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» November 30, 2007
Where There's Gunsmoke There's Fire: There was an article in the paper on Thanksgiving Day about upcoming DVD releases that got people around the table reminiscing about old TV shows. Barbara said that she, for one, could live for the rest of her life without ever seeing "Hopalong Cassidy" again (I never have). "Stuff that you could watch with your kids and not have to worry about," as one of my relatives put it.
Then again, there sure were a lot of Westerns back in the day. And they didn't call it the "Wild" West for nothing. I don't know how many war-painted "redskins" died in the average week. I know that I saw my share of dusty Main Street duels in my early years. And, as Barbara asked, what exactly did Miss Kitty do for a living?
Always With the Questions: National Public Radio's got a debate coming up on 4 December, you can submit your questions.
Senator Edwards, in a New Yorker interview early this year, you were quoted as saying that you had made your decision to approve the use of military force in Iraq not solely on the evidence presented to you by the administration, but that you had seen confirming evidence in the Senate Intelligence Committee, and that you had "meetings with former Clinton Administration people."
These questions are for you and Senators Biden, Dodd, and Clinton.
Given that it was clearly wrong, what evidence did you see that convinced you an invasion of Iraq might be necessary? Who provided that evidence? Why did it convince you to authorize the Bush administration to use force when a majority of the Democratic members of the Intelligence committee voted against it? Who were the Clinton administration people who encouraged you to vote against the majority of Democrats in Congress on the use of military force? Are those people still advising you or any of the other candidates despite being so spectacularly wrong on Iraq? Will they continue to advise you on foreign policy and national security if you are elected?
» November 29, 2007
From the Dept. of the Glaringly Obvious: Terri Gross, on NPR's "Fresh Air" added her name today (probably not for the first time) to the long list of pundits wondering why people around the world seem to hate what America does while simultaneously enjoying Amreican movies, American music, and American popular culture in general. One of the group of young Moroccan terrorists chronicled by her interviewee apparently wore his hair in the style of John Travolta's character from Saturday Night Fever.
Is it really that hard to figure out? That there's a dichotomy between enjoying the things America produces and stands for, and the foreign policy decisions made by the country's leaders? It would seem that unless you approved of American foreign policy, it shouldn't be to much of a stretch to believe that you could disapprove of it and still like movies and music. What you do about your dislike is more of an equation based on your hope that things will improve.
And Tony Manero wasn't exactly the most socially-adjusted movie role model.
The Good Gonzalez:
John Nichols of The Nation, about five minutes into this video of the Q&A segment of an impeachment seminar at Dartmouth on 26 November, talking about Democratic Representative Henry B. Gonzalez, who Nichols says brought articles of impeachment against every president who started a war without a congressional declaration.
He was the chairman of the Banking Committee. His fellow Democrats hated him for doing it.h/t to NH Ex-pat at Blue Hampshire.
He went to the floor in 1987 when the Democrats were looking at Iran-contra, and he said: "You know, we have to impeach Ronald Reagan and George Bush for Iran-contra. They have clearly violated their oaths of office. They have clearly assaulted the Constitution."
All the other Democrats said: "Don't do it. We're doing so great politically that we'll just sit back and give them a little slap on the wrist and in 1988 we will sail through to victory because the people will realize the high crimes and misdemeanors, the sins of the Regan and Bush years."
And of course, we know from the success of Mr. Dukakis's presidency how wise they were.
» November 23, 2007
Dad On Mouseland:
I wrote a post the other day about "Mouseland", an animated short based on a set-piece speech by long-time Premier of Saskatchewan Tommy Douglas. The clip's been around for a while, but it's been making the rounds at Daily Kos the past couple of weeks thanks to the efforts of one commenter in particular.
Now, normally my Dad doesn't say much about the stuff on my blog, even though I see my folks a couple times a week or more. I picked up so much of my political attitudes from my parents that there's not a lot to argue about, and sitting around agreeing that politicians from both parties tend to turn whatever they do to crap gets boring pretty fast. But Dad did have something to say about Mouseland.
Darrel:It's in the blood.
