Protesting Escalation

With George Bush’s plans to escalate the war in Iraq, many are becoming nostalgic for the anti-Vietnam protests of the 1960’s and 1970’s. Click on the image above for a short film by Disney animator Ward Kimball protesting Lyndon Johnson’s escalation of the war. (Warning: Contains brief nudity.)

How Conservatives Determine The Truth

From the moment I saw this article posted I knew it would receive a lot of favorable comments in the conservative blogosphere. The article reports on a theory “that cosmic rays from outer space play a far greater role in changing the Earth’s climate than global warming experts previously thought.” Immediately many people who have neither read the actual literature in support of this argument or the research on climate change are latching on to this for the simple reason that it provides justification for their ideological views.

I have no idea as to how credible this idea is. Reportedly it is supported by some scientists and rejected by others. Regardless of the support shown for it in the conservative blogosphere, it will ultimately have to be tested and verified by the scientific method and in peer reviewed journals, which is the same process by which current ideas on climate change have become the consensus of scientific thought. Even if it is true that cosmic waves are an important factor, it doesn’t negate any of the research on carbon dioxide emissions and the connection to climate change. Conservatives love to claim that the climate changes are just a matter of natural fluctuations in temperature, ignoring all the data showing that current trends are taking us far outside of previously recorded norms. Al Gore, for example, made this trends very clear in An Inconvenient Truth.

While it will take some time to determine the significance of this theory from a scientific viewpoint, from a political vantage we can learn some immediate lessons. Conservatives have no concern for determining what is actually true. All that matters is having something in print they can point to. They will accept publications which supports their views and reject that which doesn’t fit in, even if the evidence is far greater for that which contradicts their ideology.

This is just the latest example. In terms of science we see this with all the bogus arguments against evolution. Many on the right also attack geology for disagreeing with them over the age of the earth and cosmology for its ideas on the origins of the universe. (more…)

Obama’s Official

Barack Obama might have less experience in Washington than most of his rivals, but he is quickly learning the rules to media coverage. A candidate can receive coverage both for announcing an exploratory committee, and then again for announcing that they are actually running. The cable news networks were repeating film of his announcement today with Breaking News banners. Is a previously announced appearance to say what everyone knew was going to happen really Breaking News?

Obama is trying hard to turn his lack of experience into something positive:

I recognize there is a certain presumptuousness – a certain audacity – to this announcement. I know I haven’t spent a lot of time learning the ways of Washington. But I’ve been there long enough to know that the ways of Washington must change.

The genius of our founders is that they designed a system of government that can be changed. And we should take heart, because we’ve changed this country before. In the face of tyranny, a band of patriots brought an Empire to its knees. In the face of secession, we unified a nation and set the captives free. In the face of Depression, we put people back to work and lifted millions out of poverty. We welcomed immigrants to our shores, we opened railroads to the west, we landed a man on the moon, and we heard a King’s call to let justice roll down like water, and righteousness like a mighty stream.

Each and every time, a new generation has risen up and done what’s needed to be done. Today we are called once more – and it is time for our generation to answer that call.

Frank Rich is more concerned with Obama’s judgement than experience:

The day after the resolution debacle, I spoke with Senator Obama about the war and about his candidacy. Since we talked by phone, I can’t swear he was clean, but he was definitely articulate. He doesn’t yet sound as completely scripted as his opponents — though some talking-point-itis is creeping in — and he isn’t remotely defensive as he shrugs off the race contretemps du jour prompted by his White House run. Not that he’s all sweetness and light. “If the criterion is how long you’ve been in Washington, then we should just go ahead and assign Joe Biden or Chris Dodd the nomination,” he said. “What people are looking for is judgment.”

What Mr. Obama did not have to say is that he had the judgment about Iraq that his rivals lacked. As an Illinois state senator with no access to intelligence reports, he recognized in October 2002 that administration claims of Saddam’s “imminent and direct threat to the United States” were hype and foresaw that an American occupation of Iraq would be of “undetermined length, at undetermined cost, with undetermined consequences.” Nor can he be pilloried as soft on terrorism by the Cheney-Lieberman axis of neo-McCarthyism. “I don’t oppose all wars,” he said in the same Chicago speech. “What I am opposed to is a dumb war.”

Rich concluded his column with suggesting that the inexperienced might do better than those who have been in Washington:

Washington’s conventional wisdom has it that the worse things go in the war, the more voters will want to stick with the tried and true: Clinton, McCain, Giuliani. But as Mr. Obama reminds us, “Nobody had better Washington résumés than Dick Cheney or Donald Rumsfeld.” In the wake of the catastrophe they and their enablers in both parties have made, the inexperienced should have a crack at inheriting the earth, especially if they’re clean.

