Sunday, May 31, 2009

Sunday Funnies & Arts

Citizen K.'s all-time favorite Calvin and Hobbes strips:

As always, click to enlarge. For more Tom the Dancing Bug, Ben Sargent, Calvin and Hobbes, Pat Oliphant, Tony Auth, and Zippy, go here, here, here, here, here, and here...

Star Trek. D: J. J. Abrams. Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto, Leonard Nimoy, Eric Bana, Bruce Greenwood, Karl Urban, Zoe Saldana, Simon Pegg, John Cho, Anton Yelchin. Not bad at all. A renegade Romulan war ship captained by a vengeful Bana threatens the existence of the Federation and the job of stopping it falls to Starship Academy cadet James Kirk (Pine). The film deploys the tried-and-true Star Trek milieus of accidental time travel and alternate universes to move the plot along and show how Kirk, Spock, Bones, Scottie and the gang first met. A little long on the slam-bangery and a bit short on Trekkie philosophizing (the Prime Directive doesn't merit a single mention) but the movie treats its rich context respectfully and with a gently satirical wink. Long time fans will appreciate such touches as Captain Pike's wheelchair and the explanation (finally!) of why Kirk and Uhura never got together. Nimoy's commanding presence predictably steals the show...

Hank Williams writes some of the first rock-and-roll lyrics. John Waugh's intriguing essay shows how "Hey Good Lookin'" was one of the first songs to celebrate the youth culture:
Everything that rock and roll became, aside from the protest phase, is right there.

This is youth culture. This is mobility. This is freedom. This is rebellion. This fun for its own sake pure and simple. Its soda pop not beer. The dancin’s free. There’s escape. But at the same time innocence, youthfull exuberance and and joy.

Santana lovers won't want to miss Michael Caroff's Guitar Info Bytes blog. Far from a blathering fan, Caroff writes with insight and wit about everything from Carlos' guitar tone to his line of women's shoes, with stops along the way on such topics as why "Jingo" and not "Soul Sacrifice" epitomizes Santana's early sound...

Sunday Gospel Time: Dr. Bernice Johnson Reagan sings "Steal Away To Jesus":

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Weekly Address: The Experience of Judge Sotomayor

You looking at me?...

We have a guest for the next few days -- a former professor of mine now at the University of Wyoming. If the blog seems sparse (like today), that's why...

Rep. Jay Inslee (D-WA1) explains clean energy legislation reported out by the House Energy and Commerce Committee. Inslee is the primary sponsor of the New Apollo Energy Act...

Please, Sir, May I Have Another: Just my little piece of the world teams with Media Matters to contrast the the MSM's treatment of Al Gore when he spoke out against the invasion of Iraq with their kid-gloves handling of Dick Cheney, a man who used them repeatedly in the run-up to the war...

Rushbo Stupidism of the Week: Rush has been in a rabid frenzy of the Sotomayor nomination all week, so the swine cast many pearls. After careful consideration, I went with this one, which may have well set a new standard for offensiveness:
If we want to talk about richness of experience, there's a group of people that were here before we got here, gang: the Indians, the Native Americans, the chiefs, the redskins. I don't see any of them being put up on the courts. Talk about a richness of experience -- hell, these clowns beat Custer. They have cred. You don't see them being put up, do you?

Friday, May 29, 2009

Briar Patch

With little else to do, the right-wing blogosphere has worked itself into a frenzy over Sonia Sotomayor. To hear them tell it, she's so racist that she might as well wear Ku Klux Klan white for her judicial robes and spends most of her time stewing in chambers figuring out ways to put it to whitey. Moreover, the woman with six years experience on a federal district court and eleven years as an Appeals Court judge is apparently completely unqualified to sit next to Clarence Thomas on the high court and is the greatest threat to American jurisprudence since, I dunno, George Bush and Dick Cheney?

An important part of "savaging" Sotomayor (as one commenter put it) is to force President Obama into dipping into his political capital. Now, how standing tall to savage a Latina whose life story is out of Horation Alger will sap Obama's political capital is beyond me. Come on strong against Sotomayor and Republicans will use up so much of what little capital they have left with Hispanics that they'll be doing the political equivalent of deficit spending. They'd have to make huge gains among whites to make up for the beating they'd take in the Hispanic community. And yet it's Obama who has played the race card by nominating Sotomayor.

It's right out of Uncle Remus, with President Obama saying "don't throw me into that briar patch" while the opposition steps into the tar of its own free will...

E. J. Dionne writes that Sotomayor is the anti-Roberts:
In his September 2005 speech explaining his vote against Roberts, Obama argued that 95 percent of court cases are easily settled on the basis of the law and precedent. But in "those 5 percent of hard cases," Obama said, the "legal process alone will not lead you to a rule of decision" and "the critical ingredient is supplied by what is in the judge's heart."

And that is where Obama found Roberts wanting. The young senator insisted that Roberts "far more often used his formidable skills on behalf of the strong in opposition to the weak" and "seemed to have consistently sided with those who were dismissive of efforts to eradicate the remnants of racial discrimination in our political process."

Obama believes Roberts's subsequent behavior on the court has justified his initial suspicions. He hopes that Sotomayor will be the anti-Roberts, a person whose experience growing up in the projects of the South Bronx will allow her to see life and the quest for justice in a way Roberts never will...

By now, everyone has heard of Newt Gingrich's idiotic Twitter (which he apparently sent from Auschwitz) calling on Sotomayor to withdraw because she is a "Latina racist." Like a moth to a flame these guys just can't resist appealing to white resentment. I haven't decided whether the constant self-important pontificating about reverse racism is comical or offensive. But I have a feeling that I'd come down on the side of offensive had I ever actually been the target of racism...

Thoughts about Bush and Obama:
But just because things are different now, doesn't mean we can stop believing, stop paying attention, or stop holding his [Obama;'s] feet to the fire on things. We still have to make sure things are done as we believe he has promised them to be.

