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Friday, December 05, 2003
Powerful ad, but who's this Kucinich guy?


Why do the Iraqis consistently get better treatment than us?

The New York Times reports that Bush said that "the future of the Iraqi people should not be mortgaged to the enormous burden of debt incurred to enrich Saddam Hussein's regime."

Bush then directed his comments at the Iraqi people themselves: "Trust me. The people of the United States will soon learn what it is like to be mortaged to the enormous burden incurred to enrich my regime. You don't want that."

Howard Dean replaced by Republican Pod Person

Seriously, what the hell does he think he's doing? This is bad. Very bad.

Not so brave without his Army tracksuit and military escort, is he?

According to a New York Times news analysis this morning, "President Bush had little choice on Thursday when he reversed himself and lifted the tariffs on imported steel that he imposed last year." So did he travel to a steel mill to break the news in person, look the steel workers in the eye and explain why he was forced to reverse the tariffs he had promised would last at least three years? Nope. Probably wouldn't have gotten quite the same reception he got in Iraq, though. Did he at least make a public statement to those who feel betrayed by him? Well . . . sort of:
"These safeguard measures have now achieved their purpose, and as a result of changed economic circumstances, it is time to lift them," the president said in a statement on Thursday read by his spokesman.
Let me run that for you again in case you missed it. He had his spokesman read his statement for him. Here's a man who has made a point of telling us how, when he meets with foreign leaders like Putin, Sharon, and Abbas, he "look[s them] in the eye". Can't he summon the same respect or courage for his own constituents?

Henry Schwarzschild's Letter of Resignation from Sh'ma

Henry Schwarzschild was a German Jew who came to the United States in 1939 and devoted his life to the protection of liberty. Reprinted here, for your consideration, is his letter of resignation from the journal Sh'ma in 1982:

This is my resignation from the Editorial Advisory Board of Sh'ma.

The contributions from me that you have published over the years have been few in number and less than earth-shaking in import, and you are therefore not deprived of a great editorial asset. In any case, my resignation has almost nothing to do with my relationship to Sh'ma as such. It is the consequence of a very much superordinated reorientation by me of my relationship to the Jewish community in the largest sense. Let me explain as best I can.

For a generation now, I have been deeply troubled by the chauvinistic assumptions and repressive effects of Israeli nationalism. I have experienced the War on Lebanon of the past few weeks as a turning point in Jewish history and consciousness exceeded in importance only by the End of the Second Commonwealth and the Holocaust. I have resisted the interference for over thirty years, but the War on Lebanon has now made clear to me that the resumption of political power by the Jewish people after two thousand years of diaspora has been a tragedy of historical dimensions. The State of Israel has demanded recognition a the modern political incarnation of the Jewish people. To grant that is to betray the Jewish tradition.

The State of Israel and its supporters have probably been right all along in arguing that political power comes at the price of the normal detritus of the nation state, such as Jewish criminals, prostitutes, and generals. They may also be right in asserting that the War on Lebanon is the sort of thing a Jewish state has to do to survive. I am not disposed to await the outcome of debates by politicians and theologians on whether the threat from the Palestine Liberation Organization was sufficiently clear and present to justify the killing of so many Lebanese and Palestinian men, women, and children, or only so many. I will not avoid an unambiguous response to the Israeli army's turning of West Beirut into another Warsaw ghetto.

I now conclude and avow that the price of a Jewish state is, to me, Jewishly unacceptable and that the existence of this (or any similar) Jewish ethnic religious nation state is a Jewish, i.e. a human and moral, disaster and violates every remaining value for which Judaism and Jews might exist in history. The lethal military triumphalism and corrosive racism that inheres in the State and in its supporters (both there and here) are profoundly abhorrent to me. So is the message that now goes forth to the nations of the world that the Jewish people claim the right to impose a holocaust on others in order to preserve its State.

For several decades, I have supported those minority forces in and for the State that wanted to salvage the values of peace and social justice that the Jewish tradition commands. The "blitzkrieg" in Lebanon, terrifying and Teutonic in its ruthlessness, shows how vain those hopes have been.

