Saturday, April 29, 2006

Schools That Would Make Joseph Stalin Happy

Schools That Would
Make Joseph Stalin Happy


It seems I was dreaming the other day and I was thinking there must be a think tank, with lots of money to spend, that is studying and pondering the decayed state of American education and seeking solutions:

Think Tank Person #1: The seeds now being sown by our educational system, I fear, will eventually reap disastrous results. A generation from now, more or less, when the US constitution is changed and the US is ruled by a small oligarchy, when the opportunity for democracy has disappeared, it commonly will be agreed that the schools are to blame. It commonly will be agreed that schools paved the way for the collapse of our democracy. In the future, when it is too late, people will understand the terrible price of our current school structure. We currently have a school structure appropriate for North Korea or the old Soviet Union, not for a democracy.

Think Tank Person #2: Who would have thought that in a democracy, such as ours, schools would be known for their authoritative central control, unquestioned obedience, and rigid, punitive, and narrowly defined accountability. It is strange that a democracy would allow its schools to focus on purposes appropriate for totalitarian states: training workers for jobs, acclimating future citizens to passivity, convincing future citizens to accept the power structures of their society and convincing future citizens to accept the values of those in power. Schools, when asked to identify their best students, do not highlight strongly developed individuals with a passion for justice, democracy, freedom, and independent thinking. The best students, according to schools, are those who have most fully acknowledged the authority of the system, have met the demands of the system, and who have approbation of the system. Stalin would have been happy with such school criteria.

Person #1: We need to create a school design that will aim to develop effective citizens for a democracy, not effective citizens for a totalitarian state. We need to find ways for schools to help each child find and develop not only his or her academic potential but his or her entire human potential: the potential to continually grow in character and personal development, the potential be a good neighbor, the potential to value and advance justice, democracy and freedom, the potential to rise above narcissism and to contribute to the general good of society.

Person #2: Not all parents would want to send their child to a school that attempted anything other than academic instruction.

Person #1: That is why the school we create must be a school of choice, a charter school, using public money and open to all students -- a school of choice. It must be a school based on the free market. I believe that we can eventually prove to reluctant parents, over time, that a school that emphasizes developing the total education of a child is successful in helping each child develop his or her academic potential as well. I believe that, over time, because of the success of our school, parents will demand changes in their traditional public schools.

Person #2: But what are we really talking about? How should we go about designing a school that emphasizes the total education of children, and that prepares children to be effective citizens in a democracy? What is our vision of such a school?

Person #1: Why don’t we just give Terrell Shaw $1 million and see what he comes up with?

Person #2: Don’t you think that we should create a Request for Proposal (RFP), like the serious think tank that we are, and invite everyone who seeks to develop a good idea to apply?

Person #1: The question: What will a RFP look like that will generate thoughtful replies? Here’s my idea I’ve been thinking about. Let’s create an RFP that is a two part thought experiment.

Part One: Suppose you live in a time of kings and your king has a 12 year old child and the king assigns you the responsibility for the 12 year old’s total education. How would you define “total education”? What are the theories and principles that would guide your actions? How would you proceed with seeing to the education of the 12 year old?

Now that sets up the premise. The key question to answer is: How would you engage this 12 year old child in the persistent effort and concentration needed for his or her individual development? This is the same key question, of course, that is appropriate for every 12 year old, regardless of financial or social status. Would you reward and punish with grades and praise? Would you insist that he or she study math at 10:00 AM every day? I don’t think so. This thought experiment forces a realization that much of what we consider as appropriate schooling for the masses should be discarded, and a way should be found to meaningfully personalize the education of every child.

And the second part of this line of thought is this: Now that you have a strategy based on sound theories of how to successfully deal with the total education of the 12 year old child of a king, how would you apply your strategy to the total education of an impoverished charter school student, with a school budget of $5500 per student to spend? Answering this second part means that, by centering on the child, you would need to rethink basic school structures; you would need to rethink basic premises about the purpose and method for allocating resources.