We have to hold his feet to the fire to make sure things are done, correctly, most especially. That's where things failed, before. No one, NO ONE, held BushCo's feet to the fire and made sure they were doing things legally and morally correct. They just turned their backs and let them go...

Lowell, Massachusetts, City Hall...

Louisiana Senator Mary Landrieu (D) prepares legislation to reform the Army Corps of Engineers. She actually sought the advice and counsel of the Dutch, something Michael Chertoff and his henchman resolutely refused to do. The Dutch know more about flood control than any country in the world...

Fred Barnes doubts that graduating summa cum laude from Princeton is any big deal. He also hints ominously that Sotomayor may have gotten into Princeton as a beneficiary of -- gasp -- affirmative action. An ardent supporter of the Iraq War, once had this to say about the war:
The war was the hard part...and it gets easier. I mean, setting up a democracy is hard, but not as hard as winning a war...

The (Fats) Domino Effect...

Friday's Choice: John Coltrane, with an assist from McCoy Tyner, says it's so damn sad "Every Time We Say Goodbye":

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Second Line For Peace

NOLA Happenings: The Original Pigeon Town Steppers lead a second line for peace tonight at 6 p.m., starting at Leonidas and Willow streets in Riverbend that will strut through the neighborhood...The Cajun Heartland State Fair runs through May 31...Do your part to save Lake Ponchartrain by going to the Back To The Beach Festival...

David Perez writes that Sonia Sotomayor's judicial and life experience makes her a great Supreme Court nominee...

ROFL Dept: Ken Armstrong gets tangled up in black and lives to write about it...

Right now today, Hispanics of all backgrounds and political persuasion appreciate the significance of Sotomayor's nomination...

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Introducing Sonia Sotomayor

In the coming weeks, you will hear that Judge Sotomayor is
  • a liberal activist judge, whatever that means. In conservative circles, it's o.k. and even desirable to be a right-wing activist judge, but woe betide he or she who grounds rulings in actual human experience;
  • believe it or not, the possessor of a funny last name that should be pronounced whatever way "Americans" feel like and not how she calls herself. Fair enough: From now on, I'm going to pronounce "Krikorian" as "Idiotic";
  • not especially intelligent. Judge Sotomayor graduated summa cum laude from Princeton. I'm going to go out on a limb here and say that she's smarter than, say, a Yale legacy student with a C average;
  • a racist and a bigot, based on her decision in Ricci v. DeStefano. Stanford Law's Richard Thompson Ford explains why the decision upheld decades of civil rights law...
In right-wing looney land, the only way for President Obama to prove that he isn't a racist would have been to nominate Sotomayor's opposite: A privileged white male, and the dumber the better. We had that for eight years in the Oval Office. Do we really need it in a lifetime appointment to the Supreme Court?...

One thing is certain: She and we will not be spared this kind of stupidity. God/Buddha/Allah/Yahweh/Higher Power help Oklahoma...

Just A Song: Thanks to Stupid And Contagious for this insightful entry about the duende suffusing Townes Van Zandt's "Rake"...

Just my little piece of the world has more on Judge Sotomayor here...

Hispanics now comprise 15% of the population of the United States and are our fastest-growing ethnic group. Is it too much to ask that one of them sit on the Supreme Court and that she not be self-loathing? Especially after the way a Hispanic Attorney General embarrassed himself, his heritage, and his country with his disgraceful performance in office...

Fifty years ago last Sunday, Harvey (The Kitten) Haddix pitched 13 innings of perfect baseball for the Pittsburgh Pirates, an individual pitching feat that no one has come close to equalling since. In these days of relief specialists and closely monitored pitch counts, it's unlikely that anyone ever will, too...

Justin Townes Earle, Midnight At The Movies. I was all set not to like it on the assumption that Earle was simply riding on the coattails of his father, Steve Earle. How wrong I was. More country and less gruff than his father, Earle has a vision and sound all his own; he mines traditional country themes of love and loneliness with a fresh and at times rollicking perspective. Best of all, though, is the autobiographical "Mama's Eyes" about a son torn between respect for his father's genius and his mother's sense of right and wrong. One gripe: At 32 minutes, Midnight At The Movies is far too short. If Earle felt like he didn't have enough original material to stretch the album, he could have included more trad songs along the lines of his excellent reading of "They Killed John Henry"...

It's purple martin time in New Orleans! More on martins in a post to come...

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Early yesterday morning, three men used crowbar to break loose the deadbolt locking the front door to Premium T.'s home. Her sons were asleep. They blindfolded, bound, and gagged one of them and demanded the location of "the safe." There is no safe. They then ransacked the house -- including the crawl space -- strewing it with trash, empty drawers, sofa cushions, and unwanted goods. They took with them laptops, wallets, car keys, passports, credit cards, prescription drugs, and sentimental items the value of which to them remains unclear. All told, they occupied the house for nearly two hours. Mercifully, they harmed no one physically, but inevitably left behind a profound sense of personal invasion.

T., a sister, and a friend cleaned up the debris and reorganized the house. A neighbor came over and reinstalled new, stronger deadbolts on the front and back doors. Neighbors trooped in and out to offer their condolences. I spent most of the morning on the phone to AAA, the bank, and pharmacies. In a gesture of defiance, R. -- the son who had been restrained -- decided to keep a scheduled job interview. I drove him there. (Pssst, Odd Fellows Cafe: You can really use him.)

T. and I spent the afternoon replacing cell phones and obtaining new SIM cards. I must say that the staff at Target and T-Mobile -- like the people I talked with from the bank and AAA -- were helpful and sympathetic. (One girl at T-Mobile nearly cried when she heard the story.) When there was confusion about one of the new car keys, the locksmith sent out by AAA offered to come right back out.

The anger has yet to set in. Yesterday was about putting Humpty Dumpty back together, and the combined efforts of all involved were effective. Although three people's lives have been changed, there is at least the balm of the kindnesses of strangers, friends, family, and neighbors to ease the searing pain of home invasion and the violence of assault.