I now renounce the State of Israel, disavow any political connection or emotional obligation to it, and declare myself its enemy. I retain, of course, the same deep concern for its inhabitants, Jewish, Arab, and other, that I hold for all humankind.

I remain a member of the Jewish people -- indeed, I have no other inner identity. But the State of Israel has now also triumphed over the Jewish people and its history, for the time being at least. I deem it possible that the State, morally bankrupted and mortally endangered by its victories, will prove essential to the survival of the Jewish people and that it may likely take the Jewish people with it to eventual extinction. Yet I believe that the death of the Jewish people would not be inherently more tragic than the death of the Palestinian people that Israel and its supporters evidently seek or at least accept as the cost of the "security" of the State of Israel. The price of the millennial survival of the Jewish people has been high; I did not think the point was to make others pay it. That moral scandal intolerably assaults the accumulated values of Jewish history and tradition.

If those be the places where the State of Israel chooses to stand, I cannot stand with it. I therefore resign all connections with Jewish political and public institutions that will not radically oppose the State and its claim to Jewish legitimacy. Sh'ma is one of those.
Reprinted in "What We've Always Known: A Century's Sample of Dissenting Voices" by Marilyn Kleinberg Neimark, which is part of a collection of writings on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict entitled Wrestling with Zion, Tony Kushner & Alisa Solomon, eds. (2003)

Thursday, December 04, 2003
John Wayne and George W. Bush

Dawn has a terrific post about John Wayne and her own father. Having read the Noonan article she refers to, I had my own reaction:

I've long been a fan of Westerns, but I never much liked old Marion (I've always preferred Eastwood's work in that genre). The reason for that is that Wayne always played cartoonish "macho" characters who lived in an absurdly (and often literally) black-and-white world. I was never able to identify with or admire Wayne's characters, and they were usually too caricatured to enjoy. One exception, however, is John Ford's film "The Searchers".

In "The Searchers", Wayne plays the same honor-bound macho guy he usually played. This incarnation is named Ethan Edwards. At the start of the film, Ethan's family is attacked by marauding "savages", and Ethan sets off on a years-long journey to hunt down the perpetrators. Along the way, he is the epitomy of Noonan's "manly man": he never wavers in his convictions, never gives up, refuses to turn back, or to depart from his "code of honor". These are apparently the characteristics valued most highly by women like Noonan and men like George W. Bush. Like Dubya, Ethan tends to see things in terms of black and white, right and wrong, human and savage.

As the search continues, however, Ford and Wayne show us the other faces of "honor": fanaticism, obsession, paranoia, racism, senseless violence, and self-destruction. When Ethan discovers that his niece has been kidnapped but is not dead, he resolves to find her -- and then kill her, as his code demands, for she has been "contaminated" by the "savages" she has been living with. The final shot is a classic, and is a poignant depiction of how "men" like those Wayne often portrayed -- "manly" men who have no truck with ambiguity, compromise or change -- have no place in the modern world.

In "The Searchers", Ford gives the lie to the myth of the American Western and deconstructs the "man of honor" -- who never really existed as such, except on the silver screen. Until intelligent, educated people like Peggy Noonan and George W. Bush can divorce themselves from obsolete and dangerous manichaeist notions of "honor" and "evil", or until the electorate can cure its dependence on mythology and hero-worship, we will be led down the same path that Ethan Edwards walked in "The Searchers".

As an aside, I am hardly a John Wayne scholar, but I think I've seen enough of his movies to say, with some confidence, that most of the men he played, the kind of man Noonan gets all trembly over, would probably have decked her long before that rambling, sycophantic, desparate paean to phantoms of lost machismo had hit its stride.

Wednesday, December 03, 2003
Spread the love. Make the peace.

In the interests of peace in the blogosphere, I provide this link to Kashei, which links to a fantastic piece that appears to have run in The Guardian on a day that the whole editorial staff was on a sick-out.

