April 2007

In which Alice and the Queen discuss benchmarks, deadlines and consequences

Monday, April 30th, 2007

Good Tuesday morning Fellow Seekers,

ebmug.jpgThe NY Times story headlined “The White House Scales Back Talk of Iraq Progress” is so “Through the Looking Glass,” it could be published in the Onion without changes.

As far as I can tell, utilizing only earthling powers of understanding, the White House has never committed itself to any measurable index of progress in Iraq – certainly not any that might lead to any consequences whatsoever – so it’s hard to see exactly how you can scale back expectations that have never been set.

wonderland_aliceBy the home stretch of the article, you have Lewis Carroll, excuse me, Timesman David Sanger, quoting a “senior American official who did not want to be identified because he was discussing internal White House deliberations,” allowing as how, if Defense Secretary Gates can get Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki to keep the Iraqi Parliamentfrom taking a taking a two-month summer break:

“We’ll have some outputs then,” says the unnamed (whom I suspect may be the Mad Hatter) but then adds: ”That’s different from having outcomes.”


Shut up, he explained.

Monday, April 30th, 2007

ebmug.jpgGood Monday morning Fellow Seekers,

In his feisty exchange with Jon Stewart on the Daily Show last week, Sen. John McCain posed the following riddle:

“The majority leader of the Senate said we lost [in Iraq]. Then tell me who won? Al Qaida? Sunni militia? Shia militia. Who won then if we  lost?”


Is That a Fact?

Tobacco Road to Serfdom?

Saturday, April 28th, 2007

Good Saturday morning,

black_and_ticeNear the end of the Minnesota House of Representatives’ 8-hour-plus debate Thursday over a statewide smoking ban, Rep. Mark Buesgens succumbed to temptation. He lit up the inevitable Nazi analogy, and it was a doozie:

“There was a party once back in the 1930s,” said the Republican from Jordan, “called the National Socialist Germanmarkbuesgens.jpg Workers Party. They put on a smoking ban, and I contend that that led to the erosion of people’s personal feelings of responsibility and to more and more dependence of government taking care of them. We’re headed down that path.”

(If you’d like to see for yourself, click here and then fast forward to the 8:15 mark on House Floor Session - Part 2 for Thursday April 26.)

In the spirit of full disclosure, as your humble hosts discussed Buesgens’ rhetorical flourish the other day, they were inclined to throw an “Is That A Fact” penalty flag for an outlandish Nazi analogy.

They were even intending to invoke Godwin’s law, which holds that, in any prolonged online debate (we extend it to any high-emotion debate), it is a near scientific certainty that someone will eventually liken something or someone to the Nazis.

Fact is, your humble hosts were not familiar with smoking bans as one of the Nazis’ atrocities.

But then, despite our wayward habits as bloggers, we did a journalistic thing. We checked our facts. And we learned something.


How does Pres. Bush describe the current essence of the GOP?

Friday, April 27th, 2007

ebmug.jpgThe Republican National Committee has sent out a mass e-mailing, over President Bush’s signature, bush_and_laura.jpgasking for funds for the next campaign cycle.

The rhetoric is not particularly remarkable, but if you’re not on the RNC’s email list, and you’re interested in hearing how Bush and the RNC portray the lay of the political and ideological land to potential donors, just go to the continuation of this post (and feel free to comment at the bottom).


America’s checkbook still overdrawn

Friday, April 27th, 2007

ebmug.jpgLast week I promoted a Mpls. appearance by U.S. Comptroller General David Walker titled “America’s Checkbook — Overdrawn.”

In today’s Strib, esteemed colleague Kara McGuire reports from the event. The money quote, from Walker who has poured the last several years into trying to wake America up about its unsustainable and ruinous fiscal course:

 ”[My children and grandchildren] are going to pay the price and bear the burden. They don’t have a voice. I’m their voice.”


Adolf Hitler: “Who today remembers the extermination of the Armenians?”

Thursday, April 26th, 2007

ebmug.jpgGood Friday morning Fellow Seekers,

(Apologies for being three days late with this post. April 24 is the day usually designated to mark the anniversary of the Armenian Genocide. That was the date in 1915 when about 300 Armenian intellectual and professional leaders in the Ottoman Empire’s capital of Constantinople were rounded up, beginning a three-year killing spree.)

During the period 1915-1918, the Ottoman Turks murdered between 1.2 and 1.3 million Armenians out of a pre-World War I population of about 4 million Armenians within the Ottoman Empire.


More Sound and Fury over TV Violence

Wednesday, April 25th, 2007

Good Thursday morning.

tice.jpgThe Washington Post reports that the Federal Communications Commission is seeking greater authority to regulate violence on television.

This re-run of an issue returns from time to time, and its story line is familar: 1) A consensus exists among researchers that exposure to violent images harms children and makes them more likely to becsimiami.jpgcome violent, and 2) TV is more violent and ubiquitous than ever (the image at right is from  “CSI: Miami”), with young people watching 23 hours of television per day, and witnessing about 60,000 murders a month. Or something like that.

One passage in the Post story is particularly noteworthy:

“For decades, the FCC has penalized over-the-air broadcasters for airing sexually suggestive, or ‘indecent,’ speech and images, but it has never had the authority to fine TV stations and networks for violent programming.”

So the FCC is aiming to crack down on TV violence the same way it’s swept the tube clean of sex? The alarm of First Amendment advocates may be exaggerated.


Guess who’s running for President?

Wednesday, April 25th, 2007

ebmug.jpgOk, you guessed. John McCain, but today he made it mccain_vmi.jpgofficial. He was also on The Daily Show last night and Jon Stewart held his feet to the fire on Iraq. It’s an odd mixture of comedy, substance and shoutdown, but it worked better for me than a typical interview on the Sunday shows.

See what you think.

What percentage of members of Congress “retire” into lobbying careers?

Wednesday, April 25th, 2007

ebmug.jpgAccording to Unity08, a non-partisan outfit  that seems to want to organize against excessive partisanship and legalized corruption (and whose most famous face seems to be that of actor Sam Waterston):

“Since 1998, 43 percent of the 198 members of Congress who left government to join private life have registered to lobby.”

The good news quota

Wednesday, April 25th, 2007

ebmug.jpgI seldom rise to the defense of the norms of U.S. mainstream journalism. But it’s valuable to occasionally remind oneself what really bad looks like.

In the supposedly free country of Russia, the only independent radio news network of any national consequence was bought by new owners who told the managers that from now at least 50 percent of the news about Russia must be “positive.”

As the above-linked story from the New York Times describes, the owners specified the meaning of “positive.”

“When we talk of death, violence or poverty, for example, this is not positive,” said one editor at the station who did not want to be identified for fear of retribution. “If the stock market is up, that is positive. The weather can also be positive.”

What think?


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