A Cautious Man
July 29, 2004
 
That's Why I'll Keep Searching 'til I Find
My Special One ...

Greetings from NJ, to anybody arriving here from a search for webpages referencing "Kerry" and "Springsteen". You were probably sent here because of the post at this link. Before you go, please leave a comment here, to let me know where you're from.

And I don't care what anybody says - as Kerry and Edwards are waving tonight at the balloon drop, I want to hear "Land of Hope and Dreams".

[UPDATE] Okay, so they went with "No Surrender" with the candidate coming up the aisle. After the speech, U2 was an appropriate selection. But, seriously, following that up with Van Halen? And not even real Van Halen, but Sammy Hagar Van Halen?

And don't even get me started about "Celebration" ("Celebrate good times, come on!"). I am well into my third decade of disliking that song.

Well, there's still the inauguration ...

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July 27, 2004
 
Where There's a Fight Against the Blood and Hatred in the Air
If you did not catch Barack Obama's speech before the Democratic Convention, I feel sorry for you.
For alongside our famous individualism, there's another ingredient in the American saga.

A belief that we are connected as one people. If there's a child on the south side of Chicago who can't read, that matters to me, even if it's not my child. If there's a senior citizen somewhere who can't pay for her prescription and has to choose between medicine and the rent, that makes my life poorer, even if it's not my grandmother. If there's an Arab American family being rounded up without benefit of an attorney or due process, that threatens my civil liberties. It's that fundamental belief - I am my brother's keeper, I am my sister's keeper - that makes this country work. It's what allows us to pursue our individual dreams, yet still come together as a single American family. "E pluribus unum." Out of many, one.

Yet even as we speak, there are those who are preparing to divide us, the spin masters and negative ad peddlers who embrace the politics of anything goes. Well, I say to them tonight, there's not a liberal America and a conservative America - there's the United States of America. There's not a black America and white America and Latino America and Asian America; there's the United States of America. The pundits like to slice-and-dice our country into Red States and Blue States; Red States for Republicans, Blue States for Democrats. But I've got news for them, too. We worship an awesome God in the Blue States, and we don't like federal agents poking around our libraries in the Red States. We coach Little League in the Blue States and have gay friends in the Red States. There are patriots who opposed the war in Iraq and patriots who supported it. We are one people, all of us pledging allegiance to the stars and stripes, all of us defending the United States of America.
That's what we've been waiting to hear, isn't it? That all of these elements, these interests, these needs and beliefs reside throughout the U.S., and are not the exclusive province of a few, a few who need to tell the rest of us how "wrong", or "bad", or "un-American" we are. Unfortunately, that's a message that the current Administration is congenitally unable to convey - because it goes against everything that their strategy is built on.

[UPDATE on 7/28] The speech was so good, that Administration apologists are trying to claim that it wasn't a "real" Democratic speech, but was more conservative. It's good to know that the idea of "I am my brother's keeper, I am my sister's keeper" is at the heart of the Republican Platform. Be that as it may, there's a comprehensive review of this angle at Daily Kos.

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That Execution Line
From TalkLeft, I learned today that, as it is adopted tonight, "the Democratic Party Platform will not contain an endorsement of the death penalty." That post, and a linked article from the Capital Times of Madison, contain some details:
The Democratic Party platform that will be adopted tonight will include one particularly significant change from the platforms adopted by the party conventions of 1992, 1996 and 2000.

During the platform-writing process, the drafting committee quietly removed the section of the document that endorsed capital punishment.

Thus, for the first time since the 1980s, Democrats will not be campaigning on a pro-death penalty program.
...

Asked about the removal of the pro-capital punishment language, U.S. Rep. Rosa DeLauro, D-Conn., who chairs the committee that drafted the document, explained that "it's a reflection of John Kerry."

Kerry, who is often accused of flip-flopping by his Republican critics, is made of firmer stuff than most politicians when it comes to the issue of capital punishment. He opposes executions in virtually all cases - making an exception only after the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks, when he said he would consider supporting capital punishment, in limited cases, for foreign terrorists.On the domestic front, Kerry has earned high marks from death penalty critics. Last fall, when the Students Against the Death Penalty project of the American Civil Liberties Union rated the nine candidates who were then seeking the Democratic presidential nomination on a variety of death penalty-related issues, Kerry and Congressional Progressive Caucus co-chair Dennis Kucinich were the only two who received perfect scores.

Kerry opposes the execution of juveniles, supports greater access to DNA testing for death row inmates, and argues that studies "reveal serious questions, racial bias, and deep disparities in the way the death penalty is applied." Kerry was a co-sponsor of the National Death Penalty Moratorium Act of 2001 and of the National Death Penalty Moratorium Act of 2003.
Other opponents of capital punishment (such as Mario Cuomo) found that issue to be dangerous for them. And, as I've noted here previously, the Democratic governor of my home state refused to even allow a study of the death penalty, which had passed with bipartisan support.