BREAKING NEWS: President Obama nominates Sonia Sotomayor to the United States Supreme Court...The Nation reviews the choice here and describes her judicial style here...The smear campaign begins...Rush Limbaugh claims that Sotomayor is a racist. A quick application of the filter of reality reveals that this actually means that she is a paragon of color-blindness...Sotmayor speaks in May 2003 as commencement speaker for the Pace University School of Law:

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Sunday Funnies & Arts

As always, click to enlarge. For more Tom Tomorrow, Tom Toles, Calvin and Hobbes, Tony Auth, Peanuts, Pat Oliphant, and Zippy, click here, here, here, here, here, here, and here...

Stupid and Contagious: How Joan of Arc Felt...

Madam Miaow writes the "yellowface" is alive and well in British theatre:
Imagine, if you will, a return to ye olden days of the almost complete absence of actors of colour from TV, when white entertainers blacked up and sang songs about their dear old mammy and grinning piccaninnies chowed down on watermelon. The Arcola (the c is hard, not soft, in case you wondered) gives us a sort of menstrual minstrel show for 21st century theatregoers getting to grips with sexual politics, while race issues pass right over someone's head...

Life In New Orleans: Children's Hospital...

Roy's World: The musical evolution of "Wild Thing"...

Robert Frost's Banjo: "Ghazal 5/23"...

Sunday Gospel Time: The Spotted Cat closes and the Treme Brass Band gives it a stylish send-off:

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Weekly Address: Sacrifice

On this Memorial Day weekend, President Obama calls on the American people to join him in paying tribute to America’s veterans, servicemen and women – particularly those who have made the ultimate sacrifice - and their families...

Health insurance companies: Can't live with 'em, can't die with 'em, and you certainly can't get sick with 'em. Paul Krugman writes:
That didn’t take long. Less than two weeks have passed since much of the medical-industrial complex made a big show of working with President Obama on health care reform — and the double-crossing is already well under way. Indeed, it’s now clear that even as they met with the president, pretending to be cooperative, insurers were gearing up to play the same destructive role they did the last time health reform was on the agenda.
More here...

The June 1 issue of The Nation has a series of excellent articles on the auto industry, including steps that can be taken toward its recovery...

Sylvia From Over The Hill writes about denial and the real costs of war:
We are brutally and cold-bloodedly sacrificing the psychological well-being of these men and women, which should be a scandal. If these wars are so important to our national security, we should all be engaging in some form of serious sacrifice and many more of us should be serving.
More here...

Bob Herbert adds his voice:
I couldn’t have been less surprised to read last week that an American G.I. had been charged with gunning down five of his fellow service members in Iraq. The fact that this occurred at a mental health counseling center in the war zone just served to add an extra layer of poignancy and a chilling ironic element to the fundamental tragedy.
More here...

Read more about the tragedy to which Herbert refers here...

Don't forget about the Bonnie and Clyde Festival!...

The Sporting News asked "a panel of 100 Hall of Famers, major award winners and other baseball personalities" to choose the best fifty players in the game today. The results are here. Citizen K. doesn'y buy Derek Jeter at #8: He can still hit, but his range at short is severely diminished...

Rushbo Stupidism Of The Week: Mileage Standards Are Liberal Plot To Do Something Or Other. Tuesday was huge for Rushbo, so huge that I couldn't pick a clear winner. So, as a Memorial Day weekend special, Citizen K. presents two stupidisms from Tuesday's program:
Now, admittedly, I -- mostly, I run around with people who are simpatico with me. I run around with people who think and live life the same way I do -- think about issues and all that. I actually had a guy who's a little older than I am over the weekend say to me -- we were talking about all of these economic changes and all of the destruction and all the things that are happening: the banks, the automobile industry, Obama with his fuel standards and so forth, and the general wrecking ball that has been taken to capitalism here by the Obama administration. The guy actually said to me -- I thought he was joking at first, but he wasn't -- he said he's actually happy he's going to die before all of this crap finally settles in...

The DNA of the American human being is no different than the DNA of any human being anywhere in the world. We were not born with special God-given privileges that other people don't have. We were constituted and formed as a nation in ways that allowed the full spread and depth of human potential to flower and prosper. And it was the flowering and the prospering of that human potential, which led and created the greatest nation for people in the history of humanity. And now, it's being dismantled.

It's being dismantled by a man [President Obama] who has no appreciation for the greatness of the country; in fact, resents it. Blames this country for whatever evils and problems he sees around the world. And that's what 39 miles a gallon's all about. And that's what all these taxes and increased prices cost of living is. It's what it's all about. It's about chopping us down in size.

Friday, May 22, 2009


I just finished reading Dave Cullen's Columbine, which was sobering to say the least. According to Cullen, and he researched the subject thoroughly, the two killers had no clear motivation for what they did. One was a textbook psychopath and the other severely depressed. Cullen doesn't use the term "psychopath" lightly: He presents the history of the term and interviewed a number of experts, one of whom actually had a son among the survivors of the massacre.

The two boys planned the killing spree for almost two years. One Littleton family -- whose son was often the target of shooter Eric Harris' anger -- attempted frantically to warn law enforcement officials about Harris. But despite several interviews with Harris and his family, law enforcement never obtained the search warrant that would have uncovered everything from Harris' journals to the bombs he was building.

It was not the case that the two boys singled out jocks and fundamentalist Christians for murder. To the contrary, the shooting spree was a minor part of their plan, which revolved around a series of massive bomb explosions. Mercifully, the bombs were not well-constructed and failed to detonate.

As a parent, reading Cullen's gripping account was often painful. Both boys came from good homes. Harris' father exerted a strict military discipline but was hardly abusive and clearly loved his son. Dylan Klebold's parents communicated with their son but completely missed his extreme and suicidal depression. Both boys had a circle of friends; neither was the outcast depicted by the media in aftermath of the tragedy. Neither had particularly negative feelings toward the high school.