Person #2: Treating every child like a king? What you are saying is that the system must start by acknowledging the worth and importance of the individual. The point is that schools should help each child to develop into strong individuals, not according to the definitions of the state, but according to the potential and inclinations of the child. The point is that schools should help each child to acquire the tools that will empower and encourage him or her to fully participate in democracy. A totalitarian state would ferociously oppose such aims for schools, and, the truth is, such a school would be condemned by totalitarian forces in our own country, who basically mistrust the force and potential of democracy.

I like your thought experiment idea. Are you going to write the RFP so we can more carefully look at the details?

Monday, April 24, 2006

Donkey Path has two excellent posts I recommend to you:

Zbig on Iran


Why Bush Fears the 2006 election


Truthout has Brezinski's complete text. The whole thing is definitely worth reading.

The environment may take another hit from the Bush folks: Truthout quotes the NYT.

Saturday, April 22, 2006

A Disastrous Presidency

S.W. Anderson of Oh!pinion, responding to Donkey Path and John Dean, remembers George W. Bush from 2002 as I do:
"I remember so well, in 2002 when Bush was out day after day hard-selling his plan to invade Iraq. During press conferences, a reporter would ask for specifics, for some more evidence of WMDs, specifics about how and why the alleged threat was not only real but imminent.

In response, Bush would repeat what he'd already said, only louder, a little slower and more emphatically, as though repeating it to a child who he knew had heard him the first time but was trying to be difficult.

Often, Bush's voice would rise in indication of a certain frustration. The implication was:

I'm telling you how it is. I'm the president, so when I say that's how it is, that's how it is and that's all you need to know.

Now, why are you determined to be difficult about something that's so simple?"


Now some of my Bush-supporter friends and family remind me often that many Democrats "voted for the war in Iraq" or "also believed Saddam had WMD". That is a half (or less) truth. Most of the Democrats that these folks cite supported giving the President authority to use force IF NECESSARY. Many believed Saddam had SOME SORT OF clandestine WMD development program. FEW (if any) believed Saddam an imminent threat to the United States. MOST believed Saddam was WELL CONTAINED by the air blockade. Most supported giving the UN inspectors MORE TIME. They ALL knew, AS DID BUSH, that there was NO significant connection between Saddam and Al Qaeda. That there was a rush to war by Bush and his neo-con advisors was plain to anyone paying attention.

Not just Democrats, pinkos, "anti-Americans" and Bush-haters, but MANY conservatives, saw it as a rushed, dangerous, and/or mistaken adventure:

Robert Novak,
"As the U.S. gets ready for war, its standing in Islam -- even among longtime allies -- stands low.
Pat Buchanan
"Why are we going to war? Why are we about to attack, invade and occupy a country that has not attacked us, does not threaten us and does not want war with us?" - February 2003

Charlie Reece ,
"Every day that passes, Americans will be less welcomed in Iraq, and I wouldn't take lightly the warning of an Iraqi cleric who said, "You should leave before we force you out."

An army that won't fight is one thing. Twenty million people willing to stab you in the back, cut your throat or toss a grenade in your soup are quite another. Our Army is trained and equipped to fight set battles against other armies. It is not trained to cope with a hostile civilian population. It will not do well, and if we insist on staying, the Iraqis will force us out, just as the Lebanese forced the Israeli army out.

And remember, life isn't a TV show. The plot won't unfold rapidly. Slowly and gradually our victory over Saddam will turn to dust, and all those snazzy plans of the arrogant neoconservatives for a new, enlightened Middle East will turn to ashes. The Middle East is full of the ruins of superpowers." - May 2003

Sen. Chuck Hagel, Republican Senator and War Hero
"America must steer away from actions that could produce the unintended results of fracturing those very institutions that have helped keep peace since World War II. Allowing a rush to war in Iraq to create divisions in those institutions and alliances that will help sustain American security and world stability is a short-sighted and dangerous course of action." - February 2003

Paul Craig Roberts, Assistant Treasury Secretary under Reagan
"An invasion of Iraq is likely the most thoughtless action in modern history."

