Saturday, December 27, 2008

Blog # 68: Off with the Old

The week between Christmas and New Years is traditionally the week we grade the passing year. My personal marks for recent years has been pretty low, noting the elections of 2006 with the Democratic majorities in Congress as a first harbinger of better things to come. And prophetically, 2008 brought the dream to life with resounding Democratic victories in House and Senate races, and the election of Barack Obama as the 44th president of the United States. The year 2000 was a disaster, as the Republicans managed to get George W. Bush elected through Supreme Court fiat. Bush’s election subsequently found the feds asleep at the switch, and on Sept. 11, 2001 commercial airliners were hijacked, two of which brought down the World Trade Center in New York, and a third of which crashed into the Pentagon in Washington, D.C. A fourth airliner which crashed in a field in Pennsylvania was probably on its way to crash into either the White House or Congress. Immediately afterwards President Bush saw an Al Qaeda link where there was none, and subsequently invaded Iraq toppling Saddam Hussein’s regime, after which Al Qaeda went about establishing itself in Iraq with a vengeance.
Because the U.S. Army is dangerously undermanned considering its operations in both Iraq and Afghanistan (where Al Qaeda really lives), our favorite president of vice, the Dick of the House of Cheney, evolved a wonderful corporate solution to our military’s problem. It consists of having private corporation like Kellogg Brown and Root assist the military by transporting their supplies, feeding our troops and taking care of their laundry. Of course, its workers working in a military fire zone get paid many times what soldiers doing comparable work would be paid as all the while the American taxpayer foots the 10 billion dollar monthly bill.
And of course this monthly strain on American resources has seen the government turn to countries like China and Saudi Arabia for help in our financial problems.

And so the world awaits the beginning of the presidency of Barack Obama, who has promised to turn this eight years of turmoil into one of deliberation and reason. And from the quality and diversity of his cabinet picks Obama has already set a new course for “change we can believe in.”
– • – – • – – • – – • – – • – – • – – • – – • – – • – – • – Leave it to technology. According to a story by Brigid Schulte in the Washington Post, baby dolls have evolved to the point where they can raise a stink in more ways than one.
So long, Betsy Wetsy. Baby dolls just got a whole lot more real. Put her on her little pink plastic toilet. Press the purple bracelet on Baby Alive Learns to Potty. "Sniff sniff," she chirps in a singsong voice. "I made a stinky!"

This season's animatronic Baby Alive -- which retails for $59.99 -- comes with special "green beans" and "bananas" that, once fed to the doll, actually, well, come out the other end. "Be careful," reads the doll's promotional literature, "just like real life, sometimes she can hold it until she gets to the 'potty' and sometimes she can't!" (A warning on the back of the box reads: "May stain some surfaces.")
– • – – • – – • – – • – – • – – • – – • – – • – – • – – • – – • – – • – Matthew Lasar, writing on the website ars technica, that while reading the Parents Television Council's latest report: The "New" Tube: A Content Analysis of YouTube — the Most Popular Online Video Destination, I kept thinking of Supreme Court Justice William Brennan's eloquent dissent tothe Court's ruling on Pacifica vs. FCC. The 1978 ruling upheld the Federal Communications Commission's sanctioning of a radio station for broadcasting George Carlin's "seven dirty words" routine, which Brennan also did not concur with. Wrote Brennan, "There are many who think, act, and talk differently from the Members of this Court, and who do not share their fragile sensibilities," he wrote. "It is only an acute ethnocentric myopia that enables the Court to approve the censorship of communications solely because of the words they contain."

Back then, there was no Internet as we love it or hate it today, but Brennan wouldn't be surprised at the PTC's latest broadside, which targets the naughty pictures, sounds, and talk on Google's online video showcase. The survey finds that the top-ranking videos that appear in the sites' most frequently accessed search phrases yield "an extraordinary amount of graphic and adult-themed content." PTC wants something done about that, and about all those gnarly user comments that get posted below the vids, too.

The Council's conclusions come from an analysis of 280 YouTube offerings. When PTC inspectors searched for the term "porn," for example, over a quarter of the videos returned didn't ask for age verification, they claim. Many included ads or links to pornographic Web sites. "Clicking a link would instantly take the user to a webpage containing extremely graphic photos and videos of homosexual and heterosexual oral and anal sex," PTC complains.

The Council also does not like the words that are sometimes spoken in these videos; we could provide a list of the milder terms its inspectors found, but suspect that they were further horrified by items even we avoid using. While the survey praises YouTube for prohibiting outright pornographic videos and "algorithmically demoting" sexually suggestive fare, the decency group criticizes the company for taking no steps to reign in user comments, which its authors find at least as disturbing as the videos themselves. From July 1, 2008 through August 5, 2008, the PTC's "analysts," as they call themselves, collected not only videos, but user remarks.

PTC's researchers did searches using what they defined as "child friendly" terms. These included "Miley Cyrus," "Jonas Brothers," "High School Musical," and "Hannah Montana," which they say resulted in "highly offensive" content in the text commentary areas below the videos produced by the search." The Hannah Montana search supposedly picked up a variety of obscenities that indicated YouTube users have a low opinion of the character herself, and suspect her of engaging in various sexual activities. Just out of curiosity, I did my own search on the same name. Here are the first four comments below the first video that I got.
• Hannah Montana rules I love shows and music everyday I listen to her music I love the music the most I almost forgot don't let anyone bring you down like monkeygirl324 is trying to do she's jealou.
• This is the real Miley!
• i love you miley im your number 1 fan
• hey how are u?
Not exactly the most scintillating online dialogue I've run into, but pretty far from the PTC's excerpts. In any event, the group wants YouTube to take action on the terrible comments they supposedly found, "by formulating and adopting a thorough, accurate and transparent content rating system which would allow a parent to block a child from viewing age-inappropriate material."

Because YouTube is an Internet service, the Council can't launch the same kind of complaint-driven pressure campaign that it constantly runs against broadcast TV using the FCC's indecency rules. But it can still conduct a moral pressure campaign on advertisers. "Sponsors must maintain a diligent awareness of the material whose distribution they are underwriting with their advertising dollars," the document's conclusion warns.
Apparently, it did not occur to PTC's analysts that the Hannah Montana commentaries they cite may have been written by the very children that the morals group says it wants to protect.
– • – – • – – • – – • – – • – – • – – • – – • – – • – – • – – • – – • – Nate Anderson, also writing in ars technica, does Q and A with Cary Sherman, head honkster at the RIAA, discussing their plans to discontinue suing American college students who download music. His report follows: "On Friday, major news broke: the RIAA would (largely) abandon its widespread lawsuit campaign against individuals in favor of a "graduated response" partnership with ISPs. The outlines are clear enough—the RIAA will identify infringers, pass that information on to ISPs, who will notify (and eventually sanction) users without turning personal information over to the music industry.

"But details, in some cases hugely important details, remained unclear. Chief among these was the lack of any talk about an oversight or appeals process for users who want to contest the RIAA's claims in some way. We checked in with EFF attorney Fred von Lohmann, one of the leading non-industry voices on these issues; he suggested five potential "gotchas" that need to be scrutinized as the plan goes forward:
• What's the mechanism for "appealing" a false allegation? How will subscribers be notified (i.e., what if your "third notice" ends up caught in your spam folder, or your teenager intercepts the letters)? Will parents be held responsible for what their children are doing? Will neighbors be held responsible if they run open WiFi?
• Does this mean ISPs now have an obligation to engage in enough data retention to reconstruct the activities of subscribers? If so, this will create a cache of data that will imperil our privacy in other ways, as the government and private litigants start demanding access to it.
• What happens after the "third strike?" Will there be an "Internet blacklist" of persons that ISPs cannot service? What about those who have only one residential broadband provider in their area? The increasing provision of government services online (taxes, FEMA insurance, etc.) makes the threat of being taken offline a very serious matter.
• What does "throttling" mean in this context? Will it mean banning particular protocols (like BitTorrent or gnutella), banning particular ports, or pervasive deep packet inspection? Will subscribers get a discount if their "7Mb" Internet service becomes "256k" Internet service?
• Will this require ISPs to affirmatively monitor for infringement ("filtering"), or will they only respond to RIAA complaints?

To get more details about the program, Ars turned to Cary Sherman, president of the RIAA; you can read the complete transcript of our talk following the link below. Sherman's answer to the first question is, in essence, "it's all being worked out," but he's fully aware that an appeals process of some kind must be in place before the program goes live.

When it comes to question four, Sherman noted after our interview wrapped up that the RIAA had no idea who had suggested "throttling" as a possible sanction against users. While it did appear in the initial Wall Street Journal article, the RIAA is not advocating bandwidth throttling as a possible sanction at this time, and Sherman isn't sure of anyone who is.
As for question five, potential infringers will be identified using the same basic process that the RIAA has used to identify file-swappers for its court cases and settlement letters; ISPs appear not to be involved in the identification process, only in the resulting notification and sanction process.

For the other questions, definite answers are harder to come by. Much of the agreement is still being hashed out, including practical implementation details that may be pesky, but are crucial.
Despite the RIAA's unwillingness to identify the ISPs that are currently involved in the program, Ars has confirmed that Verizon is not participating at the moment. Requests for comment to AT&T and Comcast were not returned. For more information and the text of the Cary Sherman interview, turn your browser to:
– • – – • – – • – – • – – • – – • – – • – – • – – • – – • – – • – – • – And from the Little Eddy scrapbook comes our offering for the week: Saturday, July 26. 2008: Blog #46: A Bush whacking.

How wonderful our politicians are. Particularly Republicans. Take our Bush whacked president. Because the U.N. Mandate that keeps U.S. troops in Iraq runs out at the end of this year, for months he has been quietly trying to reach an agreement with the Iraqi government which would allow American troops to stay in Iraq. Evidently in Bush’s mind his legacy rests in our troops continuing their occupation, the need for which his weird reasoning seems to use to try and justify his original decision to invade. But Iraqi citizens are understandably wary of any long term agreement on their occupation, and are growing increasingly impatient for us to leave. (The fact that private “security” firms like Blackwater seem to exercise free reign to kill and maim with impunity on public Bagdad streets just might be one factor contributing to the Iraqi impatience.) At any rate the Maliki government wants a timetable for the withdrawal of American troops before it will sign the damn thing. You read that right, the T word. A timetable.