Now, if Kerry is attacked for his opposition to capital punishment, does that mean that his opponents are being anti-Catholic?

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July 24, 2004
 
An Honest Man, He Wanted to Do What Was Right
My local paper, the Star-Ledger in New Jersey, published a thoughtful editorial about former New Jersey Governor Tom Kean, the chair of the 9/11 Commission. I think it nicely sums things up:
Leadership that genuinely aspires to place public interest above political gain is rare at any time -- all the more so during the presidential campaign season, which often seems like a protracted bad date with a narcissist. That is why it was reassuring to hear former Gov. Thomas Kean's praise yesterday for the bipartisanship of the 9/11 commission he chaired for 19 months and why a listener could feel a sense of trust in the best intentions of the commission report's analysis and recommendations.

Much of that is a credit to what by all accounts has been Kean's exemplary stewardship of a commission that could easily have splintered into bickering factions. Critics of Kean's appointment sneered that he was too genteel to ask hard questions, ruffle political feathers or hold his ground against obstructionism by the Bush administration. The unanimous commission report, drawn from thousands of interviews and painstaking research -- including documents that had to be wrested from government hands -- is a decisive rebuke to those who underestimated him.

Clearly Kean values civility, compromise and discussion in service of a country uncertain in the face of a new threat. Those are leadership values President Bush and candidate John Kerry should seek to emulate. It's no surprise to New Jerseyans that Kean has a genuine calling to public service. The surprise, and disappointment, is that so many others don't.

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July 22, 2004
 
The Weak Lies and Cold Walls You Embrace
The 9/11 Commission's Report was issued today. For now, I'll let wiser folks comment on the implications of its conclusions. I just flipped through it to find out what it says about a topic I've commented on before - "The Wall" separating criminal from intelligence investigations. Attorney General John Ashcroft sought to make Commissioner Jamie Gorelick solely responsible for this. In its report issued today, "without dissent", the Commission all but labels Mr. Ashcroft a liar.

Mr. Ashcroft testified in April and described the "wall" separating investigatory functions:
But the simple fact of September 11 is this: we did not know an attack was coming because for nearly a decade our government had blinded itself to its enemies. Our agents were isolated by government-imposed walls, handcuffed by government-imposed restrictions, and starved for basic information technology. The old national intelligence system in place on September 11 was destined to fail. ... The single greatest structural cause for September 11 was the wall that segregated criminal investigators and intelligence agents. Government erected this wall. Government buttressed this wall. And before September 11, government was blinded by this wall. In 1995, the Justice Department embraced flawed legal reasoning, imposing a series of restrictions on the FBI that went beyond what the law required. The 1995 Guidelines and the procedures developed around them imposed draconian barriers to communications between the law enforcement and intelligence communities. The wall "effectively excluded" prosecutors from intelligence investigations. The wall left intelligence agents afraid to talk with criminal prosecutors or agents. In 1995, the Justice Department designed a system destined to fail.

In that testimony, while stating "I have sworn to tell the whole truth, and I intend to fulfill this obligation", Mr. Ashcroft declassified and publicly disclosed a single document, which he described as follows:
But somebody did make these rules. Someone built this wall. The basic architecture for the wall in the 1995 Guidelines was contained in a classified memorandum entitled "Instructions on Separation of Certain Foreign Counterintelligence and Criminal Investigations." ... This memorandum established a wall separating the criminal and intelligence investigations following the 1993 World Trade Center attack, the largest international terrorism attack on American soil prior to September 11. Although you understand the debilitating impact of the wall, I cannot imagine that the Commission knew about this memorandum, so I have declassified it for you and the public to review. Full disclosure compels me to inform you that its author is a member of this Commission.
This was Attorney General Ashcroft's attempt to pin blame on Commission member Jamie Gorelick. As I mentioned in my April post on this issue, not only did this subject Ms. Gorelick to harrassment and threats, but it was contrary to the findings of a GAO study issued in the Summer of 2001. I suggested that Mr. Ashcroft be called to account.

Despite Mr. Ashcroft's attempt to shift blame onto Ms. Gorelick and away from himself, the Commission notes at page 210:
Ashcroft had also inherited an ongoing debate on whether and how to modify the 1995 procedures governing intelligence sharing between the FBI and the Justice Department’s Criminal Division. But in August 2001, Ashcroft’s deputy, Larry Thompson, issued a memorandum reaffirming the 1995 procedures with the clarification that evidence of “any federal felony” was to be immediately reported by the FBI to the Criminal Division.The 1995 procedures remained in effect until after 9/11.