James Webb, Reagan's Secretary of the Navy and War Hero
"The issue before us is not whether the United States should end the regime of Saddam Hussein, but whether we as a nation are prepared to occupy territory in the Middle East for the next 30 to 50 years." - February 2003
former President George H. W. Bush,

--- Well, OK, we'll just have to imagine what the former President has thought about a son who has so completely rejected the foreign policy of his father. There are reports that the pair have had words. ---


Please read the John Dean piece.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

You can't fool all the people, all the time!

The people have seen the little man behind the big White House curtain, finally. Even most of my Democratic friends climbed on board with him after the terrorist strikes in 2001. I don't think he can fool them again, even in an emergency.

Now the Fairly Imbalanced Fox News has noticed. Click on the chart to visit Fox for their "journalistic" take on the numbers:

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

The People vs. George W. Bush

The latest poll by the American Research Group finds a lot of support for some sort of reprimand of President Bush. More people support impeachment of Bush than supported impeachment of Clinton. (Gallup poll December 1998). And now a plurality says we should censure Bush, at least. Almost 3 in ten Republicans would censure Bush!

Check it out.
A hat tip to Cold Flute.

Gooooooo, Yaroslav!

For our constitutional this afternoon, Sheila, Lillian and I walked down the levee to Broad Street and stood with a few thousand close friends to witness Yaroslav Popovych of the Ukraine capture the second leg of this continent's premier cycling race. On his fourth trip up Rome's Clocktower Hill ...


The Clocktower reflected in a storefront window.

...he moved into the lead and held it...


Whoosh...past St. Peter's Episcopal.


... as the racers plummeted...


Woodrow Wilson first saw Ellen Axson in First Pres in the background.

... down the hill to the finish line...



... on First Street. Here's the winner:





Lil took the pics.

Ahh, Spring!

My sister, the Median Sib, has been galavanting around the woods in Tennessee with a camera again. She caught a Trillium cuneatum in bloom and taught me a different name for it: Sweet Betsy. Here are a few of my Nature Trail pics:



Toadshade or Sweet Betsy (Trillium cuneatum)
Update 5/1/07: also called Little Sweet Betsy and Wake Robin.





Sweet Shrub or Carolina Allspice (Calycanthus floridus)
being examined olfactorially by a trio of young Homo sapiens. One time when we were visiting the Giles sisters between Fayetteville and Fairburn, Mama Baird (my maternal grandmother) pointed out this plant -- I think Sweet Shrub is the right plant -- as the toothbrush bush of her childhood. She said you could crush and fray the end of a twig and use it as a toothbrush.
Update: I must be wrong. I googled "toothbrush bush" and "sweet shrub". My blog is the only web site in the world that associates those terms. Maybe it was witch hazel. Or sassafras.
Update, 5/1/07: Sweet Shrub is also called Strawberry Shrub, Bubby Bush, Sweet Bubby Bush, and -Ta-dah! - Sweet Betsy!




Does anyone know this one? Update, 5/1/07: Teresa Ware identifies this as Eastern Blue Star (Amsonia tabernaemontana). Thanks, Teresa!



Our Sensory Image Walk along the nature trail. No talking, just walking, listening, tasting (dandelion and sassafras leaves), smelling, looking, feeling... imagining and writing.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Who put the Generals up to their rebellion?

Like you, I'm sure, I've wondered: What could have possessed all those retired generals to speak ill of our illustrious Secretary of Defense (and by extension his Boss). Finally we have the answer. I should have known it all along:

Bill Clinton Made Them Do It!!

Check it out at The Moderate Voice

Sunday, April 16, 2006

An Oh!pinion

I'm with Oh!pinion. For our country to be facing another major international threat while the White House and Pentagon are in the hands of Bush & Co. is saddening to say the least. As Norman Schwarzkopf has said, "It's scary, OK?" Bring-it-on Bush and his neo-con buddies are, indeed, the last ones I want in charge in an emergency.

