A Cautious Man
January 26, 2005
"(Maple-Sugaring) Axes of Evil"
The Department of Education has apparently succeeded in protecting America's youth from being corrupted by scenes of "maple-sugaring" in the woods of Vermont. The scene of the almost-crime is a PBS children's show called "Postcards from Buster", which chronicles the travels of a white rabbit (hmm, wonder why they let that one go?). Anyway, this "Buster" rabbit journeys around the country, meeting different people. He has a "blog", where you can read details of some of his episodes/adventures. From looking at the various entries, he visits with Americans from all walks of life, from varied religious traditions, from all types of neighborhoods, and backgrounds ranging from immigrant to Native American. However, on one of those visits, in an episode called "Sugartime!", he visits with some people that the Department of Education would just as soon not be mentioned - a lesbian couple. This was too much for the Department of Education:
Education Secretary Margaret Spellings said the "Sugartime!" episode does not fulfill the intent Congress had in mind for programming. By law, she said, any funded shows must give top attention to "research-based educational objectives, content and materials."

"Many parents would not want their young children exposed to the lifestyles portrayed in the episode," Spellings wrote in a letter sent Tuesday to Pat Mitchell, president and chief executive officer of PBS.

"Congress' and the Department's purpose in funding this programming certainly was not to introduce this kind of subject matter to children, particularly through the powerful and intimate medium of television."

She asked PBS to consider refunding the money it spent on the episode.

With her letter, Spellings has made criticism of the publicly funded program's depiction of the gay lifestyle one of her first acts as secretary. She began on Monday, replacing Rod Paige as President Bush's education chief.

Spellings issued three requests to PBS.

She asked that her department's seal or any statement linking the department to the show be removed. She asked PBS to notify its member stations of the nature of show so they could review it before airing it. And she asked for the refund "in the interest of avoiding embroiling the Ready-To-Learn program in a controversy that will only hurt" it.

In closing, she warned: "You can be assured that in the future the department will be more clear as to its expectations for any future programming that it funds."
Now, as it happens, the "blog" for that episode has already been removed from the show's website. But, it's still available via the Google cache. This is what was so contrary to the mission and intent of the Department of Education:
We traveled to Vermont in the spring. They call it "mud season" because all the melting snow makes lots of mud. It's like the whole state is a mud puddle!

While there, we visited Emma, David, and James, who live with their two moms, Karen and Gillian. Karen and my mom used to work at the same newspaper together.
Now, remember, this is a show in which the main character travels around and meets different kinds of people. The Department of Education apparently is concerned that simply meeting a same-sex couple will cause some sort of viewer trauma. Now, it seems to me that if any child has a question about what he or she sees on television (or a person he or she meets in real life, because that will happen), the parents can then share their views with the child. I find it hard to believe that the episode violated any valid Education Department policy, or any principle that would be espoused by a responsible educator. I think the Education Secretary's snit about this was uncalled for, and it's unfortunate that PBS felt that, politically, it had to cave in to these people.

Rice Whine
Dr. Condoleezza Rice was confirmed as Secretary of State by the Senate today. There was some opposition - and the usual suspects have latched onto the fact that ol' Senator Robert Byrd was in that opposition, in order to imply that racism was involved.

That's obviously nonsense.

I don't think it's so outrageous for some Senators to have a concern about Dr. Rice, who was in the middle of the Administration's efforts to convince the Senate, and the country, of their now-discredited claims about Iraqi WMDs and ties to Al Qaeda. As just one example, we have her activities in the fall of 2002, when the push was on for passage of the resolution which the President later used in order to launch the war:
In an interview with PBS' "The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer," Rice said the U.S. government clearly knows "that there were in the past and have been contacts between senior Iraqi officials and members of al Qaeda going back for actually quite a long time."

"We know too that several of the detainees, in particular some high-ranking detainees, have said that Iraq provided some training to al Qaeda in chemical weapons development," Rice said.

"So, yes, there are contacts between Iraq and al Qaeda. We know that Saddam Hussein has a long history with terrorism in general. And there are some al Qaeda personnel who found refuge in Baghdad," she said. "There clearly are contacts between al Qaeda and Iraq that can be documented."

At the same time, she cautioned that "no one is trying to make an argument at this point that Saddam Hussein somehow had operational control of what happened on September 11th, so we don't want to push this too far."

Rice added: "This is a story that is unfolding, and it is getting clear, and we're learning more. ... When the picture is clear, we'll make full disclosure about it."
Seriously, did that little "no one is trying to make an argument at this point" disclaimer really detract from her clear intent, and the Administration's intent, to imply a connection between Saddam Hussein and Bin Laden, a connection in order to justify invasion as the way to deal with Hussein?

The dissenting Senators may also have been concerned about how forthright the new Secretary of State will be in hearings. Look for example at Dr. Rice's performance during the hearings of the 9-11 Commission. She was questioned about the contents of a Presidential Daily Briefing, or "PDB", of August 6, 2001:
The fact is that this August 6th PDB was in response to the president's questions about whether or not something might happen or something might be planned by al Qaeda inside the United States. He asked because all of the threat reporting or the threat reporting that was actionable was about the threats abroad, not about the United States.

This particular PDB had a long section on what bin Laden had wanted to do -- speculative, much of it -- in '97, '98; that he had, in fact, liked the results of the 1993 bombing.

It had a number of discussions of -- it had a discussion of whether or not they might use hijacking to try and free a prisoner who was being held in the United States -- Ressam. It reported that the FBI had full field investigations under way.

And we checked on the issue of whether or not there was something going on with surveillance of buildings, and we were told, I believe, that the issue was the courthouse in which this might take place.