Now I understand the nickname for Richard

Thanks again to Daniel Radosh, for pointing me to this spectacular photo.

I doubt he will ever win a national election, but now I get why Dick Gephardt is popular at home.

Poll Results

The results are in:

Kashei: Rich, not stupid. (unanimous)

Rick: Boring and uninteresting. (contested)

EPA's spirit of "collaboration" means at least three extra years of poisoned babies

Mike Leavitt, EPA's new administrator, made his first public statement since he took the job yesterday. It was a bland speech, somewhat rambling, peppered with dull anecdotes as strained vehicles for palliative sound bites intended to appeal to both sides of the environmental debate. But one thing Leavitt said interested me. He spoke of the importance of "collaboration" in addressing environmental issues. But, he assured his audience "[c]ollaboration is not code for compromise. It is the pursuit of what's possible checked only by the realities of what is workable."

Well, that's a nice sound bite, no question. But is it true? The proof, as they say, is in the policy, and this EPA's new proposal on mercury control is a clear example of compromise.

Perhaps it is unfair to blame the new administrator, barely a month into his job, for policies that may have been in the works since before he has been at the job. Then again, he hardly distanced himself from those policies. To the contrary, he took a classically Bush-ian approach: he touted what is essentially a fundamental step backward in environmental regulation as progress. Leavitt announced that his EPA would "move forward with the first-ever regulations addressing mercury emissions from power plants". What he didn't say was that the Bush administration has radically re-written regulations that would otherwise have gone into effect in two weeks, and in a way that smacks of "collaboration" with the power plants.

Leavitt mentioned technology several times in his speech. "More. Better. Faster. Newer. That's the tune you will hear from me," he crowed. That may be the tune, but the dance is "Not too much. Not too Fast. Better for the Industry." The existing plan called for mercury reduction using "maximum achievable technology". The new plan calls instead for a more flexible, cap-and-trade system, under which power plants would be assigned "points", which they could buy and sell, allowing them to pollute more or less depending on the number of points they had. The cap-and-trade system is a viable method of environmental regulation -- it has been successful in combatting acid rain, for example. However, even environmentalists who have supported cap-and-trade for other pollutants say that it is a dangerous approach for mercury, because of its extreme toxicity.

Coal-fired power plants are the nation's largest source of unregulated airborne mercury pollution, sending an estimated 48 tons into the atmosphere annually. The airborne mercury quickly falls into our lakes, streams and rivers, thus entering the food chain and threatening public health, especially for children and pregnant women who eat tainted fish. The EPA itself has acknowledged that "mercury has been identified as the toxic of greatest concern among all the air toxics emitted from power plants," causing neurological and developmental defects, particularly in pregnant women and children.

Leavitt and others in the Bush administration will no doubt tell us that the new proposal is a grand step forward. Proponents of the plan will point out that it will reduce annual output of mercury pollution from power plants by nearly 30% by 2010. They probably won't mention that this would still leave 34 tons a year in emissions, eight tons more than the limit promised by the Bush administration as part of its "Clear Skies" initiative. Or that the plan set to go into effect on December 15 of this year, the plan Leavitt's EPA is about to replace, would have required pollution controls by 2007, not 2010.

The CDC recently found that 8 percent of women of childbearing age have mercury in their blood exceeding levels deemed safe by the EPA. Do you know more than 12 women who might become pregnant between 2007 and 2010? If so, you might ask if any of them is pleased with the "cooperation" between the EPA and the energy industry that has resulted in a giant step back from the rules that would have gone into effect two weeks from now. That new spirit of "cooperation" makes it far more likely that at least one of them will have a baby damaged by mercury poisoning.

Tuesday, December 02, 2003
Blog King

And the Final Round begins...

The three Blogs left standing are:

Adrian Warnock



Evangelical Outpost

Here is the Challenge Question this week from King of Fools:

You are given the opportunity to secretly interview Saddam Hussein. Compose 5 questions that you would ask the recently deposed Iraqi dictator.

