progressive has a fascinating interview with Gore Vidal conducted by David Barsamian. Read the whole thing, but here are some of the highlights:
(See Gore Vidal Page for Picture and for all things Vidal)
“I’m a lover of the old republic and I deeply resent the empire our Presidents put in its place,” he declares.
* * * *
He sees a certain continuity in U.S. foreign policy over the last fifty years. “The management, then and now, truly believes the United States is the master of the Earth and anyone who defies us will be napalmed or blockaded or covertly overthrown,” he says. “We are beyond law, which is not unusual for an empire; unfortunately, we are also beyond common sense.”
- - -
Q: In 2002, long before Bush’s current travails, you wrote, “Mark my words, he will leave office the most unpopular President in history.” How did you know that then?
Gore Vidal: I know these people. I don’t say that as though I know them personally. I know the types. I was brought up in Washington. When you are brought up in a zoo, you know what’s going on in the monkey house. You see a couple of monkeys loose and one is President and one is Vice President, you know it’s trouble. Monkeys make trouble.
* * * *
Q: Yet the wars go on. It’s almost as if the people don’t matter.
Vidal: The people don’t matter to this gang. They pay no attention. They think in totalitarian terms. They’ve got the troops. They’ve got the army. They’ve got Congress. They’ve got the judiciary. Why should they worry? Let the chattering classes chatter. Bush is a thug. I think there is something really wrong with him.
* * * *
Q: Today the United States is fighting two wars, one in Afghanistan and one in Iraq, and is now threatening to launch a third one on Iran. What is it going to take to stop the Bush onslaught?
Vidal: Economic collapse. We are too deeply in debt. We can’t service the debt, or so my financial friends tell me, that’s paying the interest on the Treasury bonds, particularly to the foreign countries that have been financing us. I think the Chinese will say the hell with you and pull their money out of the United States. That’s the end of our wars.
Q: You’re a veteran of World War II, the so-called good war. Would you recommend to a young person a career in the armed forces in the United States?
Vidal: No, but I would suggest Canada or New Zealand as a possible place to go until we are rid of our warmongers. We’ve never had a government like this. The United States has done wicked things in the past to other countries but never on such a scale and never in such an existentialist way. It’s as though we are evil. We strike first. We’ll destroy you. This is an eternal war against terrorism. It’s like a war against dandruff. There’s no such thing as a war against terrorism. It’s idiotic. These are slogans. These are lies. It’s advertising, which is the only art form we ever invented and developed.
But our media has collapsed. They’ve questioned no one. One of the reasons Bush and Cheney are so daring is that they know there’s nobody to stop them. Nobody is going to write a story that says this is not a war, only Congress can declare war. And you can only have a war with another country. You can’t have a war with bad temper or a war against paranoids. Nothing makes any sense, and the people are getting very confused. The people are not stupid, but they are totally misinformed.
* * * *
Q: Talk about the role of the opposition party, the Democrats.
Vidal: It isn’t an opposition party. I have been saying for the last thousand years that the United States has only one party—the property party. It’s the party of big corporations, the party of money. It has two right wings; one is Democrat and the other is Republican.
* * * *
Q: Do you see any developments on the horizon that might suggest an alternative?
Vidal: Newton’s Third Law. I hope that law is still working. American laws don’t work, but at least the laws of physics might work. And the Third Law is: There is no action without reaction. There should be a great deal of reaction to the total incompetence of this Administration. It’s going to take two or three generations to recover what we had as of twenty years ago.
Friday, July 28, 2006
As I mentioned last week in Super Fly, our family vacation this year is in Atlanta, Georgia. So under the new world order, I had the pleasure of surrendering all rights to privacy in order to fly here. What a joy. And, of course, right before our trip I see this Common Dreams article, Marshals: Innocent People Placed On 'Watch List' To Meet Quota, to add to my anxiety about having to deal with airport security:
You could be on a secret government database or watch list for simply taking a picture on an airplane. Some federal air marshals say they're reporting your actions to meet a quota, even though some top officials deny it.Edward Hasbrouck's travel blog, The Practical Nomad, also has the latest update (see above post for other references to his story) about his airport security ordeal at Dulles, at Why was I detained by police at Dulles Airport? His efforts to probe FBI records for the basis for detaining him at Dulles airport have -- surprise, surprise -- shown that no reason exists.
The air marshals, whose identities are being concealed, told 7NEWS that they're required to submit at least one report a month. If they don't, there's no raise, no bonus, no awards and no special assignments.
"Innocent passengers are being entered into an international intelligence database as suspicious persons, acting in a suspicious manner on an aircraft ... and they did nothing wrong," said one federal air marshal. These unknowing passengers who are doing nothing wrong are landing in a secret government document called a Surveillance Detection Report, or SDR. Air marshals told 7NEWS that managers in Las Vegas created and continue to maintain this potentially dangerous quota system.
Thursday, July 27, 2006
As a follow up to my earlier post about "signing statements" (see Kill the Lawyers), the Satirical Political Report has an important update on this issue, BUSH: I’LL ATTACH SIGNING STATEMENT TO SIGNING STATEMENT LEGISLATION. As Don Davis of the Satirical Report explains:
Senator Arlen Specter has introduced legislation that would authorize Congress to bring lawsuits to challenge the constitutionality of President Bush’s “signing statements,” which the President has frequently used to evade laws passed by Congress.What's really funny (??) about this is -- it's probably not far from the truth.
Indeed, the number of such signing statements, in excess of 800, is actually greater than the number of Iraqi troops who are ready to “stand up.”
However, in the event such legislation is approved by Congress, President Bush has indicated that he will in fact sign it, but only with its own signing statement. An unnamed White House source suggested that such statement is likely to be “Fuck you, this legislation is not worth the paper it’s printed on, or even a coupon for frequent flier miles to Fallujah.”