Oh for a Kennedy, a Clinton, a Carter, a Truman, -- someone with a level head and judgement. Wesley Clark? John Edwards? Al Gore? John Kerry? I'll bet even Daddy Bush would be doing things very differently and better, for that matter.


Check out Oh!pinion's post on the Neocons and Iran.
"If it ever becomes necessary to have a showdown with the Iranians, especially if military action is likely to result, Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney, Defense Secretary Don Rumsfeld and the rest of the neocon cabal are the last people who should be in charge. These [people] have a track record of incompetence and failure on a greater scale of losses, setbacks and embarrassments than any administration in U.S. history."


Friday, April 14, 2006

Thirteen Generals Comment

Six, no Seven, no Eight, no Nine, make that
Ten, no eleven, uh twelve, thirteen Generals Speak
Some of these guys would probably take issue with me on a number of issues, but I think they agree with me that the Bush Pentagon has done a poor job. Hear some excerpts of their words.



“More than half the American people now believe that the invasion of Iraq was a mistake. They’re right.” - General Wesley Clark



“They [Bush’s Pentagon team] only need the military advice when it satisfies their agenda.” - Lt. General John Riggs



“The military… has been politicized. If officers disagree, they are ostracized and their reputations are ruined.”- Lt. General Jay M. Garner



"The cost of flawed leadership continues to be paid in blood." - Lt. General Greg Newbold





"I feel he [Rumsfeld] has micromanaged the generals who are leading our forces"
- Major General Charles H Swannack Jr




"I believe we need a fresh start in the Pentagon. We need a leader who understands team work, a leader who knows how to build teams, a leader that does it without intimidation. A leader that conforms and practices the letter and the law of the Goldwater-Nichols Act." - Major General John Batiste




"[Rumsfeld] has shown himself incompetent strategically, operationally and tactically...he must step down." - Major General Paul Eaton




“There has been poor strategic thinking in this, there has been poor operational planning and execution on the ground. And to think that we are going to ‘stay the course,’ the course is headed over Niagara Falls. I think it's time to change course a little bit, or at least hold somebody responsible for putting you on this course. Because it's been a failure.” - General Anthony Zinni




"It takes a significant ground force presence to maintain a safe and secure environment, to ensure that people are fed, that water is disturbed, all the normal responsibilities that go along with administering a situation like this." - General Eric Shinseki




"...we ought to make it our duty to help make the world friendlier for the growth of liberal regimes. You encourage democracy over time, with assistance, and aid, the traditional way. Not how the neocons do it." - Lt. General Brent Scowcroft (and National Security Advisor under Bush, Sr.)


“We are a global nation with global interests, and undermining the credibility of the United Nations does very little to help provide stability and security and safety to the rest of the world, where we have to operate for economic reasons and political reasons.” - General John M. Shalikashvili, former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs

"It's scary, okay? Let's face it: There are guys at the Pentagon who have been involved in operational planning for their entire lives, okay? . . . And for this wisdom, acquired during many operations, wars, schools, for that just to be ignored, and in its place have somebody who doesn't have any of that training, is of concern." - General Norman Schwarzkopf



"... who in the government will speak out and openly oppose [adventures like the Iraq war]? My belief is that, having worked with Colin Powell for a number of years, that I feel reasonably certain, without having ever asked him, that he was constantly the voice of caution about much of this military adventurism. And with him gone, it's hard for me to believe—and certainly with the change at CIA—I think the likelihood that you're going to have senior government officials counselling caution—I think anything is possible. I really do. I think it's a frightening prospect. - General Joseph Hoar, former CentComm commander


Are there other generals or admirals whose comments need to be added here?
Has any administration in history had this much criticism from so many high-ranking officers?


Friday Five

1. What is the first record/tape/CD that you bought?

Record: About 1956 or so, I walked downtown in Griffin, Georgia from 333 S. 9th St. and bought with my own money at Record Haven the 45 rpm single of "Hound Dog" by Elvis Presley. As I recall "Don't Be Cruel" was on the back. What ever happenned to that?

