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Archive for October, 2007

Mitch McConnell: Right Wing Bloggers are Dirty Liars

[ 0 ] October 16, 2007 |

Matt Gunterman at Ditch Mitch brings us this Courier-Journal article by James Carroll:

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell’s spokesman acknowledged yesterday that he alerted reporters last week to questions bloggers raised about the financial circumstances of a 12-year-old boy Democrats had used to urge passage of an expanded children’s health insurance program.Stewart said McConnell did not know about any of his e-mails until he told the senator about them sometime around last Thursday.


A week ago yesterday, Stewart said, he sent an e-mail to reporters covering the insurance issue, alerting them that “bloggers have done a little digging and turned up that the Dad owns his own business (and the building it’s in), seems to have some commercial rental income and Graeme and a sister go to a private school that, according to its Web site, costs about $20k a year — for each kid — despite the news profiles reporting a family income of only $45k for the Frosts.”


In a letter to the editor of The Courier-Journal today, Stewart states that while there is no reason to question the Frosts, “only left-wing columnists and bloggers and others who seek political advantage seem to still be interested.”


Rich Brooks, Reconsidered

[ 0 ] October 16, 2007 |

1994 was the eighteenth year of Rich Brooks tenure as the head coach of the Oregon Ducks, and he took the Ducks to the Rose Bowl for the first time since the 1960s. This was a joyous event in Eugene, because it meant two things; the Ducks had arrived, and Rich Brooks would be leaving. Much celebration accompanied his decision to accept a job with the St. Louis Rams that off-season, because the good people of Eugene were, frankly, fed up with fullback traps on 3rd and 12 from the opponent’s 18 yard line. Brooks had, slowly and painstakingly, rebuilt Oregon football; it was time for him to go. He was replaced by Mike Bellotti, and the Ducks have become an A-list football program, even if their uniform choices have become… questionable.

When I arrived in Lexington two and a half years ago, I was struck by a sense of deja vu. Once again, Rich Brooks was head coach of the football team, and once again he was the target of wide disdain. At Patterson, the joke went “Why is Rich Brooks the administration’s best choice for heading the Department of Homeland Security? Because he can clear out a 45000 seat stadium in 10 minutes flat.” That tells you more about Patterson than about Brooks, but you get the point. At the beginning of last year, Brooks was almost unanimously believed to be a lame duck (so to speak). And then, contrary to all expectation, the Wildcats began to win.

Kentucky went 8-5 last year, winning their first bowl game since 1984. As you may have heard, they’ve been relatively successful this year, and are currently ranked 7th in the BCS standings; 3 spots ahead of Bellotti’s Ducks. I think it’s fair to say that Brooks deserves a reconsideration. He has coached two major college programs in his career, and he has essentially brought both of them back from the dead. It took longer with the Ducks, but that probably has more to do with structural changes in college football than with Brooks himself. Assuming that Kentucky doesn’t completely collapse the rest of the way, I’d be surprised if Brooks doesn’t win the Bear Bryant award for the second time. We’ll see what happens after this year; I’m guessing that Brooks won’t make the same leap that he made in 1994, but you never know. If he does, it’ll be interesting to see whether Kentucky can find its own Mike Bellotti. But for now, I’d just like to say that Rich Brooks is a damn fine college football coach.

Orrin James Noon, Jr., 1943-2007

[ 1 ] October 15, 2007 |

After surviving nearly eight months with pancreatic cancer — the same disease that killed his own father four years ago — my dad passed away quietly at home this morning. My three siblings and I were able to spend the last few days with him, which I know gave him enormous comfort as he slowly drifted away. I’d like to say that I’ve been preparing for today since he was diagnosed on February 27, but mostly I’ve been living in various states of denial and haven’t begun to comprehend this loss.

If you had asked him, my father would have insisted that history was never his best subject. Nevertheless, I find it impossible to think about the second half of the 20th century without the stories and commentary I’ve borrowed from him. He grew up in Stockbridge, Massachusetts, where he lived down the street from Norman Rockwell. Of all things, he actually worked as a model for some of Rockwell’s Boy Scout tributes; he’s the kid in the middle of the “Ever Onward” painting, commissioned for the Scouts’ 50th anniversary in 1960. Though he shared Rockwell’s liberal values — particularly his vision of racial equality — I don’t think he shared Rockwell’s confidence that small-town virtues still defined the United States during the cold war. If nothing else, Dad’s experience during the Vietnam War ruined that illusion.

