Thursday, January 26, 2006

Eight Headlines Deserve Another

Bush to Ignore Hamas, Saying, "I Was For Democracy In The Middle East Before I Was Against It."

UPDATE Friday January 27, 2006

State Dept. to Review Aid to Palestinians 3:12 p.m. ET
WASHINGTON (AP) -- If Hamas takes control of the Palestinian government, as now appears likely, all U.S. aid to the Palestinian people will be put under review, the Bush administration said Friday.

Thursday January 26, 2006

News Index From The Associated Press TOP NEWS ARTICLE AT 5:42 PM ET
Bush Says U.S. Won't Deal With Hamas
WASHINGTON (AP) -- Jolted by Hamas' stunning election victory, President Bush said Thursday the United States will not deal with the militant Palestinian group as long as it seeks Israel's destruction.

Hamas Captures Landslide Parliamentary Win 5:23 p.m. ET
RAMALLAH, West Bank (AP) -- Hamas won a landslide victory in parliamentary elections as Palestinian voters rejected the longtime rule of the corruption-ridden Fatah Party, according to nearly complete official returns Thursday.

Abbas Planning Talks With Israel 3:33 p.m. ET
RAMALLAH, West Bank (AP) -- Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas said Thursday he was committed to negotiations with Israel and said he would start immediate consultations to start a new government following an overwhelming victory by Hamas in parliamentary elections.

Foreign Leaders Shocked at Hamas Win 3:11 p.m. ET
PARIS (AP) -- World leaders, uneasy at the prospect of a Hamas-led Palestinian government, immediately exerted pressure on the Islamic militants Thursday to recognize Israel and renounce violence as a precondition for support.

Israel Ponders Response After Hamas Win 11:46 a.m. ET
JERUSALEM (AP) -- Israeli officials convened emergency meetings on Thursday to decide how to respond to the militant Hamas group's upset victory in Palestinian elections, maintaining an outward silence while privately blaming each other for the upheaval.

Hamas, Fatah Supporters Clash 10:08 a.m. ET
RAMALLAH, West Bank (AP) -- Hamas supporters raised their flag over the Palestinian parliament Thursday and rushed into the building amid clashes with Fatah loyalists a day after winning parliamentary elections.

Hamas' Election Showing Shakes Up Mideast 7:45 a.m. ET
JERUSALEM (AP) Hamas' apparent victory in Palestinian parliamentary elections has dramatically shaken up the political landscape of the Middle East, elevating Islamic militants who call for Israel's destruction and most likely encouraging Israel's go-it-alone approach to Mideast peacemaking.

Friday, January 20, 2006

Message from Ellen McCarthy

News on the broadcast of the Sen. Eugene J. McCarthy Memorial Service that took place last weekend on Saturday, January 14th at the Washington National Cathedral has been forwarded by Ellen McCarthy.

"The National Cathedral Public Relations office advised me today that C-SPAN filmed the entire EUGENE J MCCARTHY MEMORIAL SERVICE and will air the event on this Saturday night, January 21st, at 8:00 PM EST and again at 10:40 PM EST.

"(Check your individual cable system's listings for broadcast in your time zone. The broadcast will take place on regular C-SPAN, not the C-SPAN2 or C-SPAN3 channels.)

"I was also told that C-SPAN usually makes DVDs of such events available for a small fee after they have aired.


Here is the C-SPAN schedule information.

Here is the program information for the McCarthy Memorial Service, which is C-SPAN Program ID# 190739 for DVD ordering purposes.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Insincerity, Thy Name is GOP

Headlines like GOP Proposes Lobby Limits appearing across the country convey the impression that Republicans are shocked, shocked and amazed, to discover that there is corruption in Washington even after those evil Dems were driven from power!

Well then, here are a few other headlines we may expect to see any day now if the same spirit spreads:

  • Gambino Family to Clean Up Mob

  • Foxes Association Announces Chicken Coop Security Plan

  • Tax Lawyers Seek Simplified Code

  • Pedophile Priests Join to Found New Children's Summer Camp in Remote Mountains

  • Sex Stars Promise Family Fare

  • Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Rice to Personally Investigate Administration's Lying, Spying, Torture and Corruption

  • Elementary School Bully Offers Peace to Schoolyard

Just face it. The Republicans have never been interested in actual government, at least not in any part of government that doesn't bear arms, spy on people's bedrooms, or give away tax favors to corporations. So it only took them 10 years in power to institutionalize corrupt shakedowns of people seeking government favors.

