Thursday, December 28, 2006

Email text and web pages from your browser

Email This! will send your recipient the link, title, & highlighted text of the page you are viewing using GMail, Yahoo, and Stand-Alone mail clients like Outlook Express, Thunderbird, & more! This is a video explaining how to install and use version 1.4.2+ of this extension -

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

My Son The Actor

It's always a pleasure to read the writings of The Octogenarian. Not only are his essays interesting, but they're also an example of they way a story should be written. It's one of the great things about the internet, that his voice can be spread. Here's a recent example:
My maternal grandmother, who had been a widow for decades, lived with my parents while I was growing up during the 1930s in the Bronx. She was an extremely religious woman who, when not helping my mother with the housekeeping, spent much of her time at home praying and studying the Bible. Her social life was centered on her synagogue, Tefereth Beth Jacob, a small Orthodox congregation located on 169th Street between the Grand Concourse and Walton Ave. It was around the corner from our apartment on the Concourse.

Grandma was the most religiously learned woman in the congregation and functioned as its unofficial matriarch. Every Saturday afternoon following the services, she would read Bible stories in Yiddish to at least a dozen elderly ladies gathered around her in the synagogue's women's section. Often she would be consulted by them on religious matters if the rabbi was unavailable or if the other women were uncomfortable discussing overly intimate subjects with him.

Grandma had the advantage of a religious education that few Eastern European Jewish women of her generation received. She had been raised on a mill located in what is now Belarus, far removed from Jewish communities. Because of its isolation in a rural region, her father employed live-in tutors to educate his five sons. Grandma was apparently an inquisitive young girl and regularly sat in on her brothers' lessons.
Read more....

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Lafayette Has Some Company

Lafayette isn't the only Brooklyn school that deserves to fade into oblivion. Here's the story from the Gothamist:

City Will Close Five High Schools

The Department of Education will start to close five struggling high schools beginning next September. The schools are Urban Peace Academy and School for the Physical City in Manhattan and Samuel J. Tilden, South Shore, and the embattled Lafayette in Brooklyn. The DOE attributed the closings to, as the Daily News put it, "dismal graduation rates, consistently low test scores and lackluster demand."

The NY Times notes that four of the high schools were "run by principals who graduated from the New York City Leadership Academy," Mayor Bloomberg's brainchild; the DOE's line is "despite those principals’ best efforts, their schools had proved unsalvageable." That may be, but Lafayette High School's principal, Joalanta Rohloff seemed a magnet for controversy: She has been accused of bribing teachers into decorating their classrooms, she's withheld textbooks until old ones are returned, and, most recently, questioning why a 20 year old special ed student would want to go to community college. But the school has also been plagued with violence. United Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten tells the Daily News, "It is no secret that there have been problems at Lafayette, so its closing is not surprising. As to Lafayette, we are working with the DOE to create a redesigned school - and potentially two new schools - that parents will want to send their children to and where educators will want to teach."

New plans for the schools will be released next year. And Lafayette has the most baseball players as alumni - including Sandy Koufax and John Franco; other notable alums include Gary David Goldberg, Paul Sorvino and Larry King.

B'klyn Principal's Ugly Insults Drove Me To Tears

More quality education at Lafayette. And this is today. Can you imagine what it was like 40 years ago? Here's the story in the N.Y. Post:

December 7, 2006 -- The embattled principal of Lafayette HS is under the microscope again - this time for apparently belittling a 20-year-old special-education student for wanting to graduate with a non-Regents diploma and attend a community college.

A city Department of Education spokesman said officials in Brooklyn are investigating claims by the student, Chris Ciccone, and his mother. They say the principal, Jolanta Rohloff, harped on a sobbing Ciccone in her office in front of two other school staffers.

In the meeting, Ciccone expressed his desire to graduate next spring with a local diploma, a sheepskin not endorsed by the state Board of Regents and being phased out.

"She said to me, 'What kind of college do you think you're going to get into with a local diploma?' What kind of city job do you think you're going to get with a local diploma?' " Ciccone said.

He replied that he wanted to attend Kingsborough Community College.

"She said, 'What kind of degree do you think you're going to get there?' " Ciccone claimed. "I was crying, just sitting there for five or 10 minutes crying in front of her, and she just kept insulting me."

Ciccone met with Rohloff, an assistant principal and a guidance counselor, on Tuesday to question why he was held to a school policy in which students' Regents course grades are reduced if they do not score at least 65 on the corresponding Regents exam.

Two of his passing course grades were reduced to failing - and could prevent him from graduating - because he scored 61 and 56 on the tests.

He argued that he should be held to a different standard because changes to state graduation regulations requiring students to pass Regents exams with a minimum score of 65 - the basis for the school policy - do not apply to students his age.

Ciccone entered ninth grade in 2001, and state regulations say that such students are eligible to graduate with a local diploma by scoring 55 or above on five Regents exams.

He is also exempt from those changes because students with disabilities may pass so-called Regents Competency Tests to earn local diplomas.

Rohloff did not return a phone call for comment. An Education Department spokesman said Rohloff insists she was trying to motivate Ciccone to earn a more prestigious Regents diploma, not demean him.

"I'm 20 years old. How long does she want me to stay in high school? I'm trying to get out," said Ciccone, who said he wants to join the Navy.

The probe is the latest setback for Rohloff, who in her two years leading Lafayette has antagonized students, teachers and alumni with her iron will to turn around the oft-troubled school.

She's been reprimanded for arbitrarily imposing her Regents grade-retention policy and comparing the school to a Nazi camp.

Class Dismissed at Lafayette

It's just too bad they didn't dismiss the whole class years ago. Here's the story from the NY Daily News.

New York Daily News -
Class dismissed
Tuesday, December 12th, 2006

Five failing high schools were slated for closure yesterday, including a Brooklyn campus boasting a principal who was a grad of Mayor Bloomberg's elite Leadership Academy.

Education officials said dismal graduation rates, consistently low test scores and lackluster demand prompted the schools' shuttering.

The soon-to-be defunct institutions are Lafayette High in Bensonhurst, Brooklyn; South Shore High in Canarsie, Brooklyn; Samuel J. Tilden High in East Flatbush, Brooklyn; Urban Peace Academy in East Harlem, and the School for the Physical City in Gramercy Park.

Education brass met with teachers and principals at all of the schools yesterday to break the news.

"These are schools that we've reviewed for a long time and have a track record of low performance and difficult circumstances," said Melody Meyer, spokeswoman for the Department of Education.

Sources said Jolanta Rohloff, Lafayette's controversial principal and a graduate of Bloomberg's Leadership Academy for principals, was the primary catalyst for the surprise decision.

But Education Department spokesman David Cantor defended Rohloff: "We think that she has performed very well in difficult circumstances."

Since arriving at the Bensonhurst school in 2005, Rohloff has had a series of missteps, including docking students' grades for failing to score higher than 65 on Regents exams and paying teachers overtime to tidy up their classrooms.

She also prompted a student walkout by having a mural they created painted over and caused outrage this year by withholding textbooks from students for up to six weeks.

"It is no secret that there have been problems at Lafayette, so its closing is not surprising," said United Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten.

"As to Lafayette, we are working with the DOE to create a redesigned school - and potentially two new schools - that parents will want to send their children to and where educators will want to teach," she said.

The schools will be phased out over the next three years, with the three large Brooklyn high schools likely replaced by smaller schools.

More detailed plans will be released next month, Meyer said.

The schools will not accept ninth-graders in the fall. The approximately 6,100 students already enrolled at the campuses will be allowed to graduate from them, the last classes in 2010.