When Dad first learned of his cancer, he reminded me that he’d already lived four decades longer than he once assumed he would. As an undergraduate English major at St. Bonaventure, a small Franciscan university in upstate New York, he enrolled in two years of ROTC because he wanted to learn how to fly. He graduated a few months after ground forces arrived in South Vietnam. When Johnson got the war he’d been seeking, and when he and William Westmoreland promised that the troops would be “home by Christmas,” Dad believed them and breathed a sigh of relief. He seems to have developed a keen ear for bullshit after that.

By 1967, to his lifelong bewilderment, he found himself running Hueys in the Army’s 129th Assault Helicopter Corps, serving in a war he opposed and for an institution he came to detest. Until about five years ago, I actually believed his two tours of duty were relatively free of danger. If I had ever bothered to ask, I might have learned that he was stationed near Qui Nhon during the Tet Offensive, and that he lived each day with the expectation that he’d never see the age of 25. More than anything, he wanted to have children, and he worried that Johnson’s war would deprive him of that chance.

Remarkably enough, he survived the American war in Vietnam and became a father, first to me, then to three others who came to share his wry sense of humor and his well-placed skepticism toward authority. Over the years I’ve been able to notice this influence more clearly. In 1974, when I asked him who “Tricky Dick” was, he explained the horrors of the Nixon administration in a way that actually made sense to a four-year-old; Watergate was, appropriately enough, the first thing I ever learned about the American presidency, and I can’t say my impression of its officeholders has changed significantly since then. A few years later, I listened to my father describe the Desert One hostage-rescue attempt as “dumb with a capital D,” then promptly repeated the same (completely accurate) assessment to my fourth-grade colleagues. Dad was profoundly unimpressed by the Reagan-Bush years. During my junior year of college he recognized the Gulf War as a disastrous venture long before I did. During Clinton’s two terms, he agonized over the various Balkan wars and was bewildered by his oldest son’s apparent indifference when the US launched what he viewed as a cowardly air war in 1999.

After retirement, Dad spent much of his free time watching C-SPAN and surveying the ills of the Bush administration. When he wasn’t shaking his first at the television, he began reading more about the Vietnam War era, spending his last few months trying to finish Frances FitzGerald’s Fire on the Lake, Jules Witcover’s The Year the Dream Died, and David Halberstam’s The Best and the Brightest. The week before he died, when he could no longer walk and struggled to stay awake, he checked out Thomas Ricks’ Fiasco from the public library. The war in Iraq troubled him immensely, and he took some comfort in being able to watch the undoing of Donald Rumsfeld, Alberto Gonzales, Karl Rove, and the 109th Congress. In a rare moment of optimism, I asked him earlier this summer if he might hang on until January 2009. “That would be great,” he chuckled, “but I don’t think it’s going to happen.”

At the bottom of it all, though, my father wasn’t a political creature. He was a quiet, funny man who loved dogs, golf, the Red Sox and — above all else — his family with an intensity that far surpassed his hatred for the “jerks” who ran the world. But powerful people at home and abroad pissed him off because he understood that the consequences of their actions trickled down upon the most vulnerable. He knew that idiotic wars and bogus heroism did nothing but sever decent, gentle people from the rest of their lives.

He also knew that he was one of the lucky ones — that he’d lived an immensely fulfilling life, despite the errors of the “best and the brightest” and despite the sickness that took him before any of us were ready to let him go.

I have many words to explain how very much I loved my father, but none to capture how much I miss him already.

Florence Welsh, 1917-2007

[ 0 ] October 14, 2007 |

My mother’s mother — my only surviving grandparent — passed away earlier today. It’s very sad, but as the cliche goes probably for the best. The last time I saw her in January she no longer recognized me, and she had effectively stopped eating for two weeks. The last years of her life were in large measure sad and (by choice) lonely, and I hope she’s found peace.

My mother asked me today if I remembered when she was happy, and I do; I still remember visiting her in a small town in Saskatchewan, helping her pick peas from the garden or playing cribbage or 500. In the end, I hope everyone who knew her will remember her that way. I know my mother remembers that her sacrifices were enormous; growing up on a small farm with a fairly harsh climate and no running water, her parents worked to send her boarding school and university, at a time in which neglecting a girl’s education in particular wouldn’t have been unusual. I know that whatever my sister and I achieve will be an indirect product of that. R.I.P.

Healthcare…Now With 1 Million Fewer Kids!

[ 0 ] October 14, 2007 |

Just so the consequences of Bush’s veto of S-CHIP are 100% clear: it’s not just that kids who need health insurance but aren’t currently covered are screwed. Kids who are currently receiving health insurance through S-CHIP may also be facing the S-CHOP (har har). Take, for example, some 11,000 kids in New Jersey. But wait! There’s more. Because while New Jersey will sweep 11,000 kids out of healthcare, that’s a small number compared to the nationwide estimates. From today’s Times article:

According to health care experts, an estimated one million children across the country would be phased out of the insurance program over the next few years under the $30 billion five-year plan proposed by President Bush.