As explained by the Commission, the problem was not the 1995 memo, but the way in which its procedures were misunderstood - a misunderstanding which was aggravated by the Ashcroft Justice Department's continuation of what it misunderstood to be the proper procedures. As stated on page 79 of the Report:
The 1995 procedures dealt only with sharing between agents and criminal prosecutors, not between two kinds of FBI agents, those working on intelligence matters and those working on criminal matters. But pressure from the Office of Intelligence Policy Review, FBI leadership, and the FISA Court built barriers between agents—even agents serving on the same squads. FBI Deputy Director Bryant reinforced the Office’s caution by informing agents that too much information sharing could be a career stopper.Agents in the field began to believe—incorrectly—that no FISA information could be shared with agents working on criminal investigations.

This perception evolved into the still more exaggerated belief that the FBI could not share any intelligence information with criminal investigators, even if no FISA procedures had been used. Thus, relevant information from the National Security Agency and the CIA often failed to make its way to criminal investigators. Separate reviews in 1999, 2000, and 2001 concluded independently that information sharing was not occurring, and that the intent of the 1995 procedures was ignored routinely.

This is markedly different from the story told by Attorney General Ashcroft, who publicly disclosed the 1995 memo, and concealed later decisions made by his office. The 9/11 Commission's Report addresses this, not directly in the text, but in footnote 83 to a different chapter, Chapter 8:
Attorney General Ashcroft testified to us that this and similar information-sharing issues arose from Attorney General Reno’s 1995 guidelines, discussed in chapter 3, and specifically from a March 1995 memorandum of then Deputy Attorney General Jamie Gorelick. John Ashcroft testimony, Apr. 13, 2004; DOJ memo, Gorelick to White, “Instructions on Separation of Certain Foreign Counterintelligence and Criminal Investigations,” Mar. 4, 1995.

We believe the Attorney General’s testimony does not fairly or accurately reflect the significance of the 1995 documents and their relevance to the 2001 discussions. Whatever the merits of the March 1995 Gorelick memorandum and the subsequent July 1995 Attorney General procedures on information sharing, they did not apply to the information the analyst decided she could not share with the criminal agent ... Also, the 1995 procedures did not govern whether information could be shared between intelligence and criminal agents within the FBI, a separation that the Bureau did not begin making formally until long after the procedures were in place.The 1995 procedures governed only the sharing of information with criminal prosecutors.
Attorney General Ashcroft presented his characterization of the significance of the 1995 memo, and ignored later actions by his Justice Department, while stating, "I have sworn to tell the whole truth".  There may be some disagreement about whether he did that.

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"Save the Buckshot/Turn up the Band"
From USA Today, as spotted by Just a Bump in the Beltway:
WASHINGTON -- When the Army announced recently that it was going to tap into its rarely used Individual Ready Reserve to fill vital slots for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, top military and civilian personnel said the activation was a proper response to a temporary manpower crisis.

But among the tasks included in the 5,674 jobs deemed critical to the war on terrorism are slots for two trumpet or cornet players, two French horn players, one trombonist, four clarinet players, three saxophonists, one electric bass player, one percussionist and one euphonium player.

Their call-up from civilian life -- along with intelligence analysts, human resources specialists, insect experts, construction workers, truck drivers, healthcare providers, morticians and scores of other occupations -- is crucial, Army officials say.
...

Rep. Vic Snyder, D-Ark., a member of the Armed Services Committee, says he is skeptical of the need for calling musicians back from civilian life. "Did somebody go line by line through this and recognizing that each one of these 5,600 is a person who has a family that did not expect that they would be called back, to say: Is there not a way to do without a euphonium player? Do we need to really draft an electric bass player, to pull them back in?"
The point isn't to just wonder, "Musicians?" The real point is, what does this show about the level of planning, foresight, and wisdom currently residing at the top level of government these days. This is just one of many news stories about the ordinary people who are being called upon to make sacrifices in their lives, while others make plans or cheer on policies which increasingly appear misguided and misdirected.

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July 21, 2004
 
Some Hazard From Harvard ...
I got home last evening, and inexplicably clicked on "Fox News" for the start of Bill O'Reilly's program (By the way, did he ever tell you about his MPA from Harvard's Kennedy School of Government? That seems to come up a lot). From his introductory Talking Points, I learned that "It's war between FOX News and 'The New York Times.' " After a litany of past slights, Mr. O'Reilly informs us that the "last straw" was apparently A.O. Scott's favorable review of the film "Outfoxed". And by "favorable", of course, we mean that the review was unfavorable to Mr. O'Reilly:
Scott doesn't care about fairness. He simply wants to demonize FOX News.

For example, he puts forth that a man named Jeremy Glick was the victim of a "belligerent, boorish interview by me," your humble correspondent. Glick, whose father was killed at the World Trade Center, is described by Scott as someone "who came to oppose the administration's military response to 9/11." Scott makes the man seem very sympathetic. But who is this guy, really? Well, on this program, Glick said President Bush and his father were responsible for his father's death. He said George W. Bush pulled off a coup to get elected. He implied the USA itself was a terrorist nation. And he called his father's death at the hands of Al Qaeda "alleged assassination." He said America itself was responsible for the 9/11 attack because it is an imperialistic, aggressive nation. Glick was dismissed from The Factor because he was completely off the wall. Security actually had to take the guy out of the building, he was that out of control.