No parent wants -- or perhaps even can -- believe their child capable of inflicting the destruction wrought by the pair on their school. Eric Harris viewed all other people as zombies and automatons unworthy of life. In fact, he came to see the world as unworthy of life and wanted to destroy it. And his world amounted to his school.

In Dylan Klebold's case, the action amounted to an extended form of suicide, and he also shared Harris' view of other people. He remained uncertain about following through on Harris' plan until a few days before the event, when he seems to have crossed a point of no return. On the morning of the shootings, the two even made farewell videos to their parents in which they apologized for the pain they were about to bring on them, but that they had no choice. In Harris' case, it's unlikely that his apology was sincere.

Cullen quotes copiously from journals, paperwork developed by the investigators, and interviews. He follows the lives of some of families who lost children at Columbine, and tells the story of one survivor's who rehabilitated his wounds and became valedictorian of his Columbine class. His recreation of the events of that terrible day is both chilling and convincing.

Cullen debunks the myths that sprang up around Columbine, reporting that almost all of the received wisdom about it is incorrect. Especially poignant is the story of one girl who became regarded as a martyr by fundamentalists because she refused to save herself by denouncing God. Cullen shows that this almost certainly did not happen and recounts the efforts of witnesses and law enforcement to gently inform the parents. The mother wrote a book about her daughter anyway: Although she wrote truthfully about the uncertainty surrounding her daughter's death, the fundamentalist community chose to believe what it wanted to believe, and the girl became a martyr to them.

Of more clinical interest is Cullen's analysis of how the myths that the killers were Goth members of a so-called "Trench Coat Mafia." Both boys wore trench coats on that day, primarily to conceal the bombs and weapons they brought with them. As the day unfolded, the students trapped in the school watch media coverage on the TV's installed in every room. Using cell phones, they communicated with the media and often repeated what they had seen on television, starting with the myth of the Trench Coat Mafia.

Cullen also exposes a prolonged cover-up by Jefferson County, Colorado, law enforcement official. They delayed publication of a report and refused to release materials until compelled to by lawsuit. When finally released, the materials revealed both their knowledge of the dangers presented by Eric Harris and the failure to follow through on that knowledge. Moreover, the information held back contained questions about the effectiveness of the tactics used to secure the school and implied that at least one death may have been prevented.

Overall, though, Cullen writes with great empathy, the very quality that Eric Harris lacked. Columbine excels as a cautionary tale, and its conclusions about the motivations of the killers are chilling. For, in the end, Harris and Klebold had no recognizable motives. One was a psychopath and the other severely depressed. That's it. The easy availability of guns and material for explosives played enabling parts, as did the subterranean psychic world of adolescent anger and angst. But none of this changes the fact that one of the boys was simply a killer and the other a willing accomplice...

Lawsuit aims to prevent razing of New Orleans historical district...

ZenYenta's "lefty lawyer" sister offers an analysis of the Administration's dilemma with Gitmo...

Friday's Choice: After finishing Columbine, I needed a reminder that the world isn't all dangerous. Here are three versions of "Somewhere Over The Rainbow" that prove the point, starting with Sarah Vaughan:

Jerry Lee Lewis adds his take:

And, of course, the incomparable Judy Garland, shown here entertaining the troops in in 1943 at age 20 or 21:

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Other Priorities

NOLA Happenings: It's a packed Memorial Day weekend! How anyone can compress the New Orleans Wine and Food Experience into a mere four days is beyond, but I'll bet that it's fun trying...

Want to chase that exquisite wine and food with some music and art? Head over to the Bayou Boogaloo...

If your tastes run to the Mediterranean, you won't want to miss Greece on the Bayou...

And if you just have to get out of town, hustle over to the Plaquemines Parish Seafood Festival...

In a typically careless piece, David Broder writes of how President Obama is "trying on and fitting himself to the role of commander in chief," "predictably" drawing opposition from Democratic party activists. One reason for this, Broder grandly claims, is that "today's Democrats really are isolated from the military." One commenter supplied this helpful if slightly dated list in rejoinder:

  • Richard Gephardt: Air National Guard, 1965-71.
  • David Bonior: Staff Sgt., Air Force 1968-72.
  • Tom Daschle: 1st Lt., Air Force SAC 1969-72.
  • Al Gore: enlisted Aug. 1969; sent to Vietnam Jan. 1971 as an army journalist in 20th Engineer Brigade.
  • Bob Kerrey: Lt. j.g. Navy 1966-69; Medal of Honor, Vietnam.
  • Daniel Inouye: Army 1943-47; Medal of Honor, WWII.
  • John Kerry: Lt., Navy 1966-70; Silver Star, Bronze Star with Combat V, Purple Hearts.
  • Charles Rangel: Staff Sgt., Army 1948-52; Bronze Star, Korea.
  • Max Cleland: Captain, Army 1965-68; Silver Star & Bronze Star, Vietnam.
  • Ted Kennedy: Army, 1951-53.
  • Tom Harkin: Lt., Navy, 1962-67; Naval Reserve, 1968-74.
  • Jack Reed: Army Ranger, 1971-1979; Captain, Army Reserve 1979-91.
  • Fritz Hollings: Army officer in WWII; Bronze Star and seven campaign ribbons.
  • Leonard Boswell: Lt. Col., Army 1956-76; Vietnam, DFCs, Bronze Stars, and Soldier's Medal.
  • Pete Peterson: Air Force Captain, POW. Purple Heart, Silver Star and Legion of Merit.
  • Mike Thompson: Staff sergeant, 173rd Airborne, Purple Heart.
  • Bill McBride: Candidate for Fla. Governor. Marine in Vietnam; Bronze Star with Combat V.
  • Gray Davis: Army Captain in Vietnam, Bronze Star.
  • Pete Stark: Air Force 1955-57
  • Chuck Robb: Vietnam
  • Howell Heflin: Silver Star
  • George McGovern: Silver Star & DFC during WWII.
  • Bill Clinton: Did not serve. Student deferments. Entered draft but received #311.
  • Jimmy Carter: Seven years in the Navy.
  • Walter Mondale: Army 1951-1953
  • John Glenn: WWII and Korea; six DFCs and Air Medal with 18 Clusters.
  • Tom Lantos: Served in Hungarian underground in WWII. Saved by Raoul Wallenberg.