LP: When I was a teen I joined the Columbia Music Club and received a passel of LPs "free" with my membership. It was a mix of folk and easy listening: PP&M, Pete Seeger, Andy Williams, Joan Baez; Johnny Mathis, The Kingston Trio, Chad Mitchell Trio, etc.

Tape: Lots of accompaniment tapes (I predate the term "karaoke".)

CD: I don't remember the first CD. We have most of the PP&M albums on CD. Books on CD (Tolkien especially). Storytelling: Bill Harley & Donald Davis

2. Who is your favorite all time band/singer?

PP&M: we've heard 'em in person several times. Arlo and Pete. The Weavers. Chad Mitchell Trio. Kingston Trio -- am I dated or what? More recent singers: Michael Crawford, the late Eva Cassidy, and, of course, my daughters. Last night, Susan Campbell, our pastor's wife sang "Via Dolorosa" at the Maundy Thursday service. She took absolute and complete ownership of the song, then gave it away unreservedly. Wow.

3. What have you been listening to lately?

NPR in the car. Old records and storytelling CDs at home.

4. What is your favorite radio station, what do they play, and where do they broadcast? NPR. They have great music, Click & Clack, the Sunday Puzzle, Prairie Home Companion, the Story Booth Project, great commentary (fair and balanced, by the way, unlike the crazies who tried to copyright the terms), straight news.

5. Can you recommend a good song or CD that everyone should listen to?

Anything by Eva Cassidy. Or my storytelling dvd, should it ever actually be finished.

I picked this series of questions up from Mike at Musings & Meanderings.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Gingrich: US "Off the Cliff" in Iraq -- and other stuff

Gingrich: US "Off the Cliff" in Iraq

Newt Gingrich has some words
for his buddies at the White House. Will they listen?

Another General Challenges the "Zealots"
" ...I retired from the military four months before the invasion, in part because of my opposition to those who had used 9/11's tragedy to hijack our security policy. Until now, I have resisted speaking out in public. I've been silent long enough..."
The latest USA Today/Gallup poll finds more than 6 in 10 Americans critical of President George W. Bush on the leak controversy. The more closely people are following the issue, the more likely they are to say he did something illegal rather than unethical.

Eleanor Clift on Leakgate and the President
This includes the following shocker from the Republican Senator of South Carolina and member of the Armed Services Committee!!
"Republican Sen. Lindsay Graham, when asked about Iraq at a recent seminar in Delaware organized by Democratic Sen. Joe Biden, told the audience that whatever high expectation of success they might have had for Iraq, they should cut it in half."
The fact is that Iraq was a misbegotten adventure from the beginning. It becomes clearer every day. What a squandering of the wonderful patriotism and bravery of our soldiers. What a waste of national solidarity. What a needless diminishment of our national reputation. What a distraction from the task of defeating the terrorists.

Monday, April 10, 2006

The Founders Never Imagined a Bush Administration

The following is reproduced from George Mason University's History News Network

3-27-06

The Founders Never Imagined a Bush Administration

By Joyce Appleby and Gary Hart

Joyce Appleby is professor emerita of history at UCLA and co-director of the History News Service. Gary Hart is a former U.S. senator and Wirth Chair in the Graduate School of Public Affairs at the University of Colorado, Denver.


George W. Bush and his most trusted advisers, Richard B. Cheney and Donald H. Rumsfeld, entered office determined to restore the authority of the presidency. Five years and many decisions later, they've pushed the expansion of presidential power so far that we now confront a constitutional crisis.

Relying on legal opinions from Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales and Professor John Yoo, then working at the Justice Department, Bush has insisted that there can be no limits to the power of the commander-in-chief in time of war. More recently the president has claimed that laws relating to domestic spying and the torture of detainees do not apply to him. His interpretation has produced a devilish conundrum.