Now, the funny thing is, Mr. O'Reilly didn't actually replay the interview in question (a la "We Report, You Decide"). By poking around the web, I found several (albeit partisan) sites with the transcript (for example, here, here and here), and even a place to download the video (here). Maybe A.O. Scott was referring to portions of the exchange, such as:
O'Reilly: Man, I hope your mom isn't watching this.

Glick: Well, I hope she is.

O'Reilly: I hope your mother is not watching this because you -- that's it. I'm not going to say anymore.

Glick: OK.

O'Reilly: In respect for your father...

Glick: On September 14, do you want to know what I'm doing?

O'Reilly: Shut up. Shut up.

As to whether Mr. Glick was so "completely off the wall" that "[s]ecurity actually had to take the guy out of the building, he was that out of control", you can judge for yourself from the transcript or the video.

Mr. O'Reilly closed last night's Talking Points essay with the following:
So enough's enough. And I am issuing this challenge directly to "The New York Times." I will debate any "Times" editor or columnist on the Charlie Rose PBS program. I talked with Mr. Rose this morning. He's happy to moderate such an event. So I'm calling these sleazy guys out. We'll let you know what happens. Do you think they'll show up? Yes, sure...
I hope someone from the Times does show up. But, only on the condition that, before the debate, the viewing audience is shown a replay of the Jeremy Glick interview in its entirety. You know, "no spin" and all that?

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"So Come Back, Woody Guthrie ..."
In addition to our patron saint, here at A Cautious Man there is a special place of honor for Steve Earle (whose own website is somewhat neglected, but who is ably served by the indispensable Original Unoffical Steve Earle Site). As noted recently by Eric Alterman, "Steve Earle’s singing and songwriting connects to a place in the American past that allows him to create timeless music that could have been written yesterday but sounds as if it’s been around a hundred years", while at the same time he is relentlessly political (sometimes, too much for his own good). In these troubled times, Mr. Earle is riding to our rescue with a new album, "The Revolution Starts ...Now", to be released on August 24. The track list shows several politically-minded songs, among them "Condi, Condi", a reggae, sort-of paean to the National Security Adviser, with lines like "They say you're too uptight, I say you're not/Dance around me spinnin' like a top/Oh, Condi, Condi, don't ever stop." There's also "F the CC", described as follows in Billboard:
Earle pulls no punches in his assault on the Ramones-esque track, which boasts the chorus, "F*** the FCC /f*** the FBI / f*** the CIA / I'm living in the motherf***ing U.S.A."
In the column linked to above, Mr. Alterman confessed, "I'm actually ashamed to admit how much I love that song 'F**k the FCC.' It reminds me of being ten and listening to Country Joe and the Fish, but with a much better beat." I'm looking forward to experiencing that guilty pleasure, as well.

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July 20, 2004
 
VIVA LAS VEGAS! -or- I'm so glad I'm livin' in the USA
So I hear this story on the radio this morning, about Linda Ronstadt getting booed and causing a Republican riot in Las Vegas, because she praised Michael Moore during her performance at the Aladdin Casino. The announcer on my local news station actually noted that this is what happens in these "polarized times". Now it seems, as is usually the case, the truth is somewhat at variance with what the flacks, spinners, and publicists would have you believe. First off, what she did was to dedicate the song "Desperado" to Michael Moore (something which has been a part of her performances, as the folks at FreeRepublic.com discussed earlier this month, in their usual style). Second, it appears that the audience's unhappiness may have been due to the fact that her act consists mostly of old standards, and not her "greatest hits". By the way, that last piece of information comes from an article in the Las Vegas Sun, which has other additional details that the national wire service story has left out (yes, I know, big surprise). Then, as uncovered by Tbogg, even the right-leaning National Review site is providing information from someone who was there, debunking reports of "bedlam". Meanwhile, it seems that the Aladdin is a big, expensive failure of a casino, which is in the process of being sold. Any press may be good press, apparently.

But, of course, the Washington Post's Reliable Source is right on top of the facts:
Linda Ronstadt, why don't you come to your senses? Booed last month during her performance at Wolf Trap when she dedicated her encore "Desperado" to Bush-bashing filmmaker Michael Moore, the singer has done it again. Saturday she sparked protests and got booted from the Aladdin hotel-casino in Las Vegas. "It was a very ugly scene," Aladdin President Bill Timmins told the Associated Press. "She praised him and all of a sudden all bedlam broke loose." Whisked off the property, Ronstadt, 58, was not allowed to return to her luxury suite. Before her show, she felt compelled to tell the Las Vegas Review-Journal: "I keep hoping that if I'm annoying enough to them, they won't hire me back." Mission accomplished.
So, is there a moral to this story? Maybe, it's that in these "polarized times", the reputation for thuggery, enjoyed by those of a particular political persuasion, might be used by owners of failing casinos, entertainers, and lazy newsmen.