Poor John McCain, he goaded Barack Obama into going to Iraq to find out what the situation is really like there, only to have Iraqi president Maliki all but endorse Obama’s withdrawal timetable. How presidential looking is that? And our poor, much maligned Bush, who has heroically resisted every Democratic Congressional attempt to tack on what he has consistently labeled an “artificial timetable” to its bills funding the war, how awful of that mean old Maliki to make an end run around the Bush backside insisting that the T word is not the least bit artificial and, thank you very much, he wants one before he’ll sign any papers allowing our military to stay. Damn, with Bush’s past history you can’t expect him to suddenly embrace, or even allow so much as a mention of the word timetable. So what to do?

A rose by any other name smells. As James Carville might put it, Call It Something Else, Stupid! For instance, how about “time horizon.” That should pretty well sanitize it. It even sounds scientific, doesn’t it, like it is somehow related to a black hole’s “event horizon?” It’s damned appropriate too, for the Iraq invasion is certainly the black hole of the Bush 43 legacy. We hate being the one to have to ring in the bad news, but as we write this the American economy is disappearing lock, stock and barrel straight down the Iraqi “time horizon’s event horizon.” And since not even light itself can escape a black hole, the U.S. economy doesn’t stand a chance in hell.
– • – – • – – • – – • – – • – – • – – • – – • – – • – – • – – • – – • – Twas the Sunday before Christmas, and heading up the Technology page of the New York Times were two stories which featured Apple’s iPhone prominently. The first story called Ping, the Year of the Simpler Gadget, opens up lauding the Nintendo Wii, which after two years is still highly sought after and was pictured on the cover of Best Buy’s holiday shopping bulletin. It went on to praise the Flip camcorder, which is several times cheaper than offerings from Sony or JVC, and which is much simpler to use. But further down in the story is the part that prompted this inclusion:

Apple, innovator of business models as much as it is an innovator of electronic geegaws, may have found a solution to the problem of simple products becoming more complex. The Apple iPhone is one of the easiest-to-use devices ever created. At $300, plus a two-year contract that quickly pushes the real price to $1,800, it is hardly in the thrift class with the Wii and the Flip. But it is one of the most popular consumer electronics devices of 2008. Apple is expected to sell more than 14 million of them this year, and it is already the best-selling handset in the United States, according to the market researchers at the NPD Group.

As much as it is part of the distinct trend toward the simple, the iPhone is also part of a trend to make a device versatile. It is a pretty thing, with a sleek touch screen that does away with a keyboard. But it is also a hand-held game machine and a musical instrument that plays cowbells or imitates an ocarina. It’s clearly an entertainment device, one that can identify the song playing in a movie or find friends on a map.

While it is not clear that mainstream electronics manufacturers have caught on, some scrappy start-ups have noticed its utility. One of them, Sonos, has turned the iPhone into a pretty nifty remote control for managing music on Sonos’s whole-house entertainment system. (The application can be downloaded free from the Apple AppStore.) The iPhone taps into a home’s wireless network to control the wireless entertainment system in multiple rooms.

John MacFarlane, the Sonos chief executive, says creation of the software that makes the iPhone a Sonos controller lifted the company’s sales by 20 percent in November. “In this economy,” he noted.

The company gave up some revenue — a regular Sonos controller is about $300 — but the new device exposed the entertainment system to a new audience and thus expanded the market.
Sonos isn’t interested in anything other than music, but a versatile little device that you never let out of your reach could also manage burglar alarms and heating and cooling systems. “I think that is the universal remote control of the future,” Mr. MacFarland said. “And that’s the direction we are headed.”

Right along with stingier consumers.
- - - - - -
And the next story down is called: Need a Ride? Check your iPhone. And it goes on to announce that when you need a ride instead of throwing your thumb out of joint you soon will be tapping on your iPhone with your fingers.

Avego, based in Kinsale, Ireland (, is demonstrating an iPhone application intended to let drivers and prospective passengers connect and share rides.

When the program is available, drivers who want to offer rides will first download the app, then record their preferred route, said Sean O’Sullivan, managing director of Avego and executive chairman of Mapflow, Avego’s parent company, based in Dublin.

“You put the iPhone on the dashboard, and it records the entire trip and sends the route to our network,” he said. The system stores the route, adding it to its menu of paths and pick-up points and offering them automatically to interested riders.

Drivers must have an iPhone in order to use the service, but if passengers don’t, they will be able to look for a ride on the Avego Web site or call or send a text message, Mr. O’Sullivan said. Drivers and riders can identify one another by photographs displayed on their iPhones, as well as by PINs that verify identities and authorize the transaction.

Avego will charge 30 cents a mile, he said, with 85 percent going to the driver to recover some of the commuting costs and 15 percent to the company. All payments will be handled by automated online accounting.
– • – – • – – • – – • – – • – – • – – • – – • – – • – – • – – • – – • –
To Blog or Not To Blog? That is a question we are asking ourselves as we wind down 2008 and prepare to roar into 2009. What are the bare, unadulterated facts? This blog mostly arrogates other people’s writings which I find of interest and wish to share with any and all who might find their way to visit my blog. It is not by any stretch of the imagination successful on any plane. For instance, one thing about successful blogging is that it forms a community. Comments of readers adds a new found dimension to a piece of writing. Little Eddy’s blog has yet to publish its first comment. That is because it has yet to receive its first comment. Grade: F

How about readership? Although the page counter at the bottom of the page records the number of page hits the blog attracts, there is nothing to indicate whether the persons hitting the page stayed to read the blog. However the page counter does indicate that about 100 people per week visit the page, which is tiny in comparison to usual website hits. And so from a readership perspective, it does seem a pointless exercise to carry the blog on. Grade: D –

One of the major reasons for beginning the blog was to write a kind of signpost for my grandkids. However, after a little over a year of writing it I discovered that in truth none of my family, neither my sons, nor grandsons read it. And so that motive is left out in the cold. Grade F

Although for most of its life my blog occupied at least three or four days devoted to its preparation, for the past several weeks I have experimented with devoting only one day of the week, all day Friday, plus an hour or two Saturday morning to working on the blog. This frees up my time to spend on other projects the other days of the week. As we move into the new year I plan to continue the blog devoting one day a week for preparation, at least until I decide whether to continue the blog, or drop it altogether. I wish that someone would leave a comment, any comment one way or another, as to whether or not we should continue writing the blog. In the meantime, I guess we’ll keep on keeping on. See you next week?

The Real Little Eddy

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Blog #67: the Passing of “Deep Throat”

Friday morning is blog writing morning. And as the week ends the news is kind of sad. Primarily it marks the passing of Mark Felt, at one time the number two man at the FBI under J. Edgar Hoover, and the man referred to as “deep throat” who confirmed information about the Watergate break-in and other Nixonian abuses to Bob Woodward whose stories with partner Carl Bernstein exposed the criminality of the Nixon presidency, and which led finally to the beginning of impeachment proceedings, followed by the Nixon resignation.

Among Nixon apologists far and wide Felt is thought of as a traitor, but to those of us who honor honesty in government he is a hero without peer. It should be pointed out that he did not feed information to Woodward, according to their story of Watergate, All the President’s Men. Rather he either confirmed or denied what the two had otherwise uncovered in their investigations. To Nixon apologists this was disloyalty to the highest degree. But the man was in law enforcement. What should he do when he is a witness to crimes committed by the president of our country and his closest aides? Should he really shut his eyes and keep his mouth shut? Or should he take some kind of role in its exposure?

Imagine for one minute if Felt had not been confirming information for Woodward as he and Bernstein pursued their quarry. If there had been no “deep throat” Richard Nixon might well have gone through his presidency unscathed, and emerged a hero. Fortunately Felt did confirm and/or deny the facts in their stories, and he ended up being the guiding light which helped to steer the two reporters through the dark recesses of the Nixon labyrinth, allowing them to finally shine the light of truth on Nixon’s excesses. Let us take the hats we no longer wear off to the memory of Mark Felt, and thank him for his courageous contribution in helping expose the criminality which was the underlying signature of the Nixon regime.

Ironically Felt himself was convicted in 1980 of authorizing nine illegal break ins to the homes of those related to the Weather Underground. Ronald Reagan later gave Felt a presidential pardon.
– • – – • – – • – – • – – • – – • – – • – – • – – • – – • – – • – – • –
What a sweet world it is when a majority of our citizens vote not from fear, but from choice. They voted for Change, rather than a continuation of the incompetence which was the signature of the Bush/Cheney regime. Choice! + Change! = Confidence!!! How sweet it is!

What a refreshing change to see the incoming president selecting his cabinet appointments because of their skill, intelligence and qualifications, rather than their ideology. Who can know what the future will bring? But I do know that I, and I suspect this applies to the rest of the 53% of you who cast your vote for Barack Obama, are facing the future with a high level of faith and hope, and with confidence not fear.

What a pleasure watching the news is these days. My television is tuned to CNN except when NBA basketball is on. CNN does seem to go out of their way to be fair, unlike the Fox News Channel which unblushingly presents the news through a prism of the Right, and MSNBC, which these days seems to be representing the Left. Back when the Bush Administration was running up to the invasion of Iraq I couldn’t bear to watch any news channel, because I knew that all, including CNN, were forced to present White House handouts as both news and fact. And it was all too clear as to just where that run up was headed.

In previous columns we discussed the average president’s penchant for playing around with foreign policy to the detriment of the country. Why this should be is beyond me, but obviously it runs rampant? I’m not writing this because I’m afraid that Barack Obama’s presidency will fall into this trap. Mr. Obama seems far too sharp to go there, and his appointment of Hillary Clinton as his Secretary of State was a clear indication that he will be focussing on our domestic economic problems, leaving the foreign policy to the purview of Ms. Clinton. This is a very positive sign, and relieves any possible worry that Obama will fall for the weaknesses of those who preceded him by concentrating on aggression through foreign policy rather than the well-being of the home front.

However, this is not enough. The Bush administration, including vice president Cheney, should be held accountable for the various bizarre procedures they took that undermined the traditions and the very moral fiber of our nation. Like having the N.S.A. intercept and read the emails of American citizens without first obtaining a court warrant. Of what use are laws if they are not enforced. Take torture for another instance. Intelligent regimes reject torture as a method of extracting information from suspects not only for humanitarian reasons (it is morally wrong to commit another human being to torture). They also reject it so that their own soldiers who are captured won’t have the same techniques used on them. And finally, they reject it because the information which results from torture is often times not accurate. Human beings under stress will say anything to stop the pain.

And where in the description of the CIA’s interrogation tactics does it point out that this method of handling high interest prisoners was taken from a navy study of Chinese Communist interrogating procedures used against American airmen. Imagine fashioning an interrogation program based on a Communist developed procedure. Does that sound like the American way to you?