If you think this qualifies them to clean up the lobbying culture (perhaps on the basis of "it takes a thief to catch a thief") I can sell you some fine shorefront land in Brooklyn and Manhattan that is amply supplied with a trans-riverine edifice...

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

The Bad (MLB) vs. the Ugly (DC)
The main thing to remember is, there are no good guys in the Washington Nationals DC baseball stadium foofaraw. Clearly Major League Baseball (the bad) is a bunch of shyster tax-dodge lawyers (Bob DuPuy) fronting for used car salesmen (Bud "Invertebrate" Selig) and real estate speculators (Jerry Reinsdorf.) Meanwhile the District of Columbia (the ugly) would have the most dysfunctional local government in the country if it weren't for Trenton NJ, New Orleans LA, Providence RI, Ocean City MD, Gary IN, San Diego CA, and the Lakota Sioux Indian Reservation SD.

You'll notice that all the MLB dudes are crawling with money (except Bud, whom they doubtless let in out of pity) and almost all the sick governments are crawling with poor people. A coincidence, no doubt, but a significant one when vast amounts of public coin are being clinked together.

Sovereign governments, even sick ones, are not used to being told what to do by anyone other than the local magnates who own them -- the law, accounting, real estate and consulting firms, the transportation companies, the utilities, the banks, the foundations, the media, retailers and industry generally. MLB forgot to get aligned with anyone who owns DC because it wanted to jack the price on the franchise suitors, none of whom owns DC either. Maybe they could if they needed to; but right now, they don't.

That might have been fine if that's what MLB wanted to do, but if you do it that way, then you have to first pacify the DC government. And MLB didn't want to negotiate with DC, it wanted to bully them over the stadium overruns. MLB forgot that for it to have leverage on the suitors, the fulcrum (DC) had to be stable.

Of course, MLB could have played it the other way. They could have picked a suitor, used them as the fulcrum, and then exerted their leverage on the DC government to refuse further negotiations. But by trying to poke both sides, suitors and DC, with that same lever, MLB could lose the whole deal. And if they do, they will have deserved it by word, deed, commission and omission.

As an illustration of correct strategy, when Gen. U.S. Grant met Pres. A. Lincoln in April 1864, Grant argued that Union troop detachments could do their jobs "just as well by advancing as well as by remaining still; and by advancing they would compel the enemy to keep detachments to hold them back, or else lay his own territory open to invasion." Lincoln grasped the point at once. "Oh, yes!" he said. "I see that. As we say out West, if a man can't skin he must hold a leg while somebody else does."

MLB is trying to both skin and hold a leg on this mule, and may instead get stuck on its own knife. DC has far more legitimate concerns about the proper shape of a stadium deal than MLB does. DC is responsible to its 750,000 inhabitants whereas MLB is responsible only to the 29 owners, whose cumulative net worth doubtless exceeds the DC annual budget by a factor of five. Many of us are real tired of suburbanites jumping on DC Council for protecting its constituents from the depredations of a multi-billion-dollar industry, however racuously or, if it comes to that, ineffectively.

Things have gone so far now, about the only thing MLB can do is lay $250,000 on DC Ward 8 Councilman Marion Barry in small, unmarked bills. And if they'd had sense enough to have given him $50,000 two months ago, there'd probably have been a deal by now.

Monday, January 16, 2006

McCarthy's Memorial Service News Coverage

In direct contravention of the copyright laws of the United States of America and the normal practices of the cyberprovince of Upper Bloggovia, presented in full below are the news stories covering Saturday's memorial service for Senator Eugene J. McCarthy. Bottom line: it wasn't a funeral; it was a celebration.

Naturally the Slangwhanger-in-Chief attended and, by dint of early arrival on that blustery windy day, sat about six rows behind Sen. E. M. Kennedy and Pres. W. J. Clinton. The news says 800 people were present. What that meant was the whole damn Cathedral was full. Not standing in the aisles overflowing outside full, like it was for the Dalai Lama's appearance, but all the seats all the way to the back full full.