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July 19, 2004
 
Have Mercy on the Man Who Doubts What He's Sure of ...
In the run-up to the invasion of Iraq, it always seemed that there was an assumption that war was necessary, and opponents were expected to prove why there should not be one. Doubts about the wisdom of the course of action chosen, were belittled and even mocked. Now, there's a small surge of doubt, being seen with respect to the justification for the timing and manner of the invasion of Iraq last year. More Administration-friendly voices are noting that there should have been more caution, perhaps, in the decision-making process. For example, the Republican chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Pat Roberts, was quoted in the New York Times the other day (as pointed out by Josh Marshall in TPM):
Mr. Roberts said he was "not too sure" that the administration would have invaded if it had known how flimsy the intelligence was on Iraq and illicit weapons. Instead, the senator said, Mr. Bush might well have advocated efforts to maintain sanctions against Iraq and to continue to try to unearth the truth through the work of United Nations inspectors. "I don't think the president would have said that military action is justified right now," Mr. Roberts said. If the administration had been given "accurate intelligence," he said, Mr. Bush "might have said, 'Saddam's a bad guy, and we've got to continue with the no-fly zones and with inspections.' "
That is basically a statement that going to war as we did was a mistake! Sen. Roberts hedges a bit, by blaming the intelligence agencies, but I think that more needs to be learned, about how the intelligence was handled and interpreted.

Which leads to another doubter, David Kay. As noted here back in January, Dr. Kay disappointed a lot of war proponents with his conclusion that Iraq did not have weapons of mass destruction. At the time, he speculated that the intelligence agencies should consider apologizing to the President. I noted that stories about the pressure on intelligence analysts were already being heard, such as those recounted by Kenneth "Gathering Storm" Pollock. As he noted:
The intelligence community's overestimation of Iraq's WMD capability is only part of the story of why we went to war last year. The other part involves how the Bush Administration handled the intelligence. Throughout the spring and fall of 2002 and well into 2003 I received numerous complaints from friends and colleagues in the intelligence community, and from people in the policy community, about precisely that.
Well, now Dr. Kay is being heard, voicing his concern about how the British and American governments overstated the case, based on what the intelligence indicated. As reported by Newsmax:
President Bush and British Prime Minister Tony Blair should have realized before going to war that intelligence on Iraqi weapons was weak and did not indicate Saddam Hussein posed a danger to the West, America's former chief weapons inspector in Iraq said Sunday.

David Kay resigned from the CIA in January and his conclusion then that Iraq did not have stockpiles of forbidden weapons caused serious problems for both Bush and Blair, undercutting their main justification for war.

He told Britain's ITV network that Bush and Blair "should have been able to tell before the war that the evidence did not exist for drawing the conclusion that Iraq presented a clear, present and imminent threat on the basis of existing weapons of mass destruction."
"That was not something that required a war," he said.

He said the leaders may not have been sufficiently critical of intelligence on Saddam's alleged weapons of mass destruction.
There's more on this on the website of the British newspaper The Independent.

So, to recap. The top Republican on the Senate Intelligence Committee says that the war was a mistake, but based on bad intelligence. Experts "in the know", who are not "liberal shills" by any stretch of the imagination, point out that, instead of "bad intelligence", the real problem was bad judgment by the decision-makers at the top. Is any of this relevant, now? I believe it is, because going forward we have to insist that decisions about going to war include a healthy dose of doubt and circumspection. If our government takes the approach that they need to be shown why not to go to war, we should do something about that.

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July 15, 2004
 
They Sent Some Dude with a Calling Card, He Said Do What You Like, But Don't Do it Here
No doubt you've read about Whoopi Goldberg, the latest victim of the type of politically-motivated boycotting I discussed here the other day.  Some choice examples of the messages sent to Slim-Fast can be found on FreeRepublic.com.  It's unfortunate that this effort succeeded, because that means that we can expect more of that type of childish nonsense as campaign season continues (and probably after that, as well).  I'll say it again, this seems to be a technique mainly practiced by the pro-Bush/Republican/Conservative/pick-your-label side of the aisle.  Look, Dennis Miller has been annoying and partisan for some time now, but I never heard of any efforts to boycott satellite TV because he was a spokesman. 
 
And to top it off, I learned today that the dudes at pabaah.com (who I had mentioned and linked to last week) would rather I not link to their site.  When I click on the link in my post below (or the one in this paragraph) I get a little message.
Your coming from a site that we don't like. So why dont we send you back! powered whit Protector System
Go ahead, you try.  See?  Now, leaving aside their difficulty with contractions, I find it amusing that my relatively innocuous reflection on thought-based boycotting (the worst thing I called it was "silly") earned me a semi-literate invitation to never darken their door again.  Checking my Sitemeter, it looks like a couple of other people have been bounced back here, as well.
 