  • Dennis Hastert: did not serve.
  • Tom Delay: did not serve.
  • Roy Blunt: did not serve.
  • Bill Frist: did not serve.
  • Mitch McConnell: did not serve.
  • Rick Santorum: did not serve.
  • Trent Lott: did not serve.
  • Dick Cheney: did not serve. Several deferments, the last by marriage.
  • John Ashcroft: did not serve. Seven deferments to teach business.
  • Jeb Bush: did not serve.
  • Karl Rove: did not serve.
  • Saxby Chambliss: did not serve. "Bad knee." The man who attacked Cleland's patriotism.
  • Paul Wolfowitz: did not serve.
  • Vin Weber: did not serve.
  • Richard Perle: did not serve.
  • Douglas Feith: did not serve.
  • Eliot Abrams: did not serve.
  • Richard Shelby: did not serve.
  • Jon Kyl: did not serve.
  • Tim Hutchison: did not serve.
  • Christopher Cox: did not serve.
  • Newt Gingrich: did not serve.
  • Don Rumsfeld: served in Navy (1954-57) as flight instructor.
  • George W. Bush: failed to complete his six-year National Guard; got assigned to Alabama so he could campaign for family friend running for U.S. Senate; failed to show up for required medical exam, disappeared from duty.
  • Ronald Reagan: due to poor eyesight, served in a non-combat role making movies.
  • B-1 Bob Dornan: Consciously enlisted after fighting was over in Korea.
  • Phil Gramm: did not serve.
  • John McCain: Silver Star, Bronze Star, Legion of Merit, Purple Heart and Distinguished Flying Cross.
  • Dana Rohrabacher: did not serve.
  • John M. McHugh: did not serve.
  • JC Watts: did not serve.
  • Jack Kemp: did not serve. "Knee problem," although continued in NFL for 8 years.
  • Dan Quayle: Journalism unit of the Indiana National Guard.
  • Rudy Giuliani: did not serve.
  • George Pataki: did not serve.
  • Spencer Abraham: did not serve.
  • John Engler: did not serve.
  • Lindsey Graham: National Guard lawyer.

  • Sean Hannity: did not serve.
  • Rush Limbaugh: did not serve (4-F with a 'pilonidal cyst.')
  • Bill O'Reilly: did not serve.
  • Michael Savage: did not serve.
  • George Will: did not serve.
  • Chris Matthews: did not serve.
  • Paul Gigot: did not serve.
  • Bill Bennett: did not serve.
  • Pat Buchanan: did not serve.
  • John Wayne: did not serve.
  • Bill Kristol: did not serve.
  • Kenneth Starr: did not serve.
  • Antonin Scalia: did not serve.
  • Clarence Thomas: did not serve.
  • Ralph Reed: did not serve.
  • Michael Medved: did not serve.
Broder has it exactly wrong: It's the party whose members had "other priorties" than military service who pushed us into the debacle of Iraq. Perhaps if their personal experience had been "less isolated" from the military, we wouldn't be there...

Papi homers! More here, here, and here...

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Torture Is Wrong. Period.

Charles Krauthammer's ongoing justification of torture reeks of the rationalization and intellectual selling out that produced torture in the first. For this reason alone and if you can stomach it, his latest column is worth reading. A nation can justify a torture policy, Krauthammer writes, under two circumstances:
the ticking time bomb scenario and its less extreme variant in which a high-value terrorist refuses to divulge crucial information that could save innocent lives.
But Krauthammer offers no evidence that the Bush Administration considered either justification as it sought legal validation for torture. To the contrary, the Administration appears to have applied torture indiscriminately on the questionable legal basis that the president's wartime powers were such that they overrode all limitations imposed by the Constitution and international treaties.

Krauthammer then offers an example -- and they always have one -- of an instance where the "crucial information" exception applied:
On Oct. 9, 1994, Israeli Cpl. Nachshon Waxman was kidnapped by Palestinian terrorists. The Israelis captured the driver of the car. He was interrogated with methods so brutal that they violated Israel's existing 1987 interrogation guidelines, which themselves were revoked in 1999 by the Israeli Supreme Court as unconscionably harsh. The Israeli prime minister who ordered, as we now say, this enhanced interrogation explained without apology: "If we'd been so careful to follow the ('87) Landau Commission (guidelines), we would never have found out where Waxman was being held."
First of all, it's news to me that the American conduct should be governed by standards ignored in a bitter central Asian racial and religious struggle. Second, who's to say that the Palestinians did not regard Cpl Waxman as a "high value terrorist" refusing to "divulge critical information that could save lives"? After all, the Bush Administration mistakenly considered Osama bin Laden's driver as a high value. Under Krauthammer's logic, the Palestinians were justified in torturing Cpl. Waxman, which they of course were not.

Of course, if he reads this, Krauthammer will marshal his considerable skill in ad hominem attacks, accuse me of drawing a moral equivalency where none exists, and add that by doing so I had forfeited the moral ground to argue about torture at all. This line of argument raises the specter of exceptionalism, under which a nation's (in this case, Israel and the United States) singular moral standing with God is so exalted that any and all of its actions enjoy moral sanction by definition. In practice, exceptionalism serves as an excuse for a powerful nation to do whatever it wants to do to weaker nations because God is on its side. One saw exceptionalism at work in the British Empire's plundering of Asia, Imperial Japan's expansionist policy toward East Asia that touched off World War II, and the United States' Indian policy and, most recently, invasion of Iraq.