I just read your blog article on "Mouseland." I first saw a cartoon version of "Mouseland" at an IAM convention when William W. Winpisinger was the International President of the Machinists. "Wimpy," as you may remember, was a socialist in the Minnesota Democratic-Farmer-Labor tradition (he was originally an auto-mechanic in Minneapolis) and he was a fan of both Tommy Douglas and the Canadian version of government medical care. He seriously flirted with the idea of backing a labor political party in the U.S. on the model of Tommy Douglas's New Democrats in Canada. At the Machinists education center in Placid Harbor, Maryland, which is named after Winpisinger, there is a conference room named after Tommy Douglas. When I attended a retirees' conference there earlier this year, I took a picture of the bronze plaque honoring Tommy Douglas that is mounted outside the entrance to that conference room.
I see that the UFCW is now behind the Mouseland feature; the Machinists were showing it thirty years ago, but or course there was no internet then.
» November 21, 2007
Proof: You probably can't tell it from my blog, which has no editor watching over my words and no staff overseeing my hastily-jotted notes, but once upon a time I fancied myself a proofreader and copy editor.
For a short while after I attended the New York University Summer Institute of Book and Magazine Publishing, I thought I was going to be able to make a career of proofreading manuscripts. I did a couple, including The Random House Guide to Grammar, Usage, and Punctuation, but work petered out, I didn't follow up, etc.
Even so, I get a laugh out of stories like this:
For Want of a Proofreader, or at Least a Good One, a Reading Exam Is LostHaw. Haw.
By SAM DILLON
Published: November 20, 2007
In an episode that has embarrassed the Department of Education, thousands of flawed testing booklets forced the invalidation of United States reading scores on an international exam administered without major mishap in 56 other countries.
The contractor that printed the faulty exams for the government is reimbursing it $500,000, government officials said yesterday. But the department admitted it had not proofread the tests.
Conducted every three years, the international test focused on science literacy in 2006, but also included sections on reading and math. The problem with last fall’s test was that pages in the exam booklet were assigned incorrect numbers. As a result, questions referred students to texts, said to be “on the opposite page,” but in reality printed on a previous page.
"The testing industry is stretched," Dr. Schneider said in a conference call with reporters. "There are some systemic problems, but the problem with this test was simply a copy-editing problem. A good copy editor would have caught this in 10 seconds."
» November 20, 2007
Marshmallow Missiles: A commenter at Washington Monthly's "Political Animal" column made a mention of how Aristotle's dictum that heavy objects fell faster than light objects was incorporated into Catholic doctrine, which provoked this response:
Actually heavy objects fall faster than light objects. It is only when they are placed in an artificial medium like a large evacuated tube that they fall at the same rate. That is why missiles are made of metal and not marshmallow, but any attack on old Aristotle will do, however silly, if it allows to pock a knife into the Catholic Church.And you kind of just don't know where to begin. It was Galileo, as the story goes, who disproved Aristotle's thesis, not by building a vaccuum chamber but by dropping two differently-sized cannonballs off the Tower of Pisa. And there are ever so many reasons missiles aren't made from marshmallow, not the least of which is the giant s'more on the launching pad you get when the engines kick in.
Science education in this country seems to have taken a turn for the Dark Ages.
Economy By Any Other Means: It's almost painful to watch people talk on blogginheads.tv. Megan McArdle, the biggest of the Ayn Rand fans on The Atlantic's staff is on a segment talking about Cambodia, and Robert Wright, who's interviewing her gets to say stuff like: "...the genocide, I don't know that much about it..." Really, Robert? I mean, you're talking to someone about Cambodia, wouldn't you want to brush up a bit?
The real stunner comes near the end of the clip, when McArdle talks about endemic corruption in Southeast Asia and how the economies of Cambodia and Vietnam were retarded compared to "Thailand and other places that didn't have communist regimes" that also had corruption, just after talking about the genocide for a couple of minutes. She didn't seem to mention more than two decades of war in Vietnam, either. I wonder if that had any effect on the economy?
Ted Koppel is a Moron, Again: Ted Koppel made his bones on the story of American hostages held in Iran, so it's hardly a wonder that he sees the situation in Pakistan with US-backed dictator Pervez Musharaff as parallelled by the 1970's situation in Iran with US-backed dictator Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi in his "Morning Edition" political analysis today.
But it's eerie to see how he manages to get it completely wrong.