We may not have made the cut for the Olympics (see Phila. can't cut Olympic mustard), but we are still newsy. The NY Times covers Philly (City Hall) and Washington Post covers the state (politics) in Hope vs. Reality in Pennsylvania. George Will pens an op-ed bemoaning the state of the state for Republicans. He observes:
If you stood Democratic Gov. Ed Rendell next to his opponent, Lynn Swann, you would think the burly Rendell is the former football star. The former two-term mayor of Philadelphia radiates the pugnacious energy of a linebacker for his Philadelphia Eagles. But the comparatively slender Swann, who speaks softly and moves with a dancer's silky smoothness, is the one who played nine seasons as a wide receiver for the Pittsburgh Steelers and hopes to become Pennsylvania's first African American governor.As the expressions goes -- from his lips to God's ears.* * * *Republican Sen. Rick Santorum, a favorite of social conservatives, is in an uphill struggle to hold his seat. His campaign should help Swann's by energizing the Republican base. But, says Rendell contentedly, the Republican vote consists of three increasingly incompatible factions: the loyal base, the disappointed base that may not vote, and Republican moderates who are "fast concluding there's no place for them in the party." From "gay-bashing" to restrictions on stem cell research, he says, "they're appalled by it all."* * * *
Swann is trailing Rendell, who is a fierce campaigner. In the 2002 Democratic gubernatorial primary, Rendell once trailed Bob Casey Jr., the son of a popular former governor (and this year's Democratic nominee against Santorum), by 22 points but won by 13. In the 2002 general election, Rendell lost 49 of 67 counties but piled up huge majorities in the Pittsburgh and Philadelphia media markets. It has been said that Pennsylvania consists of those southeastern and southwestern regions, with Alabama in between -- the T-shaped conservative remainder of the state.
A Swann aide insists that his man generates intensity, whereas Rendell is so familiar that his campaign slogan should be "another century of service." Unfortunately for Swann, Pennsylvanians seem to savor continuity: They have never defeated an incumbent governor.
The NY Times has an interesting article about Philly's City Hall, People Stop Fighting Philadelphia City Hall, the building that rests under Billy Penn in the center of town. As the article notes:
City Hall has always been an impressive sight. It remains the loftiest masonry load-bearing building in the world, supported not by a steel skeleton but by stone and brick stacked upon more stone and brick. Its 548-foot tower — surpassing all the cathedrals of Europe — is topped by the largest statue on any building, anywhere: a 37-foot-high William Penn, the city’s founder, standing as tall as a town house. It is said to have the largest clocks on any building; it would loom over Big Ben.
With about 27 acres of floor space, this behemoth is bigger than every other municipal seat in the nation, all 50 state capitols and the national Capitol. The American Institute of Architects called it “perhaps the greatest single effort of late-19th-century American architecture.”
It was a striking act of civic hubris. Philadelphia wanted a symbol of its national stature and industrial might: the world’s tallest building. The colossus took so long to complete that it never fully won the title; the Washington Monument, not technically a building, is nonetheless seven feet taller, and it was finished first. Then, with construction still humming in Philadelphia, the Eiffel Tower topped them both.
* * * *
It is thought to be the most ornamented building in America, with at least 250 sculptures. Or more. No one, apparently, has ever counted them. How this great stone population of civic founders, allegorical figures and wildlife came to roost on its marble cliffs and in its granite caves is an enduring mystery that Mr. Myers and his associates hope to solve.
There was little sculpture in early plans; its role grew as the project proceeded. The works are credited to Alexander Milne Calder, grandfather of Alexander Calder, the painter and creator of the mobile. Aside from a virtually wordless catalog of the elder Calder’s plaster models, original documentation on the artwork is almost nonexistent.
“There may be a story hidden in this building, but we have yet to determine who designed that story and what it says,” Mr. Myers said.
Some of the building’s messages are direct enough, depicting history, government and law. Wagons with prisoners headed for trial would pass under a composition of works about becoming a better person: admonition from a mother scolding her child and forgiveness being granted by a father. The face of Sympathy gazes down.
In a particularly vivid bit of architectural staging, the accused were led to a bronze door that they would open by grasping its handle, a pair of great wriggling snakes, symbols of evil.
Others works are baffling, including a series of fierce cats pursuing mice. “Catch me if you can?” Mr. Myers wondered, noting their proximity to the prisoners’ entrance.
Another theory has it that they were a gift from Calder to the project’s overseer, Samuel Perkins, who loved cats. Others have suggested that the cats represent city government and the mice city taxpayers.
* * * *
Floodlighted at night, the building’s silhouette once again squares with the impressions of the poet Walt Whitman, who lived across the river in Camden, N.J. Observing its construction, he wrote that City Hall was “a majestic and lovely show there in the moonlight,” “silent, weird, beautiful.”
(Via Philadelphia Will Do). See also, Phillyist for a round up by local bloggers on the article. And don't miss philly for some great City Hall photography.
(Picture above is a shot I took while waiting for my daughter outside her school, Friends Select, on the Ben Franklin Parkway.)
UPDATE: phillyskyline.com also has some wonderful City Hall photos and mentions the Penn "curse" on the City -- which my daughter often refers to:
After taking thirty years to construct, City Hall remained the tallest building in Philadelphia for over 80 years thanks to a gentleman's agreement not to build taller than the brim of William Penn's hat. This was broken in 1983 when Liberty Property Trust announced they would build One Liberty Place (completed in 1987). Many--including lots of sports fans--say that Penn unleashed a curse upon the city. Since then, no major Philly sports team has won a championship.
Wednesday, July 26, 2006
George Bush recently broke his longstanding boycott of the NAACP when he recently appeared before the group, as detailed by Dan Froomkin at the Washington Post, Deference Prevails Over Hostility. See also, The Daily Sandwich, Bush heckled during NAACP speech.
Emphasizing the need for the Republican Party to "change its relationship" with the black community, Bush proceeded to explain just how he would do that -- by promoting the repeal of the estate tax as an issue the NAACP could adopt as a cause. Clearly, this could be an excellent way to unite Republicans and blacks. Unfortunately, as noted by Think Progress, Bush Uses NAACP Speech To Promote Estate Tax Repeal, Doesn’t Utter The Word ‘Poverty’:
President Bush’s “death tax” pitch demonstrates his stunning disconnect from the African-American community. According to an American Progress analysis, just 59 African-Americans will pay the estate tax this year, and that number will drop to 33 in 2009.(Via The Carpetbagger Report)
Meanwhile, as of 2004, 24.7 percent of African-Americans lived under the poverty line (up from 22.7 in 2001) — that’s more than 9 million people. The number of times Bush mentioned “poverty” in his speech: 0. (Emphasis added).