Now, I know what some of you are going to say (not pointing fingers, just sayin’). You’re going to say, well, look at the family identified in the article. These are exactly the kinds of people who should NOT be getting government health insurance. She makes almost $50,000/year for goodness sake!

They are not looking at the consequences of this for families and children that are going to lose out,” said Ann Martinez, 28, an administrative assistant. She said that she earns too much money to qualify for Medicaid, the government health insurance program for the poor, but that she cannot afford the $500 a month it would cost her for coverage for her two children.

Ms. Martinez, who earns $47,000 a year, is covered under her employer’s health plan, but her children are covered by New Jersey Family Care….

But figure her take home pay is much less than $47,500; $500/month for childhealthcare for her kids = $6,000/year. A. Ton. of. Money.

Maybe we should stop focusing on who might make just enough to eke by on private health insurance (see: the brouhaha over the Frosts last week, who, btw, do not make enough to eke by), and start asking why insurance costs so damn much to begin with. All you nutters who think Bush’s veto was right (and/or support his new offer — yes, that means you too McCain) go on and get rid of the health insurers’ lobby, then let’s talk.

Sunday Deposed Monarch Blogging: House of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha

[ 0 ] October 14, 2007 |

Like several other major European dynasties, the earliest recorded history of the House of Wettin is found in the tenth century. Through conquest, the family took control of Castle Wettin, and took its name for the dynasty. The family would proceed to control substantial parts of Germany and Poland over the next thousand years, and to provide a pair of kings for Poland, as well as prince consorts for Portugal and the United Kingdom, and kings for Belgium and Bulgaria. Most of these came through a cadet branch of House Wettin named Saxe-Coburg Gotha.

Ferdinand of Saxe-Coburg Gotha became Prince Regnant of Bulgaria in 1886, at the age of 25. Bulgaria had acquired de facto sovereignty in 1878, although it nominally remained part of the Ottoman Empire. The first monarch of Bulgaria was Prince Alexander of House Battenberg. Despite leading Bulgaria to victory in war against Serbia, Alexander was deposed by a military coup in 1886. As had been the case with Alexander, Ferdinand was chosen by a combative decision-making process by the Great Powers. Ferdinand was notable mainly for his high position amongst Austro-Hungarian nobility, but was also distantly related to medieval Bulgarian princes. In 1908, the increasing decrepitude of the Ottoman Empire allowed Bulgaria to declare independence, with Ferdinand as its first Tsar.

Bulgaria did very well in the First Balkan War, but lost most of its gains in the Second Balkan War. In hopes of recovering lost territory, Bulgaria joined the Central Powers in 1915. Bulgarian entry into the war doomed Serbia, and in 1916 the Bulgarians made significant gains at the expense of the Romanians. The situation deteriorated in 1918, however, as economic deprivation was intensely felt on the homefront and Allied forces closed in. Ferdinand abdicated in October 1918 in favor of his son Boris, and House Saxe Coburg Gotha was allowed to remain on the throne of a much diminished Bulgarian state.

The twenty-four year old Boris managed to hold power despite almost continuous fighting between far right and far left elements. He married the daughter of Victor Emmanuel III of Italy in 1937, a union which produced two children. After the new war began in Europe, Bulgaria came under considerable pressure to join the Axis. In 1941 King Boris agreed to declare war against Great Britain and the United States, but not against the Soviet Union. Boris and his government limited cooperation with the Germans, irritating Hitler but saving a substantial portion of Bulgaria’s Jewish population. After meeting with Hitler in 1943, Boris died of an apparent heart attack and was succeeded by his six year old son Simeon. Sofia was struck repeatedly by Allied bombers, and in 1944 Bulgaria abandoned the war and withdrew from military cooperation with the Axis.

When the Red Army arrived at the borders of Bulgaria, the Soviet Union declared war. For about a week, Bulgaria was at war with both Germany and the Soviet Union. The Red Army quickly occupied Bulgaria, and the government was replaced by a communist regime. In 1946 a Soviet sponsored referendum abolished the monarchy and exiled young Simeon. Simeon grew up in Spain and the United States, but never renounced his claim to the Bulgarian throne. In 1996, after the collapse of the communist regime, Simeon returned to Bulgaria to general acclaim. In 2001 he took a most unusual step for a former monarch, forming his own political party and engaging in electoral politics. His party won the June 2001 election, and Simeon became the Prime Minister of Bulgaria. He served for four years before being turned out in 2005.