It was peculiar to be the sole McCarty family representative to the McCarthy family's occasion, but Patrick and Mary Beth were in Minnesota seeing McCarthy's Senate Legislative Assistant's widow Sr. Arleen Hynes OSB. At the memorial service were McCarthy's Senate Administrative Assistant Jerry Eller's widow Donna and their daughters Raina and Steve. Steve had assisted author Kitty Kelley on her Bush dynasty book and they are working on another. Kelley was there too; her first DC job was on McCarthy's Senate staff as a press aide. McCarthy's Senate Secretary Susan B. Perry completed the Senate staff contingent.

A surprise among the dignitaries not mentioned in the stories below was Rep. Steney Hoyer of Maryland, but he is Catholic, after all. May he have received some spine stiffening from Rep. Jim Oberstar of Minnesota's forthright eulogy. As reported below in insufficient detail, Oberstar urged Congress, when dealing with Iraq, to remember (and possibly even emulate) McCarthy's bravery in resisting the illegal, immoral, dishonorable, disastrous, unnecessary and unsuccessful war in Vietnam. Ex-Congressman Fr. Bob Drinan SJ, whose antiwar and pro-social justice stance so offended the Vatican that he was forced not to run for reelection, was one of the concelebrants.

Notably present was John E. Clay, the Illinois lawyer who practiced with Adlai Stevenson and who served as McCarthy's Vice Presidential running mate in his Independent bid of 1976. Other 1976 stalwarts visible were lawyer Jim Ostmann, the Rev. John Boyles, and advisors Tom McCoy and Mike Rubino from the intelligence community. Sought but not attested at the Cathedral were 1976 staffers Keith Burris, Mary Meehan, Ron Cocome and Judy Smith.

The best revived McCarthy line came from son Michael's eulogy when he recalled his father being asked if running in 1968 was political suicide. McCarthy said, "There'll be no suicide but there may be an execution." As one of the 1968 convention floor veterans remarked, "McCarthy could always count the votes accurately, but he never let it bother him." Daughter Ellen's reminder that her father got a lot more accomplished than Don Quixote ever did was a salutary and bracing corrective to a persistent media image.

Media stars included Al Eisele, who covered McCarthy in the Senate for Knight Ridder and recently retired as editor of The Hill, and Chris Matthews of MSNBC sporting a McCarthy button. KPFA-FM Visionary Activist Show's Caroline W. Casey didn't have a McCarthy button but did have a magnificent hat. New Yorker writer Joan Acocella, who co-organized Texas for McCarthy in 1968, was listed in the guest book but must have slipped away before the reception afterwards. Mercifully too abashed and ashamed to be present were some of those who habitually traduced and calumniated McCarthy such as Blair Clark, David S. Broder, Sally Quinn, and George F. Will.

Brother Austin was too ill to travel from Minnesota but his daughter Mary Beth Yarrow supplemented her Scriptural reading with a tribute to her uncle. PBS journalist and family friend Mary Alice Williams almost stole the eulogy sweepstakes with a reminiscence of McCarthy's going back to the Minnesota county fairs and knowing which was the town where the librarian had a scandal with the grain elevator operator and which was the town famous for summer sausages.

The family side of the aisle was as full as the friends side, with the family (including McCarthy's surviving sister) processing following a Black Watch-kilted bagpiper playing Amazing Grace. There was at least one baby and one toddler to prove the Irishness of it all. The baby cried when the kettledrums thundered Aaron Copeland's Fanfare for the Common Man but was forgiven faster than she was shushed.

Clinton Eulogizes Sen. Eugene McCarthy
The Associated Press
Saturday, January 14, 2006; 3:48 PM

WASHINGTON -- Former President Clinton eulogized the late Minnesota Sen. Eugene J. McCarthy on Saturday for helping to shift momentum against the Vietnam War with his 1968 presidential campaign.

"It all started when Gene McCarthy was willing to stand alone and turn the tide of history," Clinton said at a memorial service at the Washington National Cathedral.

(AP Photo/Kevin Wolf)
Former President Clinton delivers a tribute to late Minnesota Sen. Eugene J. McCarthy from the lectern at the National Cathedral on Saturday, Jan. 14, 2006, in Washington.

McCarthy, who died last month at 89, mounted an anti-war challenge to President Johnson for the 1968 Democratic nomination, leading to Johnson's withdrawal from the race after the New Hampshire presidential primary.