The Shah was a dictator, installed after a CIA-backed coup in 1953 overthrew the elected government of Mohammad Mossadegh. He governed through intimidation, arrest, torture, and murder. He siphoned off billions of dollars -- in a time when that meant even more than it does now -- for his family's enrichment. And he did that over a period of more than two decades as the tide of discontent (and the number of victims and relatives of victims) rose.
But in Koppel's view, the reason the Shah fell is that Jimmy Carter was dedicated to a human rights agenda that led to him telling the Shah not to just gun down democracy advocates. Democracy, says Koppel, is what led to the Islamic state that's ruled Iran since the Shah's overthrow. Not a hint that perhaps it was the Shah's repressive policies and the fact that he and the US had overthrown a democratic regime that led to a backlash.
Koppel even approvingly mis-cites Sen. Chris Dodd's respons the other night at the Democratic debate, when Dodd said national security was more important than civil rights. In Koppel's view, US interests come ahead of the lives and liberty of some wogs, never mind that every time the US makes that determination it seems to bite us in the ass. Of course, Dodd wasn't even speaking about civil rights elsewhere, he was talking about the rights of Americans coming in behind national security.
» November 18, 2007
There He Goes Again: Lou Cannon's explanation for Ronald Reagan starting off his 1980 general election campaign near the site of a famous civil rights triple murder with a speech about "states' rights" is that Reagan -- who was 69 years old at the time and had served eight years as a governor in addition to making political speeches for conservative causes for two decades by then -- was just a blunder by a poor young country boy who "had not yet become the skilled operator the nation would see as president."
According to Cannon, Reagan had a "showman’s superstition that it was bad luck to cancel an engagement once it was booked." Too bad he didn't have some sort of superstition that would have convinced him to support the right of black people. Cannon's quick to make the point that Reagan was no bigot, it's just that he was "understandably anathema in the black community not because of his personal views but because of his consistent opposition to federal civil rights legislation, most notably the landmark Voting Rights Act of 1965." Well, that clears things right up He wouldn't say anything bad about you to your face. He might even shake your hand. But he wouldn't support your rights.
Unless you were a state, that is.
» November 16, 2007
24 in Mouseland: Tommy Douglas was the Premier of Saskatchewan from 1944 to 1961, the leader of the first socialist government in North America, and the first national leader of the New Democratic Party in Canada. He worked to establish a government-run public health system in the province that became the model for Canada's national health system. In 2004, voters in a nationally-broadcast contest voted him The Greatest Canadian.
Keifer Sutherland is easily-recognized as actor Donald Sutherland's son, but his mother is actress Shirley Douglas, the daughter of Tommy Douglas. Keifer Sutherland provides the intro to this animated short set to a recording of a story his grandfather made famous.
At least in Canada.
» November 9, 2007
Remaking Caine: Talking at The Horse Brass last night Russell sang a snippet of the theme from "Alfie" and we briefly discussed Jude Law's remake of that and the critical reaction to his version of "Sleuth". Russell suggested Law and George Clooney for a remake of "The Man Who Would Be King" as the next step (which brought me back to my desire to see a "Three Kings 2") but the Caine movie I really want to see Law do next is "Zulu". That should be a minefield of ethical problems.
Also discussed: Brat Pack remakes. John Carpenter's movies are getting redone, why not John Hughes?
A Dollar In a Strange Land: What is going to be the effect of the dropping dollar on the cost of the war in Iraq? Not everything we're paying for is produced or provided from the US or within Iraq. No wonder they're going to need more money,
» November 8, 2007
Outside my motel window in Mitchell, South Dakota was a Sinclair Oil gas station, something I hadn't seen for a long time since they don't seem to have any presence in the Northwest.
Sinclair's been around since 1916 and according to its web site, has used the dinosaur in marketing for more than seventy-five years.
Sinclair began development of the apatosaurus (brontosaurus) in its advertising, sales promotions, and product labels in 1930. The apatosaurus was registered as a Sinclair trademark in 1932. An exhibit at the 1933 Chicago Worlds Fair highlighted dinosaurs and established Sinclair as the company that featured the apatosaurus. Again in 1964 at the New York City Worlds Fair, Sinclair proudly displayed an exhibit featuring nine life-sized dinosaurs highlighting its unique association with the age of the dinosaur--an age representative of the beginning of the formation of crude oil.It put me in mind of an animated cartoon ad that ran for years on TV in the '70s -- I believe it was one of Exxon's -- describing how biological material from long ago became oil through the intense heat and pressure of hundreds of millions of years (sorry, I can't find it on YouTube). The sound the dinos made in that ad inspired me to do an imitation, variations of which I use for monster noises thirty years later.