Moreover, Krauthammer barely deals with just who can decide whether his circumstances have been met. He writes vaguely about the "reasonable man" legal concept and seems to include the likes of Dick Cheney and Alan Dershowitz among them. I'll pass on that one. Moreover, I doubt that many of Krauthammer's "reasonable men" could be found in Guantanamo or the rendition prisons. We certainly didn't see evidence of them at Abu Ghraib.

He goes on to airily cite the "fact" that Nancy Pelosi knew about torture as somehow relevant to its morality because Pelosi is an elected figure. (I guess that means that Adolf Hitler was essentially moral because he assumed power by democratic means.) Pelosi has pushed back on CIA claims and has received plenty of support in doing so (see Just My Little Piece of the World here and here). Let's face it: Historically, the agency that brought us the Shah of Iran, the Bay of Pigs, and the "slam dunk" of WED's in Iraq has little reputation for either competence or probity.

Krauthammer doesn't address at all the possibility that his "standards" would lead to the slippery slope of indiscriminate torture even though it is clear that that is exactly what happened. Is it justifiable to torture an innocent person in the interests of extracting "crucial information"? What is the likelihood that torture will result in wrong information that leads to grave policy errors? Are these risks worth taking? Is torture the only means of disarming the "ticking time bomb"? Does torture expose captured American soldiers to greater risk? These questions have no place in the Krauhammerian world where you can tell the bad guys by their turbans.

Back in 2004, Dick Cheney asserted that "detainees interrogated at the Guantanamo Bay prison camp had revealed that Iraq had trained al Qaida operatives in chemical and biological warfare," a claim we now know to be factually untrue (if not a lie). As this article points out, it's now known that interrogators at Guantanamo were under tremendous pressure to produce evidence of a connection between Iraq and Al-Qaeda. As the article points out
During the same period, two alleged senior al Qaida operatives in CIA custody were waterboarded repeatedly — Abu Zubaydah at least 83 times and Khalid Sheik Mohammed at least 183 times.
Did this torture produce the false information that helped justify the debacle in Iraq? Was it reasonable men putting the pressure on interrogators to justify a conclusion that had already been reached? Torture is wrong. It's always wrong. No nation, especially one that sees itself as divinely blessed, can justify it under any circumstances. The Bush Administration approved of torture because it could, because torture made the chickenhawks who got us into Iraq feel powerful. It's that simple. It's that pathetic...

There just ain't no cure for the "Summertime Blues". Stupid and Contagious writes:
With its legendary guitar riff, and its combination of striking verite, innovation, elan, sparseness, and anti-establishment angst, "Summertime Blues" established a template for countless other songs, from the Fifties onwards.

In fact , it could be said that, in many ways, "Summertime Blues" opened the door for the most important music revolutions of the Sixties and, via punk, of the Seventies too. Almost all the significant artists from those periods have paid Eddie, and this specific song, glowing tributes...

Fade to gray at the foot of Canal Street...

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Sunday Funnies & Arts

As always, click to enlarge. For more Tom the Dancing Bug, Ben Sargent, Pat Oliphant, Calvin and Hobbes, Tom Toles, and Zippy, go here, here, here, here, here, and here...

Just A Song: Scottish folk singer Dick Gaughan's lovely and subtle interpretation of "Now Westlin Winds", a song written by the poet Robert Burns in the 18th Century...

Greezy Wheels have been making great music in Austin since, it seems like, the times of O. Henry in the waning days of the Arthur administration. Now vocalist Lissa Hattersley has released a solo album called How I Spent My Summer Vacation, well-reviewed here by Foxessa. Citizen K. concurs with her review: Summer Vacation is a delight from beginning to end...

Our friend Lynn Shelton's award-winning film Humpday, which won a prize at Sundance, makes its Seattle premier next month at the Seattle Independent Film Festival...

Will Ferrell reprises his role as George Bush one more time ("I'm not scared of you now, Dick')...

On Tuesday, the Criterion Collection releases The Friends Of Eddie Coyle, with Robert Mitchum giving his last great perform as a small-time hood to whom being a standup guy is everything and nothing. Alex Tallis writes that it is the best Boston movie ever...

When you enter a writing contest you never know how the story will turn out from your point of view...

Original Poetry Sunday: "Ghazal 5/16" (John Hayes)...

New Orleans Daily Photo: Pavement pounding in Audubon Park...

Speaking of photos, the lion sleeps tonight...

Sunday Gospel Time: I'm not sure who this is, but they're great. Daniel saw the stone/A lily white stone rolling down to Babylon...

Weekly Address: Two Pillars Of A New Foundation

President Obama discusses the importance of clean energy and health care reform to the success of the economy in the 21st Century, giving special attention to the ways that former adversaries are attempting to work together on these issues...

FEMA trailer residents are about to be evicted by the very government that let them down. Where are Senators Vitter and Landrieu and Governor Jindal? They should be screaming bloody murder...

I am very, very, very sorry. Unless of course I'm Dick Cheney, in which case you can f*** yourself...

Chuck Todd writes that it is in fact That Bad for the GOP...

As foreclosures continue to mount, New York's minorities are the most affected. Ironically, part of the problem stems from a traditional and well-founded mistrust of banks, which pushed even affluent African-Americans into the arms of shady real estate brokers and subprime loans. But, in what amounts to a transfer of wealth from blacks to whites, the mortgage biz steered even buyers who qualified for traditional home loans into predatory loans...

The Doomsayer:
Cheney had five deferments himself to get out of going to Vietnam, but he would rather follow a blowhard entertainer who has had three divorces and a drug problem and who also avoided Vietnam, than follow a four-star general who spent his life serving his country...

Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR) supports Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi's charge that the CIA did not fully brief her on its use of torture. Just My Little Piece Of The World has that and more here...

What liberal media? Torture memo writer John Yoo has a monthly gig with the Philadelphia Inquirer...