Obviously, despite his bad rap, Bush is interested in minorities. He's just misunderstood. He's interested in helping the true minorities in the black community -- ultra-rich black people. That's the only possible explanation for his comments. Well, it's either that or he really is an ass.
Dick Polman also writes about the speech in his blog, American Debate, Bush and the NAACP: a fundamental disconnect:
And it’s hard to imagine that Bush made many converts when he said that blacks should join him in his quest to eliminate the federal estate tax -- a pet GOP issue of greatest interest to rich white people who want to pass on their inheritances, and thus an issue that touches the lives of a minute fraction of black people. Indeed, there was predictably not a line in his speech about poverty, or, more specifically, about the latest Census Bureau figures which show that, during the first four years of his presidency, the percentage of blacks living below the poverty line jumped from 22.7 to 24.7, an increase of nine million.As a counterbalance to Bush, there's the fiery oratory of Dick Gregory at the NAACP convention, see African-American Political Opinion, Why Bush Only Gave the Second Most/Least Believable Speech at the NAACP Convention.
There’s a lot more that can be said about what he didn’t say -- such as the fact that he opposes an increase in the minimum wage, and that he opposes expansion of the earned-income tax credit, a longstanding program that supplements low-wage incomes -- but I was most interested in something that he did say. One quick line, during the first 60 seconds:
“I come from a family committed to civil rights.”
That, really, is the crux of the matter. Yesterday’s address wasn’t just about trying to woo some black voters away from the Democrats party in the runup to the ’06 elections. It was, more importantly, the latest attempt (among countless attempts going back several generations) by a Bush family member to win over the black community simply by insisting that he is personally pure of heart. The Bushes have long sought to trumpet their good intentions, in the hopes that this would translate into mass black political support. The effort has never worked, but they keep trying anyway.* * * *The problem, however, is that most black voters continue to judge politicians not on their good intentions, or whether their family has long been “committed to civil rights,” but on how they actually perform. President Bush may have admitted yesterday that he considered it “a tragedy that the party of Abraham Lincoln let go of its historic ties with the African American community,” but the fact is that the modern GOP over the past three decades has successfully wooed white voters with race-coded messages about crime, welfare, and job competition.
Richard Nixon’s “southern strategy” was specifically designed to woo whites who couldn’t abide the northern Democratic-led crusades for desegregation and voting rights. The plan worked, and the GOP's dominance below the Mason-Dixon line is the result. Variations on the plan have worked ever since.* * * *All told, it’s a cinch bet that Bush’s NAACP listeners care more about policy and performance than testaments to a family’s personal decency. As black politics expert David Bositis, an occasional GOP adviser on minority issues, told me right after the Katrina debacle, “Republicans always think that if they make some small (outreach) gestures, that African Americans will applaud their good intentions. They still don’t understand that African Americans would look at (the record) and conclude, ‘Those people really don’t like us.’"
Citing a Boston Globe article, Civil rights hiring shifted in Bush era, All Spin Zone provides a pertinent example of actions speaking louder than words, in Oh Pity the Poor White Christian Male!. The piece notes the shift in hiring by the Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice under the Bush Administration. For example:
Jon Greenbaum , who was a career attorney in the voting rights section from 1997 to 2003, said that since the hiring change, candidates with conservative ties have had an advantage.
``The clear emphasis has been to hire individuals with conservative credentials," he said. ``If anything, a civil rights background is considered a liability."
Right. Well, as Polman noted and Kayne West remarked after Katrina hit New Orleans, "Help," cuz "George Bush does not care about Black People".
At the same time, the kinds of cases the Civil Rights Division is bringing have undergone a shift. The division is bringing fewer voting rights and employment cases involving systematic discrimination against African-Americans, and more alleging reverse discrimination against whites and religious discrimination against Christians.``There has been a sea change in the types of cases brought by the division, and that is not likely to change in a new administration because they are hiring people who don't have an expressed interest in traditional civil rights enforcement," said Richard Ugelow . . . . (Emphasis added).
Tuesday, July 25, 2006
The Boston Globe, which has been in the forefront in exposing Bush's so-called "signing statements," has now reported, in Panel chides Bush on bypassing laws:
President Bush should stop issuing statements claiming the power to bypass parts of laws he has signed, an American Bar Association task force has unanimously concluded in a strongly worded 32-page report that is scheduled to be released . . . .As Dick Polman explains, in Bush and the rule of law, next chapter:
``The president's constitutional duty is to enforce laws he has signed into being, unless and until they are held unconstitutional by the Supreme Court," the report said. ``The Constitution is not what the president says it is."* * * *
The task force chairman and a former federal prosecutor, Neal Sonnett, said he hoped the House of Delegates would back the panel's call to roll back the use of presidential signing statements.``The recommendations that we make are an effort to correct practices that, if they continue, threaten to throw this country into a constitutional crisis," Sonnett said.* * * *In an interview, [Mickey] Edwards [a former member of Congress from Oklahoma] said the findings should be understood as rising above the politics of the moment. ``It's not about Bush; it's about what should be the responsibility of a president," Edwards said. ``We are saying that the president of the United States has an obligation to follow the Constitution and exercise only the authority the Constitution gives him. That's a central tenet of American conservatism -- to constrain the centralization of power."
It has been clear for a long time that President Bush doesn’t like lawyers . . . . So he undoubtedly will dislike the blue-ribbon report released today by the American Bar Association, which assails him as a threat to democracy, “a threat to the rule of law,” and as a president who disrespects “our constitutional system of separation of powers.” Most likely he’ll just ignore it, but I happen to think this report will be of interest to millions of his fellow citizens.See also this video, ABA Blasts the Specter NSA Bill, of ABA President Michael Greco announcing the panel's findings.* * * *In other words, these pillars of the legal establishment are arguing that this particular president is potentially wreaking havoc with the Constitution, and that the only way to thwart him is for Congress to take drastic action that could put it on a collision course with the White House. I haven’t heard talk like this from the legal establishment since Richard Nixon's executive excesses during Watergate.