Graduation rates at all of the schools have routinely been well below the citywide average of 58%.

Crime has also been an issue at several schools, especially Tilden, which in August was named among the 17 most violent public schools in the state.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Good Riddance to Lafayette

Well, it took almost 40 years for the NYC Board of Education to decide to get rid of the blight of Lafayette. I attended this school over 40 years ago and while it wasn't obvious to me at the time that this was a waste of space and time, I certainly did realize it in retrospect. Especially after I had the good fortune to put myself through the 12th grade in another school. Even though I was on my own, supporting myself at the age of 18, it was a real revelation to attend a school where they had counsellors who counselled and teachers who taught and actually gave a damn. Up to that point, I thought an atmosphere like that was what people made fun of by comparing it to "Leave It To Beaver."

Today they call Lafayette "low performing", a nice euphemism for apathy: Teachers and students who don't want to be there. Back in another era, the students really had no choice, but I suppose the teachers had a good thing, so why would they upset the two month long vacation and job security by actually trying to give a damn about why they should be there in the first place?

To underscore the drastic situation at Lafayette, it looks like they're going to level the building and blot out the name. They plan on replacing the prison-like structure with 5 smaller schools. It's probably a step in the right direction, but just having 5 mini Lafayetts on the site won't solve the problem. It has to start from the top down. Teachers and principals who actually want to teach and make a difference in students' lives, not just be there and occupy space while waiting for the nice pension checks to come in.

I plan on being at the demolition with my camera watching Lafayette turn into trash, nothing but trash. Maybe I'll save a few bricks to put on Ebay to sell to the 6 people who have fond memories of the dump.

New York Daily News -
Lafayette celeb grads sad but students glad
Wednesday, December 13th, 2006

Famous alums of Brooklyn's Lafayette High School reacted with sadness yesterday to news of the school's imminent demise - but current students said it's about time.

"It's a real shame," said Steven Schirripa, a 1975 grad who plays Bobby Bacala on "The Sopranos." "It was a really good school. I don't know what went wrong."

Education officials announced Monday that Lafayette - the alma mater of such luminaries as broadcast legend Larry King and baseball great Sandy Koufax - will be phased out along with four other failing schools.

While actor and 1956 graduate Paul Sorvino remembered Lafayette yesterday as a place with a "wonderful spirit," today's students complained of chaos in the hallways and classrooms.

"I feel like I'm in prison sometimes. Kids set papers on the bulletin boards on fire and in the trash in the bathrooms," said sophomore Malaysia Goddard, 15. "It's crazy here sometimes."

HBO boxing commentator Larry Merchant, 75, a 1948 Lafayette graduate, reminisced about the thrill of playing home football games at Ebbets Field and listening to crooner Vic Damone, another grad, sing at the senior prom.

"It had a pretty good run," Merchant said. "Things evolve and change, and I hope the change suits the needs of the current system."

Schirripa reminisced about his junior varsity basketball coach teaching his driver's education class, while Sorvino fondly remembered his leading roles in "The Monkey's Paw" and "Stage Door."

"Lafayette exists in my mind now as a metaphor, a paradigm of creative experience and personal fulfillment," Sorvino said, "and now these kids don't have that."

Today's students described a poisonous environment at the school, whose controversial principal, Jolanta Rohloff, has been under scrutiny for paying teachers overtime to clean classrooms and improperly lowering the grades of students who score below 65 on Regents exams.

Regine Medard, a 16-year-old junior, complained of graffiti on desks, and ratty books, including a global history text that doesn't cover all of the time periods needed to pass the Regents.

"They need to phase it out. It would be better for the students," she said. "I think more of them would go to classes and there'll be less problems, less conflicts."

But other students were dubious of the reorganization, which could put three smaller schools on Lafayette's site.

"It's stupid 'cause Lafayette's been here forever," said senior Michael Osyesanya, 18.

Bye Bye Rummy

With the swearing in of Robert Gates as Secretary of Defense this morning, the failed Rumsfeld era comes to a close.

As we saw last week, the President and his Administration are going to try and paint a rosy picture of his tenure, but no amount of revisionist history can change the facts - that Donald Rumsfeld's history is one of deadly misjudgments and overly optimistic projections that never came to pass.

Here's a look back at some of his greatest misses:

Rumsfeld’s History Of Failure

September 2002: Rumsfeld Said Iraqis Would Start “Singing and Flying Kites” After Liberation. "Think of the faces in Afghanistan when the people were liberated, when they moved out in the streets and they started singing and flying kites and women went to school and people were able to function and other countries were able to start interacting with them. That's what would happen in Iraq." [Media Roundtable, 9/13/02]

February 2003: Rumsfeld “Doubts” the War Will Last Six Months. During a town hall meeting with troops, Rumsfeld said that if the US went to war in Iraq, although “it is not knowable if force will be used, but if it is to be used, it is not knowable how long that conflict would last. It could last, you know, six days, six weeks. I doubt six months.” [Town Hall Meeting, 2/7/03]

March 2003: Rumsfeld Said “We Know Where” The WMD Are. In an interview with George Stephanopoulos, when asked why the military had not found Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction yet, Rumsfeld said, “We know where [the WMD] are. They’re in the area around Tikrit and Baghdad and east, west, south and north somewhat.” [ABC, 3/30/03]

June 2003: Rumsfeld Says Army's Estimates of Troops Needed For Post-War Iraq Were Too High. Rumsfeld and Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz criticized the Army's chief of staff, General Eric Shinseki, after Shinseki told Congress in February 2003 that the occupation could require "several hundred thousand troops." Wolfowitz called Shinseki's estimate "wildly off the mark." [USA Today, 6/2/03]

July 2003: Generals Admit Bush Administration Never Had Concrete Plan for Post-War Iraq. Bush administration officials and military personnel admitted that there was never a real plan for post-war Iraq operations. Posed with the question of whether the Army had an outlined plan for peacekeeping in Iraq, V Corps Commander Lt. Gen. William Wallace said “Well, we’re making this up here as we go along.” A former-senior administration official said, “There was no real planning for postwar Iraq.” Knight Ridder reported, “The disenchanted U.S. officials today think the failure of the Pentagon civilians to develop such detailed plans contributed to the chaos in post-Saddam Iraq. ‘We could have done so much better,’ lamented a former senior Pentagon official, who is still a Defense Department adviser.” [Newsweek, 7/21/03; Knight Ridder, 7/12/03, emphasis added]

February 2004: Rumsfeld Says “We Do Not Expect” to Have 115,000 Troops Permanently Deployed In Any One Place. “The increased demand on the force we are experiencing today is likely a ‘spike,’ driven by the deployment of nearly 115,000 troops in Iraq. We hope and anticipate that that spike will be temporary. We do not expect to have 115,000 troops permanently deployed in any one campaign.” [Senate Armed Services Committee Hearing, 2/4/04]

December 2004: Rumsfeld Dismissed Shortage Of Armored Humvees, Told Troops To Go To War With What You Have. One soldier asked Rumsfeld why their combat vehicles were not properly armed. "You go to the war with the Army you have," Rumsfeld responded. "Not the Army you might want or wish to have at a later date." The response struck many military families as callous. [UPI, 12/9/04; CNN, 12/9/04]

August 2006: Rumsfeld Says There Is Violence, But No Civil War. When asked whether Iraq was fighting a civil war, Rumsfeld said, “There's no question there's a high level of sectarian violence…[which is] a shame…But it -- the people who look at it contend that they're not in it, and the government of Iraq says they're not in a civil war…” [Department of Defense News Briefing, 8/22/06]

Memorable Quotes by Donald Rumsfeld

Via Crooks & Liars

Thanks for the memories. Bill from Portland links to "the Political Humor" site for Rummy's best quotes.