Congressman Jay Inslee (D-WA1), whom I've known for over ten years and who is definitely one of the good guys, called the other day. Energy policy is one of Jay's many areas of expertise -- he's one of the founders of the Apollo Alliance -- and he told me that he's excited and optimistic about the prospects for the current Congress passing major energy legislation that would move the United States toward energy independence and a green economy...

Rushbo Stupidism Of The Week: Another tough call, but I have to go with this Nixonian undertones of this gem:
So maybe none of this is actually torture. And of course by definition, by statute-tory definition in this country, it can only be torture if you intend it to be. In other words, torture cannot happen by accident.
In other words, to paraphrase Richard Nixon, if the president says it's not torture, it's not torture. Thanks to the tireless efforts of the Limbaugh Wire over at Media Matters. These guys deserve hazard pay...

Friday's Choice On Saturday: R&B crooner Brook Benton sings his hit version of Tony Joe White's "Rainy Night In Georgia":

Here's Tony Joe himself singing "Rainy Night":

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Together Through Life

BOB DYLAN, Together Through Life. Is Togther Through Life Bob Dylan's Texas album? Between its arrangements and trips through the streets of Houston, Dallas, and Austin, it just might be. The first song, though, opens with an authoritative drum shot reminiscent of the way "Like A Rolling Stone" introduces Highway 61 Revisited. From there, Dylan proceeds to investigate the territory first explored in "Too Much Of Nothing." This time, though, he's accompanied by a woman whose love offsets this brittle reality:
Down every street there's a window
And every window's made of glass
We'll keep on lovin' pretty baby
For as long as love will last
Beyond here lies nothin'
But the mountains of the past
Thematically, Dylan continues to explore the tension between love and the emptiness of a world without it. In "Forgetful Heart" he implicitly compares the psychic pain caused by neglectful love to the existential angst of Macbeth:
Forgetful heart
Like a walking shadow in my brain
All night long
I lay awake and listen to the sound of pain
The door has closed forevermore
If indeed there ever was a door
("Forgetful Heart")
Life's but a walking shadow, a poor player,
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage,
And then is heard no more. It is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
Signifying nothing.
It's an audacious comparison to say the least, and no one but Dylan has the stature to pull it off. But pull it off he does, reinforcing the point in "This Dream Of You":
How long can I stay
In this nowhere café 'fore night turns into day
I wonder why I’m so frightened of dawn
All I have and all I know
Is this dream of you which keeps me living on
("This Dream Of You")
Frightened of the dawn, wary of the mountains of the past, terrified of "dreams that are locked and barred," Dylan remains secure in the conviction that "life is love" and that love is worth pursuing and holding.

But where? Not since Blonde On Blonde has the sound of an album conveyed so much of Dylan's intent. If love is a refuge, Dylan appears to have found a haven as the house band in South Texas bodega or dancehall. Fronting one of the best bands he's ever assembled, Dylan leads them through a set of ballads, waltzes, blues, shuffles, and rockers defined by David Hidalgo's (Los Lobos) ever present accordion and Mike Campbell's (The Heartbreakers) guitar. Together Through Life has the immediacy and vitality of a live performance, and yet it could be set during any time period -- the sound is that timeless. (I found myself taken back to the early 1970's and Hubert's Danceland in Riviera, TX, site of many a senior party.) Overall, Together's ambience is a welcome counterpart to the fearful specter of a loveless world. Dylan even offers a touch of humor in the bluesy "My Wife's Home Town": "I just wanna say that hell’s my wife’s home town."

From the beginning to end of Together Through Life, it's easy to imagine bodega patrons slow dancing to the ballads and shimmying to the blues. Don't forget to dance, Dylan implies, and remember that it takes two...

Also Recommended: Antje Duvekot, The Near Demise Of The High Wire Dancer. It's been over two years since the last Patty Griffin album, and this one will more than suffice while we wait. Duvekot not only sings like Griffin, she brings similar touches of whimsy ("Dublin Boys") and insight and melodic sensibility (just about everything else) to her songwriting...Steve Earle, Townes. A welcome return to form after 2007's Washington Square Serenade, Earle's interpretations of Townes Van Zandt are sensitive without being precious, appreciative without being reverent. Van Zandt was an often enigmatic performer of his own work, and Earle strives successfully to educe the meaning in the songs through his gruff vocals and the album's spare but potent production. In fact, while Earle's songwriting may be in eclipse, the artistic success of Townes and Joan Baez's Day After Tomorrow indicate that he has found a new voice as a producer...

Pssst...Spring for the Deluxe Edition of Together Through Life. It includes the "Friends and Neighbors" episode of Dylan's satellite radio show. His musical knowledge is wonderfully far flung and his taste is impeccable...

Bob Dylan has long had an admiration and fascination with Shakespeare. Compare the chorus of "This Wheel's On Fire" --
This wheel's on fire
Rolling down the road
Best notify my next of kin
This wheel shall explode
-- with the passage in King Lear where the mad king is reunited with Cordelia:
Thou art a soul in bliss; but I am bound
Upon a wheel of fire, that mine own tears
Do scald like moulten lead.
The wheel of fire is a torture device that -- as metaphor in the hands of Shakespeare and Dylan -- has the potential to consume generations. While Dylan's wheel rolls down the road indiscriminately, Lear's is one of his own making that eventually annihilates both him and Cordelia. Dylan's attraction to the metaphor is obvious, especially in the context of The Basement Tapes, that brilliant surreal exploration of nihilism different that anything else Dylan has recorded...

Over at the New Orleans Ladder, Editilla lambastes the Army Corps Of Engineering's PR firm...

Saints & Sinners

By a wide margin (60-33), the Senate rejected legislation proposed by Senator Bernie Sanders (D-VT) that would cap credit card interest rates at 15%. I wrote last month about the negative impact unregulated lending rates have on the economy. A 15% cap hardly seems an onerous burden on the lending institutions who would have to reduce their profit margins from demonic to merely scandalous. My two senators, Maria Cantwell and Patty Murray, both opposed the Sanders legislation; I've written to them about it. You can see how your senator voted here. Please write him or her to express either disappointment or support of their vote...