About 800 people, some wearing McCarthy campaign buttons, attended the memorial. A bagpipe procession started the service, and Peter Yarrow of the folk group Peter, Paul and Mary sang This Land Is Your Land and other songs.

(AP Photo/Kevin Wolf)
Peter Yarrow and daughter Bethany Yarrow sing "Sweet Survivor" for McCarthy's family.

The audience was filled with friends, family members and lawmakers, including Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, D-Mass. Kennedy's brother, the late New York Sen. Robert Kennedy, rankled McCarthy by jumping in the '68 race after McCarthy's strong showing in New Hampshire. Vice President Hubert Humphrey won the nomination that year and then lost to Republican Richard Nixon.

(AP Photo/Kevin Wolf)
Sen. Edward Kennedy and President Bill Clinton greet each other.

Clinton recalled meeting McCarthy as a young man in the early 1970s. The future president was having trouble locating a pair of large shoes to wear to a black-tie Washington dinner, and a friend said he knew someone with even bigger shoes.

A couple of days later, Clinton said, McCarthy came by with a pair of shoes to lend.

"That night, I stood in Gene McCarthy's shoes," Clinton said to laughter. At the dinner, he decided to pass up a receiving line for President Nixon.

"It just didn't seem the right thing to do wearing McCarthy's shoes," Clinton said to more laughter and applause.

Decades later, Clinton found himself at a 1992 Democratic presidential debate with McCarthy. Even though McCarthy was not a serious candidate, Clinton said, "It was seriously uncomfortable to be on the wrong end of his wit."

Clinton was willing to overlook a far more serious challenge by speaking at the memorial service. In 1998, at the height of Clinton's impeachment scandal, McCarthy called for the president to resign or be impeached.

"He's been running a pretty messy presidency in terms of constitutionality and tradition," McCarthy said.

It was that contrarian streak that won McCarthy both admirers and detractors.

Rep. Jim Oberstar, D-Minn., said that McCarthy's critique of the Vietnam War has echoes in the debate today over Iraq.

"Gene McCarthy showed us the moral force of politics without preaching," Oberstar said.

(AP Photo/Kevin Wolf)
Rep. Jim Oberstar of Minnesota delivers McCarthy eulogy.

Two of McCarthy's children, Michael McCarthy and Ellen McCarthy, also gave tributes at the service, as did journalist Mary Alice Williams, a family friend.

(AP Photo/Kevin Wolf)
McCarthy eulogists President Clinton, Congressman Oberstar, and PBS journalist Mary Alice Williams.

The New York Times January 15, 2006
Hundreds Honor McCarthy as Man Who Changed History

WASHINGTON, Jan. 14 - Eugene J. McCarthy, the Minnesota senator who upended President Lyndon B. Johnson's re-election effort amid the Vietnam War tumult of 1968, was remembered at a service on Saturday as a man of sharp intellect, broad curiosity and a deep sense of justice and compassion.

An audience of about 800, including Senator Edward M. Kennedy, Democrat of Massachusetts, Ralph Nader and John D. Podesta, President Bill Clinton's last chief of staff, gathered at the National Cathedral here, where lawmakers, relatives and friends spoke of a humble and independent-minded leader who opposed the Vietnam War and believed that politics could make a difference in the lives of ordinary citizens.

Mr. Clinton, who eulogized Mr. McCarthy, said he had been instrumental in building pressure to stop the war.

"It all began with Gene McCarthy's willingness to stand alone and turn the tide of history," Mr. Clinton said.

With the war taking thousands of American and Vietnamese lives, Mr. McCarthy, an unabashed liberal, stoked a national debate over the war and over the model of an all-powerful presidency. He challenged Johnson in the New Hampshire primary in 1968, and Johnson, facing almost certain defeat, withdrew from the race. The Democratic party machine then forced the nomination of Vice President Hubert H. Humphrey to face President Richard M. Nixon. But Mr. McCarthy became the quintessential candidate of the Vietnam War protest movement.

"We do not need presidents who are bigger than the country, but rather ones who speak for it and support it," Mr. McCarthy told his supporters, the "Clean for Gene" legions who embraced his candor.

On Saturday, Mr. Clinton spoke of Mr. McCarthy's central role in the upheaval that occurred in 1968, a year during which Robert F. Kennedy and the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. were assassinated. "One thing remained constant," Mr. Clinton said. "The country had turned against the war."