Just about every twenty years this country has engaged in a major war, dubbed a “president’s” war, wars which we invariably lose because there was no real attempt to go all out and take the necessary measures which might have ensured victory. To really win a major conflagration the country would have to reinstall a draft to supply the army, navy and marines with adequate personnel, and install rationing on the home front to fairly distribute those items which would become scarce during a protracted war.

But wars that presidents start for reasons other than that we were attacked are seldom won, because most often they were not in the interests of the people we were supposedly fighting for. Dwight Eisenhower later admitted that the US never held the elections in South Vietnam that were called for by the Geneva Accords, the treaty that ended the French/IndoChina war, because according to his own estimate 80% of the South Vietnamese population would have voted for Uncle Ho, as they affectionately referred to the venerable Ho Chi Minh. Of course, we Americans were never told that. Lyndon Baines Johnson who escalated President Kennedy’s advisors into a full scale war was the one to give this kind of warfare a name. He bragged that in Vietnam we were fighting a “guns and butter” war, alluding to the fact that in World War II people gave up delicacies like butter for the war effort, using vegetable margarine instead, but during Vietnam the people would never notice the war except as stories on the nightly news. The war was considered entertainment on the nightly news until the Viet Cong and its allies embarked on the Tet offensive, the ferocity of which made the American public realize for the first time that the South Vietnamese government we were supporting had little support in the cities or countryside.

The United States lost the Vietnam war and had to pull out of the country in haste, and the city that was known as Saigon is now named Ho Chi Minh city. The Korean War, twenty years before, had concluded with the Chinese army entering the fray and chasing General Douglas MacArthur back to the 38th parallel from whence the conflagration began. As yet there is no solution in sight for Iraq, but at least after Jan. 20th the country will be led by a president who recognizes the initial folly of our invasion, and who will be working tirelessly to remove our troop from Iraq.

But what is necessary for the future of our nation and the peace and prosperity of its citizens are safeguards which must be put into place to prevent future presidents from veering off into directions like Korea, Vietnam and Iraq. For many years we operated on the rule that we would not attack first, but only respond if attacked. In the run up to World War II although our sympathies were with Great Britain and Europe, we did not actually enter the war formally until we were attacked by the Japanese at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii.

This tradition was ceremoniously dumped as we invaded an Iraq which was absolutely no threat to the US, except in the twisted minds of our leadership. The wars in Korea and Vietnam were entered into because our “best and brightest” believed that should the Communist insurgency succeed other far east countries would fall like dominoes. Of course, our stalemate in Korea and defeat in Vietnam did not bring on the falling of regimes throughout the region. The Domino Theory was just another twisted, arcane pipe dream of our “best and brightest” after all.

Many people consider George Bush’s obsession with Saddam Hussein resulted from intelligence that Hussein was planning the assassination of his father during a trip to Kuwait. As commendable as such feelings may be, few would give that as sufficient reason to invade a nation that was of no threat to us. In the wake of the 9/11 attacks on the Trade Towers and the Pentagon, Bush’s anti-terrorism adviser Richard Clarke reported during a 60 Minutes interview that Bush had ordered him to look for a link between the attacks and Saddam Hussein, even though he had found no connection. This was in sharp contrast to Clarke reporting that his warnings the summer before the 9/11 attacks of what he saw as a major threat from Al Qaeda and that they should have discussions, the Bush administration’s reaction was tepid. But once the attacks occurred the administration clung to every straw, real or imagined, it could cling to in trying to link the attacks to Hussein, and thereby justify the up coming Iraq invasion.
– • – – • – – • – – • – – • – – • – – • – – • – – • – – • – – • – – • –
Here’s to the bands and musicians who have demanded that their music not be used to harass prisoners. What kind of government have we become that would use overly loud music to try and break people’s spirits?
– • – – • – – • – – • – – • – – • – – • – – • – – • – – • – – • – – • –
Speaking of music, Hosannah! According to an article in the Wall Street Journal the recording industry has finally decided to end its practice of suing people who download music. The article By Sarah McBride and Ethan Smith reported that “after years of suing thousands of people for allegedly stealing music via the Internet, the recording industry is set to drop its legal assault as it searches for more effective ways to combat online music piracy.

The music industry has sued 3500 people since 2003, mostly college students who they could blackmail into paying a $3,000 fee rather than fight their case in the courts. In the first case that went to the court the RIAA won a $222,000 judgement against a mother of two named Jammie Thomas. The judge in the case later reversed his ruling and negated the trial, lamenting the high fines the jurors assessed, a six figure fine for having 25 cds online. Also the RIAA’s legal offensive ultimately did little to stem the tide of illegally downloaded music. And it created a public-relations disaster for the industry, whose lawsuits targeted, among others, several single mothers, a dead person and a 13-year-old girl.

Instead of suing those who offer their albums for file sharing, the Recording Industry Association of America said it has plans to try an approach that relies on the cooperation of Internet-service providers. The trade group said it has hashed out preliminary agreements with major ISPs under which it will send an email to the provider when it finds a provider's customers making music available online for others to take.

Depending on the agreement, the ISP will either forward the note to customers, or alert customers that they appear to be uploading music illegally, and ask them to stop. If the customers continue the file-sharing, they will get one or two more emails, perhaps accompanied by slower service from the provider. Finally, the ISP may cut off their access altogether. The RIAA said it has agreements in principle with some ISPs, but declined to say which ones. But ISPs, which are increasingly cutting content deals of their own with entertainment companies, may have more incentive to work with the music labels now than in previous years.

The new approach dispenses with one of the most contentious parts of the lawsuit strategy, which involved filing lawsuits requiring ISPs to disclose the identities of file sharers. Under the new strategy, the RIAA would forward its emails to the ISPs without demanding to know the customers' identity.
– • – – • – – • – – • – – • – – • – – • – – • – – • – – • – – • – – • –
We led off last week’s blog with the story about our erstwhile president ducking a couple of shoes during a press conference in Bagdad. To me it was a fitting end to Bush’s Iraq experience, enshrouded as it was in an air of poetic justice. Below are opinions of several other Houstonians commenting on the story in the Houston Chronicle. The letters appear in the order the Chronicle placed them:

Not hero or heel
Regarding Tuesday's Page One article "Heel or hero? Iraqis split on shoe-thrower": If I had witnessed the entry into my country of 150,000 foreign troops, seen more than a million of my fellow citizens driven from their native land, observed the destruction of my country's infrastructure and realized that that invasion caused approximately 100,000 attendant deaths, I might feel like slinging something at the perpetrator, too. I would not consider myself a hero or heel — I'm hurt. VINCENT MAGGIO Houston
- - - -
What's forgotten
What a paradox! The journalist insults the very man who freed him. Does anyone question what would have happened to him if Saddam Hussein was still running things? No doubt a bullet in the head moments later. How soon they forget. JACK CONNOR Cypress
- - - -
A hand to thrower
Bravo to the Iraqi shoe-thrower. I think he did what many people have been wanting to do for the past eight years — and it spoke volumes. What a perfect ending to a perfectly disastrous presidency. K. BERNSTEIN Houston
- - - -
The list grows
It would appear that to his list of failures President George W. Bush may add restoring honor and dignity to the office of the president. JEFFREY BEAN Kingwood
- - - -
Service was scary
Much has been made of the shoe-throwing incident, but I have not heard a word of the lackluster performance of the president's protectors. That the guy got one shoe off was disturbing, but both shoes? After the incident, one Secret Service agent tentatively (he seemed to be in no rush) approached President Bush, who waved him off.

Bush is a decent man, so I am sure there will be no penalty for such a pitiful performance by our vaunted Secret Service. It is very scary. It is a long way from the agent who flung himself on the back of John F. Kennedy's limo to take a bullet. HERB MANN Kingwood
– • – – • – – • – – • – – • – – • – – • – – • – – • – – • – – • – – • –
Time for another installment in our greatest hits extolling the Bush administration, to celebrate his waning days in office.

SATURDAY, APRIL 12, 2008 BLOG #31: The Petraeus Dog and Pony Show
Well the big day came and went. Tuesday was THE Red Letter Day, the day that brought testimony in front of two Senate committees from General David H. Petraeus, the army’s commander in Iraq, and Ryan C. Crocker, the American ambassador to Iraq, and on Wednesday the two House committees had their turn. The testimony was billed as a progress report, and SURPRISE, SURPRISE!, the “SURGE” has been SUCCESSFUL! However, don’t let your enthusiasm RUN AMOK. The success is VERY, VERY FRAGILE. Like Fred Astaire dancing on egg shells, the general and the ambassador never strayed from the basic Bush message, a continual troop presence is needed in Iraq to continue to provide stability.

And despite polls that show two thirds of Americans feel that the war was a mistake and we should not be there, neither man would entertain ideas of any kind of a drawdown any time soon, nor would or could they even indicate any kind of condition it would take in which the troops could begin returning home. It is quite obvious that during the Bush/Cheney watch there will be no troop reductions. Whether or not the general lived up to his nickname of General Betrayus of course, depends on your point of view about the war and the Bush administration. This much is clear, he most certainly did not betray Bush. Far from it, he didn’t waver an iota from Bush’s line. Show just enough success to show the world there has been progress, enough to justify the surge, but not enough for people to get the idea that there could be any kind of meaningful troop reduction, even in a small, limited way, any time soon.

The Democritics who have experienced total failure in their repeated attempts to alter the nation’s war policy (despite the polls) this time around tried questioning our continuing funding the war in the face of Iraq having billions stashed away in various banks throughout the world, its newfound riches thanks to the high price of oil. It turns out Iraq has over thirty billion stashed away in US banks alone, and at least fifty billion in other banks, Germany for one, and yet we US taxpayers are still funding basic Iraq programs, like the training and equipping of its army, the running Iraq’s electric power plants, etc. When senators asked the general and the ambassador when Iraqis might begin paying their share of the expenses, they both said they could understand the senator’s concerns and would press the Iraqi government for answers upon their return. But of course they could and did promise nothing.

All three presidential candidates used their time period for questions to promote their own view of the war. Each potential presidential candidate got a crack at the Iraqi road-show. Republican John McCain, an unblushing believer in the conflict, tried the delicate distinction of approving of the war’s direction while trying to distance himself from the many failed policies of the Bush administration. Senator McCain pointed to the “success” of the surge (which he had called for in advance of its being instituted), but as usual warned against “cutting and running” as that would endanger the stability of the entire operation. Senator Hillary Clinton pointed out that recent outbreaks of fighting in Basra and Bagdad call into question once again the wisdom of the strategy, and asked how long such a failed policy should be carried on before some kind of change of course is called for? Obama also stressed the lack of progress and the futility of the operation, and reiterated that upon election he would take steps to remove American forces by seeking talks with Iraq’s neighbors, including Iran, to help stabilize the region so we could leave.