Prospects for a return to the throne remain uncertain. Simeon’s popularity declined across his term as prime minister, although he remains a major figure in Bulgarian politics. Simeon has remained largely mum about his intentions regarding the throne. Still, the prospects for a return to the throne of House Saxe Coburg Gotha are probably the strongest of any deposed monarchical family in the world.

Trivia: Which monarch served as the head of state of his independent country for only five years, but managed during his life to serve as a royal puppet for three different imperial powers?

The Long March Through the Institutions Continues!

[ 0 ] October 14, 2007 |

So this is what George Will is up to these days? Taking out hits on the social work profession? To sum up, somebody passed Will a copy of the latest National Association of Scholars’ “report” on the condition of social work education. The NAS — following the rigorous methodological innovations honed by Lynne Cheney and Dinesh D’Souza between 1990-1992 — predictably discerned an elaborate “progressive” agenda within the social work field by examining course descriptions, program statements, and a few stray anecdotes featuring a handful of beleaguered conservative students (one of whom appears to be a free-market department troll whose interest in social welfare exists only insofar as he’s interested in dismantling social welfare spending in his home state of Rhode Island. At least one of the other cases appears to derive from plausible objections to a course assignment; in that case, the university conceded its error and made generous restitution. I’m not sure how this outcome helps the argument that social work programs are intransigently politicized, but I guess that’s conservative logic for you.)

Continuing its anecdotal broadside against social work programs, the NAS apparently stumbled across the decade-old Code of Ethics approved by the National Association of Social Workers, whom Will accuses of promoting a “surreptitious political agenda.” (I’m not sure how “surreptitious” such a code could actually be, given that it was approved in 1997, was revised and amended two years later, and has been available on its website ever since. But I guess that’s investigative conservative journalism for you.)

Will seems especially dismayed that universities would expect their graduates to understand the professional mores of their chosen field. For reasons I can’t quite fathom, this is supposed to be controversial. Among other things — such as requiring that social workers not fuck their clients or charge them for services not rendered (principles of which I’m sure Will would not disapprove) — the NASW encourages social workers to

pursue social change, particularly with and on behalf of vulnerable and oppressed individuals and groups of people. Social workers’ social change efforts are focused primarily on issues of poverty, unemployment, discrimination, and other forms of social injustice. These activities seek to promote sensitivity to and knowledge about oppression and cultural and ethnic diversity. Social workers strive to ensure access to needed information, services, and resources; equality of opportunity; and meaningful participation in decision making for all people.

No, wait — it gets worse! Not only do are students of social work expected to concern themselves with human welfare, but they’re also expected to acknowledge that

relationships between and among people are an important vehicle for change. Social workers engage people as partners in the helping process. Social workers seek to strengthen relationships among people in a purposeful effort to promote, restore, maintain, and enhance the well-being of individuals, families, social groups, organizations, and communities.

Disgusting, really. And like Cap’n Crunch, I’m sure that Stalin would have approved. Lo, that isn’t the worst of it. Behold:

Social workers elevate service to others above self-interest. Social workers draw on their knowledge, values, and skills to help people in need and to address social problems. Social workers are encouraged to volunteer some portion of their professional skills with no expectation of significant financial return (pro bono service).

I can’t wait for John Stossel to get a hold of that one! Clearly, social work programs need to be reminded of what the free market and possessive individualism can deliver in the way of social justice and economic opportunity.

GOP Values!

[ 0 ] October 14, 2007 |

Roger takes a closer look. One has to agree with his bottom line about the “Value Voters” summit: “Attendees would be well advised to leave their wallets in their hotel rooms and their children in another state.”

Coming Soon To An Op-Ed Page Near You!

[ 0 ] October 14, 2007 |

Our “new” troll Fred Jones “unhinged liberal” has managed to distill every idiotic argument commonly seen about anti-Roe countermobilization into one comment! Just for fun, let’s go through every fallacy one at a time:

Issues that are decided in this manner do us no good because the decisions are not accepted by the governed. It’s been 34 years and we are still struggling with this. Quality of decision matters.

Roe, has, of course, been accepted by a strong majority of the governed. But more to the point, the idea that the quality of legal reasoning has anything to do with the reaction to Roe is absurd. (Anybody remember the massive Republican outrage about Bush v. Gore, which makes Roe look like a masterpiece of legal reasoning? Must have missed that.) First of all, nobody without a professional obligation reads Supreme Court opinions. And second, Roe if anything, polls better than the underlying position of legal pre-viability abortions, which is the opposite of what one would predict if the poor reasoning of Roe had the slightest relevance to its public reaction. Roe could have been better argued, but the outcome of the case was plausible, and in any case the quality of Blackmun’s opinion is irrelevant to whether or not it will endure.