Mr. McCarthy died last month of complications related to Parkinson's disease at an assisted-living home in Washington's Georgetown neighborhood. He was 89.

Mr. McCarthy took on a contrarian role in the Democratic Party, even endorsing Ronald Reagan, the Republican candidate for president in 1980, rather than Jimmy Carter. Indeed, in 1998 Mr. McCarthy called for the resignation of President Clinton, who he said had "been running a pretty messy presidency in terms of constitutionality and tradition."

He was a habitual presidential campaigner, running in 1972, 1976, 1988 and 1992. Some of the audience wore McCarthy campaign buttons and nodded approvingly at the testimonials. Others were there for a bit of a history lesson.

Bill Gallery, 23, who lives in Washington and works at an international development firm in Bethesda, Md., said: "I had read about McCarthy, and I knew about his role in Democratic and progressive politics. But I thought it would be interesting and, well, educational to come and hear those who knew him."

Representative James L. Oberstar, Democrat of Minnesota, told the audience, "Gene McCarthy showed us moral force in politics without preaching."

Two of Mr. McCarthy's children, Michael and Ellen, also spoke at the service. Mr. McCarthy's son joked that his father had once suggested the Freedom of Information Act ought to afford people the right to review their obituaries before they die.

"He thought it would make reporters be more careful," he recalled his father saying.

McCarthy called prophet and poet
Rob Hotakainen
January 14, 2006 – 10:41 PM
The Minnesota Democrat was eulogized for showing "the moral force of politics" as mourners, many wearing their '68 campaign buttons, paid respects to the poet-politician who died Dec. 10 at 89

WASHINGTON - In the summer of 1970, a young activist named Bill Clinton needed a pair of black shoes after landing an invitation to a black-tie dinner. His friend Dick helped out.

"Dick said he had a friend whose feet were as big as mine who might loan me a pair," Clinton said. "And a couple days later, Gene McCarthy, then serving in his last months in the Senate, showed up with his shoes. We sat on the porch ... and talked for quite a little while. He was in a good mood and I was impressed. And that night I wore Senator McCarthy's shoes to the black-tie dinner. President Nixon was also there, standing in a receiving line. I walked up to it, but I didn't go through. It just didn't seem the right thing to do wearing McCarthy's shoes. I still think a lot about those shoes and how one way or the other, every national Democrat since 1968 has had to walk in them."

Clinton led the eulogies Saturday as official Washington bid farewell to the former Democratic senator from Minnesota. At least 800 people showed up at the National Cathedral to celebrate McCarthy, who was hailed as a prophet and a peacemaker, a people's politician and a poet.

"He had no message of the day, spoke with no notes, but was always succinct and pointed and funny and graceful, punctuating policy with poetry, not because some speechwriter inserted it, but because he loved it, and he knew it by heart. He said reading poetry was at least as important as reading the Chicago Tribune," said Mary Alice Williams, a family friend who recalled going to Minnesota fairs to campaign with McCarthy when she was 6 years old.

'Extraordinary illumination'

Peter Yarrow, of the folk group Peter, Paul and Mary, led the audience in singing Woody Guthrie's "This Land is Your Land." He urged McCarthy's friends "to carry on the extraordinary illumination that he provided."

McCarthy, who served 22 years in the House and Senate, died on Dec. 10 at age 89. At his memorial service, many people wore McCarthy buttons from his 1968 presidential campaign, which chased Lyndon Johnson from the White House.

Clinton called that race McCarthy's greatest moment. "Even Nixon had to say he had a plan to end [the Vietnam War] ... It all began with Gene McCarthy's willingness to stand alone and turn the tide of history," Clinton said.

Clinton said McCarthy was an "eloquent and powerful" public speaker who made politicians respectable: "He proved we could play baseball and write poetry, actually read and even write serious books. And he brought honor to our profession."

McCarthy's daughter, Ellen McCarthy, said that "tilting at windmills was certainly a hallmark of Dad's career." She recalled how he defeated an incumbent congressman in 1948, was the first member of Congress to debate Joe McCarthy on television and worked to advance civil rights and equal rights.

The family was clearly touched by the outpouring of support it has received since McCarthy died in his Georgetown retirement residence.