President Bush has given Commander-in-Chief Bush unlimited wartime authority. But the "war on terror" is more a metaphor than a fact. Terrorism is a method, not an ideology; terrorists are criminals, not warriors. No peace treaty can possibly bring an end to the fight against far-flung terrorists. The emergency powers of the president during this "war" can now extend indefinitely, at the pleasure of the president and at great threat to the liberties and rights guaranteed us under the Constitution.

When President Nixon covertly subverted checks and balances 30 years ago during the Vietnam War, Congress passed laws making clear that presidents were not to engage in unconstitutional behavior in the interest of "national security." Then Congress was reacting to violation of Fourth Amendment protections against searches and seizures without judicial warrants establishing "probable cause," attempts to assassinate foreign leaders and surveillance of American citizens.

Now the Iraq war is being used to justify similar abuses. The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, providing constitutional means to carry out surveillance, and the Intelligence Identification Protection Act, protecting the identity of undercover intelligence agents, have both been violated by an administration seeking to restore "the legitimate authority of the presidency," as Cheney puts it.

The presidency possesses no power not granted to it under the Constitution. The powers the current administration seeks in its "war on terror" are not granted under the Constitution. Indeed, they are explicitly prohibited by acts of Congress.

The Founding Fathers, who always come to mind when the Constitution is in danger, anticipated just such a possibility. Writing in the Federalist Papers, James Madison defined tyranny as the concentration of powers in one branch of the government.

"The great security against a gradual concentration of the several powers in the same department," Madison wrote in Federalist 51, "consists in giving to those who administer each department, the necessary constitutional means, and personal motives, to resist encroachments of the others."

Warming to his subject, Madison continued, "Ambition must be made to counteract ambition;" the interest of the office holders must "be connected with the constitutional rights of the place."

Recognizing that he was making an appeal to interest over ideals, he concluded that it "may be a reflection of human nature, that such devices should be necessary to control the abuses of government." "But what," Madison asked, "is government itself but the greatest of all reflections on human nature? If men were angels, no government would be necessary. If angels were to govern men, neither external nor internal controls on government would be necessary."

Madison's solution to the concentration of powers that lead to tyranny relied upon either Congress or the Supreme Court to check the overreaching of a president. In our present crisis, Congress has been supine in the face of the president's grab for unconstitutional, unlimited power, and no case is working its way towards a Supreme Court judgment.

If Madison's reliance on the ambition of other office holders has failed us, we need to look elsewhere. Can what Thomas Jefferson called the "common sense and good judgment of the American people" help us now? In the past, they have been a critical last resort when our leaders endangered the constitutional checks and balances that have made us the world's oldest democracy. But first the public must wake up to this constitutional crisis.


This piece was distributed for non-exclusive use by the History News Service, an informal syndicate of professional historians who seek to improve the public's understanding of current events by setting these events in their historical contexts. The article may be republished as long as both the author and the History News Service are clearly credited.

You Knew When You Elected Me


"You Knew When You Elected Me:
I Am a Born Again Christian"


I heard it on TV the other day: “God wants you to be a millionaire.” It was said on the Christian TV Channel by a plumb evangelist who was becoming increasingly agitated and enthusiastic. He had his group of believers, also becoming quite enthusiastic, waving their hands, looking upwards, and beseeching repeatedly something like, “Give me. Give me.”

Shouldn’t a group of true Christians organize a protest meeting in front of that TV station? With placards declaring: “Unfair to Christians”, “Quite Misrepresenting My Beliefs” and the like. Shouldn’t someone, in the name of the true Christ, become a witness for truth?

We keep waiting for a sensible Muslim voice to arise and condemn destructive actions made in the name of the Muslim religion. Where is the massive Muslim protest that inform and educate us as to why the true Muslim faith would never condone or encourage disregard for human life? Shouldn’t someone, in the name of the prophet, become a witness for truth?