“This report,” says ABA president Michael Greco, “raises serious concerns crucial to the survival of our democracy. If left unchecked, the president’s practice does grave harm to the separation of powers doctrine, and the system of checks and balances, that have sustained our democracy for more than two centuries. Immediate action is required to address this threat to the Constitution and to the rule of law in our country.” (Emphasis added).
A NY Times article, Legal Group Says Bush Undermines Law by Ignoring Select Parts of Bills, also notes the strongly worded rebuke of Bush:
The American Bar Association said Sunday that President Bush was flouting the Constitution and undermining the rule of law by claiming the power to disregard selected provisions of bills that he signed.I must say, I'm extremely surprised to see the kind of shrill language that I'd ordinarily use to describe this issue being employed by the ABA (especially since a number of the ABA panel members are conservative Republicans who can hardly be called liberal activists). Guess that's a good indication of the seriousness of the constitutional crisis.
In a comprehensive report, a bipartisan 11-member panel of the bar association said Mr. Bush had used such “signing statements” far more than his predecessors, raising constitutional objections to more than 800 provisions in more than 100 laws on the ground that they infringed on his prerogatives.
These broad assertions of presidential power amount to a “line-item veto” and improperly deprive Congress of the opportunity to override the veto, the panel said.
In signing a statutory ban on torture and other national security laws, Mr. Bush reserved the right to disregard them.
The bar association panel said the use of signing statements in this way was “contrary to the rule of law and our constitutional system of separation of powers.” From the dawn of the Republic, it said, presidents have generally understood that, in the words of George Washington, a president “must approve all the parts of a bill, or reject it in toto.”
If the president deems a bill unconstitutional, he can veto it, the panel said, but “signing statements should not be a substitute for a presidential veto.”* * * *The issue has deep historical roots, the panel said, noting that Parliament had condemned King James II for nonenforcement of certain laws in the 17th century. The panel quoted the English Bill of Rights: “The pretended power of suspending of laws, or the execution of laws, by regal authority, without consent of Parliament, is illegal.”
See also, Unclaimed Territory by Glenn Greenwald, Defeating the Specter bill and Firedoglake, ABA Says: No King. For my earlier posts on this issue, see All Power to the President and Dictator-In-Chief.
"The first thing we do, let's kill all the lawyers". (Shakespeare -- Henry VI, Act IV, Scene II).
Sunday, July 23, 2006
We spent a long week-end in Rehoboth Beach, Delaware, with friends. Our friends have a place there and we stayed in the condo next door. Dave had to work, so he didn't join us, but my daughter brought a friend. The girls enjoy the place because I hang with my friends and they are mostly on their own -- almost like having their own place. The girls spent time at the pool and the beach and wandered the boardwalk in between. The weather was iffy, but better than Philly.
On Saturday afternoon, we went to Main Street off the Boardwalk, where the shops and restaurants are located, to have lunch and stroll around. Before we left, we decided to stop and have a cocktail and went to put more money in the meter. When we got to my friend's car -- her prized BMW convertible -- someone came over to tell us that it had been hit by a delivery truck. The guy and a few other people had seen the accident and had left a note with the information, including the name on the truck -- Hickman's Seafood, from Virginia. Apparently, it was backing out of a driveway after making a delivery at a seafood restaurant, Claws, and hit the door on the driver's side. The owner of the business next door even tried to chase down the truck as it was driving away. It was also ironic, because we had had dinner at Claws Friday night. My friend called the local police, who came in a few minutes and took a report. While the policewoman was getting information, a few other witnesses came by and gave their names.
It was amazing to see so many people take the time to get involved. It really made a bad situation better, knowing that people are decent and helpful.
An interesting tidbit about Rehoboth -- the South Beach of the East Coast -- it was founded in 1873 by a Methodist minister for religious camp meetings and its name aptly means a "place for all."
UPDATE: After not responding to several calls to Hickman Seafood, the owner called my friend back and has accepted responsibility for his driver's accident. He said the guy probably didn't even realize that he hit the car, because the truck is so heavy with the refridgerated compartment.
UPDATE #2: Perhaps the religious beginnings are not that far removed from the Rehoboth area after all. For some religions, however, there can never be a place for all. See this NY Ttimes article, Families Challenging Religious Influence in Delaware Schools.
Saturday, July 22, 2006
We seem to have problems with the "Save the Children" programs, so maybe we can do better with "Save the Cells." There are definite advantages -- they are certainly easier to deal with and they don't talk back.
Jon Stewart's riff on this subject is Stewart at his absolute best. It is a a brilliant assessment of the stem cell policy and may be Stewart's best yet. Don't miss it. See War on Terrorble Dieseases.
BBC News provides the "real" version of the same news, in Bush 'out of touch' on stem cells:
Leading researchers labelled Mr Bush "hypocritical", "out of touch" and "selfish" over his decision not to sign into law a bill approved by Congress.In case you missed it, here's Part 1 of Stewart on Stem Cells, 1st Veto. also, my earlier post on the stem cell issue, Murder is Wrong, provides my own view (and hope) on this.* * * *
Mr Bush summed up his opposition to the bill on ethical grounds. "This bill would support the taking of innocent human life of the hope of finding medical benefits for others," he said.
But Graeme Laurie, an expert in the legal side of medicine from Edinburgh University, said there was an "underlying hypocrisy" in Mr Bush's position.
"The stated reason for President Bush's objection to embryonic stem cell research is that 'murder is wrong'; why then does he not intervene to regulate or ban [embryonic] stem cell research carried out with private funds and which is happening across the US?" he asked.
"It is a strange morality indeed that pins the moral status and life of the embryo on the question of who is paying for the research."
Friday, July 21, 2006
As a follow up to my post on Bush's imprompto massage of Chancellor Merkel, Laying on of Hands, the West Coast Version of Maureen Dowd, San Francisco Gate columnist Mark Morford provides his take on the incident in Bush Gropes, Planet Cringes / Knead a German chancellor, banter dumbly, reveal global ignorance. It's Dubya abroad!
As Morford says:
Just watching Bush in those unguarded moments, chatting while eating a roll, walking by and grabbing Merkel in a shoulder "rub," you realize that Maureen Dowd and Mark Morford have truly described the Bush persona. And they speak truth, not truthiness.
Now we know.