His son, Michael McCarthy, said: "Dad used to say that he felt that under the Freedom of Information Act you should have the ability to review the obituaries that newspapers write about you ahead of time so that he could write a rebuttal ... But he would have been quite happy with many of the things that have been written."

'That piercing judgment'

Rep. Jim Oberstar, D-Minn., said McCarthy "showed us the moral force of politics without preaching" and he recited McCarthy's words from the 1968 race, when he said he was "concerned that the administration seems to have set no limits to the price which it is willing to pay for military victory."

"That piercing judgment haunts us today with the impeccable clarity, truth and power with which Gene McCarthy framed that thought 39 years ago," Oberstar said. "Like a prophet of the Old Testament, Gene McCarthy foreshadowed then what we are living now."

Memories of Past War Rekindled at McCarthy Service
By Mary Beth Sheridan
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, January 15, 2006; C03
Politicians, Others Honor Principles of Senator

It had been nearly 40 years since Eugene J. McCarthy stood up to a president from his own party and became the voice of America's disenchantment with the Vietnam War. Yesterday, hundreds of youths he once inspired, now graying professionals, gathered at the Washington National Cathedral for a memorial service that honored him as a man of courage and integrity.

The service for McCarthy, who died Dec. 10 at 89, was attended by former president Bill Clinton, consumer advocate Ralph Nader, TV news show host Chris Matthews and Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.), whose brother Robert was once McCarthy's rival for the presidency.

But it was less a political see-and-be-seen than a reunion of friends and baby boomers who said McCarthy had touched their lives with a message of hope.

The year 1968 "was a pivotal year for the country, and it was for many of us who worked in the campaign," said Genie Grohman, who quit her government job as a program analyst then to support McCarthy's presidential bid. The Northwest Washington resident is now 65 and wears her hair in a gray bun. But yesterday, she proudly donned the blue-and-white McCarthy button of her youth.

The two-hour service drew about 800 people, according to a church spokesman. It featured tributes by Clinton; Rep. James L. Oberstar (D), from McCarthy's native Minnesota; two of McCarthy's children, Michael and Ellen; and TV journalist Mary Alice Williams, whose family and McCarthy's were longtime friends. Peter Yarrow, of the folk group Peter, Paul and Mary, serenaded the crowd with such ballads (sic) as This Land Is Your Land.

(By Michel Du Cille -- The Washington Post)
After paying tribute to her father, Ellen McCarthy passes former president Bill Clinton, Rep. James L. Oberstar and journalist Mary Alice Williams.

Speakers recalled McCarthy as a man who risked his political career for his principles, launching such a stunning challenge to Lyndon B. Johnson in the 1968 Democratic primary that the president quit the race.

McCarthy's candidacy was eclipsed when Sen. Robert F. Kennedy (D-N.Y.) entered the race. Johnson's vice president, Hubert H. Humphrey, won the nomination after Kennedy was assassinated. Richard M. Nixon, a Republican, would go on to capture the presidency.

Speakers remarked yesterday that McCarthy's forceful antiwar arguments have particular resonance at a time when the United States is again deeply involved in a foreign conflict.

"Gene McCarthy foreshadowed then what we are living now," said Oberstar, quoting a McCarthy criticism that the Johnson administration accepted "no limits for the price it is willing to pay for military victory."

Clinton recalled the turbulent year of 1968, when the country was rocked by the assassinations of Kennedy and the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.

"One thing remained constant: The country had turned against the war," the former president recalled. "It all began with Gene McCarthy willing to stand alone and change the tide of history."

Clinton remembered how, as a young man in Washington, he was invited to a black-tie dinner but owned no black shoes. He wound up borrowing them from a fellow Democrat with big feet -- McCarthy. At the dinner, Clinton said, he decided not to pass through the receiving line for Nixon.

"It didn't seem the right thing to do, wearing McCarthy's shoes," he said, prompting a burst of applause.

"In one way or another," he added, "every Democrat since '68 has had to walk in them."

McCarthy was remembered as the most unusual of politicians, a man who relished the hand-shaking frenzy of campaigns but also read philosophy and poetry. He had a stinging wit but was known for acts of kindness.

Chris Risley, 52, lives in Ontario, Canada, but can remember stuffing envelopes for McCarthy's campaign when he was a teenager in Alexandria.