George W. Bush has declared himself to be born again, one who has undergone a personal conversion experience, one who has an ongoing personal relationship with Christ. The public religious claims of George Bush, I believe, would be shocking to our founding fathers. Can you imagine that in a presidential debate, during the time of our founding fathers, that if John Adams, for example, had been asked what thinker had most influenced him and why, that he would have answered, “Jesus Christ. Because he changed my life”?

The idea that religion and politics don’t mix is an idea fixed deeply into our national subconscious, based upon real fears and for many good reasons, deeply rooted in history. I don't think George Bush's debate answer about Jesus would have been very popular at most stages of American history.

In Hollywood, they say, a lot of people have a movie concept that they pitch at every opportunity, say a ten second elevator ride. Here’s mine:

Here is an interesting concept: George W. Bush is our true Christian president. The date is February, 2003, George Bush faces the cameras in the Oval Office:

“My fellow Americans. You knew when you elected me that I proclaimed that I am a born again Christian. Yes, I am worried about Iraq and my gut is telling me that war is the answer. And if I listened to George W. Bush, then we would go to war. But I must listen to the words of Christ. My Savior is telling me that evil is not overcome with evil, but that evil is overcome with good. I am therefore proposing a $1 Trillion Ten Year Development Plan for Iraq and the Middle East.”

Sunday, April 09, 2006

John Dean on the new Libby revelations

John Dean says, and I agree, --
"...a nation that cannot hold its commander-in-chief responsible is something other than a democracy."

Here's the complete article.

Leaky George, Cynthia, and Patrick Henry

Bush's admission that he OKed leaks of classified material to rebut his political opponents (Evidence already disputed by some of his own people) should be the final straw. The following editorial says it well.
Time to find out how the war was sold

I have met Cynthia McKinney and have found her gracious, charming, and thoughtful. Her latest implanting of her foot in her mouth (and her cell phone into a ploice officer) is reminiscent of some of her over-the-top pronouncements and actions from before her defeat by Denise Majette, however. We all had hoped the sobering effects of that defeat would last longer than it did. Leonard Pitts comes closest to voicing my take on her DC police caper.
Leonard Pitts on the Cynthia McKinney Debacle

One of my favorites of the founding fathers has always been Patrick Henry. He is sort of the Patron Saint of those of us who sometimes find ourselves alone on a limb -- the Dissenters. He's the guy who cried "Give me liberty or give me death!" as the colonies began to rebel. He is also the ornery dissenter who took on Washington, Adams, Madison, Hamilton, Jefferson, et al, and opposed ratification of the Constitution. I'm glad he lost that battle but you have to admire his spunk. And once he lost he was a thorn in the side of the other founders, demanding a Bill of Rights to protect citizens from potentially tyranical government. Sorry, Bush-folk, I believe Patrick would be right there with me cying his famous cry when a tyrant claims he can invade the private lives of Americans without warrant and in direct contravention of specific law. If he wouldn't trust the government under George Washington with his freedoms, he certainly wouldn't trust the government under today's George. One essayist says:
Citizens, he [Patrick Henry] believed, are not supposed to have faith in their governors; they are supposed to have faith in themselves. We can best honor Patrick Henry's political legacy of democratic participation and individual dissent by recognizing the legitimacy, indeed, the necessity of political conflict in a free society. -Henry Mayer

An Essay on Patrick Henry.

Friday, April 07, 2006

Zbigniew Brzezinski on Iraq

David Corn on Zbig

Zbig on NPR

Bush on leaks

Here's what our President has to say about nasty ol' leakers!!!

"There are too many leaks of classified information in Washington. There's leaks at the executive branch. There's leaks in the legislative branch. There's just too many leaks. And if there is a leak out of my administration, I want to know who it is. And if the person has violated law, the person will be taken care of." - Sept. 30, 2003.

And

"I'd like to know if somebody in my White House did leak sensitive information. As you know, I've been outspoken on leaks. And whether they happened in the White House, or happened in the administration, or happened on Capitol Hill, it is a - they can be very damaging." - Oct. 28, 2003.