In short nothing has changed. The situation in Iraq, according to Petraeus, is “fragile and reversible,” and he sees absolutely no light at the end of the tunnel. His basic recommendation after the surge is drawn down would leave 140,000 American troops in Bagdad, he didn’t put a time limit on it, but it could quite possibly be forever. After all, we still have troops in Germany and in Korea, and bases in Japan. So why not Iraq? Besides such a long term military commitment insures the future relevance and power of the military. The only possible deterrent to a Republican outcome is the possibility that with over sixty-six percent of the American people seeing the economy as a priority and our Iraq involvement as a mistake, that these two-thirds of us just might go to the polls in November and vote the rascals out. We at the Real Little Eddy Blog of course second that motion, and we’ll even offer Senators Clinton and Obama a campaign slogan, “American Dollars for the American People! For a Real Change.”

A communist government uses its dictatorial powers supposedly for the benefit of the workers, the masses. A fascist state uses its dictatorial powers for the benefit of the rich and powerful. Both types of governments attempt to make a religion 0f the military, as the military is instrumental in keeping those governments in power, as well as extending their influence to other parts of the world. The Bush attempt to portray General Petraeus as all wise and all knowing, as well as the way it has conducted the war in general, substituting an understaffed military with highly paid civilian private contractors certainly puts the Bush administration in the realm of the fascist state. The various illegal forays into the gathering of information on American citizens under the pretense of trolling for terrorists, drives it even deeper into the corner with the likes of Hitler and Stalin. However, there is one characteristic of the Bush/Cheney governance that has probably saved our country from completely going over the edge. At least so far. And that is the extreme measure of incompetence which has characterized their entire operation. God help us, if they had any measure of efficiency to go along with their ideas.
– • – – • – – • – – • – – • – – • – – • – – • – – • – – • – – • – – • –
Before we leave the Petraeus/Crocker dog and pony show, I would like to point you to Dick Cavett’s caustic assessment in Saturday morning’s NYTimes online. Cavett minces no words as he dissects both gentlemen’s language like a middle school English teacher on steroids. Cavett sums up the general thusly: “Petraeus uses “challenge” for a rich variety of things. It covers ominous developments, threats, defeats on the battlefield and unfound solutions to ghastly happenings. And of course there’s that biggest of challenges, that slapstick band of silent-movie comics called, flatteringly, the Iraqi “fighting forces.” (A perilous one letter away from “fighting farces.”) The ones who are supposed to allow us to bring troops home but never do.”

“But I must hand it to his generalship. He did say something quite clearly and admirably and I am grateful for his frankness. He told us that our gains are largely imaginary: that our alleged “progress” is “fragile and reversible.” (Quite an accomplishment in our sixth year of war.) This provides, of course, a bit of preemptive covering of the general’s hindquarters next time that, true to Murphy’s Law, things turn sour again.

But Cavett saved his most vituperative cut for the General’s hapless sidekick: “Back to poor Crocker. His brows are knitted. And he has a perpetually alarmed expression, as if, perhaps, he feels something crawling up his leg.

"Could it be he is being overtaken by the thought that an honorable career has been besmirched by his obediently doing the dirty work of the tin-pot Genghis Khan of Crawford, Texas? The one whose foolish military misadventure seems to increasingly resemble that of Gen. George Armstrong Custer at Little Bighorn? Not an apt comparison, I admit. Custer only sent 258 soldiers to their deaths.”

– • – – • – – • – – • – – • – – • – – • – – • – – • – – • – – • – – • –
Saturday, May 17, 2008: Blog #36: Bush Going Down in Flames

Surprise, surprise. Our most revered leader, our resident president and would-be ruler George W. Bush, like the ex-Air National Guard member that he is, has evidently decided to go down in flames of glory as described in the Army Air Force song “Wild Blue Yonder.” Never mind that his approval rating among the American people is at its lowest point in the history of presidential approval ratings, at 28% (even during the height of Watergate Nixon’s ratings never dipped below 33%), and with 72% of Americans feeling he has taken us down the wrong road. I guess it was in the spirit of “what have I got left to lose?” that the illustrious Mr. B. denounced those who would negotiate with “terrorists and radicals” — a remark that was widely interpreted as a rebuke to Senator Barack Obama, the Democratic presidential contender, who has argued that the United States should talk directly with countries like Iran and Syria. Mr. Bush obviously prefers emulating the reaction of the ostrich, hiding one’s head in the sand while pretending that all is well in his immediate world, rather than negotiating with whatever are the powers that be.

In a speech celebrating Israel’s 60th anniversary, our leader of extremely low esteem said, “Some seem to believe that we should negotiate with the terrorists and radicals, as if some ingenious argument will persuade them they have been wrong all along,” Mr. Bush was heard to say. He went on to rant, “We have heard this foolish delusion before. As Nazi tanks crossed into Poland in 1939, an American senator declared: “Lord, if I could only have talked to Hitler, all this might have been avoided.” He was alluding to Senator William E. Borah, an Idaho Republican noted for his powers of oratory and his isolationist views.

In 1938, when Hitler was gobbling up parts of Europe, Borah expressed admiration for him, and in 1939 he did indeed lament that he had not been able to talk to Hitler before the Nazi invasion of Poland. “We have an obligation to call this what it is" Bush ranted on, “the false comfort of appeasement, which has been repeatedly discredited by history.”

In the lengthy speech intended to promote the strong alliance between the United States and Israel, the president invoked the emotionally volatile imagery of World War II in making the case that talking to extremists was no different than appeasing Hitler and the Nazis. Mr. Bush did not mention Mr. Obama by name, and the White House was quick to point out that his remarks were not aimed at the senator, though nobody believed that and they created a political firestorm in Washington nonetheless. The Obama campaign issued an angry response to Mr. Bush’s statement. In an e-mail statement to reporters, the senator denounced Mr. Bush for using the 60th anniversary of Israel to “launch a false political attack,” adding, “George Bush knows that I have never supported engagement with terrorists, and the president’s extraordinary politicization of foreign policy and the politics of fear do nothing to secure the American people or our stalwart ally Israel.”
– • – – • – – • – – • – – • – – • – – • – – • – – • – – • – – • – – • –
And that is how it all lays out on Saturday, December 20th, 2008. Only 31 days left until liberation. A Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to you all.

The Real Little Eddy

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Blog #66: Nay Sayers Front and Center

BULLETIN: Erstwhile president George W. Bush brought to a close his involvement in the US, Iraq debacle. Traveling to Bagdad, and speaking to a group of Iraqi journalists, suddenly a shoe came flying his way. He ducked. Came a second one and he held up his arm to shield his face. The assailant - later identified as television correspondent Muntadar al-Zeidi - leapt from his chair and hurled his footwear at the president, who was about 20 feet away. "This is a farewell kiss, you dog," he yelled in Arabic. Can anyone imagine a more fitting conclusion to the ill timed, shamelessly mismanaged invasion of Iraq? Way to go, Iraqi newsman.

Already nay sayers are popping up like mushrooms on a late summer's evening. From the far left wafts whispers that President Elect Obama has appointed too many conservatives to his cabinet to be. These fears are somewhat stoked by the generally positive reaction of many prominent Republicans, and especially the appointment of Hillary Clinton as Secretary of State. Here’s a scary thought, even Rush Limbaugh seemed to have reacted positively to the Hillary announcement, although Rush tempered his enthusiasm by gleefully reasoning that Ms. Clinton wouldn’t be able to run for the presidency in 2012. However the media are presently having a field day. It has not gotten over its penchant for running with any and every tiny thread connecting the candidate with the disgraced governor of Illinois. And so in spite of the less than flattering depiction of the democratic presidential nominee that Illinois governor Rod Blagojevich's tapped phone conversations revealed, right wing opponents are gamely attempting to hitch Obama's political star to the besieged governor in the fond hope that some of the tarnish will stick.

Of course, nothing is likely to stick, for the President elect either through skill, foresight or incredible instinct left yards if not miles between the two. According to Eli Saslow writing in the Washington Post, “like every other Illinois politician Gov. Blagojevich awaited anxiously for a speaking role at the Democratic convention last summer, expecting the payback for being the first governor to endorse the Senator in his run for the presidency. Obama's campaign made speaking offers to the Illinois treasurer, the comptroller, the attorney general and a Chicago city clerk. Sen. Richard J. Durbin (Ill.) was asked to introduce Obama on the convention's final night; Rep. Jesse L. Jackson Jr. (Ill.) was told he would speak on television during prime time. Finally, fed up and embarrassed that he still had heard nothing, Blagojevich joked to a crowd at the Illinois State Fair that, yes, he also had been asked to speak – at 4 a.m., in a Denver area men's bathroom.” (Foot tapping anyone?)

Of course Blagojevich's subsequent telephone conversations, wire-tapped courtesy your FBI, will serve as a stain on the shirtfronts of all Democrats, center and left alike. However since the good governor's instincts parallel those of virtually every politician swimming in our present body politic, Republican as well as Democrat, it should seem only in excess because of its plainspoken honesty. We are not used to politicians speaking that succinctly. The Illinois governor put his thoughts into words so laconic that it left no doubt as to the true nature of his character. And so the country waits anxiously to see what remedy the state and feds will take to safeguard the appointment of Senator Obama's successor. Heaven forbid that the good governor appoint anyone, and most especially not himself, to the soon to be vacated Senate seat. Of course, the Senate itself is the final arbiter as to who its members might be, and there's not a chance in hell that they would admit Blagojevich should he have the audacity to
appoint himself, as would be his right as things now stand.