Also speaking of awards Wizbang, one of our permanant judges, has started the 2003 Weblog Awards at his site! Check it out!

New Poll

In light of Kashei's refusal to answer my questions because I have not earned her respect (see post below), I'm asking visitors to Rick's Cafe to answer at least one: Is Kashei rich, stupid, or both? You may wish to visit her weblog, Alarming News Spot On, to inform your response before voting.

Editor's Note: I (Rick) got the name of Kashei's site wrong. it has been corrected.

Bush supporters continue to elevate the discourse

I'd like to share with you, loyal readers, a little exchange that occured in the comments section over at Clareified.

The always delightful Dawn posted an impassioned plea for a return to objective journalism in the wake of the President's recent "secret" visit to the Baghdad airport (by "objective", she apparently means "doesn't intentionally lie to the at the request of the government" -- ridiculously high standards, if you ask me). In response to a comment suggesting that the American people had paid an awful lot of money for the President to have a photo-op, one of Dawn's frequent readers suggested that most people in this country don't think about "politics" (i.e., the cost of the president's actions), but rather focus on "real stuff" like "car payments and kids and school". She further opined, however, that the Baghdad photo-op "changed some opinions . . . from not caring to admiring."

I took issue with that, as it seemed that Kashei (an ardent Bush-lover) was implicitly conceding that the visit was a bit of costly fluff that had the intended effect of duping the ignorant masses into admiring Bush (a cowardly draft-dodger) for no good reason. So I responded (you can read the whole thing here):
Kashei: Do you count yourself among the ignorant unwashed who ignore Shrub's damaging policies and actions and just think he's "cool" because he likes to dress up in military costumes and pretend to be a part of an institution and a country he turned his back on years ago? Because every once in a while it sounds like you might be aware of how pernicious this administration is, and I can only conclude that you just don't give a shit. Which leads me to conclude that you are either rich or stupid (or some combination thereof). If you're going to give yourself over to hero-worship, there are certainly better candidates.
Apparently, I struck a nerve, because Kashei, always eloquent, outdid herself. Without actually making any arguments or addressing my concerns (I raised more issues and asked more questions in a subsequent comment (actually 3 due to character limitations)), she called me a "retard", "crazy", "uninteresting", and "a stereotype", called my arguments "intellectually lazy" and "boring", and suggested that I "have no idea what real people are like", and "should really get out more". When I pointed out that she hadn't actually responded to any of the issues I'd raised she played her trump card: "I'm just not so into arguing with people I can't respect," she wrote.

Can't argue with that.

Bush Responds to McCain Attack

CNN reported this weekend that "Leading Republican Sen. John McCain Sunday berated fellow lawmakers for 'spending money like a drunken sailor' and said President Bush was also to blame for pushing the nation toward higher interest rates and inflation."

Bush responded to that criticism at a photo op at Dynamic Metal Treating in Canton, Michigan yesterday. "Now, people like Johnny McCain are saying that my administration is spending money 'like a drunken sailor'. Well, to people who would attack the compassion of a government willing to drug this nation's old folks, I say this: I don't know what a drunken sailor spends like, but I do know what a drunk, coked-up draft-dodger spends like, and let me tell you, Mr. McCain, drugs are expensive. More expensive than most of our parents and grandparents can afford. And you often have to go into some sketchy neighborhoods, where you wouldn't want your Momma going. So to those who would criticize our spending, I say, 'hey, it's not my money'. And I've got plenty of my own. And so does my Momma. Love ya, Momma."

Monday, December 01, 2003
Remembrance Forgotten

In today's NY Times Maureen Dowd wrote a critique of the 8 designs for the World Trade Center Memorial that gave words to a sentiment I have been feeling since the first drafts of such designs were released, and far more eloquently than I could express. These "memorials" seem more interested in helping us forget than in aiding us to remember. The ephemeral lights, reflecting ponds, and expansive gardens that inhabit the dynamic artist renderings of the proposals reflect better the attitude of a day spa, Japanese garden or modern art exhibit, not the painful reality of the almost 3,000 dead in the most costly attack to ever touch American soil.