But I wonder if in today's anti-science climate in America whether a company would choose a dinosaur for its logo, or even whether a description of the process of how oil came to be would be possible in an ad. Or would any company that did something like that be attacked by religious conservatives for anti-Creationist views?
We Don't Torture: Australian philosopher John Passmore, from his book Science and It's Critics, quoted in Carl Sagan's The Demon-Haunted World: Science As a Candle In the Dark (which has a wealth of great quotes like this one in it):
The Spanish Inquisition sought to avoid direct responsibility for the burning of heretics by handing them over to the secular arm; to burn them itself, it piously explained, would be wholly inconsistent with its Christian principles. Few of us would allow the Inquisition thus easily to wipe its hands clean of bloodshed; it knew quite well what would happen.
George McGovern Broke My Camera (McGovern Conference, Part I):
I noticed as I was returning to/re-leaving Sioux Falls, South Dakota Monday night that there was a sign on the highway outside town mentioning that it was the hometown of Senator John Thune, the Republican who beat former Democratic Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle in 2004. I may have missed it due to the lateness of the hour, but I didn't see any such sign outside of Mitchell.
On the campus of Dakota Wesleyan University, however, it's nigh on impossible to miss McGovern's name, even if you're not headed for a conference in his honor. It's a small campus with fewer than 800 students; smaller than Reed College was twenty years ago when I was there. The grounds are flat and open, and one of the largest buildings at DWU is the McGovern Library,which has his name in big metal letters at the top on two sides of one corner. It was dedicated and opened just last year.
As I was walking across McGovern Avenue toward the Sherman Center where the conference was to be held, I recognized Bruce Miroff, the author of the recently-published The Liberals' Moment: The McGovern Insurgency and the Identity Crisis of the Democratic Party, and introduced myself.
DWU President Robert Duffett opened the conference, welcoming what looked to me like between 150 and 200 people. The school choir sang a tribute to Eleanor McGovern, who met her husband on the DWU campus and who died early this year. Then Donald Simmons, the Director of the McGovern Center for Leadership and Public Service kicked off the show.
A panel of 1972 McGovern campaign staffers discussed how their youthful association with the Senator had influenced their lives and their careers. Mary Fifield told of how she had been inspired to leave college and join McGovern's team in New Hampshire and Massachusetts despite being just weeks short of her degree. Teresa Petrovic worked as the campaign headquarters' receptionist and has recently decided to return to public service work in Washington. The panel struck a refrain that echoed throughout the day, about the pride most McGovern workers feel in looking back at their work in 1971 and 1972, compared to the attitudes of people on other campaigns since then (both Democratic and Republican), but especially the 1972 Nixon campaign workers. I certainly believe the idealism is there, as well as a willingness to talk about the job they did, but I wonder if perhaps it's just that nobody's asking the Nixon people about their pride. Maybe they chortle about it whenever they aren't screwing over new elections.
The first speaker was historian Donald Critchlow, who's made chronicling the conservative movement his specialty. He started off with a comment on the unorthodox success of the early McGovern campaign which drew applause, but set the tone for the rest of his talk by following that by saying it would probably be the last he would receive. His presentation was titled after his latest book: "The Conservative Ascendancy: How the GOP Right Made Political History" but it was difficult to tell from his (at times accurate) portrayal of the Democrats as unable (or unwilling) to capitalize on chinks in the Republican message whether the right's ascendency should be credited to Republican organizational skills or the Democrats choice of issues (gay rights, abortion, etc.) Critchlow laid the blame for the introduction of "values" and "character" directly on the 1972 McGovern campaign. Seemingly, everything the Democrats did since "The '60s" was done to alienate the American populace which is "center right", etc. etc. etc.