"I would not say that the future is necessarily less predictable than the past. I think the past was not predictable when it started."

"We do know of certain knowledge that he [Osama Bin Laden] is either in Afghanistan, or in some other country, or dead."

"We know where they are. They're in the area around Tikrit and Baghdad and east, west, south and north somewhat." –on Iraq's weapons of mass destruction

"Death has a tendency to encourage a depressing view of war."

"Freedom's untidy, and free people are free to make mistakes and commit crimes and do bad things." –on looting in Iraq after the U.S. invasion, adding "stuff happens"

"As you know, you go to war with the army you have, not the army you might want or wish to have at a later time."

"[Osama Bin Laden is] either alive and well or alive and not too well or not alive."

"I am not going to give you a number for it because it's not my business to do intelligent work." -asked to estimate the number of Iraqi insurgents while testifying before Congress

"I believe what I said yesterday. I don't know what I said, but I know what I think, and, well, I assume it's what I said."

"Needless to say, the President is correct. Whatever it was he said."

"Reports that say that something hasn't happened are always interesting to me, because as we know, there are known knowns; there are things we know we know. We also know there are known unknowns; that is to say we know there are some things we do not know. But there are also unknown unknowns — the ones we don't know we don't know."

"If I said yes, that would then suggest that that might be the only place where it might be done which would not be accurate, necessarily accurate. It might also not be inaccurate, but I'm disinclined to mislead anyone."

"There's another way to phrase that and that is that the absence of evidence is not the evidence of absence. It is basically saying the same thing in a different way. Simply because you do not have evidence that something does exist does not mean that you have evidence that it doesn't exist." -on Iraq's weapons of mass destruction

"It is unknowable how long that conflict [the war in Iraq] will last. It could last six days, six weeks. I doubt six months." -in Feb. 2003

"Well, um, you know, something's neither good nor bad but thinking makes it so, I suppose, as Shakespeare said."

"Secretary Powell and I agree on every single issue that has ever been before this administration except for those instances where Colin's still learning."

"Learn to say 'I don't know.' If used when appropriate, it will be often."

"I don't know what the facts are but somebody's certainly going to sit down with him and find out what he knows that they may not know, and make sure he knows what they know that he may not know."

"I'm not into this detail stuff. I'm more concepty."

"I don't do quagmires."

"I don't do diplomacy."

"I don't do foreign policy."

"I don't do predictions."

"I don't do numbers."

"I don't do book reviews."

"Now, settle down, settle down. Hell, I'm an old man, it's early in the morning and I'm gathering my thoughts here."

"If I know the answer I'll tell you the answer, and if I don't, I'll just respond, cleverly."

"Oh, Lord. I didn't mean to say anything quotable."

Sunday, December 17, 2006

How To Get a Passport

The U.S. government will soon enforce new passport requirements for all travelers entering or re-entering the United States from Canada, Mexico, Central and South America, the Caribbean, and Bermuda. Travel between the U.S. and U.S. territories (including Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands) will not be affected.

For more information about new passport rules that apply to U.S. citizens as well as to citizens of Canada, Mexico, and the Caribbean, click on the links below.

For U.S. Citizens:
(National Association of Passport and Visa Services site)
U.S. Flag

For Canadian Citizens:
Canadian Flag

For Mexican Citizens:
Mexican Flag

(Citizens of other Caribbean countries should contact their national government officials.)

Friday, December 15, 2006


I never owned a cat before so I didn't really know what to expect when Marley came to live with us on a temporary basis until her owner could find a new place to live. She was kind of jumpy at first, being scared by some of the new voices she heard. But after a while she settled in. He favorite activity was chasing a red laser pointer dot around the house, as well as stalking birds in the back yard.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Pelosi to America: Truman Commission Will Find Waste, Fraud and Abuse

Speaker-elect Nancy Pelosi today said "there will be a Truman Commission to investigate waste, fraud and abuse" perpetrated by military contractors in the course of President Bush's war in Iraq. While it is not the first time Democrats have called for such hearings, it rang out as a Christmas gift of freedom coming from the mouth of the next speaker.

For those who have not seen "Iraq for Sale: The War Profiteers," a Brave New Film by Robert Greenwald, do yourself a favor and take a look. The movie, along with T. Christian Miller's excellent, if jarring, book "Blood Money," demonstrates the myriad abuses by Halliburton, CACI, Titan, Blackwater and others who thought they had a green light to the American treasury. Sadly, it appears that for the past six years, that's just what they've had.
Read more

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Cut and Run

The New York Times has a memo written by former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, just two days before his resignation. In it, he suggests a "lowering of expectations." He also suggested that any change of course be sold to the public as a "trial" so that if it doesn't work, they can go to another plan and not appear to "lose."

“In my view it is time for a major adjustment,” wrote Mr. Rumsfeld, who has been a symbol of a dogged stay-the-course policy. “Clearly, what U.S. forces are currently doing in Iraq is not working well enough or fast enough.”

Nor did Mr. Rumsfeld seem confident that the administration would readily develop an effective alternative. To limit the political fallout from shifting course, he suggested the administration consider a campaign to lower public expectations.

“Announce that whatever new approach the U.S. decides on, the U.S. is doing so on a trial basis,” he wrote. “This will give us the ability to readjust and move to another course, if necessary, and therefore not ‘lose.’

“Recast the U.S. military mission and the U.S. goals (how we talk about them) — go minimalist,” he added. The memo suggests frustration with the pace of turning over responsibility to the Iraqi authorities; in fact, the memo calls for examination of ideas that roughly parallel troop withdrawal proposals presented by some of the White House’s sharpest Democratic critics.”

Saturday, November 11, 2006

He won an Oscar and a Purple Heart

And he reinvented his career in his '70s. Jack Palance was an original.

Actor Jack Palance, who won an Oscar with his comedic self-parody in 1991's "City Slickers," died Friday.

He was 87, said spokesman Dick Guttman, and died of natural causes in his home in Montecito, California, surrounded by his family.

Known for hard, grizzled roles in numerous Westerns during his six-decade career, Palance gained a second wind of fame when he won the best supporting actor Oscar for playing Curly in "City Slickers."

The actor clutched his Oscar in one hand and dropped to the ground for a round of vigorous one-handed push-ups.


Thursday, November 09, 2006

No Child Left Behind is the New Draft

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Bush flip flops and cuts and runs on Rumsfeld

Bush taps Gates to replace Rumsfeld - Yahoo! News: "WASHINGTON - After years of defending his secretary of defense, President Bush on Wednesday announced Donald H. Rumsfeld's resignation within hours of the Democrats' triumph in congressional elections. Bush reached back to his father's administration to tap a former CIA director to run the Pentagon."

A brilliant video. (Caution, some graphic images)

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Politician speaks the truth

If you're of draft age or you have children who are, this should concern you.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

John Kerry, John Kerry!

Drudge Retort: SanAntonioRogue's blog: "Interviewer: Mr. President, there is a huge national deficit facing our country.

Bush: John Kerry, John Kerry!

Interviewer: Mr. President, health care costs are spiraling out of control and millions of Americans have no coverage.

Bush: John Kerry, John Kerry!

Interviewer: Mr. President, our ports, our borders, and most critical facilities in this country are completely unsecured.