I have no idea what to do about this.  Looking at their advertisers, I can't see any actual products to boycott until they cease their unwarranted ban on my linking to them (not even the W Ketchup).  Maybe the best thing to do is use them as a resource when making my entertainment choices.  You know, find some good movies or shows based on their list of what not to see. 
 
Oh, and sorry about the long post title.  The line just fit the topic, and I couldn't help myself.

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July 13, 2004
 
I Think I Got a Good Idea of the Game That You're Playing
I know that there are a lot of people who sincerely believe that same-sex marriage could harm traditional marriage. But, I'm not going to comment on that now. Instead, I've been intrigued by the cynical use of this issue by the President and his leading Senate supporters. Unfortunately for them, the game is not going exactly as planned:
But instead of a landmark debate, Republicans found themselves filibustering their own amendment to stop it from coming to the floor on Wednesday for a straight up-or-down vote -- out of fear that it might fail to get even 51 votes, much less the 67, or two-thirds majority, required to amend the Constitution. Republicans apparently were taken by surprise when Democrats, sensing a huge victory, offered to lift their own objections and proceed to direct consideration of the measure.

As many as a dozen Republicans, various aides and lobbyists said, might bolt from their party on the issue. Many Republicans have long been wary of federal intrusion on what has always been a state domain, believing an amendment would violate their basic principle of keeping the federal government out of state matters.
Many on the Republican side were concerned that the Amendment, as proposed, could be read to prohibit measures other than marriage, such as "civil unions", so:
Seeking to lift their vote count among their rank-and-file, Republican leaders struggled to come up with alternative wording for the constitutional amendment that would reduce it to the first sentence of the proposed Federal Marriage Amendment by Sen. Wayne Allard, R-Colo.
That would leave an amendment which simply states: "Marriage in the United States shall consist only of the union of a man and a woman." Now, remember that the whole point of this exercise is to keep the courts from allowing same-sex marriages. With so few words, how exactly would this statement affect marriage-like unions? Why, the courts will decide, after all! These folks are so eager to have a vote, that they don't even care that the end result could, essentially, be meaningless.

It seems that they may not even care whether there ever is an amendment. After all, the President and his Senate allies haven't advanced an amendment on abortion - because that does not serve their political interests. They get more mileage out of talking about the issue, without having to put Congress on the record. In the same way, the simple fact is that they are not proposing a Constitutional amendment because they believe that they can get it approved. They are doing this because they think it will help them defeat candidates who would support better health care, assistance for the poor and environmental protection. They also think it will help them defeat candidates who do not share their enthusiasm to rush to war ("pre-emptive" or not) instead of seeking other solutions.

In short, this has nothing to do with advancing anyone's "values" (traditional or otherwise). This is a strategem to attempt to hold on to power, pure and simple.

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July 12, 2004
 
Little White Lies You Tell to Ease the Pain
In a speech today on the War on Terror, President Bush seems to be demonstrating an ability to block out any "bad news" - that being information which contradicts his long-held worldview on the source of, motivations for, and solutions to the dangers faced by the U.S. from terrorist attacks. Whether it’s the Senate Intelligence Committee, or the 9/11 Commission, there are more and more indications that the efforts of the Administration are either ineffectual or aimed at the wrong targets. Nevertheless, it appears that from now through the election, the President will continue to pretend that there have not been major mistakes in defending against terrorism. There's the "unfinished business", which the President wants us to believe has been taken care of -
Today, Afghanistan is a world away from the nightmare of the Taliban. That country has a good and just President. Boys and girls are being educated. Many refugees have returned home to rebuild their country, and a presidential election is scheduled for this fall. The terror camps are closed and the Afghan government is helping us to hunt the Taliban and terrorists in remote regions. Today, because we acted to liberate Afghanistan, a threat has been removed, and the American people are safer.
Look, we all know that it's premature to declare victory in Afghanistan. The country is still the site of major military actions, and our soldiers are still dying there. There are areas outside of Kabul and other cities which are still controlled by Taliban supporters. And speaking of breeding grounds for terrorism -
Three years ago, terrorists were well-established in Saudi Arabia. Inside that country, fundraisers and other facilitators gave al Qaeda financial and logistical help, with little scrutiny or opposition. Today, after the attacks in Riyadh and elsewhere, the Saudi government knows that al Qaeda is its enemy. Saudi Arabia is working hard to shut down the facilitators and financial supporters of terrorism.
Interesting discussion by the President, all but pointing to Saudi Arabia as the locale where attacks on the U.S. were funded and planned. But, he doesn't think that's important to focus on, since he had his favorite target -
America must remember the lessons of September the 11th. We must confront serious dangers before they fully materialize. And so my administration looked at the intelligence on Iraq, and we saw a threat. Members of the United States Congress from both political parties looked at the same intelligence, and they saw a threat. The United Nations Security Council looked at the intelligence, and it saw a threat. The previous administration and the Congress looked at the intelligence and made regime change in Iraq the policy of our country.