I mean, we sort of thought we knew, before, what kind of guy George W. Bush is, essentially our very own inept, inarticulate ex-alcoholic ex-frat-guy failed-businessman pseudo-leader who famously appeals to the most God-fearin' and least educated and least attuned among us because he is, well, one of them. We thought we had him pegged: Just a casual and aw-shucks sort of walkin', talkin', war-happy embarrassment to the country who was rumored to be a Genuinely Nice Guy in person but who, when he traveled abroad, nevertheless caused the entire nation to pre-emptively cringe in preparation for all sorts of imminent humiliations and lots of hilarious-yet-excruciating new material for "The Complete Bushisms."But every so often we get a glimpse of just a little more. Or, rather, less. Of what lies just beneath that carefully controlled sheen of White House spin, what happens when Dubya is away from his handlers and his prefab scripts. We get a hint of just what fuels that clueless amble, that Chosen One bumble, that graceless and decidedly dorky sort of approach to everything from ordering a Diet Coke to comprehending Middle East chaos.* * * *
Here is Dubya, strolling speedily into a G-8 summit meeting where powerful, intent world leaders are already gathered to discuss, presumably, serious issues of the day, walking straight up to a seated German Chancellor Angela Merkel and giving her a weird, unsolicited shoulder rub from behind, before dashing to his seat. Oh yes he did.* * * *Dubya is, of course, oblivious. His expression is his classic blank "Who, me?" stare that recalls a child caught eating a live grasshopper. He looks right past Merkel and quickly dashes away as though nothing had happened, as if the powerful German leader didn't just recoil visibly at his very touch.
* * * *
Some might argue that Merkel, despite the obvious recoil, actually smiles a little after Bush grabs her (it is a little difficult to tell if it's a wince or an awkward smirk -- either way, she was more than a little shocked). Some might even suggest that Merkel and Bush have a "special" sort of odd, chummy relationship . . . . And hey, maybe they're right. Then again, this was a G-8 summit. Israel and Lebanon are burning. Iraq is in tatters. North Korea is spitting on the world. Global leaders are gathered to discuss the most pressing and violent issues on the planet, many of which the Bush administration had a clammy hand in exacerbating. Might not be the best time for the leader of the free world to give a cheesy frat-guy neck rub to his German gal-pal in front of the world media. You think?
See, now we get it. This is the bottom line, the final truth, George W. Bush in a nutshell. Bush thinks he is That Guy. The one everybody just loves to have around, the one who sincerely thinks his goofy charm is so appealing and so innocuous and so licky-puppy friendly that he can get away with all sorts of casual infractions and weird gestures no one else would care to attempt lest they appear, you know, dorky as a pinwheel hat.
And you know what? Bush really is That Guy. Just not in the way he wants to think.
In other words, he is indeed That Guy, like the best man at the wedding party, the one standing out in the center of the room, casually and cluelessly telling off-color jokes that offend everyone but which he thinks are gul-dang hilarious and, hell, if you're offended then you're just some gul-dang hippie liberal. Haw.He is That Guy. The one who thinks he is everybody's bestest pal, the guy everyone wants to kick back with and have a few brewskies and chat about baseball and lawn fertilizer and Jesus. After all, isn't that what we all desire of the man who decides some of the most difficult, deadly, complicated issues on the planet? Isn't that slacked, frat-guy goofiness exactly what you want trying to broker peace in the Middle East and understand global warming and stem-cell research? Sure it is.
See also: William Pitt at Truthout, The Ballad of Dumb George.
(Photo via Talking Points Memo)
Thursday, July 20, 2006
I wasn't going to comment on the various escapades at the G-8 until I read Maureen Dowd, who managed to distill the essence of Bush, in Animal House Summit:
Reporters who covered W.’s 2000 campaign often wondered whether the Bush scion would give up acting the fool if he got to be the king.Vanity Fair's James Wolcott, writes at his blog about the "groping" incident (seen here, Blitz Krieg Massage, on video), in Roving Hands:* * * *The open-microphone incident at the G-8 lunch in St. Petersburg on Monday illustrated once more that W. never made any effort to adapt. The president has enshrined his immaturity and insularity, turning every environment he inhabits — no matter how decorous or serious — into a comfortable frat house.
No matter what the trappings or the ceremonies require of the leader of the free world, he brings the same DKE bearing and cadences, the same insouciance and smart-alecky attitude, the same simplistic approach — swearing, swaggering, talking to Tony Blair with his mouth full of buttered roll, and giving a startled Angela Merkel an impromptu shoulder rub. He can make even a global summit meeting seem like a kegger.
Catching W. off-guard, the really weird thing is his sense of victimization. He’s strangely resentful about the actual core of his job. Even after the debacles of Iraq and Katrina, he continues to treat the presidency as a colossal interference with his desire to mountain bike and clear brush.
In snippets of overheard conversation, Mr. Bush says he has not bothered to prepare any closing remarks and grouses about having to listen to other world leaders talk too long. What did he think being president was about?* * * *Perhaps it’s that anti-patrician chip on his shoulder, his rebellion against a family that prized manners and diplomacy above all. But when bored or frustrated, W. reserves the right to be boorish — no matter if the setting is a gilded palace or a Texas gorge.
Most of the commentary I've seen regarding President Bush's impromptu shoulder-rub/aborted massage of German Chancellor Angela Merkel at the G8 summit has treated the incident as a light, wacky divertissement, much like Bush's goofball attempt to make a dramatic exit from a press conf in China only to be thwarted by a locked door. Certainly there's something intrinsically comic about a freelance prowling masseur looking for flesh to knead. Just last night I saw an episode from the Lifetime sitcom about a dating agency headed by the sensational Jane Lynch where one of the matchmakers was giving unauthorized foot rubs to clients, defending his behavior by claiming, "I can't keep track of all ten fingers." His hands see an opportunity, and they take it.Blogger TBogg provides the practical perspective, in What Women Want:
Bush's behavior crosses more boundaries, and not just because the Leader of the Free World doesn't normally lay his playful hands on the opposite sex in his high-powered public forums. Put simply, what Bush did is a very odd way for a married man to behave under most circumstances, even odder under these.