The Carpetbagger Report compares years in elected office among several of the candidates:

* Obama: 10 years (7 state Senate, 3 U.S. Senate)
* Clinton: 8 years (8 U.S. Senate)
* Edwards: 6 years (6 U.S. Senate)
* Giuliani: 8 years (two, four-year mayoral terms)
* Romney: 4 years (one four-year gubernatorial term)
* McCain: 25 years (4 U.S. House, 21 U.S. Senate) (more…)

Alexandra Kerry to Direct First Feature

New York Magazine has some news on Alexandra Kerry:

Kerry Kid Goes Hollywood
Waspy pic not about her dad

By Lori Fradkin

John Kerry’s given up on the White House. But his filmmaker daughter Alexandra’s Tinseltown dreams are coming true. Beacon Pictures (Thirteen Days, Firewall) has attached Kerry to direct her first feature, an adaptation of Jessica Shattuck’s novel The Hazards of Good Breeding, about a blue-blood Massachusetts family. Kerry says she was “looking for a Wasp story” to direct and fell hard for Hazards. “I related to a lot of the characters in it, although they tend to be a little bit more dysfunctional than the ones I know.” The novel follows a young woman whose family is in turmoil: Her mother has a nervous breakdown, and her father impregnates the babysitter. “I wouldn’t say that it’s a portrait of my family,” she adds. Beacon’s Peter Almond says he’ll begin shopping the project to studios next week, noting, “Some very fine actors and their representatives have expressed interest.”

Kerry Blasts Escalation of Misguided War

John Kerry gave this week’s Democratic radio address. Audio available here, and the prepared text follows:

Good morning, I’m John Kerry from Massachusetts and I am pleased to deliver the Democratic radio address today.

Earlier this week, I had the privilege of standing with four soldiers who served in Iraq. They are smart, brave, dedicated young men who volunteered for duty, followed orders, served with distinction, and believed in their mission when they deployed to Iraq.

Today, they have grown disillusioned. The war they fought to protect the world from Iraq’s imagined weapons of mass destruction ended a long time ago. Saddam Hussein is dead. Now, Iraq is immersed in a bloody civil war — and too often the brave men and women who wear the uniform of our country are paying the highest price.

Men like Brian Freeman, an energetic and promising 31-year old Army captain who told me that his men struggled to carry out a mission they never trained for and weren’t equipped to fight. This West Point graduate, who died in combat shortly after we met, was the kind of leader who was born to lead men in battle. Freeman, like many soldiers in Iraq, was conflicted – torn between his desire to serve and succeed and to achieve victory but frustrated with the lack of clarity in their mission.

Senator Chris Dodd of Connecticut and I met Captain Freeman in Baghdad right before Christmas. He was heading back to the states for a few days to see his wife and his two children – a boy and a baby girl. After a short visit, he shipped back to Iraq. Two weeks later, he was gone – killed in a frenzy of bullets and grenades while defending his fellow soldiers from insurgents who tricked their way past a checkpoint.

Captain Freeman’s loss, his valor in battle and his noble service to our country remind us of the human toll in Iraq – and it reminds us of the solemn obligation we have to get the policy right in Iraq.

Make no mistake: every member of Congress supports our troops. We all honor the brave men and women who have always protected us and do so today. But the best way to pay tribute to their willingness to serve is to make sure they have everything they need both in battle and after they return. This administration isn’t doing that. (more…)

We Still Have The Best Congress Money Can Buy

The last post was on a group which some consider disreputable–strippers. However the strippers showed they weren’t all bad with their attempts to raise money for breast cancer research. At least there’s one group we can count on to remain scoundrels–members of Congress, regardless of party.

During the past your I rooted for a Democratic take over in hopes of having a Congress which could provide some checks and balances on the Executive Branch. A Democratic Congress could be counted upon to block Bush’s plans, and maybe even succeed in investigating his past crimes. It would mean an end to the outright institutionalization of corruption with the K Street Project, but I had no illusions that all the ethical problems would end regardless of what rules were passed.The New York Times shows that it didn’t take long for many members of Congress to find ways around the new ethics rules:

In just the last two months, lawmakers invited lobbyists to help pay for a catalog of outings: lavish birthday parties in a lawmaker’s honor ($1,000 a lobbyist), martinis and margaritas at Washington restaurants (at least $1,000), a California wine-tasting tour (all donors welcome), hunting and fishing trips (typically $5,000), weekend golf tournaments ($2,500 and up), a Presidents’ Day weekend at Disney World ($5,000), parties in South Beach in Miami ($5,000), concerts by the Who or Bob Seger ($2,500 for two seats), and even Broadway shows like “Mary Poppins” and “The Drowsy Chaperone” (also $2,500 for two).

The lobbyists and their employers typically end up paying for the events, but within the new rules.

Circumventing the rules is simple. Instead of paying directly, the lobbyists pay a political fund-raising PAC set up by the member of Congress which in turn pays the bills. The article reports, “Lobbyists say that the rules might even increase the volume of contributions flowing to Congress from K Street, where many lobbying firms have their offices.”