Will the show ever end? We hope not, for it keeps us amused and entertained as inauguration day approaches. Meantime what should the Illinois governor's punishment be? Expulsion from office surely. Whether incarceration is in the cards, and how much, will be determined by subsequent trial, and it would be un-American to convict before trial, now wouldn't it? Damn, we can't have any fun these days?
– • – – • – – • – – • – – • – – • – – • – – • – – • – – • – – • – – • –
We might remind you that the Republican party is the party that professes to fervently believe in as little federal government and regulation as possible and which has in the near and distant past done it's damnedest to neuter the federal bureaucracy and bring it to a state of malfunctioning impotence. How ironic it is to see all of the proponents of the “less government the better” syndrome, have their party, the party presently in power until January 20, the one having to bail out first the banking and financial industries, and then come up with a handout for the American automobile industry. The right wingers keep squealing that the country is a center right country, and must be governed accordingly. Poof! If you believe that we have a Bush/McCain government we'll sell you cheap. What they don't admit to is that the Republican government of George Bush has been governing arrogantly and unswervingly from the center right for the past eight years, and it is this very center right government which the majority of Americans merrily voted against last November 4th. What a marvelous day that was, watching on television as the voting population voted out the current ruling party leaving not a doubt in the world. And shame on the Senate Republicans who voted against the auto bailout because the union workers didn't make enough concessions. War on the Middle Class, that's the Republican's favorite target.

The Supreme Court was given the chance to overrule America's political process once again, as they had in 2000. They were presented a case saying Barack Obama was not a natural born citizen and so is not eligible to be president, the election be damned. But this time around the Supreme Court decided not to gerrymander the election results. Perhaps some of them were having second thoughts about having suspended Florida’s ongoing recount in 2000 thereby giving the election to Bush who in his thanks brought us Iraq, the Katrina aftermath, and the most autocratic government in the history of our democracy. Way to go Court! To their credit this time around they refused to hear the case.

Meanwhile on his way out our most thoroughly discredited president is doing his best to leave as many onerous rules and regulations in place as possible to thwart his successors, he hopes for years to come. Departments all through the government will probably be spending months in discovering the rules W. is putting in place, and then overwriting them. Just thank a merciful lord that Bush had no chance to make further Supreme Court appointments, the court is already tilted far enough to the right to make future judgments a crap shoot. Remedy will only come when President Obama gets to make future appointments to bring the courts back to the center. For it is in the Courts where a president can have long standing effect on the country. And we should feel damn lucky that Bush didn't appoint any more than he did.
– • – – • – – • – – • – – • – – • – – • – – • – – • – – • – – • – – • –
I guess you can say life goes full circle, and I'm lucky enough to get to witness what went around in my youth finally turning around in my old age. I was born in 1926 during the extravagance of the roaring twenties, though I didn't wake up to what was going on in the country until the great depression of the early thirties, which was when first I heard President Franklin Delano Roosevelt's booming voice emanating from our living room radio warning us in that ever authoritative voice of his that "we have nothing to fear but fear itself.” Roosevelt was the first president to discover and use that new entity known as radio, a communication device knowing no peer as a tool for instant access to the American people. And did he ever use it. And the “nothing to fear” speech was so effective in preventing riots and runs on the banks that he wisely devised a regular series of radio talks which he called “Fireside Chats” to bring the American people along with him on his journey through the great depression. And while two of Europe's biggest, Germany and Italy, fell under the domination of fascism, America was spared and remained a free market society thanks to Roosevelt's steady hand. He did have competition though, for the originator of hate radio, Father Charles Edward Coughlin, was speaking to millions of radio listeners every week.

From Wikipedia: Charles Edward Coughlin (October 25, 1891 – October 27, 1979) was a Canadian-born Roman Catholic priest at Royal Oak, Michigan's National Shrine of the Little Flower Church. He was one of the first political leaders to use radio to reach a mass audience, as more than forty million tuned to his weekly broadcasts during the 1930s. Coughlin at first used his radio program to promote Franklin D. Roosevelt and his early New Deal proposals, and then went on to issue antisemitic commentary, and later to rationalize some of the policies of National Socialist Adolf Hitler and Fascist Benito Mussolini. The broadcasts have been called "a variation of the Fascist agenda applied to American culture.” His chief topics were political and economic rather than religious, with his slogan being Social Justice, first with, and later against, Roosevelt's New Deal.

Also from Wikipedia here’s a short course on Roosevelt’s New Deal: The New Deal was the name that United States President Franklin D. Roosevelt gave to a series of economic programs he initiated between 1933 and 1936 with the goals of giving work (relief) to the unemployed, reform of business and financial practices, and recovery of the economy during The Great Depression. The "First New Deal" of 1933 was aimed at short-term recovery programs for all groups. The Roosevelt administration promoted or implemented banking reform laws, emergency relief programs, work relief programs, agricultural programs, and industrial reform (the NRA), a federal welfare state, as well as the end of the gold standard and prohibition.

“A ‘Second New Deal’ (1935–36) included labor union support, the Works Projects Administration (WPA) relief program, the Social Security Act, and programs to aid farmers, including tenant farmers and migrant workers. The Supreme Court ruled several programs unconstitutional; however, most were soon replaced, with the exception of the NRA. In practice the New Deal ended with World War II. As Roosevelt himself said in December, 1943, "Dr. New Deal" had given way to "Dr. Win the War."

“Most of the relief programs were shut down during World War II by the Conservative Coalition (i.e. the opponents of the New Deal in Congress). Many of the regulations were ended during the wave of deregulation in the late 1970s and early 1980s. Several New Deal programs remain active, with some still operating under the original names, including the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC), the Federal Housing Administration (FHA), and the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA). The largest programs still in existence today are the Social Security System and Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC).”

Roosevelt's New Deal recognized that the two conflicting forces in the country were in the form of management, the capitalists who ran the businesses, and labor, whose unions represented the working people. Roosevelt saw the need for the government to stand as a moderating force between these two entities, regulating them as fairly as possible, and particularly he sensed the need to regulate, and thereby stabilize. the financial industry. Although the rich hated Roosevelt, in retrospect by taking strong measures to combat the extremes of management and labor, he is generally credited with saving the United States from fascism, which overran much of Europe during the great depression of the thirties. Phil Gramm, onetime Senator from Texas, and Newt Gingrich, former speaker of the House, are generally credited with bringing about much of the present day deregulation of the banking and financial industry, and as a consequence many today lay the full blame for the mess we're presently in directly on their shoulders. The Gramm, Gingrich monkeying around with deregulation, which had brought stability to the financial industry during the Great Depression and beyond, proved once and for all that the banks and markets have need for regulation, transparency and accountability. And this notion that you let the markets and the economy run free while you fiddle is fodder for the birds, deserving to die alongside that other Republican myth, the “trickle down” theory that if you let the wealthy gain unending wealth they will allow small driblets to trickle down to the rest of us. What a crock! Nobody knows better than the rich how to acquire and retain money.
– • – – • – – • – – • – – • – – • – – • – – • – – • – – • – – • – – • –
In our ongoing celebration of the waning days of the Bush administration we once again dip into our archives yet another edition of our “greatest hits”: Saturday, March 1, 2008 Blog #25: Bush and the Price of Gasoline

Did you see George Bush’s incredible unbelieving expression when he was asked by a reporter about the possibility of ‘surging’ oil prices possibly reaching $4 a gallon? Obviously our soon to be erstwhile leader had not a clue as to the current price of gasoline. Just like his father (who had had no clue as to the 1992 price of a quart of milk or a dozen eggs) Bush the son is completely shielded from the predicament of the average American. And from the jovial sneer that lit up his face it was evident he is quite happy being in his blissful state.
– • – – • – – • – – • – – • – – • – – • – – • – – • – – • – – • – – • –
The Bush/Cheney/McCain triumvirate is making a lot of noise at Barack Obama about cutting and running in Iraq, providing he should get the nomination and then go on to win the presidency. And they are trotting out the so-called retired general experts who echo their “win at all costs” doctrine. Naturally the military can only accept winning, losing is a word not found in the lexicon of the military. But the reality is that even the best armies lose wars. We pulled out and lost Vietnam, had to cut and run, leaving a lot of locals who had helped us in the lurch. We settled the Korean conflict at the very parallel from whence the confrontation had begun. The only war that this country has won in my lifetime was World War II, and we won that one because all of the American people were united in making sacrifices to help win it. The draft snared most of the male population. Goods that were scarce were rationed. Women worked the assembly line in war plants. Rosie the Welder was a folk legend of the times. And as individuals we actually invested financially in the conflict with the purchase of War Bonds.

McCain does not dare tackle Obama’s charge that the invasion of Iraq was a mistake which we should retreat from poste haste. Most conveniently from the perspective of the war monger McCain says we should look only forward, not backward. “Ours not to reason why, ours but to do and die. . .” Has a ring to it, doesn’t it? But if this country is going to return to government by reason and sanity, return to a government that truly represents the people it is supposed to serve, we have to examine what got us into that quicksand that is Iraq, and what restrictions we need to put in place to avoid future presidents involving us in adventures like Iraq. For it seems to be human nature that the types who run for president will get all caught up in international relations, which obviously is where the rush of having extreme power lies, to the total neglect of our own country.

I’m certainly not worried about either Clinton or Obama involving America into any kind of conflagration, they are both healers, and will work full time attempting to restore this country to where it had been before the disastrous Bush regime pumped the nation up with falsehoods and then invaded a country which had not attacked us. And I really believe that the chances are excellent that either Clinton or Obama will lead this country for the next eight years. But Congress and the Democrats must delve deeply into the details of how we got dragged into this mess, and then adopt such measures as are necessary to prevent future presidents from leading us so astray.

Saturday, March 8, 2008 Blog #26 Of Candidates and Windmills and SDK's:

Well friends, the Democratic presidential battle lines are clearly drawn. Ohio and Texas have spoken. Ohio spoke with a voice loud and clear, but Texas hath spoken with forked tongue, the primary popular vote naming two-thirds of the delegates to the Democratic convention was substantially for Hillary Clinton but the caucus vote which picks the other third of the delegates favored Barack Obama. And since Obama is running ahead in the delegate count he invites us to do the math, which he thinks hands him the nomination. But if you actually do the math you find you’ve only muddied the water, for it tells you that neither candidate can possibly reach the necessary total to insure victory by convention time. And so my friends we have a plain, old fashioned horse race. Although thanks to our ongoing trade embargo Cuban cigars will be in short supply, smoke filled rooms will surely abound during the Denver convention. For the first time in recent memory the Democratic candidate is likely to be chosen amid coughs and sputters. And at that altitude the delegates should find themselves on a true rocky-mountain high.

My son Joel, the doctor in residence, worries that such a long conflict will show both Democratic candidates in a bad light and might divert people to John McCain’s candidacy. McCain is looking tired and somewhat out of things, but he has flung off his competition and is marching towards the Republican convention in step with his own drummer. Before the Dems go any further, Joel’s solution is for each contender to guarantee that if they are the winner, they will ask the other one to join the ticket as vice president. Of course, that’s the ideal solution for all loyal Democrats, for no matter which candidate you favor, you respect the other one and would quickly support either one occupying a place on the other’s ticket. Only problem, I doubt that either candidate would agree to name the other at this stage. But it is a helluva idea, and it would convey the message that without a doubt, each candidate respects the other and will go out of his or her way to share responsibility in the upcoming election.