In 2002, the United Nations Security Council yet again demanded a full accounting of Saddam Hussein's weapons programs. As he had for over a decade, Saddam Hussein refused to comply. In fact, according to former weapons inspector David Kay, Iraq's weapons programs were elaborately shielded by security and deception operations that continued even beyond the end of Operation Iraqi Freedom.
As has been mentioned here before, this seems to be part of an effort to make people forget that there were weapons inspectors in Iraq up to the day President Bush told them to leave.

Even if we give the President a "pass", and assume he's an innocent victim of mistakes by the intelligence agencies, the fact remains that he still says that the invasion, at the time it took place, in the manner it took place, and with the limited support from other nations with which it took place, was still a correct decision. That he still believes this, is not a comforting thought, because it suggests that he is content to ignore facts which challenge his preconceived notions.

And that is not a good thing.

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July 09, 2004
 
The Stars All Appear on the Screen ...
… or not, if some people have their way. There are people who choose not to see a movie or performance, if they disagree with the political views of one of the performers. Others take it to the next level, and organize boycotts of celebrities they disagree with. This goes far beyond boycotting a particular work, because of disagreement with its content; I'm talking about boycotting anything and everything featuring the offending celebrity, as a way to "punish" that person for their political views. I think it's, well, silly, and I've found an example that makes it look especially silly.

The only large-scale efforts in this regard that I've seen are "anti-liberal", such as "Boycott Liberalism", "Boycott Hollywood" and "Patriotic Americans Boycotting Anti-American Hollywood" or PABAAH. It's interesting to read the lists - there are a lot of performers who have run afoul of these people. It's just as interesting to see what movies and shows are to be "shunned". The involvement of just a single "offending celebrity" is enough to taint a whole movie or show. Not only that, but for a lot of these celebrities a single remark or action (such as signing an anti-war petition) is enough to taint that person and anything he or she has ever appeared in. As a result, for example, this weekend you can't go see either the new Will Farrell movie (because Christina Applegate lent her name to "Artists for the U.N.) or Will Smith in I, Robot (co-star James Cromwell signed something entitled "Artists United to Win Without War").

Which brings me now to a new movie, the documentary America's Heart and Soul. As described by WorldNetDaily , "With its patriotic undertones and emphasis on the goodness of Americans, the film is a marked contrast to Michael Moore's Bush-bashing documentary 'Fahrenheit 9/11'". Steve Beard in National Review stated, "While it was never intended to be a response to Moore's snarly conspiratorial docudrama, America's Heart and Soul may prove to be the anti-Fahrenheit 9/11." And, the anti-Michael Moore site MoveAmericaForward held a special viewing of the film, and heartily endorses it.

It therefore pains me to inform people that, alas, due to the participation of one of the aforementioned offending celebrities, there should be calls to boycott the film America's Heart and Soul. Just look at the official website for the film, and the prominent place given to announcing that the movie features "a special song by John Mellencamp." That's not the only "special song" he's written lately, as noted in a news item featured by "Boycott Liberalism", about last evening's Kerry/Edwards fundraiser:
Other celebs also competed to bash Bush. Singer John Mellencamp sang a specially written song that called the president "just another cheap thug" and ridiculed him as the "Texas bambino."
Celebrities have run afoul of the boycotters for a lot less than that. Now, then, if you're a true-blue supporter of the Administration, how do you express your patriotism? Go see the "antidote to Fahrenheit 9/11", or show Mellencamp and the rest of them that you'll refuse to support people who attack your President? I don't suppose you could decide that boycotting everything featuring an offending celebrity is, perhaps, going too far?

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July 08, 2004
 
Carnival Life on the Water
No matter what your political persuasion may be, this could be a quite the time: The National Review Post-Election Cruise! It's sailing from November 13-20. Now, just suppose that brand-new two-some of John and John win that election. Imagine the fun to be had on the open seas, where the cruise line promises "Plenty of chances to meet, schmooze and enjoy personal interaction with our special guest speakers", including Rich Lowry, Michelle Malkin, Dick Morris and Ed Gillespie. You might even be treated to some "Cheney-esque" repartee.

C'mon, take a chance and book now. You know you want to.

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July 06, 2004
 
Tramps Like Us, Baby We Were Born to Run
Alternate Title No. 1: I'm pulling out of here to win.
Alternate Title No. 2: No retreat no surrender.
Alternate Title No. 3: We liked the same music, we liked the same bands.
Alternate Title No. 4: You'll need a good companion for this part of the ride.
Alternate Title No. 5: Meet me in a land of hope and dreams.