Bush: John Kerry, John Kerry!

Interviewer: Mr. President, this country has never been more polarized and divided politically, culturally, socially, and economically before.


Interviewer: Mr. President, there are over 2800 dead American service people, 11,000 seriously maimed and wounded, 10's of thousands, if not 100's of thousands of dead Iraqi civilians in a war that even members of your own party say has been botched.


Interviewer: Thank you Mr. President for defining your goals, priorities, and strategies for the remainder of your term."

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Dirty GOP

David Corn: "A week and a half to the elections. Expect plenty of foul play: dirty ads, push polls, false charges, etc. And it may sound unduly partisan to say so, but most of this can be expected to come from the Republicans. Take a look at the front-page article in today's Washington Post headlined 'The Year of Playing Dirtier.' It notes,

On the brink of what could be a power-shifting election, it is kitchen-sink time: Desperate candidates are throwing everything. While negative campaigning is a tradition in American politics, this year's version in many races has an eccentric shade, filled with allegations of moral bankruptcy and sexual perversion.

At the same time, the growth of 'independent expenditures' by national parties and other groups has allowed candidates to distance themselves from distasteful attacks on their opponents, while blogs and YouTube have provided free distribution networks for eye-catching hatchet jobs.

'When the news is bad, the ads tend to be negative,' said Shanto Iyengar, a Stanford professor who studies political advertising. 'And the more negative the ad, the more likely it is to get free media coverage. So there's a big incentive to go to the extremes.'

But this is no bipartisan effort. All of the examples of dirty politics the article cites are Republican attacks on Democrats. As the Post reports,

The result has been a carnival of ugly, especially on the GOP side, where operatives are trying to counter what polls show is a hostile political environment by casting opponents as fatally flawed characters. The National Republican Campaign Committee is spending more than 90 percent of its advertising budget on negative ads, according to GOP operatives, and the rest of the party seems to be following suit.

And some of the examples are pretty ugly. Check out the article to see.

Now, let's think back to the days of the 2000 campaign. A presidential candidate vowed that he would change the tone in Washington. That man was George W. Bush. He obviously didn't mean it. As the titular head of the GOP, Bush could say something about the current Republican assault. But he doesn't seem to care if his party veers further into the gutter. No doubt, it will get worse in the days ahead.

God bless George McGovern

Where have all the leaders gone?

Aging McGovern still campaigns for peace

By ADAM GELLER, AP National Writer

Back in the stacks — bracketed by shelves filled with copies of "Where The Wild Things Are" and "My Friend Rabbit" and beneath an oversized cutout of Babar, the elephant king — the elder statesman has again found an audience.

Or maybe it's the audience that has again found him.

The air outside the book emporium tonight is cut by the first October chill. Inside, George McGovern must compete with the din unleashed by a gaggle of preschoolers ignoring the grandfatherly figure for the store's wooden train set. But as customers fill the metal folding chairs set before a microphone, the man one longtime friend calls "Should've-been-President McGovern" sticks with his quietly fervent sermon, drawing knowing laughter and grim nods of approval.

And now, a generation after he was ridiculed and rejected for a similarly resolute call to abandon another unpopular war, McGovern is one unshakable stride ahead of naysayers — certain that time and a nation's reflection have proven he was right before.

"We were told that even though it had been a mistake to go to war in this little tiny jungle strip 10,000 miles away, it would be a mistake to leave," the long-ago senator and Democratic presidential nominee tells all who will listen. His voice, more professorial than pastoral, quavers slightly as he recalls the morality trap set by Vietnam. "Now I see the same thing happening in Iraq."

It is a most unlikely setting to deliver a message about the evils of war. And at 84, nearly half a lifetime after his Quixotic quest to replace Richard Nixon in the White House was buried under what one documentary labels "the mother of all presidential landslides," McGovern might seem an unlikely man to still be delivering it.

At least that might be the conclusion of someone who doesn't know McGovern, friends and observers say. In fact, he has never been a man to slink away or to fester. It's just that, for much of the time he's been speaking his mind, not enough people have been listening, they say.

Now, as a new generation of politicians wrestle with the painful choices forced by the war in Iraq, McGovern is again interjecting his view, projecting himself as one who knows better.

But the politician who years ago railed against "old men dreaming up wars for young men to die in," is an old man himself now. And, he is arguably a left-wing relic. Does a society that uses the word "liberal" as an insult and reveres youth above all, have any place for such an elder statesman?

McGovern — who can appreciate better than most the hazards of being defined by others — isn't waiting for someone else to answer.


The McGovernites have come home.

Many were just kids during that 1972 campaign. But they're still here for the prairie orator, scattered through the crowd of a few thousand who have flocked to the main quad at Dakota Wesleyan University in McGovern's hometown of Mitchell, to pay tribute under an azure sky.

They include a pair of middle-aged women sporting matching "I Voted for George" T-shirts. And people like Mark Evans, long ago the chairman of Buffalo State Students for McGovern, who has flown out from upstate Avon, N.Y., to see his icon and peddle buttons touting "McGovern for President 2008."

"I just think he's been vindicated by time," says Evans, a 54-year-old retired librarian.

"We were all there and we still are," a formerly obscure Texas campaign worker, one William Jefferson Clinton, tells the crowd gathered on the newly seeded lawn bordering McGovern Avenue. "I believe no other presidential candidate ever had such an enduring impact in defeat. Senator, the fires you lit still burn."

McGovern smiles broadly, shaking every hand offered, autographing innumerable copies of his many books and posing for picture after picture. These are his people.

But they were not enough then and they are not enough now. McGovern still yearns to reach the many others — the ones who voted against him, their sons and daughters, the ones he is often blamed for driving from the Democratic Party fold. Now, though, it's a campaign of one.

The Monday morning after dedicating the library Dakota Wesleyan has built in his and wife Eleanor's name, the crowd's adoration is a memory.

McGovern pulls the door of his modest gray-brown ranch house behind him and crosses the street alone. He fishes for his office key in his suit jacket pocket and lets himself in. When the dentist's office calls to confirm an appointment, he's the one who answers. Asked to parse the past, there are no aides or handlers to deflect the question, just a thoughtful man alone with rumination.

"Don't believe McGovern or you'll lose 49 states," he says, summing up the prevailing thinking of his party for the past three decades. "The Democrats have been running away from it ever since. But even Jesus Christ had some of his disciples run away from him."

Much about the past still troubles McGovern.

Each time he walks past the polished black granite of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C., he finds a place to weep among nearby trees, he says, in part because he failed to persuade the nation to leave the war sooner. It irritates him that he was marginalized, and still is, by those who misunderstood or mischaracterized his views.

Even now, McGovern's name is invoked — as it has been in a closely watched Senate battle in Connecticut — as a symbol of Democratic extremism.

But McGovern, admired as a gentle soul in a profession that often seems to find civility irrelevant, has never been an angry man, and he is far from bitter now.

"I've been assailed for as long as I've been in politics," he says. "But you have to find a way to steel yourself."

His solution has been to craft a different kind of political life, finding common ground with unlikely allies. In the 1980s, he met for quiet talks with Nixon, attended his funeral. He tours college campuses with former Kansas Sen. Bob Dole, who led the Republican National Committee during the 1972 campaign, and counts him as one of his closest friends. Recently, he invited a one-time foe, Vietnam-era Defense Secretary Robert McNamara, to join a council of elders he is forming.

"I just don't want to see these older heads consigned to the scrap heap," he says. Not least, his own.