Republicans giggle and sneer at the Democratic situation, figuring (hoping, hallucinating?) that our Democratic candidates will tear each other apart in the many months before the convention while their man cruises (make that stumbles) his way into the presidency with no problems. But if they say that then they are either dreaming or they’re smoking something they should immediately be required to share. It would seem they have no idea of the intensity of the anti-Republican feelings running rampart through Democratic and even Independent quarters these days. A desperation triggered by a Republican president constantly attempting to justify an unjustifiable and out-of-control war that is bleeding the American people of it’s youth and piling up a debt that is turning the ownership of much of our country over to foreign interests like China, as we bankrupt our economy in the irresponsible pursuit of an impossible victory in Iraq. George W. Bush is a modern day Don Quixote, with sidekick Dick Cheney at his side he is tilting swords at a bunch of Iraqi windmills which live only in his mind. And as he contemplates his legacy he is desperate to justify his unconscionable actions. And for those of you rocking along with him here’s Republican candidate John McCain offering you four more years of McBush, eight if we’d be foolish enough to reelect him.
– • – – • – – • – – • – – • – – • – – • – – • – – • – – • – – • –
The big secret that the Bush administration and the Republican party is desperately trying to hide from us is the true cost of this Iraq adventure. Linda J. Bilmes and Joseph E. Stiglitz had an article in Sunday’s Washington Post online reporting on the true cost that should be required reading for all Americans of voting age. Their article begins by saying, “There is no such thing as a free lunch, and there is no such thing as a free war. The Iraq adventure has seriously weakened the U.S. economy, whose woes now go far beyond loose mortgage lending. You can't spend $3 trillion – yes, $3 trillion – on a failed war abroad and not feel the pain at home.

“Some people will scoff at that number, but we've done the math. Senior Bush administration aides certainly pooh-poohed worrisome estimates in the run-up to the war. Former White House economic adviser Lawrence Lindsey reckoned that the conflict would cost $100 billion to $200 billion; Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld later called his estimate "baloney." Administration officials insisted that the costs would be more like $50 billion to $60 billion. In April 2003, Andrew S. Natsios, the thoughtful head of the U.S. Agency for International Development, said on "Nightline" that reconstructing Iraq would cost the American taxpayer just $1.7 billion. Ted Koppel, in disbelief, pressed Natsios on the question, but Natsios stuck to his guns. Others in the administration, such as Deputy Defense Secretary Paul D. Wolfowitz, hoped that U.S. partners would chip in, as they had in the 1991 Persian Gulf War, or that Iraq's oil would pay for the damages.

“The end result of all this wishful thinking? As we approach the fifth anniversary of the invasion, Iraq is not only the second longest war in U.S. history (after Vietnam), it is also the second most costly – surpassing 10 billion dollars monthly – surpassed only by World War II.”

Now I would come in here to remind you that it is those loudmouth Republicans who are always shrilly screaming about Tax and Spend Democrats (however it should be pointed out that Democrats usually tax and spend for the good of the country, not to fund some misguided holocaust on foreign shores.) Republicans claim to be the party of prudence in government, the minders of the nation’s fiscal store. What a joke! I would remind you that the Republican party is the one currently in power and gigging the national treasury to the tune of $3 Trillion which they are busily shoveling into that fiscal sink hole called Iraq. And the “no surrender” military types are insisting that we stay there, either until the “job is done” or I guess until our economy collapses of its own weight. Dare we find out which will come first?

Remember the Clinton years. It was during those years that we had a taste of what *real* fiscal responsibility would be like. In his recently published memoirs even the Republican appointed ex Fed Chief Alan Greenspan couldn't help but praise Bill Clinton’s persistence in trimming the nation’s spending during his eight year term as president, while the Republican slander machine was working full time shamelessly trying to negate everything he was doing. Fortunately they couldn’t stop him. He guided us through our most recent period of tranquility, a period that saw no wars, brought diplomatic solutions to offshore problems, a period that saw the national debt shrink until it turned into a surplus.

That is the very reason that we at the Real Little Eddy Blog support Hillary Clinton for president. Obama’s campaign is all too human and flawed, as several recent glimpses have shown. An aide assuring a Canadian embassy worker that Obama didn’t really mean what he was saying in Ohio about NAFTA, he had to take that position to win votes; a military adviser assuring the military that of course Obama would not move the troops out of Iraq until it was prudent to do so, which was exactly the position Clinton had taken from the beginning. And what was it that an Obama campaign manager called Hillary Clinton on the BBC, a “monster?” Well, methinks a “monster” is exactly what we’re going to need in the White House come January to try and right this listing American Ship of State, before it crashes into the rocks of bankruptcy, flounders, and sinks into the cold, cold depths of irrelevancy.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008 marked the fifth anniversary of the Invasion of Iraq and in commemoration of this (blood soaked) red letter day President Bush and vice president Cheney separately waltzed through the Alice in Wonderland magic looking glass, setting off a distortion field of Steve Jobsian proportions. Bush claimed he was lo0king victory in Iraq squarely in the eye, and announced we were on the very cusp of that elusive commodity. And vice-president Cheney when confronted by a reporter with polls that showed two thirds of Americans oppose our presence in Iraq said, “So?” then went on the relate that it doesn’t matter to him whether or not the public supports the continued US presence in Iraq. “I think you cannot be blown off course by fluctuations in opinion polls,” he said, as if the opinions of the people he and Bush were elected to serve meant absolutely nothing to him, which you better believe is correct. Then he went on to liken Bush’s leadership to that of Abraham Lincoln in the Civil War. Can you believe that? Damn, I wish he would pass around whatever it is he’s smoking. Fella, true scouts SHARE!

Stephen Colbert took note of Bush's video conference with U.S. personnel in Afghanistan last week, in which Bush said: "I must say, I'm a little envious. If I were slightly younger and not employed here, I think it would be a fantastic experience to be on the front lines of helping this young democracy succeed. It must be exciting for you . . . in some ways romantic, in some ways, you know, confronting danger. You're really making history, and thanks."

Colbert responds with outrage – at the soldiers in Afghanistan: "Soldiers, shame on you for arousing our president's envy. You must stop making multiple tours of duty battling foreign militias in a faraway land look like so much fun. While you're romantically running around dodging roadside bombs and rounding up potential terrorists, the president is stuck in the White House, pushing glazed salmon around his dinner plate and pretending to pay attention while Condi plays the piano . . . .

"Stop enticing the president. We could lose him again. Remember the last time he got excited about a war? He joined the Alabama Air National Guard, and nobody could find him."
– • – – • – – • – – • – – • – – • – – • – – • – – • – – • – – • – – • –

This week I find myself still mulling over last week’s fateful words of our favorite president of vice, Dick Cheney. He certainly gave us a lot of gristle to chew on. It was during that interview with the ABC news reporter where in response to her referring to polls indicating that two thirds of Americans are against the Iraq war, he replied, “so?” and then went on to relate that it doesn’t matter to him whether or not the public supports the continued US presence in Iraq. “I think you cannot be blown off course by fluctuations in opinion polls,” he said.

Think about that for one little moment, my friends. The opinions of two thirds of the American people, the very ones that he and Bush were elected to serve, amount to nothing more than fluctuations in the opinion polls. Have you ever in your life read a statement more arrogant? And we are supposed to be a government Of the People, By the People, and For the People, or so I was taught in school. What a joke! Under Bush/Cheney we have a government Of the Rich, By the Rich, For the Rich, a government being Run by Incompetents. And that seems to be the standard credence of all Republican led regimes of late. I guess we should thank our lucky stars in that Cheney deigned to be honest with us. But then he went on to defame the memory of the president who freed the slaves by comparing Bush’s position in Iraq to that of Abraham Lincoln during the Civil War. A stretch truly of Grand Canyon proportions. Paraphrasing the immortal words of the late Lloyd Bentsen, believe me, mister VEEP, George W. Bush is no Abraham Lincoln. Not even close!

The question hanging in the aftermath of Cheney’s bad air is this: “What, if anything, can be done about an administration which is trashing our nation’s economy while bankrolling this Highway to Nowhere that is Iraq? Mr. Bush began the invasion in direct response to Saddam Hussein’s reputed attempt to assassinate his father. We leave it to you, avenging the threat to his father may be admirable, but to the extent that we end up selling off our nation’s resources to China to pay for it? Is the Bush honor really worth our country going financially bellyup? And keep in mind, a November vote for John McCain will guarantee an Iraqi fight to the finish, although it is not at all clear as to just whose finish such a fight is likely to bring about. In my 82 years on this earth I have never seen a pair as arrogant and as openly uncaring as Bush/Cheney. They are indeed two of a kind. In retrospect they have managed to make Richard M. Nixon seem like a well meaning Sunday school teacher.

It is heartwarming to see a return to the marches and demonstrations that were common during Vietnam. It is reassuring to note that people who oppose our government’s actions have not lost their will to be counted and desire to make their voices heard. It’s too bad those in power aren’t listening. It must be wonderful to feel that you are right no matter how strong the feelings are running against you. But whatever you do, Mister and Mrs. North America (and all the ships at sea), let’s go to the polls, and for God’s sake don’t let the Republicans trick, lie, Swift-Boat and bamboozle us into another four years of such highly autocratic leadership. I don’t think the country could stand it. I know I couldn’t. All indications are pointing to a dynamic Democratic sweep in the fall. Let us keep our fingers crossed. And pray. And VOTE! Or as Star Trek's Next Generation Captain Picard would say, “Make it so!”
– • – – • – – • – – • – – • – – • – – • – – • – – • – – • – – • – – • –
Well, as you can plainly see, things worked out just fine with the election. And on January 20th comes the liberation of a lifetime. See you next week.

The Real Little Eddy

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Blog #65: Invasive vetting and other revelations

A most encouraging sign of this particular time is the extraordinary group of people President-elect Barack Obama has so far annointed for his cabinet. "If we do not act swiftly and boldly, most experts believe that we could lose millions of jobs next year," Mr. Obama said on Monday.

Most notable characteristic of the vetting process currently going on in Chicago is the extent of personal questions being put to possible nominees. “In addition to the obvious questions involving past criminal history, candidates are being asked about personal diaries, past blog posts and the financial entanglements of extended family members. This is the questionnaire they've been giving to people who are thinking about signing up for a government job and it is extremely invasive," said David Gergen, a CNN senior political analyst and adviser to four past presidents. "I've never seen anything like this at the presidential level before – the FBI asks these kind of questions, but to have the presidential transition team asking these questions requires ... great volumes of records that have to be checked out."