"It was just a vibrant time," he said at the cathedral. "There was a real sense of awakening, that we could change things."

Friday, January 13, 2006

We Beat the Mob, We Can Beat DeLay

At the Houston Chronicle, a torpid and skewed establishment bastion since Jesse Jones owned it before the Depression, they must think DDTom DeLay is toast. At least, they let Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid publish a reform proposal on their editorial pages that explicitly connects DeLay with the Mafia. Here's the scoop:

Experience in Las Vegas Similar to D.C. Corruption


In 1977, I was appointed chairman of the Nevada Gaming Commission. It was a difficult time for the gaming industry and Las Vegas, which were being overrun by organized crime. To that point in my life, I had served in the Nevada Assembly and even as lieutenant governor, but nothing prepared me for my fight with the mob.

Over the next few years, there would be threats on my life, bribes, FBI stings and even a car bomb placed in my family's station wagon. It was a terrifying experience, but at the end of the day, we cleaned up Las Vegas and ushered in a new era of responsibility.

My term on the gaming commission came to an end in 1981, and when it did, I thought I had seen such corruption for the last time. Unfortunately, that has not been the case. It is not quite the mafia of Las Vegas in the 1970s, but what is happening today in Washington is every bit as corrupt and the consequences for our country have been severe.

Our nation's capital has been overrun by organized crime — Tom DeLay-style.

The gangsters are the lobbyists, cronies and lawmakers who have banded together and abused their power to serve their own self-interest. The casinos are the Capitol, which has had its doors thrown open for special interests to waltz in and help themselves, and the victims, of course, are the American people.

There is a price to pay for the culture of corruption, and we can see it in the state of our union.

Consider the state of our economy. On one side is Big Oil, which reaped $100 billion in profits in 2005. On the other side are middle-class families. Their wages are declining at the same time they are paying more for gas, heat, education and other needs.

Take the state of health care. On one side are the HMOs that benefited greatly from a $10 billion slush fund in the Medicare bill. On the other side are seniors who face gaps in their coverage and the high cost of prescription drugs.

And then there is our national debt. On one side are the special interests and the multimillionaires who have received tremendous tax breaks over the last five years. On the other side are our children and grandchildren who will pay for these tax cuts when they inherit billions in debt.

In our country today, we are seeing what happens when lawmakers and lobbyists conspire to put the needs of special interests before the needs of the American people. We have a country that grows more dependent on foreign oil each day. We have cronyism like that exposed by Hurricane Katrina, and we have a national security policy that does a good job of protecting Halliburton's bottom-line but not a good enough job protecting the American people.

I believe that together, America can do better. We can have a government that puts the American people — not special interests — first, and it all starts with cleaning up Washington.

Honest leadership should not be a partisan goal. It is the key to a stronger union. When leaders put America's interests ahead of their own self-interest, there is no limit to how far America can go. We can make progress is so many areas, including energy independence, affordable health care, retirement security and tax-relief for the middle class.

In 2006, it is time to make sure lawmakers always put progress before politics. This will require some painful but necessary steps designed to root out corruption and cronyism in our government and to put an end to the quid-pro-quo politics that gave rise to Jack Abramoff.

Our first order of business must be reinvigorating the enforcement of government ethics rules so that people know there are consequences for breaking the law. Second, we must fix the revolving door that shuffles officials and staff between government and K Street.

Third, we must reform the gift and travel rules that fostered pay-to-play politics like we've seen in the Abramoff affair and the K Street project.

Finally, we must shine a bright light on the relationship between lobbyists and lawmakers. We need disclosure rules that will tell constituents who their lawmakers are meeting with, what lobbyists are asking for and what gifts and perks they are giving.

I support these steps not because they are good politics in an election year but because they are the right steps to take in response to the corruption we have seen in Washington. I know there are some people who think cleaning up Washington is a lost cause and that corruption and government will always go hand in hand. To these individuals, I say you are wrong.

If we could kick the mob out of Las Vegas in the 1970s, we can change the culture of Washington and give America a government as good and honest as the people it serves.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Myth of Objectivity

Washington Post media critic Howard Kurtz’ s work (e.g. today's Slanted Press or Slanted Blogs?) needs corrective scrutiny fully as much as the rest of the media needs, or at any rate is given, his. Recently he docilely repeated the canard that Jack Abramoff directed contributions to Democrats. No, Howard. Some Abramoff clients, many with previous Democratic Party ties of their own, did indeed make some contributions of their own, on their own, to Democrats. The crucial distinction, verified by FEC report research, is again, for those of you who haven't been paying attention, that no Abramoff money went to Democrats.