He is on the road a few days every week, delivering talks. Just finished with one book — he plans to learn how to use a computer soon, but for now does all his writing on a yellow legal pad — he has already signed up to write another.

"Now I don't have to worry about pacing myself," he says. He straightens his body from the sofa it has been draped across, undoing the top button of his shirt and pulling back the collar to display the bulge of a pacemaker implanted in his chest. "Because that does it for me."

As he takes on the war in Iraq, he is certain plenty of others agree with him — even if they don't acknowledge it. For McGovern, used to being considered on the fringe, the notion that those who agree with him might not want to do so openly, is hardly troubling. What bothers him, he says, is that they seem reluctant to speak for themselves.

"For people who have never been near a battlefield ... to accuse critics of being soft on national security and soft on Communism and soft on terrorism, I think is preposterous," he says, recalling a favorite speech by Republican President Dwight Eisenhower warning the nation of letting militarism go unchecked.

"Now a five-star general can say that without being accused of being soft...but I suppose a liberal Democrat — which I am — is not allowed to say that."

It's clear that McGovern didn't believe that 34 years ago, clearer still he can't abide it now.


Joe and Frances McGovern taught their children many things. But politics was never one of them.

Their son, George, was born in tiny Avon, S.D., population 600, in a home defined by prayer. Joe was a Methodist minister who built the churches where he preached. He and his much younger wife, stern, thrifty and conservative folk, raised their children to follow suit. It wasn't until George was 12 or 13 that he learned his father had once played baseball for a St. Louis Cardinals farm team — an experience recounted as a parable for vices and temptations to be avoided.

The McGoverns moved to Mitchell when he was 5 and he later attended Dakota Wesleyan, the Methodist school not far from home. He met and married Eleanor — they are still together 63 years later, but he despairs that she is ailing — shortly before shipping off to Italy as the pilot of a B-24 bomber in the final year of World War II. McGovern guided the Dakota Queen through 35 combat missions over Europe, and was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross.

He returned home, briefly trying seminary school and life as a minister before becoming a history professor at his alma mater. He ran for Congress in 1956 and won, climbing to the Senate six years later.

McGovern's early politics were mostly about supporting farmers, and his grass roots style was well-suited to a state where voters still expect to look each of their would-be representatives in the eye.

"If he saw you once and saw you three weeks later, he'd remember you," says David Kranz, longtime political columnist for Sioux Falls' Argus-Leader. "That's magic for a politician."

McGovern saw his popular support at home plummet when he became an early opponent of the war in Vietnam, and he was passed over for his party's presidential nomination in 1968. But he surprised most observers by claiming the nomination in 1972, pledging to pull the U.S. out of a war in which it had lost its moral compass.

His campaign, though, quickly lost its way. And in November, McGovern won only Massachusetts and the District of Columbia, a 520-to-17 electoral vote thrashing that prompted many in his own party to reject him.

McGovern became "a symbol of a kind of Democratic failure ... crystallizing the Democratic Party's alliance with, or tolerance of, a leftism that most Americans couldn't abide," says David Greenberg, a professor at Rutgers University who has written about the Nixon presidency.

McGovern embraces the reality but disdains the description.

"How the hell do you get elected in South Dakota for 20 years if you're a wild-eyed radical?" he asks.

After losing to Nixon, McGovern returned to the Senate and ran again for president in 1984, falling in the early primaries.

In the years afterward, he stepped away from politics to teach, try running an inn in Connecticut and a bookstore in Montana. The loss of daughter Terry — an alcoholic who froze to death on a Wisconsin street after a night of drinking — haunted McGovern, who found release by writing about her battle with addiction.

He returned to public life in 1998 when Clinton named him ambassador to the United Nations food program and later was named the U.N.'s global ambassador on hunger.

And McGovern has continued writing. The Bush administration's conduct in Iraq unleashes a frustration in McGovern — outlined in articles and a new book co-authored with Middle East expert William R. Polk calling for the U.S. to begin withdrawing troops by the end of this year — that is bound to draw detractors. They'll say McGovern wants to cut and run again, he acknowledges.

He's probably right. But what critics may miss is that, rather than being stuck in a time warp, McGovern's observations are crisp with vitality, built on an urgency that needs an outlet.

Hanging on the wall just outside his office in the new library is a carefully framed and beautifully scripted copy of a familiar prayer. As he enters, he pauses to extol the artwork, then rejects the sentiment.

"God," the prayer begins, "grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change..."

"No," says McGovern, when asked if the prayer represents a personal credo. "I keep trying to change them."


He is a man at peace, McGovern says. But that does not mean he has to make peace with all he sees around him.

Conversation with McGovern is served in measured portions, gravelly reflections rather than barbed soundbites. But there are moments when he bristles, nearly always at politics in the present tense: That the Bush administration conspired to hide the truth from Americans in its determination to invade Iraq, that demagogues have been allowed to depict God as a neoconservative ideologue...

"What I resent, you know, is that the Bible warns us against false prophets," he says, "I don't believe in the manipulation of religious faith for these narrow, extremist, partisan positions."

The difference, according to this man who says he tries, with mixed results, to live up to the words of the Sermon on the Mount, is that he does not pretend to be speaking for anyone but George McGovern. But there are those who see it differently.

Inside the bookstore, they line up in front of the wooden table where McGovern is seated, bringing him copies of books to sign, to seek hugs and handshakes, to tell him how their stories have intertwined with his own.

"You're the first person I ever voted for," Victoria Watson of Sioux Falls confides. "My son is in Iraq now. Thank you for continuing to speak out."

McGovern smiles gently and takes Watson's hand, an offer of comfort and of thanks.

The elder statesman is glad to be of service.

Copyright © 2006 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. The information contained in the AP News report may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without the prior written authority of The Associated Press.
Copyright © 2006 Yahoo! Inc. All rights reserved.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Will the DNC get equal treatment?

Media extensively covered -- and replayed -- GOP terror ad; will they give DNC Iraq ad same treatment? The answer should be obvious.
Via Media Matters

Last week, the Republican National Committee unveiled an advertisement that invoked the specter of terrorism in an effort to win votes in the upcoming midterm elections. As Media Matters for America noted, the ad was given extensive media coverage, particularly by cable news networks, which replayed the ad again and again.

Today, the Democratic National Committee released an ad titled "Stay the Course," which details the failures of the Bush administration's Iraq policies, the administration's relentless insistence on "staying the course" over the last three years and its recent denials that it has ever supported such a policy.

Will news organizations that obligingly aired the RNC ad free of charge treat the Democrats' ad the same way?

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Pat Tillman's brother criticizes war

"PHOENIX (AP) -- The brother of an NFL player who was killed in Afghanistan after quitting the team to join the U.S. Army Rangers has spoken out.

Kevin Tillman, a former Army Ranger who served in Iraq and Afghanistan with his older brother, Pat Tillman, has remained silent since his brother's death in 2004. But this week, he wrote a scathing indictment of the war in Iraq, the Bush administration and American apathy.

'Somehow, the more soldiers that die, the more legitimate the illegal invasion becomes,' Kevin wrote on, which purchased his work.

The brothers, both Arizona State University graduates, joined the Army in response to the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. They served together as Rangers with the 2nd Battalion of the 75th Ranger Regiment.

Pat Tillman, who played defensive back for the Arizona Cardinals, was killed by friendly fire near the Pakistan-Afghanistan border in April 2004. The Defense Department is investigating allegations of a cover-up, including failure by the U.S. Army to tell Tillman's family for several weeks that he had been killed by gunfire from his fellow Army Rangers, not by enemy fire as they initially were told.