President-elect Barack Obama is already making presidential history by naming his Cabinet picks faster than nearly all of his predecessors. The recently announced economics team of Tim Geithner as Treasury secretary, Homeland Security director, Gov. Janet Napolitano, D-Ariz., and National Economic Council director, Lawrence Summers, former treasury secretary served as a shot in the arm to stimulate the economy and the stock market's immediate reaction was positive. And the following Monday's announcement of much of the rest of his cabinet: especially the naming of Hillary Clinton as Secretary of State and Robert Gates to continue on as Secretary of Defense, and with General James L. Jones as National Security Advisor, these picks proved the president-elect to be courageous and not afraid to appoint strong personalities with differing views. Eric Holder, experienced Justice veteran was named Attorney General. And these appointments were followed this past week by the naming of Bill Richardson as Commerce Secretary. This was a departure for Obama, as Commerce Secretaries are usually taken from the world of business, and not public servants of the Richardson ilk.

The naming of such a strong team has to send a message of hope and reassurance to the rest of the world so anxiously awaiting Obama's ascension to the presidency. Raise your hand if you join me in wishing for inauguration day to be moved up somewhat, say to yesterday?

Karl Rove, President Bush's former political director, says the national security team named by President-elect Barack Obama "represents, to a substantial degree, continuity" especially in hot spots like Iraq and Afghanistan. Mr. Rove said on NBC's "Today" show the naming of the national security team is "a reminder that continuity exists particularly in our foreign and international relations."

Rove pointed to the retention of Defense Secretary Robert Gates and the naming of James Jones as national security adviser, a Vietnam war veteran who rose to become a Marine four-star general and served as military chief of NATO during the Bush administration. Obama 's naming of Hillary Rodham Clinton as his nominee for Secretary of State is the one Obama appointment which has gotten almost unanimous approval from a most unexpected quarter, the far right, and the appointment has even garnered the Rush Limbaugh Seal of Approval. (His stated reasoning? He's happy because she won't run for president in 2012.) But the praise has been extremely widespread for all of the President-elects appointments according to an article written by John Batchelor and published in the online aggregator, The Daily Beast.

“The secret truth of it is that everyone is guiltily, honestly, deeply relieved that foreign policy is now with a veteran team of Washington hands led by Hillary Clinton at State and General Jim Jones as national security adviser, supported by old Bush family consigliere Robert Gates at Defense and Clintonista champs Eric Holder at Justice and Janet Napolitano at Homeland.

“I heard a deep sigh from every Republican I pressed to talk — and this was followed with a grin of consternation as they remarked that it could have been much, much worse. They sounded like survivors of a Prius crash. How much worse? Naming John Kerry or Bill Richardson made my colleagues gasp for air.

“Will any Republican go far enough to say they love it? No. Yet when you consider that this is the same posse that once chased the Clintons to impeachment and trial by Senate and harassed Mrs. Clinton as a harridan from Hades, the fact that no one is launching a website war against the nomination process, not a single Republican senator has offered a disconsolate word, neither a talk show doll nor a robo-talking head has popped up out of the trenches to aim an RPG — and even trusty Fox News shrugs in resignation — then this all translates into stealthy hosannas.

“She is not one of them, of course, but she is respected.” Listen to the predictable caution mixed with backhanded admiration. "A gamble for the price of experience, sobriety, competence, and D.C.-insider know-how," commented a stalwart conservative columnist. "This is the best Republicans could have hoped for short of nominating John Bolton," said another unflinching conservative voice. "[She] will pursue a foreign policy that's more moderate that the one Mr. Obama campaigned on," said a think tank executive. "Conservatives are enormously relieved he isn't saddling them with Ramsay Clarks or Dennis Kuciniches," said an acerbic Clinton critic.

“The GOP's affection for Mrs. Clinton is more than its having confidence that, with her at Foggy Bottom, the Obama administration will not mass-produce plowshares and fly directly to Munich. After eight years of Mrs. Clinton in Congress, the GOP remnant in the Senate is in genuine agreement with her on war policy. "There has been something of a melding of minds with Mrs. Clinton on a number of international issues, including Israel and the war on terrorism," said a conservative senior editor at a major network. "She will be tougher and better rounded than the other candidates," said a senior military analyst. "[Her] liberal internationalism is better than the alternative of isolationism, [and is] the lesser of two evils," said a veteran war correspondent. "[The] nomination brought sighs of relief to some Jerusalem officials," said a foreign correspondent.”

John Batchelor is the radio host of the John Batchelor Show in New York, Washington, D.C., San Francisco, and Los Angeles.
– • – – • – – • – – • – – • – – • – – • – – • – – • – – • – – • – – • –
In 1965-66 I worked in N.Y. City as managing editor of Sing Out! The Folk Song Magazine. It was during the period when the folk song revival briefly careened into the realm of popular music, a period which found traditional folk songs like Tom Dooley and On Top of Old Smoky blending with homegrown songs the likes of Goodnight Irene, Where Have All the Flowers Gone and the M.T.A. Song (the Boston M.T.A. you paid as you got off and the MTA song was about a man who did not have the money to pay his way off of the Boston subway system, and was thereby bound to ride the train forever) to brighten up America's music scene, and more importantly, to let people who weren't professional musicians know that song writing and performing was in their power if they wanted it bad enough.

The music was tinged in politics, with many a guitar toting college student flying from one antiwar demonstration to another, singing songs protesting our involvement in the Vietnam War. (After awhile it got so bad that the Nixon administration's FAA worked out a rule with the airlines that prevented students flying to demonstrations from carrying their guitars and banjos onto the plane with them unless they bought a separate ticket for their instruments.) Looking back it seems like my two years at Sing Out was marked by the passing of one folk singer after another. Virtually every issue I edited had a cover announcing the death of yet another singer. Of course, many of the traditional singers were elderly, and a phenomena of the times had brought them to the public's attention, where their remaining days saw them the recipients of the adulation of huge crowds of young people at Folk Festivals and events. Other young singer-performers died from accidents, drug overdoses, or occasionally suicide.

The reining queen of the Folk Song Revival back then was a black singer named Odetta, whose remarkable voice was powered by genuine emotions and a fiery spirit. Her Wikipedia listing begins as follows: “Odetta Holmes, (December 31, 1930 – December 2, 2008), known as Odetta, was an African-American singer, actress, guitarist, songwriter, and a human rights activist, often referred to as "The Voice of the Civil Rights Movement.” Her musical repertoire consists largely of American folk music, blues, jazz, and spirituals. An important figure in the American folk music revival of the 1950s and 1960s, she was influential musically and ideologically to many of the key figures of the folk-revival of that time, including Bob Dylan, Joan Baez, and Janis Joplin.”

Odetta died last week, but her influence was widespread and lasting. In 1961, Martin Luther King Jr called her "the queen of American folk music.” "I'm not a real folk singer," Odetta told The Washington Post in 1983. "I don't mind people calling me that, but I'm a musical historian. I'm a city kid who has admired an area and who got into it. I've been fortunate. With folk music, I can do my teaching and preaching, my propagandizing." In 1999 then US President Bill Clinton said her career showed "us all that songs have the power to change the heart and change the world.” And during a 1978 interview with Playboy, Bob Dylan admitted that "the first thing that turned me onto folk singing was Odetta.”

While Odetta had hoped to sing at Obama's inauguration, she had not been officially invited. Her last big concert was on Oct. 4 at San Francisco's Golden Gate Park, where she performed in front of tens of thousands at the Hardly Strictly Bluegrass festival. She also performed Oct. 25-26 in Toronto.

Odetta was active in the civil rights movement throughout her life. She continued performing until her shortly before death at Lenox Hill Hospital, New York on Tuesday (December 2), reports The Wall Street Journal. Following her death the N.Y. Times opened its pages to readers remembering this truly extraordinary personality. The following letter is from that collection:

“Perhaps one of the all time greatest voices of all time. The first time I heard "motherless child" during a screening of the 1965 Newport Folk Festival ("when Dylan went electric"). I wept like a homesick kid ... and it still has the same impact. Odetta doesn't just sing, it is like she is taken over by a divine presence ... too divine for the radio waves ... too heartfelt for the meek. As a twenty-something I can only hope for a resurgence of folk music, that others will be bold enough to "steal" from the past ... but there will never be another Odetta. — Sarah, Paris, France”

Worth seeing is The Last Word – Odetta, a remarkable video that she made telling about her life and songs which is available from the N.Y.Times online at:
– • – – • – – • – – • – – • – – • – – • – – • – – • – – • – – • – – • –
These days most people tend to date the rise of the present day Republican party from the unsuccessful presidential run of Barry Goldwater, in which he ran as a pure conservative rather than as a moderate, deal making politician. Although he did not get elected, his spirit of libertarian conservatism was carried on through the presidency of Ronald Reagan and George H. W. Bush, and right up to Bush 43. However a different trajectory of modern Republicanism was offered this week in the Los Angeles Times by author Neal Gabler. In his view modern Republicanism did not begin with Barry Goldwater at all. He writes:

“The creation myth of modern conservatism usually begins with Barry Goldwater, the Arizona senator who was the party's presidential standard-bearer in 1964 and who, even though he lost in one of the biggest landslides in American electoral history, nevertheless wrested the party from its Eastern establishment wing. Then, Richard Nixon co-opted conservatism, talking like a conservative while governing like a moderate, and drawing the opprobrium of true believers. But Ronald Reagan embraced it wholeheartedly, becoming the patron saint of conservatism and making it the dominant ideology in the country. George W. Bush picked up Reagan's fallen standard and "conservatized" government even more thoroughly than Reagan had, cheering conservatives until his presidency came crashing down around him. That's how the story goes.

“But there is another rendition of the story of modern conservatism, one that doesn't begin with Goldwater and doesn't celebrate his libertarian orientation. It is a less heroic story, and one that may go a much longer way toward really explaining the Republican Party's past electoral fortunes and its future. In this tale, the real father of modern Republicanism is Sen. Joe McCarthy, and the line doesn't run from Goldwater to Reagan to George W. Bush; it runs from McCarthy to Nixon to Bush and possibly now to Sarah Palin. It centralizes what one might call the McCarthy gene, something deep in the DNA of the Republican Party that determines how Republicans run for office, and because it is genetic, it isn't likely to be expunged any time soon.