Now, just think if this decision had involved the governed such as going through a democratic process. Maybe a referendum….maybe a Senate bill. Win or lose, people would accept the decision more as a legitimate one and chances are we wouldn’t be still doing this.

This would be plausible…if you knew nothing about politics or what abortion politics looked like before Roe. Rather than accepting abortion liberalization, the forced pregnancy lobby got the legislatures of New York and Pennsylvania to pass bills re-criminalizing abortion, which had to be vetoed. The idea that abortion would cease to become a salient issue if the courts would just stop protecting reproductive rights at all and turn everything over to Congress and 50 state legislatures is transparently ridiculous. Abortion is a major issue because there’s a major constituency in this country to punish (poor) women who choose to get abortions and get uppity about their proper place in society; what institution resolves the issue is irrelevant. If Roe were overturned, the issue would still be a major part of politics, except that many states would then have abortion bans, contrary to long-standing privacy and gender equality precedents, which would do very little to protect fetal life and a great deal to endanger women’s health.

Also, like it or not judicial review is a part of the American “democratic process.”

What does it say about the pro-abortion people if they don’t trust the people to make the right choice? It says they think they might be in the minority and can’t take the chance.

Actually, for those of us whose knowledge of politics doesn’t come entirely from bad 5th Grade civics textbooks, it means that 1)we understand that American legislatures are not consistently majoritarian in either theory or practice, 2)the de facto exemption affluent women inevitably have from aboriton bans skew legislative outcomes even more strongly towards the forced pregnancy minority, and 3)fundamental individual rights should not subject to unlimited legislative control in any case.

My question: when does a slightly longer version of this comment show up in Slate?

Aw… and I Never Knew that He Cared…

[ 0 ] October 14, 2007 |

Tigerhawk on our masthead quote:

I actually looked at the title banner of the lefty blog Lawyers, Guns and Money and realized why it is a lefty blog…

The founder of that blog is unlikely to succeed in business (were he ever to try), because he has absolutely no clue in the world how important family, friends, and religion (or community, the secular version) are.

I have known a lot of enormously successful businessmen and women in my life, and I have not met one who even hinted that they believed that “family, religion, and friendship” stood in the way of success in business. In fact, most successful people would say the opposite (allowing for a little wiggle room on religion, which is probably optional). At least in real life. In the entertainment industry’s conception of business success you often see this sort of idiocy — bad guy businessmen are a staple of prime time television — but then the entertainment industry is famously left wing.

All righties have something that they most deplore about the political left (and, I suppose, vice versa). For me it is the left’s pervasive view that people in business are less likely to consider the moral implications of the decisions they make, less likely to care about their community, and less likely to help people. Yes, in my years as a corporate lawyer and then public company executive I have encountered a few dirtbags — you find that in any line of work — but the vast majority of people I know think deeply about the rights and wrongs of the tough decisions they have to make literally every day.

One of Tigerhawk’s commenters pointed out that the quote actually comes from Montgomery Burns, and might not be intended as a direct commentary on the value of friends, family, or religion. Really, though, I’m just happy that he cares. I wonder what kind of analysis he would have arrived at if he’d noted some of our earlier masthead quotes (“You know what I blame this on the breakdown of? Society”, or “The Shit Has Hit the Fan”); I’m almost tempted to change our quote in order to find out.

The Only Solution Is To Let the Owners Keep More Money!

[ 0 ] October 14, 2007 |

Damn lack of comeptitive balance in baseball — I don’t see how small market teams can compete when a big market team can acquire a great reliver like Eric Gagne and use him as a setup man!

With all due respect to d., I’m happy that it looks like the Tribe will win; it would be nice to have at least one decent up-and-down series this year, and I really don’t want it to involve Arizona winning…

Better than MoDo

[ 0 ] October 13, 2007 |

Maureen Dowd invited Stephen Colbert to write her column for her in Sunday’s paper. Which was a nice breath of fresh air. Colbert’s column is not White House Correspondent Dinner quality, but it’s not bad either. A choice quote, in a discussion of the looming presidential primaries:

Well, suddenly an option is looming on the horizon. And I don’t mean Al Gore (though he’s a world-class loomer). First of all, I don’t think Nobel Prizes should go to people I was seated next to at the Emmys. Second, winning the Nobel Prize does not automatically qualify you to be commander in chief. I think George Bush has proved definitively that to be president, you don’t need to care about science, literature or peace.

I love it. It brings Gore up and puts BUsh down all at the same time.

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