As to Kurtz' discussion today on the alleged objectivity of the media, he completely fudges what could have been interesting by confusing "objective" with "fact-based." In fact, objectivity is as much a construct as is bias. What we agree to call objectivity is a certain tone, often reduced to hearing "both sides" of what are frequently multi-polar questions. What many call bias of right or left is inherent in having such an imprecise mechanism as a human person doing journalism.

An old British journalist named Claud Cockburn (who fathered two sons, Patrick and Alexander, the latter of whom began the PressClips column in the Village Voice, and who wrote the screenplay for the Humphrey Bogart movie Beat the Devil) had a few on-point observations to share in a recent article.

[Patrick Cockburn] goes on to revive some of [his father] Claud [Cockburn]’s maxims about journalism, and to update them against his own experience.

Claud proclaimed that facts and rumours were of equal significance, and warned against what he called ‘the factual heresy’ – the claim, dear to journalists with a saint-like idea of their own mission, that lumps of truth lie about like gold nuggets waiting to be picked up.

[Claud Cockburn] did not think journalism was either saintly or fact-bound. ‘All stories are written backwards,’ he once observed. ‘They are supposed to begin with the facts and develop from there, but in reality they begin with a journalist’s point of view from which the facts are subsequently organised.’

Patrick takes this disrespect even further. Reporters, he finds, ‘are ill-equipped to extract information which others do not want to impart’. Most great stories – Watergate, for instance – arise from deliberate leaks rather than from fearless investigation.

‘A journalist might like to be a spy but generally ends up as a conduit for information,’ [Patrick wrote].

True enough. I remember how in Warsaw the great German journalist Ludwig Zimmerer told his apprentice Chris Bobinski: ‘My boy, in this job you must learn to let your head be used as a latrine!’

--Neil Ascherson, Lust for Leaks, London Review of Books, September 1, 2005

Our culture would be greatly improved if it could get rid of a few comforting though meretricious myths -- the media as objective, the president as father-figure, the marketplace as rational. Otherwise it is going to continue to be surprised by the abilities of advertising mechanics (such as Karl Rove) to cruelly manipulate half a nation against its own economic and social best interests.

Thursday, January 05, 2006

Memorial Service for Sen. Eugene J. McCarthy
Photo: AP
On Saturday, January 14, 2006, at 11 o'clock in the morning, a public memorial service for Senator Eugene J. McCarthy will be held at the National Cathedral, Washington DC. The eulogist will be former President Bill Clinton, one of whose earliest national campaign experiences was as a McCarthy volunteer in 1968.

All are invited to join Senator McCarthy's family, friends, staff, associates, advisors, campaign workers, political heirs and volunteer co-conspirators in honoring the memory, works and spirit that Gene McCarthy gave the nation.

Every time the Senate exerts its Constitutional responsibilites as a check on Presidential power, every time the Democratic Party abandons business-as-usual when forced by citizen participation, every time a new generation of activists arises to refresh the political system, again McCarthy's efforts flower. He stood up alone and something happened; and we who survive him remain part of what he caused that is still happening.

The National Cathedral is located at the intersections of Massachusetts Avenue NW and Wisconsin Avenue NW. Parking on the Cathedral grounds is limited and is accessed from Wisconsin Avenue, Massachusetts Avenue or Garfield Street, but has been blocked by construction on part of the Cathedral grounds and on the Wisconsin Avenue side. Street parking is available in the neighborhood.

Map: Protestant Episcopal Cathedral Foundation
Washington National Cathedral showing Wisconsin Ave on the left, Mass Ave diagonally at lower left, Woodley Rd across the top and Garfield St NW across the bottom. Black-marked areas are unavailable for parking owing to construction.

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

hiatus, n., a pause

hiatus, n., a pause that both implies previous, and promises future, activity. ("When he himself might his hiatus make / With a mere merkin?" --Ld. Bacon, Hamnet, ou Le Distrait, III.i.83-84, 1607) [from Latin hiatus, from past participle of hiare, to gape.]