“The basic problem with the Goldwater tale is that it focuses on ideology and movement building, which few voters have ever really cared about, while the McCarthy tale focuses on electoral strategy, which is where Republicans have excelled.

“McCarthy, Wisconsin's junior senator, was the man who first energized conservatism and made it a force to reckon with. When he burst on the national scene in 1950 waving his list of alleged communists who had supposedly infiltrated Harry Truman's State Department, conservatism was as bland, temperate and feckless as its primary congressional proponent, Ohio Sen. Robert Taft, known fondly as "Mister Conservative." Taft was no flame thrower. Though he was an isolationist and a vehement opponent of FDR, he supported America's involvement in the war after Pearl Harbor and had even grudgingly come to accept the basic institutions of the New Deal. He was also no winner. He had contested and lost the Republican presidential nomination to Wendell Willkie in 1940, Thomas Dewey in 1948 and Dwight Eisenhower in 1952, three men who were regarded as much more moderate than he.

“McCarthy was another thing entirely. What he lacked in ideology – and he was no ideologue at all – he made up for in aggression. Establishment Republicans, even conservatives, were disdainful of his tactics, but when those same conservatives saw the support he elicited from the grassroots and the press attention he got, many of them were impressed. Taft, no slouch himself when it came to Red-baiting, decided to encourage McCarthy, secretly, sealing a Faustian bargain that would change conservatism and the Republican Party. Henceforth, conservatism would be as much about electoral slash-and-burn as it would be about a policy agenda.

“For the polite conservatives, McCarthy was useful. That's because he wasn't only attacking alleged communists and the Democrats whom he accused of shielding them. He was also attacking the entire centrist American establishment, the Eastern intellectuals and the power class, many of whom were Republicans themselves, albeit moderate ones. When he began his investigation of the Army, he even set himself against his own Republican president, who had once commanded that service. In the end, he was censured in 1954, not for his recklessness about alleged communists but for his recklessness toward his fellow senators. Moderate Republicans, not Democrats, led the fight against him. His intemperance disgusted them as much as it emboldened his fans, Goldwater among them.

“But if McCarthy had been vanquished – he died three years later of cirrhosis from drinking – McCarthyism was only just beginning. McCarthyism is usually considered a virulent form of Red-baiting and character assassination. But it is much more than that. As historian Richard Hofstadter described it in his famous essay, "The Paranoid Style in American Politics," McCarthyism is a way to build support by playing on the anxieties of Americans, actively convincing them of danger and conspiracy even where these don't exist.

“McCarthy, a Catholic, was especially adept at nursing national resentments among the sorts of people that typically did not vote Republican. He stumbled onto the fact that many of these people in postwar America were frightened and looking for scapegoats. He provided them, and in doing so not only won millions of adherents but also bequeathed to his party a powerful electoral bludgeon that would eventually drive out the moderates from the GOP (posthumous pay back) before it drove the Democrats from the White House.

“In a way, Goldwater was less a fulfillment of McCarthy conservatism than a slight diversion from it. Goldwater was ideological – an economic individualist. He hated government more than he loved winning, and though he was certainly not above using the McCarthy appeal to resentment or accusing his opponents of socialism, he lacked McCarthy's blood-lust. McCarthy's real heir was Nixon, who mainstreamed McCarthyism in 1968 by substituting liberals, youth and minorities for communists and intellectuals, and fueling resentments as McCarthy had. In his 1972 reelection, playing relentlessly on those resentments, Nixon effectively disassembled the old Roosevelt coalition, peeling off Catholics, evangelicals and working-class Democrats, and changed American politics far more than Goldwater ever would.

“Today, these former liberals are known as Reagan Democrats, but they were Nixon voters before they were Reagan voters, and they were McCarthy supporters before they were either. A good deal of McCarthy's support came from Catholics and evangelical Protestants who, along with Southerners, would form the basis of the new conservative coalition. Nixon simply mastered what McCarthy had authored. You demonize the opposition and polarize the electorate to win.

“Reagan's sunny disposition and his willingness to compromise masked the McCarthyite elements of his appeal, but Reaganism as an electoral device was unique to Reagan and essentially died with the end of his presidency. McCarthyism, on the other hand, which could be deployed by anyone, thrived. McCarthyism was how Republicans won. George H.W. Bush used it to get himself elected, terrifying voters with Willie Horton. And his son, under the tutelage of strategist Karl Rove, not only got himself reelected by convincing voters that John Kerry was a coward and a liar and would hand the nation over to terrorists, which was pure McCarthyism, he governed by rousing McCarthyite resentments among his base.

“Republicans continue to push the idea that this is a center-right country and that Americans have swooned for GOP antigovernment posturing all these years, but the real electoral bait has been anger, recrimination and scapegoating. That's why John McCain kept describing Barack Obama as some sort of alien and why Palin, taking a page right out of the McCarthy play book, kept pushing Obama's relationship with onetime radical William Ayers.

“And that is also why the Republican Party, despite the recent failure of McCarthyism, is likely to keep moving rightward, appeasing its more extreme elements and stoking their grievances for some time to come. There may be assorted intellectuals and ideologues in the party, maybe even a few centrists, but there is no longer an intellectual or even ideological wing. The party belongs to McCarthy and his heirs – Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Bill O'Reilly and Palin. It's in the genes.”

Neal Gabler is the author of many books, including, most recently, "Walt Disney: The Triumph of the American Imagination."
– • – – • – – • – – • – – • – – • – – • – – • – – • – – • – – • – – • –
Once again in celebration of 46 or so days remaining of the Bush 43 presidency, we dip into our archives to remind ourselves of the reasons we celebrate.

Saturday, February 9, 2008 Blog #23: Of End Runs and Kiln Baked Bricks
Well, congratulations to us all. We managed to survive yet another Super Bowl; every moment of the pre-game hype, the not-so-golden oldies half-time show (no chance of a “wardrobe malfunction” on the part of Tom Petty and his one time Heartbreakers, thank a merciful god!), moment after moment of football’s self assured commentators pontificating as if what they were saying really mattered in a world skewered with presidential missteps, and a visual space littered with the most over priced commercials on television. All of this happened last Sunday, and it is now but a faded memory. In the game David defeated Goliath, but how much did it really matter?

We need to be very careful, though, and not get distracted. For the ball we really need to keep our eye on is the one George Bush is carrying to try an end run around Congress and the American people by locking the U. S. into a long term military commitment in Iraq. In Bagdad negotiators are quietly working towards this goal as we speak. It’s all part of Shrubby W’s desire to try and shore up his legacy by attempting to justify what to many of us is unjustifiable, our first actual invasion of a sovereign nation since our ill-fated turn of the century invasions of Cuba and the Philippines.

While the administration these days is not denying the fact that Saddam Hussein had no weapons of mass destruction, it continues in its attempts to justify that completely unnecessary invasion by saying that it was based upon information commonly believed at the time. My Dear Lord, of course the information was commonly believed at the time. From day 9-11 one George Bush attempted with all his might to blame the 9-11 attacks on Saddam Hussein, and the administration’s propaganda machine went into high gear, planting false information day and night during the entire two year buildup lasting until the moment of the actual invasion.

As we reported in Blog #21 the Center for Public Integrity working with the Fund for Independence in Journalism has noted 935 false statements over a two year period. Bush led the pack with 259 false statements, 231 about Iraq having Weapons of Mass Destruction, and 28 about Iraq's links to al-Qaeda with then Secretary of State Colin Powell next with 244 false statements about Iraq’s WMD and 10 about its al-Qaeda links. And just when the returned inspectors had come close to ascertaining that Hussein did indeed NOT have WMDs, George Bush pulled the inspectors out of Iraq so he could proceed with his invasion.

And let the record show that the American invaders were not greeted by an Iraqi population bearing garlands of roses as promised by Paul Wolfowitz, the man generally perceived to be one of the primary orchestrators of Bush’s propaganda buildup to war, but rather they were met by strategically detonated roadside bombs, bombs which took a painful toll on many of our troops who had been forced to ride in vehicles without proper armor, thanks to Donald Rumsfeld's attempt to run the war on the cheap. Whereas it is perfectly true that Saddam Hussein governed through fear, all told his people enjoyed far more peace of mind as to their physical well being under his rule than do the Iraq people today under the regime we allowed to be set up to rule the country.

In their exuberance to justify the initial invasion of Iraq, which stands in full view along with a string of other wartime violations of the human condition such as the torture of prisoners in the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq and Guantánamo Bay in Cuba and unmitigated home front neglect during the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, this administration attempts to paint its doubters with the brush of the unpatriotic and the un-American. As if it was the doubters and the questioners who were the ones tainted. And to a man Republicans are stuck with inheriting George Bush's war, only Ron Paul has had the courage to call it what is really is, and of course he had not a chance in hell of getting the Republican nomination. A situation for which we can all be thankful, by the way.

Some closing items of note: ABC News is reporting that New York Governor David Paterson has spoken with Caroline Kennedy about taking over Hillary Clinton’s Senate seat. What a scintillatingly cool idea, replacing Hillary Clinton with Caroline Kennedy? It doesn't get any better than this.

The op-ed page of the Wall Street Journal is not a place you would expect to find an impassioned appeal to legalize marijuana. But to mark the ending of Prohibition 75 years ago Friday the Journal invited Ethan Nadelmann, executive director of the Drug Policy Alliance, to argue that our stern drug laws should be overturned. He says drug prohibition has led to 500,000 people in jail for nonviolent drug-law violations; 1.8 million drug arrests last year; tens of billions spent annually to fund a drug war that has failed; thousands dying each year from drug overdoses “that have more to do with prohibitionist policies than the drugs themselves;” and tens of thousands needlessly infected with AIDS and hepatitis C because the anti-drug policies undermine responsible public health policies.

From Kathryn Jean Lopez of the National Review Online: “Tonight I was over at the vice president's house for one of their holiday parties. It was like a gathering of old friends — friends who likely won't see the inside of the naval observatory for a bit. Cheney aides like David Addington. Conservative Hill aides ... Bill Bennett ... Karl Rove. And that's the picture I want for my Facebook page: Karl Rove with Dick Cheney; Karl was two behind me in the receiving line. Maybe Lynne Cheney will bring a signed copy for Jon Stewart next time she's on.”

And finally, the Supreme Court is mulling over whether to take the case that Barack Obama cannot be president because he is not a citizen. Would our supreme Supremes actually have the nerve to do it once again, that is to deprive the American people of their vote for a second time in the 21st century. I guess only time will tell. See ya . . .

The Real Little Eddy