And
"I want to know the truth, and I'm willing to cooperate myself." - June 3, 2004

And
Q: "Given recent developments in the CIA leak case, particularly Vice President Cheney's discussions with the investigators, do you still stand by what you said several months ago, a suggestion that it might be difficult to identify anybody who leaked the agent's name?"
Bush: "That's up to. ..."
Q: "And do you stand by your pledge to fire anyone found to have done so?"
Bush: "Yes. And that's up to the U.S. attorney to find the facts." - June 10, 2004.

And
"I would like this to end as quickly as possible so we know the facts, and if someone committed a crime, they will no longer work in my administration." - July 18, 2005.
And
"My personal opinion is it was a shameful act for someone to disclose this very important program in a time of war. The fact that we're discussing this program is helping the enemy." - On disclosure of the warrantless surveillance program, Dec. 19, 2005.

And
"And the fact that somebody leaked this program causes great harm to the United States. There's an enemy out there. They read newspapers, they listen to what you write, they listen to what you put on the air, and they react." - On the surveillance program, Jan. 1, 2006.
Finally we know who some of the "shameful" ol' White House leakers are: The President and Vice President!

The ironic thing about all this is that it may not be illegal for the President to leak classified information ... even for blatantly political reasons. But it is unethical and if a President can be impeached for lying about carrying on with a woman, not his wife, then surely he can be impeached for lying about leaking classified information for political purposes; exaggerating the country into war; lying about "aluminum tubes"; lying about the levees; and breaking the FISA law and lying about it.

(quotes are taken from Associated Press reports.)

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Just the Facts, Ma'am

Stephen Ambrose, Eisenhower's authorized biographer, quotes Ike as saying:
"Never question another man's motives. His wisdom yes, but not his motives."
And Samuel Johnson told Boswell:
"We cannot look into the hearts of men, but their actions are open to observation."
I am not ready to ignore motivation, despite the admonitions of these great men. I am an actor and try to explore the motivation behind the words of my characters so that I can portray them realistically. But public discourse in America has become so shrill and accusatory that substance is often overwhelmed by rancor.

I believe it is to the advantage of those, like myself, who are convinced to our bones that terrible blunders have been made by the current administration, to state our case as dispassionately and factually as possible, whatever our understanding of the motivation of our adversaries. Though there have been charlatans on all sides of the political polyhedron, I believe the namecalling and mudslinging has been more often the modus operendi of the opposition. When we fall into that careless habit our message is weakened, diluted.

Reason and history are on our side. Let's give the country the facts and let the opposition do the screaming. I think our message will drown out their namecalling in the long run. Perhaps the opposition will even begin to moderate their voices and begin to deal with real minds and real issues instead of straw men and bogus distinctions. Of course, I think an honest discourse would bring the nation our way.

Besides, as Mark Twain said:
"Anger is an acid that can do more harm to the vessel in which it is stored than to anything on which it is poured."
So from my perch here on my limb -- except when motivation is crucial to the discussion and there is clear evidence of falsehood or insincerity -- I will try to write as though I believe my opponents believe what they write and assume in my discussion of the issues that their motives are pure, however mistaken their words and actions or whatever evil results from those words and actions.

Sunday, April 02, 2006

More on the President, FISA, Iraq, etc.

We've been busy with our jobs and with our daughters the last couple of weeks. I haven't been able to spend as much time on my limb. But here's some good reading for you:

John Dean's testimony before the Judiciary Committee of the Senate.

Dean's column on the same subject.

I watched the FISA judges' testimony on C-Span. It seemed clear to me that they felt that the President should follow the FISA law.

Charlie Reese (and I, BTW) saw the current situation in Iraq coming a long time ago. He wrote about it in today's column.

And Reese isn't the only conservative critic of Bush. Conservatives like Peggy Noonan are beginning to give Bush as much bashing as we Democrats have. I join Bill Press in asking: Is it OK now to disagree with Bush's policies without being branded un-American?