Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Another view of the eclipse, from Scotland.
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The Lies That Bind

It's a sad day in a sad time. With the Lewis Libby conviction on obstruction of justice and perjury, we have the spectre of a White House--most specifically, the Vice President's office but also others in the Administration-- that consciously lied to get the country to invade and occupy Iraq, then tried to suppress the truth, then tried to punish Joseph Wilson, the former Ambassador to Iraq under Bush Sr. who actually saved lives there, for exposing one of these lies, by revealing that his wife was a covert operative at the CIA, thus endangering her life and ending her career, as well as ending her decades-long work in uncovering weapons of mass destruction that could be used against the U.S.

President Bush said repeatedly that he would fire anyone who had leaked Valerie Plame's identity. During Libby's trial, several other officials were implicated in doing so, including Rove and the VP. The statement about firing people who committed what some would call treason is currently inoperative.

Lewis Libby obstructed justice and lied to the Grand Jury to protect his boss, VP Cheney, and the White House. Some speculate he did so after being given assurances that he will receive a presidential pardon. A sad-eyed John Dean appeared on "Countdown" to say he expects that Bush will pardon Libby before Libby spends a single day in jail.

The corruption of this White House was further revealed today in congressional hearings that are showing that several federal prosecutors were fired because they didn't play politics with their offices. Other congressional hearings are detailing how this administration, after sending young Americans to Iraq on false pretenses, for brutally long tours of duty, with poor planning, confused mission, and insufficient resources, including insufficient armor and other protection that led to needless serious injuries, failed to provide the proper care to those who were so injured after they returned.

I've said here before that to confront the problems ahead, we need to get away from knee-jerk us/them, either/or responses. We need in many cases to understand the concerns that underlie the otherwise inexplicable positions and behavior. We need to listen to contrary evidence and arguments. We need to honor sincerity. We need to communicate and find common ground.

But we also need to be clear. What this administration has done and is doing is evil. It is corrupt and corrupting, and it is dangerous.

It also goes hand in hand with practices and attitudes by those who identify themselves as conservatives or the Right, that are unacceptable in a civilized society, let alone a democratic one. Though the left is not without its vitriolics, its knee-jerk responses to opposition, I believe Kos was right today in noting that "Michael Savage is the third most popular talk radio host in the country, a hero to millions of conservatives" thanks to venomous rhetoric." Like Coulter, Savage knows what the conservative movement craves and delivers -- a steady diet of hate and rage." In an earlier post, Kos quotes another blogger, Glenn Greenwald on Ann Coulter: [T]he significance lies not just in this specific outburst on Friday but in the whole array of hate-mongering, violence-inciting remarks over all these years. Its significance lies in the critical fact that Malkin expressly acknowledged: "She's very popular among conservatives." The focus of these stories should not be Coulter, but instead, should be the conservative movement in which Ann Coulter -- precisely because of (not "despite") her history of making such comments -- is "very popular."

I heard Coulter herself on TV say that the lesson of this latest flap should be that conservatives need not restrain themselves, because she's done this many times and it hasn't damaged her career at all.

We have reached this point where baseless accusations, open bigotry, and expressions of hate and rage are normal discourse, and this is not unrelated to the ideological justifications for an us/them partisanship that knows no bounds--not the law, not the Constitution, not common decency, and certainly not accuracy or the truth. Our leaders feel justified in doing anything they can get away with, and they are supported loudly by the most watched news network which routinely distorts for ideological effect (Fox's coverage of the Libby conviction was a screenful of "Libby Not Guilty," which applied to one of the five counts, and that, according to a juror, because a single juror voted against that particular count) and by an entrenched ideologically driven political force that has no respect for the truth, and traffics in hate, rage and venom. It's a sad day indeed.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007


Kudos to our Congressman Mike Thompson at This North Coast Place.

Notes on a couple of books, Veterans of War, Veterans of Peace, edited by Maxine Hong Kingston, at Skills of Peace and on The American Dream and the Gospel of Wealth at Books in Heat.

Did you see Harold Pinter and/or Mikhail Baryishnikov on Charlie Rose? Read about what they said at Stage Matters.

There's the latest on the just announced new Trek movie at Soul of Star Trek, and memories of Rod Brown of the Rocket Rangers at the Boomer Hall of Fame.

Monday, March 05, 2007

Most of Europe and eastern North America got to see a
total eclipse of the moon Friday night. This is one of the
photos, taken by amateur Matt Ohman in West Somerset, England.
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The Daily Babble

Bitter Mysteries

The buzz, the chattercable shows are thrashing the issue of poor medical care for soldiers, first in the outpatient services at Walter Reed Hospital and now with congressional hearings into Veterans Administration "facilities." And of course it's all being treated as if it is startling news.
Despite the fact that leftie blogs like E Pluribus Media have been on this issue for months and months, the fact that lots of people have known about this and have been trying to get attention paid to these neglects and abuses for years, including the folks at the GI Hotline as well as veterans groups, this is being treated as a sudden revelation and immediate scandal.

VA hospital care has been notorious since at least Vietnam. Didn't anybody see Oliver Stone's movie, Born on the Fourth of July, or read Ron Kovic's book? It was there in living color and living prose. The excessive bureaucracy as well as neglect and substandard care is yet another reason that the people who nobly call for a new military draft are insane.

But why now? The Washington Post article seems to have sparked this attention, but that couldn't have been predicted. A lot of stories in the Post and the Times and other newspapers are ignored. Nobody paid any attention to the scandal of poverty increasing in a time of economic expansion--McClatchy newspapers found that the number of Americans in severe poverty--with half or less of the income that defines the poverty line--increased by 26% just between 2000 and 2005. And this isn't an exception. According to their report:"Worker productivity has increased dramatically since the brief recession of 2001, but wages and job growth have lagged behind. At the same time, the share of national income going to corporate profits has dwarfed the amount going to wages and salaries."

But even on this topic, all the stories about the scandalous neglect and treatment of soldiers--from the lack of body armor and armored vehicles, the lack of training and the abuse of the National Guard--as well as about treatment once they're back, have been ineffective in sparking this kind of outrage.

Probably the Democratic takeover of Congress has a lot to do with it--that, and the immediate hearings the Democrats are holding, gives permission to our media to do the story without feeling they'll get killed for being unpatriotic. And the Post story was easy to photograph. Still, the Zeitgeist remains a bitter mystery. The other story the babblechannels are hitting hard today is video of a couple of teenagers giving tokes to their siblings, two and four years old. I guess Anna Nicole finally is dead.

Then there's the noisemachine manufactured controversy over the speeches Barak Obama and Hillary Clinton made in Selma, both of them using different--and "southern"--cadences and vocabulary. Pandering to the audience! Hypocrisy! Of course if they didn't fall into those rhythms they would have been "out of touch!"

Above all we want to forget about the human element. Haven't you ever been to a place where people speak differently, and found yourself adopting their speech rhythms and accents? I do it during a telephone call. Please. Can we get serious? I know it's a rhetorical question.

It's also like the headlines about the "medical miracle" of Barry Bonds requiring larger shirt and shoe sizes. Maybe it is evidence of steroidization. Or maybe it's looser shirts (which have become the style in all sports) or swelling feet. My athletic shoe size went from 8.5 to 10.5 or 11 partly because shoe and foot people are now recommending bigger sizes (with more inserts, and more room), and partly because as you get older, your feet swell up more with exertion. But it's spring, and Barry is probably going to be baseball's big story this year, so let's find something to get outraged about preemptively. Because we don't have enough real problems.