* * * *
Perhaps it was nothing more than Bush's usual privileged-snot appropriation at play. A symptom of the same syndrome that has him hanging nicknames on people, and kissing bald men on the head.
As someone who has, you know, actually been with a woman (several in fact) I can point out that unsolicited neck-rubs as well as back-rubs aren't high on the touchy-feely list, although I will admit that they reside higher up than the ever popular boob-rub and the let-me-warm-my-hands-between-your-thighs move. And what appears to be smiling at the end might also be relief that Chester the Molester is looking elsewhere to cop a feel.And then, of course, for the last word on the subject, there's the Jon Stewart take on it all, at Merkel Madness.* * * *Either way, having noticed Merkel's look of distaste at being publicly manhandled, I'm willing to bet that Bush later IM'd Dick Cheney and pronounced her a "total lez" and offered to fix her up with Mary.
See also, Hullabaloo and Firedoglake.
(Dowd article available here: Animal House Summit)
Wednesday, July 19, 2006
Next week, we're off to our annual family reunion with Dave's family, which is in Atlanta this year. I've started to prepare (mentally, as well as by packing my bags) for my next venture flying the unfriendly skies. As I explained in Fear of Flying, my flying phobia is not a "fear of flying," rather, it's due to the dread of dealing with airport "security measures" that brings home for me in a more personal way the fact that we have lost any modicum of our privacy rights.
That earlier post also described the harrowing experience of Edward Hasbrouck of the Practical Nomad, Unanswered questions at Dulles Airport, related to the need to provide ID to various "security personnel" at Dulles Airport, and the difficulties he experienced in merely trying to determine the identity and authority of those personnel. See also, Privacy advice to the Department of Homeland Security.
Hasbrouck has a follow up to his original post, Dialogue with the TSA Privacy Officer, which provides a response from Peter Pietra, the TSA Privacy Officer who looked into the incident, along with Hasbrouck's commentary and list of questions that were unanswered by the TSA Officer. A snippet:
Similarly, this report on NPR's Morning Edition, Cafeteria Workers Escape National Security Nightmare, provides yet another instance of the heavy hand of the security gestapo, as it tells the tale of two women who were longtime employees who were fired after they failed to pass a national security background check. See also, this Pittsburgh Post-Gazette article on the incident, Homeland Security clears cafeteria workers after puzzling 2-week hiatus. The employees were deemed "unsuitable" and terminated, despite the fact that each had worked for over twenty year in the cafeteria in a Pittsburgh federal building. It took the intervention of their local congressman to determine that one report was the result of an erroneous social security number (which was the fault of Homeland Security) and the other due to not divulging a 1985 shoplifting charge that had been expunged. Sure signs of terrorist proclivities.
[Pietra:] TSA requires airlines to request identification to confirm that the individual holding a boarding pass is the same individual issued the boarding pass.
As I reported, I had already shown my passport to a person who I believed to be an airline employee at check-in, and I volunteered to the person with the Airserv badge, and to "Mr. Graham", that I would be willing to show it again on demand of any United Airlines employee.
[Pietra:] It does not require airlines to prohibit entry to individuals who do not show identification but airline security plans may be more rigorous than TSA requirements.
To the best of my knowledge, I was never denied entry by "the airline", so this is of no relevance. Did you receive any information to the contrary from United Airlines, or anyone else?Do you mean to imply that, in your view of privacy, someone who is willing to show their passport to the airline must necessarily be willing to show it to anyone who asks for it? Or that a person who shows documents to an airline thereby waives any expectation of privacy in those documents, with respect to third parties?
[Pietra:] I find no privacy issues in your version of events. You had already shown identification at the ticket counter so you cannot have an objection to showing identification, (Emphasis added).
It's like the "No Fly List." You can't find out if you're on it. If you are, you won't be told why. Even worse, you may not be able to get off. See, the Practical Nomad, New York Times on "Getting off a watch list". Quoted in the NYTimes article, Hasbrouck states:
"The model is flawed," he said. "People should only be placed on the list based on an order from a court of competent jurisdiction following an adversarial evidentiary hearing. The burden of proof should be on the government to show that someone is dangerous, not the other way around."These are just various examples of our loss of privacy rights. We may as well just send the Bill of Rights to the shredder. Under the new regime the rules have changed in a dramatic, fundamental way. In today's world, you are presumed guilty until proven otherwise. The problem is, you are not given prior notice of the "charges" against you, or an opportunity to challenge the allegations.
That's so yesterday. That's the old model of democracy. We now live with the New World Order: Just take orders. No questions asked.
George Bush is prepared to invoke his first veto while in office, after the Senate approved legislation permitting stem cell research. According to the NYTimes, Senate Approves a Stem-Cell Bill; Veto Is Expected:
Tony Snow, the White House spokesman, said Tuesday that the president would veto the measure because of his belief that federal money should not be spent on research conducted on stem cells derived from human embryos. Mr. Snow said Mr. Bush considered that murder.In Most call it hope for millions, Bush calls it "murder", Dick Polman of American Debate explains:
"The president is not going to get on the slippery slope of taking something that is living and making it dead for the purpose of research," he said.
The Republican-led Senate has spoken -- today, by a 63-37 vote, it passed a bill expanding federally-financed stem cell research --and now President Bush must decide whether he sides with the religious and social conservatives who oppose that research, or with the clear majority of his fellow citizens.On this issue, Pennsylvania's Senators Mutt & Jeff (a/k/a Santorum and Specter), are divided by more than the opposite ends of the state. See Rick and Arlen on Stem Cells. It's amazing how resolute Specter can be in his position when his own self interest is at stake. Calling embryos persons deserving of the protection of law, Santorum doesn't explain how his absolute, unwavering respect for life does not also mean that he is a pacifist or death penalty opponent.
Actually, he has already made up his mind -- his heart is with his political base -- which means that, when he issues the first veto of his presidency, he will be defying the medical community, the scientific community, 41 Nobel laureates, hundreds of citizen health groups, Nancy Reagan, and the millions of Americans who see value in doing the advanced research that could pioneer new treatments for serious diseases.* * * *Bush has long viewed his willingness to defy majority sentiment as an asset; in the words of press secretary Tony Snow the other day, "People like leadership much better than a finger in the wind." But in this case, the leader has misrepresented some of the facts. Bush claimed, in a White House message the other day, that the stem-cell bill "would use Federal taxpayer dollars to support and encourage the destruction of human life for research." In reality, the stem cells covered by the bill have been specifically created for in-vitro fertilization, are no longer needed and, if not used for research purposes, would be discarded anyway as medical waste. Frist also described the bill this way, in a Washington Post op-ed column this morning.