Kevin Tillman has not spoken publicly about the war or his brother's death since his discharge from the Army. But in, Kevin wrote openly about the war and America's response to it.

'Somehow, the same incompetent, narcissistic, virtueless, vacuous, malicious criminals are still in charge of this country. Somehow, this is tolerated. Somehow, nobody is accountable for this.'

After playing for the ASU Sun Devils, Pat Tillman was drafted by the Arizona Cardinals in 1998. He played with the team for four years.

On Sept. 12, 2001, he gave an interview in which he talked about how 'stupid' football seemed relative to world events.

'At times like this, you stop and think about not only how good we have it but what kind of system we live under,' he said. 'My great-grandfather was at Pearl Harbor. And a lot of my family has gone and fought in wars. And I really haven't done a ... thing as far as laying myself on the line like that.'

Pat was on the verge of signing another contract with the Cardinals in the spring of 2002 when he decided to join the Army instead.

The Tillmans were initially sent to Iraq as part of Operation Iraqi Freedom. In 2003, the brothers returned to the U.S. for training to become Army Rangers. After that, they were sent to Afghanistan.

Copyright 2006 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed."

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Customer No-Service

I'm too far from a phone company switching station so DSL is not available in my area. But I still get calls, email, full color brochures in the mail, and even visitors offering me DSL from the phone company. I had been a customer of one phone company for over 25 years and when I called to ask them about DSL they said they didn't show me as their customer. I still had to pay the bill that arrived every month. After years of offers for DSL service that the phone company couldn't provide, I finally decided to accept their offer for DSL service from the phone company's website. They site confirmed my address, account and phone number and told me to expect a DSL modem in the mail within a week. Of course, it never came. The website showed a pending order for the service but they'll never fulfill it. When I called the phone company to ask where my modem was, they told me that DSL wasn't available at my address. When I asked them why the website confirmed the order and said a modem would be arriving, they said that it was a mistake. Knowing my next request wouldn't be fulfilled, I asked them to stop sending me glossy expensive brochures offering a service they couldn't provide, stop sending sales people to my door and quit emailing me offers for DSL. If they could stop wasting money trying to sell me a service they couldn't provide, then maybe they could lower my monthly phone bill, which was over $100. They told me to call the business office with my request. The business office told me they didn't recognize me as a customer. I got high speed cable internet, got rid of the phone companies, and got Vonage phone service for one third of what I paid the phone company. Now the phone companies are scrambling to try to prevent more loss of business. Maybe if they recognized their customers as customers, they wouldn't have this problem.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Countdown: Day Habeas Corpus Died

135 years to the day after the last American President (Ulysses S. Grant) suspended habeas corpus, President Bush signed into law the Military Commissions Act of 2006. At its worst, the legislation allows President Bush or Donald Rumsfeld to declare anyone — US citizen or not — an enemy combatant, lock them up and throw away the key without a chance to prove their innocence in a court of law. In other words, every thing the Founding Fathers fought the British empire to free themselves of was reversed and nullified with the stroke of a pen, all under the guise of the War on Terror.

Friday, October 13, 2006

Iraq for Sale: The War Profiteers - Trailer

A powerful new movie from the makers of Outfoxed about the corporations who’re cashing in on Iraq.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

9/11 Widows Blast Bush

Responding to news of another pre-Sept. 11th warning ignored by senior Bush administration officials, four widows who lost their husbands during the terrorist attcks criticize the failure of White House officials to act upon warnings that Al Qaeda was planning a strike on the United States.

Jeb Bush gets rude welcome

Jeb Bush runs into the closet as some other Republicans are coming out of the closet.

"Police disperse angry protesters in Downtown T-station

Saturday, October 07, 2006
By Ervin Dyer, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, in town for a fund-raiser for Sen. Rick Santorum, had a close encounter with a large group of anti-Republican protesters as he was making his way to the Duquesne Club, Downtown.

It was about 4:15 yesterday when Mr. Bush met up with the protesters near the corner of Liberty and Sixth avenues. The protesters were marching to join other pickets already gathered in front of the exclusive club, a little more than a block away at 325 Sixth Ave.

Protesters said Gov. Bush blew them a kiss, acknowledging the crowd of about 30 chanting pickets that was made up of United Steelworkers and members of Uprise Counter Recruitment, a tour traveling through 22 cities to support anti-war efforts.

The protesters came closer.

'Jeb, go home,' they shouted.

Mr. Bush, accompanied by a security guard and a female aide, made a slow retreat toward the T-station at Wood Street.

'He was quickly getting out of the way and not wanting to engage us,' said Jon Vandenburgh, one of the protesters, who also is a researcher for the United Steelworkers.

Once in the subway station, Mr. Bush scurried to the escalators and descended to the mezzanine level, Mr. Vandenburgh said.

By now, Mr. Bush was cornered. He was surrounded by signs that said 'Pittsburgh is a Santorum Free Zone,' 'Honk if you're sick of Rick,' and a crowd growing increasingly louder, according to Mr. Vandenburgh.

'We don't want you here,' protesters chanted.

Port Authority spokesman Bob Grove said six or seven officers responded to the scene to control the crowds.

He said Mr. Bush had been walking in the area near the T-station and the incident happened spontaneously when about 50 pickets 'tailed him and stayed with him and went into the Wood Street station.'

About 75 protesters remained on the street, said Mr. Grove.

He said the crowd was asked repeatedly to disperse.

Mr. Grove said a Port Authority canine unit was called in to help with crowd control. Two officers used their tasers to stun two protesters who 'were asked to leave, but did not go,' Mr. Grove said.

The tasers he said were empty of the cartridges that supply a more powerful charge.

'It was a very tense situation. They were very close to the governor and shouting on top of him.'

As a precaution, the governor was ushered into a T-station supply closet and stayed there until the crowd left.

No arrests were made and no citations were issued, Mr. Grove said. Mr. Bush was not injured.

The two men who were tasered were shaken and left the protest, said David Meieran, with the Thomas Merton Center and one of the protesters with Uprise Counter Recruitment.

Mr. Meieran said the Port Authority officers were fairly aggressive and pushed them aside.

Pittsburgh police said they monitored the protest in front of the Duquesne Club, which they called peaceful, but did not respond to the incident in the T-station.

The entire incident lasted about 5 minutes. After calm was restored, the smaller group of protesters inside the T-station made their way back to the Duquesne Club where they staked out the front of the building and an alley entrance.

Mr. Vandenburgh and Mr. Meieran said they later saw Mr. Bush escorted to the Duquesne Club, which he entered through a back door at about 5 p.m.

A spokeswoman for Mr. Bush said she was unaware of the incident last night and had no immediate comment.

(Ervin Dyer can be reached at or 412-263-1410. )"

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Diebold Voting Machine Parody

A parody of the Diebold voting machines during the 2001 US elections.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Cliff Schecter Takes GOP Hack To School

Vote for the party of moral values, vote for the criminals and pedophiles.
Olbermann: Our tone should be crazed.

Are YOURS the actions of a true American?

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Behind the scenes with a Bush consultant

The White House is using consultants to do focus studies and auditorium research. The goal is to get Bush to identify with his audience.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Garland Area Democratic Club Blog: We have not forgotten, Mr. President

From the Garland Area Democratic Blog, video of Keith Olbermann and his commentary on President Bush and 9-11 five years later. Includes a complete transcript.

We have not forgotten, Mr. President

Monday, September 04, 2006

Robert Di Niro - War On Terror!