In the Q&A session after his talk, I asked Critchlow what part the right's willingness to use extra-legal means against their opponents might have in the equation. He slid away from the question with a "politics is a dirty business" type of answer, then went back into the cant about how the problem with the Democrats is that they're not enough like the Republicans, but seeing as we were at an event honoring a man whose opponent in the presidential campaign was forced to resign because of his abuse of power in using government agencies to harass and intimidate political opponents, and who had even planned to plant McGovern literature in the apartment of an attempted assassin, I didn't feel Critchlow had answered my question. When he got to the last part of his answer, where he once again recited the litany of Democratic programs that had turned America to the Republicans, I added "and civil rights", something that seemed conspicuously absent from his list, but one which certainly was recognized by Lyndon Johnson as a divisive issue and one that has been used repeatedly by the GOP as a cow bell for a certain type of voter.
There was a weird electrical vortex in Mitchell. I wasn't able to get a signal on my cell phone despite the fact that it's supposed to be in Sprint's coverage area, and the minute after I got a shot of myself with the Senator, my camera stopped saving pictures to memory.
More from the McGovern Conference later.
Comin' On Home: The McGovern Legacy Museum is just off the entrance of the McGovern Library, and it's a very nicely-done project, with a number of video screens, lots of memorabilia, and one poster on the wall that caught my eye from the 1972 presidential campaign: an image by editorial cartoonist William Sanderson titled "Comin' On Home". At the bottom of the poster was "Oregonians for McGovern, P.O. Box 4242, Portland, Oregon 97208. Jean Dale, Treasurer." And, of course, a union printer bug.
Wide Stance: Coming back from South Dakota, my flight (Northwest) landed at gate A11 of Minneapolis/St. Paul International Airport. I got out and asked the desk clerk which gate I needed to go to for the flight to Portland (also Northwest), and he told me: "F10. You've got a long way to go."
Indeed he was right. Because right about then the tram connecting the concourses in the airport broke down or something and everyone was forced to hoof it. Just to rub it in, MSP -- like a lot of malls -- has an indoor walking route, a 1.4 mile loop between the C, D, and G concourses. A "20 - 40 minute heart-healthy walk" as they call it. Well, since the A concourse sticks off the end of C (and the loop doesn't include all of C) I got to do something roughly equivalent to the loop along with my luggage. My heart thanks me.
But as I walked through most of the terminal, I completely forgot to look for the famous Northstar Crossing-area restroom where Sen. Larry Craig (R-ID) was popped last June for lewd conduct. I can't believe that slipped my mind.
Nevertheless here is a photo of the entrance to a pair of restrooms at MSP. I used one of the men's stalls there. There seemed to be plenty of room for me and my luggage in the stall (it was quite deep) and even though I'm not a small guy (just ask the other two not-so-small guys on row 25 with me on the flight to Portland), I had a hard time imagining how anyone could possibly manage to get their foot into the next stall under standard operations.
There was a strand of toilet paper on the floor. I tend to be more on the side of fastidious than fussy; unlike Sen. Craig I decided I could stand leaving it there rather than touch someone else's potentially used toilet paper, and left it for the cleanup crew.
» November 6, 2007
Dirty Money: Maybe it's just me, but if I was a Senate candidate who believed that waterboarding was torture and that Attorney General nominee Michael Mukasey didn't satisfy my conscience that he would not only consider it as such but that he would vigorously investigate and prosecute any allegations of torture by whatever methods used to interrogate prisoners who are (or have been) in US custody, I just might not take calls from Democratic Senate Campaign Committee chairman Sen. Chuck "Yea!" Schumer, even if he'd promised me bags of cash.
At least not for a while.
» November 5, 2007
The Meteor: The first thing I saw when I walked off the plane in Sioux Falls, South Dakota was a giant banner reading "WELCOME HUNTERS!" And there had been a lot of guys in camo at the Minneapolis airport. So I guess it's that season.
When I picked up my rental car, the clerk asked me if I was in town for hunting or business. I mentioned I was off to Mitchell for the McGovern Conference and that seemed to stump him so I said it was sort of business.
His instructions to Interstate 90 seemed simple, but they went against the signs, and I ended up driving ten miles out into the country following I90 West signs only to get to a ramp that was closed because of construction. I circled back around and got on the highway, thinking that if I was just a little less cautious I could pull off onto the side of the highway and just turn around, because the construction had narrowed the freeway down to one lane in each direction running right next to each other. Instead, I went all the way back into Sioux Falls and got going the right direction. That only took forty-five minutes and didn't put the trip off to an auspicious start.