Robert Frost's Banjo has a short history of bonnets...

Montana Democrat Max Baucus had doctors and nurses supporting single payer health care arrested and ejected from "hearings" on health care reform...

Chris Mooney warns against the dangers posed by scientific illiteracy. He saves his final salvo for the mainstream media:
Something that drives the science community nuts is this supposedly news media refusing to state clearly what is an established conclusion in science and instead doing on-the-one-hand/on-the-other-hand over something like evolution or global warming — which is throwing two talking heads on the air to shout at each other, one of whom represents a really well-established and credible position and has every scientific community in the world behind it, and one of whom is just completely way out of the mainstream. And creating a false equivalence between them, it's kind of cowardice. It's also a journalistic norm (that has) outlived its usefulness. But that's a huge aspect of the problem.
He's absolutely right about this. While I'm happy that the Seattle Times ran this interview, I'm mindful that they've also given op-ed space to the benighted ravings of the Discovery Institute. There is a such thing as an equality and inequality of ideas, after all, and a newspaper ought to take that into consideration when allotting precious editorial page space...

NOLA Happenings: The Saints And Sinners Literary Festival starts tomorrow at the Bourbon Orleans hotel...Tuesday is the first day of the New Orleans Wine And Food Experience...

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Jesse Ventura On Dick Cheney And Torture

You've probably already seen this excerpt from Jesse Ventura's appearance on Larry King. If not, it's Must See TV. The money quote -- which will be one of the quotes of the year -- comes at 2:27:
You give me a water board, Dick Cheney, and one hour, and I'll have him confessing to the Sharon Tate murders.
As is his wont, Ventura pulls no punches, arguing vigorously for the prosecution and jailing of everyone who had anything to do with torture. The former Navy SEAL holds Cheney and his five deferments at the same level of contempt that Cheney has for public opinion...

Just A Song: Guest blogger Stupid and Contagious writes insightfully about "This Dream Of You," a ballad from from Bob Dylan's excellent new album Together Through Life...

The Republican party: Out of touch and out of their minds...

The Cliff Walk in Newport, RI: A sparrow, a butterfly, and a violet. Roy, that doesn't happen to be the cliff that the Republican party has walked off of, does it? Check and see if the bottom looks anything like an elephant burial ground...

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Reason #1037 Why I Don't Go To Church Any More

If all you read was the headline and the first couple of paragraphs here, you might think that that the University of Notre Dame's invitation to President Obama to speak at its commencement is the greatest threat to the Catholic Church since the Reformation. You have to read the complete article to realize that the so-called divide is the invention of an overwrought headline writer, a reporter who put manufactured controversy over accurate reporting, and a loudmouthed conservative minority that claims to speak for the entire church.

Read the entire article, and you'll find that there's no division at all. White Catholics -- who approve of Obama's job to date by 57-33 per cent -- are in fact among the president's staunchest supporters. (White Protestants, by comparison, actually do split 44-42.) Not only, the president is popular among the Notre Dame student body, which supported him last fall by 57-41.

What you have in opposition are apoplectic bishops and lay conservatives who oppose Obama's appearance at the country's flagship Catholic university because he is pro-choice and supports stem cell research. Never mind that Obama has ordered the closing of Gitmo and put an end to state-sanctioned torture or that he wants to expand health care access to the 50 million Americans -- many of the Catholic -- who don't have it. Never mind that he's trying to pursue an enlightened and humane policy toward illegal immigrants -- the vast majority of whom are Catholic -- that doesn't demonize them and that recognizes their contributions to our economy. Nope, none of that matters compared to his positions on two issues where rank-and-file Catholic opinion is indistinguishable from the views of the public at large.

Too bad the bishops didn't bring this level of outrage to bear against child-molesting priests. People might actually pay attention to them if they had...

Just what is it with Republicans and sex scandals?...

The Seahawks have made a big deal out of changing to a zone-blocking scheme. Clare Farnsworth explains what that means to both sides of the football...

The Red Sox have called up Daniel Bard and his 100-mph fastball. Can't wait to see this kid pitch!...

Obama tourism booms in Chicago:
Obama tourism in the president's home town is growing as visitors search for signs of his personality in places where he lived, worked, walked, dined, played hoops -- and first kissed his wife, Michelle. Enterprising business people are rising to meet the demand and nudge it along.

Screw You, Katrina, and the Army Corps of Engineers You Rode In On: When Madrid, a Spanish restaurant, opened for business in New Orleans' Lakeview area last month, it became the 1,000th restaurant in the city, the most ever...

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Sunday Funnies & Arts

“The love of a mother is the veil of a softer light between the heart and the heavenly Father.” -Samuel Taylor Coleridge

As always, click to enlarge. Click on the links for more Doonesbury, Ben Sargent, Mother Goose & Grimm, Tony Auth, Tom Tomorrow, Tom Toles, and Zippy...

Abandon Hope All Ye Who Enter Here: Premium T. has been collecting flu puns. Citizen K. has aided and abetted. Whether you cringe or join in the fun, don't say you weren't warned...

She also took these amazing photos of her late neighbors' empty home. Empty, that is, in the corporeal sense, but still full in spirit...

Just A Song: The Rolling Stones' "Salt Of The Earth"...

Cherry blossoms in Rhode Island...

The ironic First Lines above are from The Great Gatsby. They seem innocuous enough except that Fitzgerald never wrote anything innocuous in his life. As the novel brilliantly unfolds, it becomes clear that the people "without the advantages" are the Buchanans who gained the world and lost their souls, and even Gatsby, whose wealth couldn't buy him love or acceptance from an elite who didn't deserve him anyway...

Sunday Gospel Time: Vern "The Voice" Gosdin sings "Love Rolled The Stone Away":