If we leave Iraq, the terrorists will follow us home.

Classic Brooklyn

City Noise is a great photo blog featuring pictures of some real urban treasures. Pick a city and take a mind excursion. Here's an Brooklyn example from photographer Jack

image 15068

image 15070
Playing Bocce Ball on Cropsey Ave.

powered by performancing firefox

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Brian Williams Interviews a pretty incoherent Bush

The question is: Is Bush a schlemiel or a schlamazel? Does it make a difference?

Via Crooks and Liars

Countdown covered Brian Williams interview with Bush last night.


Video - WMV Video - QT

For someone who does not like how the public perceives him, Bush does not help his case any in this interview. Take this little exchange:

WILLIAMS: When you take a tour of the world, a lot of Americans e-mail me with their fears that, some days they just wake up and it just feels like the end of the world is near. And you go from North Korea to Iran, to Iraq, to Afghanistan, and you look at how things have changed, how Americans are viewed overseas, if that is important to you. Do you have any moments of doubt that we fought a wrong war? Or that there’s something wrong with the perception of America overseas?

BUSH: Well those are two different questions, did we fight the wrong war, and absolutely — I have no doubt — the war came to our shores, remember that. We had a foreign policy that basically said, let’s hope calm works. And we were attacked.

Last week Bush said that he never implied any connection between Iraq and 9/11, yet both Iraq and the War on Terror have again been lumped together and Bush says that the war "came to our shores". Sure the war with terrorism did, but the war with Iraq did not come to our shores. Is it any wonder why people say the White House has tried to link Saddam and 9/11?

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Let's Take A Ride on the BMT

If we can't make it to the diner, let's take a subway ride through Brooklyn. It's the next best thing to being there. Do you have 15¢ for a token? Michael Quill would be happy.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Republicans use racism in Rhode Island

Via Daily Kos

Republicans: Scary brown people are invading Rhode Island.

Monday, August 21, 2006

The South's Gonna Rise Again? In NJ?

Having lived in Texas for 25 years, I'm not surprised to see this kind of nonsense. Even though we live in a decent suburb, when my son went to high school, he told me there was a sizeable group of kids, and even some teachers, who were into the "South's gonna rise again" mentality. I still think that putting up statues of Robert E. Lee and Jefferson Davis is like honoring traitors. I've often wondered whether this rebel stuff was just a southern thing or whether it's become identified with a general feeling of bigotry all over the country. Here seems to be the answer.

Via fourfour

A confederacy of dunces

Can you spot the irony?


Look closer (while considering that the name of this fine establishment is FreedomUSA):


Ah, the Confederacy lives! In Having grown up in Jersey, I've come to expect anti-foreign language sentiment. But rebel flag swag? Really?

Maybe I was too immersed in reality TV to notice New Jersey's secession some 200 years late? Because, I ask, like apparently so few have before me: if your state was never part of the Confederacy, why in the blue fuck would you want to wear something with a rebel flag on it?

And, if you're a thinking person, why would you want to wear such a flag at all? Really, I'm curious. I can't offer you answers, but I can offer you options if you're convinced that the Battle Jack is the new black.

Good ole Jersey.

It all started so innocently, too, my immersion in, what seems to me, nostalgia for the days when black people weren't considered people. In New Jersey.


When we saw this undoubted future Daisy Duke early into our South Jersey vacation, the bf and I had no idea what we were in for.

We started catching on the next day, when we saw this:


Because, like most things, the way to show pride of your "heritage" is to immortalize it on foam that you're gonna end up rubbing your tits and/or genitals all over as you careen through God's brown ocean.

"Where do you even buy something like that?" the bf asked me. I didn't know.

But I would learn!

We visited Wildwood the next day. Wildwood is a body louse clinging to a sweaty shaft of hair in the Armpit of America that is New Jersey. This is, of course, its charm. Wildwood, like many costal resort towns in South Jersey, is home to a tourist-bating boardwalk. But Wildwood's boardwalk is unlike many of its neighboring counterparts. It's a massive, 38-block stretch that sports no fewer than five amusement parks and hundreds of crooked, carnival-type games (knock bottles over, get the ball in the basket, fill the clown's mouth with water to pop the balloon, etc.) complete with managing foreigners who harass anyone who walks by (and, no doubt, annoy everyone with those damn accents). Food is everywhere -- literally. It's being sold everywhere you look, it's on the boardwalk attracting seagulls, it's stuffed in the patrons' mouths. Perhaps the only source of commerce that's more present is that of the junky, "sundry"-cum-T-shirt shop. As a rough estimate, we'll say that there are an average of three of such places per block. If there are around 100 places to buy T-shirts (or 75, or 50 or whatever), I'd say that at least half of them have prominent displays like this:


We'll get to the actual content of the shirts in a bit (but really, "You wear your X...?" How fucking 15 years ago!). The point here is that this shit is everywhere.


Aggressively everywhere.

Incredibly, though I've visited Wildwood many times throughout my life, I'd never really noticed it before. I guess I was just walking around blindfolded, perhaps with one of these over my eyes:


Oh but there's more rebel-flag merchandise to be had in Wildwood. Things like...







and, my personal favorite...


...hermit crab shells. I mean, why should hermit crabs be denied the chance to express their Confederate pride? That would just be cruel. I'm glad that someone's thinking about the crustaceans.

Besides, it looks great in its natural habitat, right?

I know that my pearl clutching may come off as overly politically correct. You know how I know this? A T-shirt told me.


I mean, what the fuck does that even mean? Historically accurate when? While playing dress up? While spouting off antiquated ideas? Historically accurate where? In the ass that you're talking out of? Isn't one of the main goals of studying history to learn about the mistakes of the past so that we don't repeat them?

I know those who are the type to wear T-shirts like the one above or those who put rebel-flag mudflaps on their 4X4s will defend the flag as not a symbol of slavery, but of heritage. But even if the Civil War was more about commerce than slavery, doesn't the effect of the South's intended outcome provoke the slightest bit of embarrassment in people? Big ideas of struggle aside, isn't the practical implication of such heritage to deny rights to blacks?

And really, to anyone who does fly the rebel flag with pride, I ask: do you willfully associate with black people and if so, what do they think of your expression or heritage? Do you care about black culture? How many albums by black people do you own? How many movies by black directors have you seen? How many books by black authors have you read? And, for that matter, how many books have you read, period?

Regardless of how the case for rebel-flag waving can be cooked to seem benign and neutral, many of these T-shirts aren't so fiddle-dee-dee about the old days. No, they're out to offend.


Is anyone surprised that "its" is missing an apostrophe?

You can check the displays above to revisit the whole "You wear your X, I'll wear my X," thing, the unabashed racialism of "Smart Ass White Boy" and the implied white supremacist statement of "If You Ain't Redneck, You Ain't Sheeit." Oh, and then there's this one, which I don't even think I have the capacity to fully understand:


It's just plain bizarro.


But what could the kid learn from his parents that a hermit crab couldn't teach him?

I should note that besides the two girls up top with the towel and boogie board, I didn't see anyone actually rocking any of this stuff. The fact that it's so available for purchase makes me assume that there's some sort of demand for it. But then again, maybe not. Any manager of a store who'd say, "Hmmmm, you know what residents and visitors of the once-UNION state of NEW JERSEY need? Rebel flag gear!" probably can't be counted on to understand something as complex as the law of supply and demand.