But the White House is not interested in such nuance; as Snow put it today, "the simple answer is, he thinks murder's wrong."
In MAKE WAR, NOT CURE: BUSH TO SEND EMBRYOS TO IRAQ, the Satirical Political Report explains the real reason Bush is opposed to embryonic research:
As Congress prepares this week to debate expanded public funding of embryonic stem cell research, President Bush has reaffirmed his staunch opposition, explaining that such embryos could be put to much better use in Iraq.
Explaining that embryos should be "killed there, instead of here," the President emphasized that the military is at its breaking point in Iraq, and that crucial reinforcements are desperately needed, especially with looming crises in the Middle East and the Korean Peninsula.* * * *Bush further claimed that his religious principles will not allow him to sanction the destruction of innocent embryos, even to help cure debilitating diseases such as Alzheimer's and Parkinson's. "However," Bush explained, "if we have to sacrifice embryos to support religious extremism and theocracy, that's another matter altogether."* * * *However, polls show that 70% of Americans not only support greater federal funding of embryonic stem cell research, but the harvesting of Bush's organs, while he is still alive, if it can help cure a single individual.
Even better than harvesting his organs, if there is any justice in the world (or if my God, rather than the Bush version, is really in charge), George Bush will have a long life, will live to a ripe old age, and would also be blessed with one of those diseases that could have been cured but for the ban on stem cell research. It would be perfect poetic justice.
Pennsylvania. Home to the Dynamic Duo -- Santorum & Specter.
Rick Santorum may be living proof of the maxim "you can't go home again." This national AP story, Santorum struggles for support at home, reports:
Dissatisfaction with President Bush and the GOP-controlled Congress in the swing state creates obstacles for Santorum. Further complicating his outlook are lingering questions on his home turf of southwest Pennsylvania over his residency and use of public funds for his children's cyber schooling.
A recent Quinnipiac University Poll showed Santorum to be less popular in Pittsburgh and its surrounding suburbs — he hails from Penn Hills, Pa. — than any other part of Pennsylvania. He trailed his opponent by around 30 percentage points there. Statewide, the poll had him down by 18 points, with a whopping 67 percent of voters saying they've made up their minds.Looking to turn the tide, Santorum has focused on the danger of illegal immigration, highlighting a "no amnesty" message that could appeal to rank-and-file union members from southwest Pennsylvania and others concerned about holding their jobs. While the region is less dependent on coal and steel, manufacturing remains an important part of the economy. (Emphasis added).
Santorum is doing worse in Pittsburgh than the rest of the state? That is stunning to me. And his answer to that? Run on racism.
Turning to the other end of the state, calling "his bill on NSA surveillance is a capitulation to administration claims of executive power," an editorial from the Washington Post, Wiretap Surrender, takes Arlen Specter to task:
SENATE JUDICIARY Committee Chairman Arlen Specter (R-Pa.) has cast his agreement with the White House on legislation concerning the National Security Agency's warrantless surveillance as a compromise -- one in which President Bush accepts judicial review of the program. It isn't a compromise, except quite dramatically on the senator's part. Mr. Specter's bill began as a flawed but well-intentioned effort to get the program in front of the courts, but it has been turned into a green light for domestic spying. It must not pass. (Emphasis added).In Arlen Specter: The Manchurian Senator, the Anonymous Liberal expresses astonishment at media reports of a "compromise" by the Bush Administration with the Specter legislation. However, he describes the benefits of the concession spin:
But by spinning this as some sort of capitulation on the President's part, both sides win. Specter is able to paint himself as the heroic maverick who stood up to the White House, and the White House is able to portray its dream surveillance law as something the President only reluctantly agreed to. Has anyone in the media ever read the story of Brer' Rabbit and the briar patch? The White House would like nothing better than for the media to treat this bill as some sort of moderate compromise, which is why they are pushing this particular narrative so hard.I believe the offical terminology used to describe Arlen is Gutless Republican Worm.
. . . . Specter's bill would render meaningless the statutory scheme that has been in place for the last three decades. It would instantly return us to the pre-FISA era of unfettered executive branch discretion. Seriously, if Specter had been a Manchurian candidate owned and operated by the White House, he could scarcely have done more to further their objectives.* * * *
It will be truly ironic if the Bush administration is rewarded for its law-breaking with a bill that, as recently as six months ago, no one would ever have dreamed had a snowball's chance in hell of gaining Congressional approval. This is a strategy that the GOP has mastered. First you take a position that is so outrageous and extreme that it catches everyone off guard. You then advocate for that position so stubbornly and so aggressively that, before long, you've made a lot of formerly extreme positions seem moderate by comparison. Eventually you agree to a "compromise" that replaces the status quo with something that just a short time earlier would have seemed unthinkable. It's amazing how effective this strategy is at shifting the basic terms of the debate.
Tuesday, July 18, 2006
Hurricane Katrina was a devastating catastrophe, with loss of life and home affecting many in New Orleans and elsewhere in the region. The continuing toll is enormous, and whether New Orleans will ever recover to any substantial degree is still uncertain -- the effects of the storm linger to this day.
A "human interest" tale of one of the Katrina aftereffects was told in the Philadelphia Inquirer, Tug-of-war erupts over Katrina pets, but the damage inflicted in this case is wholly man-made. As the story notes:
Sheila Combs lost nearly everything in Hurricane Katrina: her home, her possessions, her job and - what really broke her heart - her 2-year-old mutt, Rocket.
Combs assumed that the chow-Finnish Spitz mix had died after she, her mother and her 9-year-old son were evacuated from New Orleans to the Houston Astrodome.
So it seemed to be a miracle last month when a volunteer group seeking to reunite Katrina pets with their masters discovered Rocket alive and flourishing in Doylestown.
Except that the pooch isn't Rocket anymore - he's Rusty. And his new owners have no intention of giving him back.