On the other hand, once I was back past the construction, the freeway was straight and relatively flat. After noticing my speed creep up to 90 at one point (90, in the dark, in 25-degree weather, maybe not the smartest thing), I kept it down to the legal 75 and made it to Mitchell finally about a quarter to midnight.
Twelve miles out of town, right at 11:30, a big meteor flashed straight ahead of me. I'm reading Carl Sagan's The Demon-Haunted World: Science As a Candle In the Dark right now, so I'm not going to make anything portentous out of it, but it was rather cool to see.
» November 3, 2007
Out There: Comedian Paula Poundstone commenting after a "Who's Carl This Time?" segment on NPR's Wait, Wait...Don't Tell Me! about a question at the Democratic presidential debate on Dennis Kucinich's story of having seen an unidentified flying object.
I still don't think it was as nutty as attacking Iran or Iraq. I wish the aliens had communicated with George W. Bush.
» November 2, 2007
Not Too Confidential: Looking through the Flash job listings at Monster, a Director of Technology job for a company in SW Portland that declined to list its name (it just says "Confidential").
Then again, there's the job description:
Job OverviewPlanned Marketing Solutions International.
The Director of Technology is asenior-level leadership role whose primary focus is PMSI’s technology offerings.This position’s outward face serves as PMSI’s technology advocate participatingin new business development through technology solutions for clients.Internally, this person will help form and lead the development team and theirenvironment including Web development and Network Infrastructure. The ability and desire to perform and executein an agency environment and in “start-up” mode is a must.
» November 1, 2007
Phony Soldier: Preston Sturges's Hail the Conquering Hero was released in August 1944, nearing the end of the third year of the US involvement in World War II. The Allies had landed at Normandy a couple of months earlier and were fighting their way through France. The war in the Pacific was still in its grueling island-hopping phase. The six-month Guadalcanal Campaign had begun exactly two years earlier with the first amphibious attack of the war.
The story of Hail the Conquering Hero is built around but not on the Marines fighting for Guadalcanal. Sitting in a bar one night, Woodrow Lafayette Pershing Truesmith (Eddie Bracken), born the day his father was killed in battle in World War I and the descendent of a long line of military men, pays the tab for six broke Marines. They discover that Woodrow had joined the Marines a year earlier but was drummed out of basic training for chronic hayfever. Ashamed to admit his failure to his mother, he's dug himself into a hole by pretending that he was shipped off to Guadalcanal, he's broken off his relationship with his girlfriend, and he's been working in a shipyard as a clerk.
Bugsy (Freddie Steele), an orphan who thinks Woodrow is doing his mother an injustice by letting her think he's in danger calls her and tells her Woodrow's back from the war. The Marines -- led by Sergeant Heppelfinger (William Demarest) conspire to help Woodrow get back home without breaking cover by giving him one of the sergeant's WWI medals. It being a comedy, things snowball. The town sets up to give the "hero" a giant welcome. Woodrow is unhappy with the plan from the beginning and tries a number of times to tell people it's a sham. His ex-girlfriend is about to get married to the sleazy mayor's son but still loves Woodrow. The townspeople buy up and burn the mortgage that the hero's mother took out to get through hard times. They plan to erect a statue of Woodrow and his father shaking hands.
And to top it off, the long-time opposition to the mayor decides that a newly-minted war hero would be just the thing for their ticket to finally beat the mayor.
Of course, everything is set straight in the end. It's a comedy. And the townspeople not only forgive Woodrow for his attempt to spare his mother's feelings, they admire him for his honesty when he comes clean and the manner in which he does it.
At the time Hail the Conquering Hero came out, the campaign for the Mariana Islands was under way. Marines had landed on Saipan in June and captured it a month later. Fighting on Guam and Tinian was still going on (a year later, B-29s would take off from Tinian to bomb Hiroshima and Nagasaki). Almost 4,000 Marines died in the Mariana campaign.
But that didn't stop this kind of movie from being made and actually being popular. A film about a guy who tells everyone that he's off at war, who gets sucked into a narrative about being a hero, and who is redeemed by coming clean about his failings.
I just have a hard time imagining anyone doing the same kind of story now.
Happy Birthday, Dad.