I would prefer a memorial in which I was forced to face the reality of 9/11 undiluted by smokes and mirrors. I would weep as I confronted the reality of 2,819 deaths and I would want to be forced to consider the geo-political situation that led to a group of people sinking to the lowest depths possible in order to conduct an attack against America’s innocent population. Then I would step outside the memorial, into a world where our government was learning from the attacks and taking a more vested interest in world politics, and the colossal importance of a growing population of poor, disenfranchised, and angry world citizens. A growing population of ill-contents, with nothing to lose, who are easily manipulated to enter the ranks of an army of evil. A country that was exerting its overwhelming power to build alliances and coalitions. A country committed to spreading wealth, prosperity and freedom throughout the world, not just making the rich richer at other's expense. I would exit the memorial into such a world and then I would wipe my tears away, and I would smile, because I would know that despite the tragic events of 9/11, I am living in a country where from the ashes of tragedy comes a vision of new hope and a better world.

Instead these eight proposals seem resigned to providing exactly the opposite. Instead of a weighty reminder of tragic time, these memorials offer an airy refuge, a fantasy of light and color. Gardens and reflecting pools where we can clear our minds and forget our worries, if only for a moment, before we must return to the reality of crumbling alliances, unilateral pre-emption and Republican "compassion".

Perhaps then, I am saddened to say, these designs are exactly right for the world in which we live. Still, I hope for the future.


I would like to congratulate Donald Rumsfeld on his "Foot in Mouth" award and also Arnold Schwarzenegger on receiving the runner up nominee. Maybe next year George.

And I didn't do so good in High School

I caught a great show last night. One that I suggest everyone out there go catch while it can still be caught. "We're All Dead" is a series of brilliant parodies of some of the classics. Oedipus Rex, Kafka's Metamorphoses and Hamlet are performed as hysterical musicals. The plays would be worth seeing even by people unfamiliar with the underlying works, but the more familiar you are with the originals, the better. (Ask Rick. He'll tell you the same.)

So here is the challenge: Do you have a sense of humor? A single literary bone in your body? An evening to kill? A residence in the New York City area? Get tickets to We're All Dead here.

The playwright's blog is worth a read also.

Sunday, November 30, 2003
New Weblog Showcase

From The Truth Laid Bear's New Webblog Showcase, a particularly fine crop this week. Here are my votes:

Damage: Global Warming Catastrophe - New Evidence -- great site, scary news.

BaySense: About BaySense (first post) -- It's always a pleasure to see a blogger willing to be objective about a highly political issue.

Venturpreneur: The Fiduciary Duty of Good Faith -- what can I say, I'm a lawyer, so I found this interesting.

Psyche's Knot: Black & Decker® - You're Scaring Me! -- very funny.

Counterfactually Speaking: An open letter to Michael Parenti -- thoughtful, well-written.

Joe's Thoughts: Politics Trumps Morals -- damn straight!

Because Miracle Whip was already "the next mayo"

As I recently emailed to Bill Simmons, ESPN.com's The Sports Guy, (don't want to be accused of ripping off my own stuff), this week's ESPNMag may have the best/worst quote in the history of sports journalism.

Cincinnati high school phenom-in-the-making OJ Mayo says: "Am I the next LeBron? I hope so, but I also want to be the next OJ. I'll do whatever it takes."

The article also says that "girls camp out at his locker". I suggest that they watch their back.

I apologize that there is no link to the article, but ESPNMag appears to have a two week lag for putting issues online. It would be disappointing anyway. Despite that quote, Mayo seems to be a very hard-working and personable kid. Alas, despite his "Juice Monster" tattoo, he doesn't have the juice to review his own press pre-publication like Arnold. (A must-read about Ahnuld, if you didn't read it during the recall campaign. This copy of the article isn't the easiest read, but the best that I could find. Thanks to radosh.net for the link. You get a bonus for clicking through to the permanent source of the borrowed link.)

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