Throwing caution to the wind, I can safely say that this is an auspicious day in American political history. By selecting John Edwards as his running mate, John Kerry has created the first major-party ticket for President and Vice President made up entirely of Springsteen fans. No word on how the other party plans to counter the Democratic Party's "all-Tramp" line-up.

As the song says, "Dreams will not be thwarted/Faith will be rewarded."

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July 03, 2004
 
Independence Day
I realized that I'm observing Independence Day this year in a variety of appropriate ways, roughly corresponding to Franklin Roosevelt's "Four Freedoms". For the first, "Freedom of Speech", we saw "Fahrenheit 9/11" last night. I'll probably have some random thoughts on it another time, but I will say that the second half is more powerful and effective than the "snarkier" parts in the beginning (and any commentators who claim they left in the middle of the movie, should go back and see the whole thing).

For the second, "Freedom of Worship", this evening I'm attending our community's annual interfaith gathering in the park, taking to heart John Adams' advice as quoted below. That's a celebration of not only our diversity (with Catholic, Protestant, Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist, and Baha'i participants), but also our unity as a community and a nation.

For the third, "Freedom from Want", there's a cook-out to be at tomorrow afternoon, before helping with my son's Boy Scout troop, selling hot dogs as the sun sets and our town fireworks burst overhead.

As for the last, "Freedom from Fear" - well, despite the efforts of the folks in charge of issuing terror warnings this weekend, I hope everyone has a Happy Independence Day!

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Dancing in a Sky Filled With Light
For Independence Day, fireworks are a necessity:
I am apt to believe that it will be celebrated by succeeding generations as the great anniversary festival. It ought to be commemorated as the day of deliverance, by solemn acts of devotion to God Almighty. It ought to be solemnized with pomp and parade, with shows, games, sports, guns, bells, bonfires, and illuminations, from one end of this continent to the other, from this time forward for evermore.
J. Adams, on the adoption of the Declaration of Independence, Letter to Abigail Adams (July 3, 1776)
So, here are some fireworks for the Fourth:
Sandy, the fireworks are hailin' over Little Eden tonight
Forcin' a light into all those stoned-out faces left stranded
on this Fourth of July.

B. Springsteen, "Fourth of July, Asbury Park"
I can hear the fireworks
I can hear the people, people shouting out
I can hear the people shouting out (up and down the line)
And it's almost Independence Day

Van Morrison, "Almost Independence Day"
We drove the car
To the top of the parking ramp
4th of July
Sat out on the hood
With a couple of warm beers
And watched the fireworks
Explode in the sky

Ani Difranco, "Independence Day"
Once in a while
In a big blue moon
There comes a night like this
Like some surrealist
Invented this 4th of July

Joni Mitchell, "Night Ride Home"
Counted the stars on the 4th of July
Wishing we were rockets bursting in the sky
Talking about redemption and leaving things behind

Willie Nelson, "Mendocino County Line"
And the Rockets' red glare, the Bombs bursting in air,
Gave proof through the night that our Flag was still there.
F. S. Key, "The Star-Spangled Banner" (1814)

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July 02, 2004
 
Wherever Somebody's Struggling to be Free
Lyndon Johnson destroyed his presidency, and himself, over the Vietnam War. But his legacy also includes his actions which culminated, forty years ago today, in his signing of the Civil Rights Act:
We believe that all men are created equal. Yet many are denied equal treatment.

We believe that all men have certain unalienable rights. Yet many Americans do not enjoy those rights.

We believe that all men are entitled to the blessings of liberty. Yet millions are being deprived of those blessings--not because of their own failures, but because of the color of their skin.

The reasons are deeply imbedded in history and tradition and the nature of man. We can understand--without rancor or hatred--how this all happened.

But it cannot continue. Our Constitution, the foundation of our Republic, forbids it. The principles of our freedom forbid it. Morality forbids it. And the law I will sign tonight forbids it.
I wouldn't have been aware of this anniversary, if not for a terrific story today on NPR's Morning Edition. I was especially impressed to learn that Johnson had been advised to wait unil after July 4, to sign the legislation; there was a fear of public demonstrations against the new law. Not only did he reject that advice, but he reminded Americans of what the Declaration of Independence really stands for, as he put the law into effect.

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A Nice Little Place in the Stars
I was aimlessly flipping between cable news channels about 11:00 p.m. the other night. I'm not sure why, since the choices included Bill O'Reilly in another Michael Moore diatribe and CNN providing an outlet for "legal experts" on the Scott Peterson trial. Suddenly, on CNN, they switched to a live anchor, over in Australia or somewhere like that, for coverage of the Cassini spacecraft entering orbit around Saturn. It was refreshing to see live news coverage of an actual event, that actually provided information.

I didn't stay up for the first live pictures, but those and more are being provided online at the official website of the Cassini mission to Saturn. The whole thing is very cool, and I'm going to keep checking back there.

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