Commissioner, this was not a warning. This was a historic memo -- historical memo prepared by the agency because the president was asking questions about what we knew about the inside.
(Emphasis added) Now, at the time she was testifying, she knew that her interlocutor had seen the PDB, but could not reveal its contents because it was still classified. She therefor knew that she could say anything she wanted about it, and he could not contradict her in public. However, the public eventually did see the unclassified version of the PDB, and it seems more like a warning, not a "historic document":
Bin Ladin Determined to Strike in US

Clandestine, foreign government, and media reports indicate Bin Ladin since 1997' has wanted to conduct terrorist attacks in the US. Bin Ladin implied in US television interviews in 1997 and 1998 that his followers would follow the example of World Trade Center bomber Ramzi Yousef and "bring the fighting to America."

After US missile strikes on his base in Afghanistan in 1998, Bin Ladin told followers he wanted to retaliate in Washington, according to a [deleted text] service. An Egyptian Islamic Jihad (EIJ) operative told an [deleted text] service at the same time that Bin Ladin was planning to exploit the operative's access to the US to mount a terrorist strike.


Although Bin Ladin has not succeeded, his attacks against the US Embassies in Kenya and Tanzania in 1998 demonstrate that he prepares operations years in advance and is not deterred by setbacks. Bin Ladin associates surveilled our Embassies in Nairobi and Dar es Salaam as early as 1993, and some members of the Nairobi cell planning the bombings were arrested and deported in 1997.

Al-Qa'ida members — including some who are US citizens — have resided in or traveled to the US for years, and the group apparently maintains a support structure that could aid attacks. Two al-Qa'ida members found guilty in the conspiracy to bomb our Embassies in East Africa were US citizens, and a senior EIJ member lived in California in the mid-1990s.

A clandestine source said in 1998 that a Bin Ladin cell in New York was recruiting Muslim-American youth for attacks.

We have not been able to corroborate some of the more sensational threat reporting, such as that from a [deleted text] service in 1998 saying that Bin Ladin wanted to hijack a US aircraft to gain the release of "Blind Shaykh" 'Umar' Abd aI-Rahman and other US-held extremists.

Nevertheless, FBI information since that time indicates patterns of suspicious activity in this country consistent with preparations for hijackings or other types of attacks, including recent surveillance of federal buildings in New York.
(Emphasis added) Dr. Rice managed to avoid being called to account for her lack of candor with the 9-11 Commission, during her confirmation hearings. Nevertheless, I don't think a charge of "racism" is appropriate, where some senators had good reason to express misgivings about promoting Dr. Rice to Secretary of State.

January 21, 2005
Deja Vu All Over Again
Lots of people have been commenting on the Inaugural Address. There was one aspect of it which just bugged me, but which also helped me to put my finger on what has to be done over the next four years. The President did the usual conciliation bit, about healing divisions:
Americans of every party and background, Americans by choice and by birth, are bound to one another in the cause of freedom. We have known divisions, which must be healed to move forward in great purposes - and I will strive in good faith to heal them.
However, he also went right into the same old methodology, where he makes stuff up, about the people who disagree with him:
Some, I know, have questioned the global appeal of liberty - though this time in history, four decades defined by the swiftest advance of freedom ever seen, is an odd time for doubt. Americans, of all people, should never be surprised by the power of our ideals.
The man isn't even a half hour into his second term, and he ignores the fact that his critics disagree with his methods, not with America's goals of peace and freedom around the world. The new term is starting with the same old attacks and distortions, which characterized the last one.

I have no brilliant insight as to how to do this, but somehow we have to get away from the notion that war is the first choice to solve these problems.

January 20, 2005
"Hump Day"
Okay, so today starts the second half of the George W. Bush presidency.

It's all downhill from here, right?

January 19, 2005
It's A Town Full Of Losers
And I'm Pulling Out Of Here To Win.

Okay, so I haven't posted anything for a while. I blame the holidays, and a little "poster's block". But in the last few days I've seen various people suggesting that doing nothing would be the way to protest the inauguration of the recently reelected President (yes, that was a gratuitous strike-out). You can buy nothing (notonedamndime.org), or say nothing (bushblackout.com), or stay home from work and really do nothing (black-thursday.com) So, I am forced to post, if only to make it clear that "doing nothing" is not, imho, the way to go.

I don't think that actions such as these are appropriate or even helpful – they seem to be the acts of people wallowing in their loss, and not of people working for a reversal of fortune. First of all, the focus of opposition can't just be George W. Bush, the person, but should be the Administration, its leading figures, and its policies. Unfortunately, the President's more vocal supporters have been able to characterize any opposition as being "hatred" of him – as if Americans had somehow lost the right to disagree with their government's policies and to work to change them. And second, this jumble of activities (are the anarchists really getting organized?) will detract from the fact that there actually is a cogent, eloquent, and informed base of opposition to the expected initiatives of "The Man With A Mandate". Other than a mild (and temporary) catharsis, most of these protests won't do much to change anything. People who did not want to see a second Bush inauguration, may be amused, or may be embarrassed; either way, it won't do anything to encourage their further involvement. More to the point, people who think that opposition to the President's proposals is nothing more than "hatred", will find more than enough to confirm their assumptions – and then they will summarily dismiss anything that they do hear from the aforementioned cogent, eloquent and informed opposition.

So, instead of wasting a perfectly good inauguration day, I hope more people use it as the first day of the discussion leading up to the next national election.

"Tomorrows Fall In Number
In Number One By One"

And now, completely ignoring what I just wrote in the post above, another person's take on the inauguration -

Yeah, I know it's stupid ...


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