As potentially offensive as this stuff is in both nonchalant ("Oooh, look at how nice the red looks as the light goes through the suncatcher! Like blood!") and overt forms, the ubiquity of it is, in a way, hilarious to me. Certainly, if you view this material in the most offensive light -- as an endorsement of the dehumanization of black people -- it comes from a place of such ignorance and stupidity and ultimate powerlessness that it's hard to take seriously. There's very, very little weight behind it all. In this desperate, pitiful nostalgia, this willful ignorance, there's just a larger-than-life caricature of real human emotion. It is, then, kitsch.

But maybe I'm mistaken. Maybe I'm the ignorant one.


OK, fine. Give me one. Explain to me how this doesn't turn its back on humanity and progress. I'm all ears. Really.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Saying No to King George


From my "Capital Games" column at

In ruling on Thursday that the Bush administration's warrantless surveillance program is unconstitutional and must be halted, U.S. district Judge Anna Diggs Taylor slammed the White House on several critical fronts.

For months, George W. Bush, Dick Cheney and other administration aides have been defending--even championing--what they call the "terrorist surveillance program," under which the National Security Agency can intercept communications that involve an American citizen or resident without a warrant if one party to the communication is overseas and suspected of being linked to anti-American terrorists). They have maintained that the president has the authority as commander in chief to authorize such surveillance. Though the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) generally forbids wiretapping without warrants, the White House has contended that Bush is not bound by the limitations of that law. This claim--arising from the Bush administration's view of expansive (even supreme) presidential power--set up a constitutional clash. And in the first round of the legal battle, Judge Taylor has knocked out the White House argument.

In her decision, she accused the administration of dishonestly arguing that the lawsuit filed by the ACLU and others (including journalists, researchers and lawyers) against the NSA wiretapping should be dismissed because it would expose state secrets:

It is undisputed that Defendants have publicly admitted to the following: (1) the TSP [Terrorist Surveillance Program] exists; (2) it operates without warrants; (3) it targets communications where one party to the communication is outside the United States, and the government has a reasonable basis to conclude that one party to the communication is a member of al Qaeda, affiliated with al Qaeda, or a member of an organization affiliated with al Qaeda, or working in support of al Qaeda. As the Government has on many occasions confirmed the veracity of these allegations, the state secrets privilege does not apply to this information.

She added:

Defendants assert that they cannot defend this case without the exposure of state secrets. This court disagrees. The Bush Administration has repeatedly told the general public that there is a valid basis in law for the TSP. Further, Defendants have contended that the President has the authority under the AUMF [legislation authorizing Bush to use military force against Iraq] and the Constitution to authorize the continued use of the TSP. Defendants [the Bush administration] have supported these arguments without revealing or relying on any classified information. Indeed, the court has reviewed the classified information and is of the opinion that this information is not necessary to any viable defense to the TSP....Consequently, the court finds Defendants’ argument that they cannot defend this case without the use of classified information to be disingenuous and without merit.

In other words, Bush cannot hide behind an it's-classified defense. (Taylor did say that the administration could do so in a related matter--the data-mining of phone records by the NSA. That's because not enough information has been publicly released about this covert program.)

The judge reserved her sharpest words for slicing and dicing the administration's contention that Bush had the authority to ignore FISA and, in essence, act outside (or above) that law. And she cited a favorite Supreme Court case of conservatives to make this point: Clinton v. Jones. In that case, the justices ruled that Clinton could be sued for sexual harassment by Paula Jones. Taylor wrote:

It was never the intent of the Framers to give the President such unfettered control, particularly where his actions blatantly disregard the parameters clearly enumerated in the Bill of Rights. The three separate branches of government were developed as a check and balance for one another. It is within the court’s duty to ensure that power is never "condense[d]...into a single branch of government." Hamdi v. Rumsfeld, 542 U.S. 507, 536 (2004) (plurality opinion). We must always be mindful that "[w]hen the President takes official action, the Court has the authority to determine whether he has acted within the law." Clinton v. Jones, 520 U.S. 681, 703 (1997). "It remains one of the most vital functions of this Court to police with care the separation of the governing powers....When structure fails, liberty is always in peril." Public Citizen v. U.S. Dept. of Justice, 491 U.S. 440, 468 (1989) (Kennedy, J., concurring).

Though pundits, partisans and legislators have debated the legality of the warrantless wiretapping program, Taylor rendered a clear verdict:

The wiretapping program here in litigation...has undisputedly been implemented without regard to FISA violation of the Fourth Amendment.

Bush, as president, she added, has no extraconstitutional powers:

The President of the United States, a creature of the same Constitution which gave us these Amendments, has undisputedly violated the Fourth in failing to procure judicial orders as required by FISA, and accordingly has violated the First Amendment Rights of these Plaintiffs as well....In this case, the President has acted, undisputedly, as FISA forbids. FISA is the expressed statutory policy of our Congress. The presidential power, therefore, was exercised at its lowest ebb and cannot be sustained.

She noted:

The Government appears to argue here that, pursuant to the penumbra of Constitutional language in Article II, and particularly because the President is designated Commander in Chief of the Army and Navy, he has been granted the inherent power to violate not only the laws of the
Congress but the First and Fourth Amendments of the Constitution, itself.

We must first note that the Office of the Chief Executive has itself been created, with its powers, by the Constitution. There are no hereditary Kings in America and no powers not created by the Constitution. So all "inherent powers" must derive from that Constitution.

Once again, a court has told Bush that he is not all-powerful. He cannot create military tribunals on his own. He cannot detain American citizens as enemy combatants without affording them some elements of due process. Taylor's decision will probably be appealed by the Bush administration, and the case will wind its way toward the Supreme Court. But this decision reaffirms--and puts into practice--the bedrock principle that a president's power does not trump the workings of a republican government, even when it comes to war. Weeks before he took office in 2001, Bush quipped, "If this were a dictatorship, it'd be a heck of a lot easier, just so long as I'm the dictator." Democracy, though, is not easy. And a commander in chief has to abide by the rules, as various courts have now ruled. The administration's King George approach to governance has taken another blow. But it's royally unlikely this president is going to accept the decision and give up his claim to the throne.

Sunday, August 13, 2006

There Was No Place Like Dubrow's

There was no better place to sit, schmooze and enjoy good food than Dubrow's Cafeterias in Brooklyn and Manhattan. Eve, the great granddaughter of the founder of Dubrow's has a blog recounting her family's memories of the people and the places. I left Brooklyn long before the demise of this great cafeteria chain but I always wondered why the concept didn't continue to do well into the 1990s since cafeterias are still popular in Texas and California. Maybe the customer turnover wasn't as quick at Dubrow's as it was in a McDonald's or a Burger King, which could have led to lower profits. Dubrow's was like dining in your Aunt's Ceil's house, except it didn't have furniture covered in plastic. It was comfortable to just sit and eat and maybe that was part of the problem. There's a reason that the seats in fast food restaurants are made of hard plastic. On the other hand, many fast food places are now encouraging people to linger with Wi-Fi internet access and so on. Maybe Dubrow's was just too far ahead of itself.

Monday, August 07, 2006

Reuters pulls doctored Beirut photo amid uproar


Reuters notice to discontinue use of a digitally altered photo. Click the image to read more. (Image: Reuters)Reuters, the UK-based global news agency, admitted Sunday that at least two of its published photos had been digitally edited and, under pressure from critics, "killed" a photo of a Beirut skyline after an Israeli bombing raid - issuing an apology and the original, unedited photo. Adnan Hajj, the photographer credited for the photos and their crude alteration, is the same freelance Lebanese photojournalist responsible for many of the dubious Kfar Kana photos. Click Here to read more.