The resulting tug-of-war is among dozens of cases nationwide in which allegations of class bias have been raised by Katrina survivors attempting to reclaim beloved pets from the Good Samaritans who took them in.
"It's almost entirely a movement of animals from poor blacks to middle-class whites," said Steven Wise, a Florida animal-rights lawyer involved in several custody battles.
* * * *
Wise . . . said it's hard to understand why the animals aren't being turned over.
"These people lost everything," Wise said of the hurricane victims. "The only thing they have is their family, and these dogs are their family."
In the stories after the storm, I remember reading about people being forced to leave their pets and the pain it caused many. Some people didn't want to leave their homes because they couldn't take their pets with them. Most shelters would not permit pets, so the evacuees were forced to abandon their pets.
To learn that some of the "Good Samaritans" who took in rescued pets are now depriving these people, who have lost all, one more thing of value to them -- their beloved pets -- is disheartening. They should be ashamed and embarrassed by their cruel, selfish behavior. But of course that is not the case. Rather than turning inward, they blame the victim, and try to excuse and justify their conduct by judging the victim as someone who is not deserving. No doubt good Christians all.
Put this under example #3451 of "man's inhumanity to man." See e.g.,RIP, GOP (An Exhortation).
Monday, July 17, 2006
Sunday, July 16, 2006
That was the reason given by Louis Capano for pledging $1M to two Delaware Catholic schools, Archmere and St. Edmond's Academy -- the donations were in honor of his parents. See e.g., my earlier post on this story, In My Name. The Capano name is "infamous" because one of the Capano brothers, Tom, murdered Anne Marie Fahey. In the incestuous way that is the state of Delaware, members of both families attended both schools. One school, Archmere, later reconsidered its decision.
As The News Journal explained, Archmere announces building's new name, "Archmere Academy, whose $1 million deal to name a new building after developer Louis J. Capano Jr.'s parents unraveled under intense pressure from parents and alumni, will name the center after two former headmasters." The Inquirer described it, in Capanos to get plaque at Del. school:
Two weeks ago, in the face of local and national media coverage and a barrage of criticism on a Web site formed by parents, Archmere trustees accepted Capano's offer to relinquish naming rights. Since then, board members have been negotiating a solution that would appease both Capano and protesters.See also, Protect Archmere's Legacy.
At the time, I wondered what would happen to the pledge, No Name, No Money?. Now we know. The Inquirer reports:
And developer Louis Capano Jr., who had pledged $1 million to the school in exchange for having the planned student-life center named after his parents, has dropped his foundation's pledge from $1 million to $500,000. Archmere Academy officials said they would honor Capano's parents with a plaque, one of three to be placed outside the building for donors of at least $200,000.Wasn't the contribution supposed to be in memory of his parents? Right. If so, why would a name of a building alter the charitable impulse? If that was the reason for the donation, why the change in the amount given? As Honest Hypocrite put it, The "Integrity" costs Archmere a half mil, while crafty Capano slips parents' names onto a plaque for $200,000. I suppose the only good thing is that perhaps Louis Capano learned that money can't buy everything, especially a good name or reputation. As I have been wont to say, a good reputation is something that takes a lot of time and effort to get, but is very easy to lose.
The News Journal also carried a well done retrospective on Anne Marie Fahey on the anniversary of her murder,10 years later, memories of murder persist.
The other day, the LWL Gang* discussed the Fahey case, along with a few other of those cases that seem to live on. The News Journal piece discusses that phenomenon:
Ben Fleury-Steiner, assistant professor at the University of Delaware's Department of Sociology and Criminal Justice, attributes the continuing fascination -- and ill-will toward Capano and his brothers -- to our culture's obsession with crimes by celebrities or others with status. That is compounded by the fact that Delaware is such a small state and so many people know the key players, he said.*(Ladies Who Lunch)
"People have hung on every detail,'' he said, "and it has become a Shakespearean drama.''
Saturday, July 15, 2006
The Summer 2006 issue of Nieman Reports is dedicated to "Journalists: On the Subject of Courage." Nieman Watchdog describes a Commentary piece, Fighting back against the PR presidency: "Veteran Washington Post reporter Walter Pincus thinks that Washington editors and reporters should be brave enough not to cover any statements made by the president or any other government official that are designed solely as a public relations tool, offering no new or valuable information to the public."
In his Commentary, Pincus writes:
Courage in journalism today takes all the obvious, traditional forms -- reporting from a war zone or from a totalitarian country where a reporter's life or safety are issues. In Washington, D.C., where I work, it's a far less dramatic form of courage if a journalist stands up to a government official or a politician who he or she has reason to believe is not telling the truth or living up to his or her responsibilities.But I believe a new kind of courage is needed in journalism in this age of instant news, instant analysis, and therefore instant opinions. It also happens to be a time of government by public relations and news stories based on prepared texts and prepared events or responses. Therefore, this is the time for reporters and editors, whether from the mainstream media or blogosphere, to pause before responding to the latest bulletin, prepared event, or the most recent statement or backgrounder, whether from the White House or the Democratic or Republican leadership on Capitol Hill.* * * *Today there is much too much being offered about government than can be fit into print or broadcast on nightly news shows. The disturbing trend is that more and more of these informational offerings are nothing but PR peddled as "news."* * * *The truth of the matter is that with help from the news media, being able to "stay on message" is now considered a presidential asset, perhaps even a requirement. Of course, the "message" is the public relations spin that the White House wants to present and not what the President actually did that day or what was really going on inside the White House.* * * *A new element of courage in journalism would be for editors and reporters to decide not to cover the President's statements when he -- or any public figure -- repeats essentially what he or she has said before. The Bush team also has brought forward another totally PR gimmick: The President stands before a background that highlights the key words of his daily message. This tactic serves only to reinforce that what's going on is public relations -- not governing. Journalistic courage should include the refusal to publish in a newspaper or carry on a TV or radio news show any statements made by the President or any other government official that are designed solely as a public relations tool, offering no new or valuable information to the public.
The "role" of the media is a constant theme of mine. See, e.g., Put down the steno pad. Add this Commentary to the List; it should be required reading for every reporter and journalist, as well as those interested in an informed public.
(Via Talking Points Memo)