It seems that First Daughter Jenna Bush is getting married, and she and the groom, showing some class and good sense, have chosen not to make their wedding a huge public spectacle. According to The Washington Post, the American people are very upset about this.
I’ve certainly got my share of gripes with the Bush administration (disastrous war, determination to give inequality a boost, catastrophic approach to climate change, illegal surveillance, systematic torture, etc.) but I’m gonna say they deserve a pass on this one. And, further, I’d hypothesize that I’m not alone. I haven’t heard anyone complain about the non-public nature of the wedding, nobody’s emailed to urge me to blog about it, indeed, I didn’t even realize this was happening until the Post front page informed me that I felt deprived of the wedding photos I crave.
Our guest blogger is Glenn Burleigh, ACORN’s statewide lead organizer on the Missouri voter education campaign.
While the struggle for the Democratic nomination has dragged on and taken up the attention of the progressive movement, there has been a sharp battle fought out in five states over the deceptively-titled Civil Rights Initiatives (CRI), which would ban Affirmative Action programs. This past weekend, the progressive movement in Missouri scored a major victory and stopped this reactionary initiative from making the 2008 ballot.
This past Sunday, the Missouri Civil Rights Initiative (MOCRI) failed to submit the signatures necessary for qualification for the 2008 general election ballot. Unlike in other states where the CRI’s have failed to qualify because signatures were disqualified, in Missouri they didn’t even bother with turning in signatures. Why? Community, labor, faith, and other progressive minded forces organized quickly and effectively, to educate the voters about what MOCRI was really about:
“They talk about California and Washington being progressive states, but Ward Connerly won there. In Missouri, we beat him,” said Brandon Davis, Chair of the WeCAN Coalition that led a successful grass-roots effort to defeat the so-called Missouri Civil Rights initiative.
MOCRI was the Missouri right’s favorite choice for a wedge issue on the 2008 ballot. With the Democratic nominee assured of being either an African-American or a woman, mobilizing reactionary anti-civil rights voters was seen as a key piece of their electoral strategy in many swing states. With McCain’s nomination, the Republicans feel more confident in Arizona, one of the other swing states that they have launched a CRI petition drive, and so Missouri (and our potential electoral votes) became a central battleground in this struggle. The right mobilized massive financial resources to Missouri. In the final weeks, they were willing to pay to fly signature gatherers to the state, pay for their hotel rooms, and pay up to $10 per signature. In the end, this was still not enough to overcome a well-organized progressive movement.
Since this victory, the right has panicked and is trying to rush wedge issues such as Photo ID and TABOR onto the ballot by way of the legislature. In the end this victory positions Missouri, once again, as a battleground state where progressive victory is possible. It also shows that progressive forces here are organized and have matured into a statewide political power.
One weird recent defense policy subplot is that the Air Force has acquired a large pot of money to produce propaganda ads aimed at convincing the American public that the Air Force is super-important and needs more money. The fruits, a demagogic, inaccurate, fear-mongering ad about our alleged vulnerability to missile attacks on satellites:
Noah Shachtman details the many ways in which nothing said in this ad is true. I’d also associate myself with what Robert Farley has to say. But let’s also note that not only does this vulnerability not exist, but if some other country did shoot a missile at a civilian satellite there’s nothing Space Command could possibly do about it — they’re not going to intercept the missile. What we’d have to do is retaliate against the perpetrator with perfectly normal atmospheric planes and missiles.
George WIll reviews Rick Perlstein‘s masterpiece, Nixonland and picks a very strange nit: “Calling South Vietnam’s army ‘a joke’ is not historical analysis, it is an unworthy dismissal of men who fought and died for more than a decade.”
But, look, South Vietnam’s military was a joke. That was the whole crux of the issue with Vietnam. The South Vietnamese government had little legitimacy and couldn’t build workable state institutions. Even after years of intensive U.S. backing, the South Vietnamese army couldn’t hold off the North without substantial financial and logistical aid, and the assistance of American air and sea power.
UPDATE: Rick comments to say he “have chosen a better word than ‘joke.’” Still, ARVN was not a very competent fighting force — that’s why they lost! It’s true, as various commenters are pointing out, that North Vietnamese forces also received Soviet support, but the quantity of U.S. support for the South was always much greater than the quantity of Soviet support for the North. It was like Afghanistan in reverse (or Afghanistan was like Vietnam in reverse) — the commies had better proxies, so a low-cost endeavor for the U.S.S.R. was able to create a high cost endeavor for the U.S.A.
Scott Lemieux gets speculative:
Admittedly, this is the kind of counterfactual that’s impossible to prove, but my guess is that if she had voted against the war Clinton would be the Democratic candidate. Given the closeness of the race, her inherent advantages going in, and that the war had to be a liability it’s hard to imagine that she wouldn’t have prevailed without the Iraq albatross. Whether or not Clinton’s support was sincere — I don’t think it really matters — sometimes getting big policies wrong really is politically damaging. (See also the 2006 midterms.) This is evidently a good thing.
I think that’s right. To take the notion that good policy is good politics out of the realm of pure idealism, I’d say the point is that policy that can be seen to have turned out poorly is bad politics. With some bad policies, the costs are either hidden or deferred to the future (or both, as with excessive carbon emissions) in which case bad policy can be excellent politics. But with something like a war that’s going to have a lot of very obvious short-run consequences, it’s genuinely quite helpful politically to have sound substantive judgment.
On July 2, 2003, President Bush cavalierly dismissed violence in Iraq when he infamously proclaimed, “There are some who feel like that the conditions are such that they can attack us there. My answer is bring ‘em on.
His comments were swiftly criticized. Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ) called them “irresponsible and inciteful.” The UK Guardian dubbed the remarks a “gesture of presidential bravado.” Even Bush himself seemed to regret his comments, telling reporters in January 2005:
Sometimes, words have consequences you don’t intend them to mean. ‘Bring ‘em on’ is the classic example, when I was really trying to rally the troops and make it clear to them that I fully understood, you know, what a great job they were doing. [...]
I don’t know if you’d call it a regret, but it certainly is a lesson that a president must be mindful of, that the words that you sometimes say. … I don’t know if you’d call that a confession, a regret, something.
But as Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) reveals in his new book, Bush again used that infamous phrase as recently as 2007. Last night on MSNBC, Reid said that on the anniversary of 9/11 last year, he was “complaining” to Bush about the situation in Iraq. Bush replied, “Bring ‘em on. We’re killing them. We’re killing them.” Watch it:
At the time of Bush’s comments in September 2007, 78 percent of Iraqis were saying that “things are going badly for the country overall.” Iraqi civilian deaths had risen for both the two previous months, and monthly U.S. troop casualties were surpassing those in 2006.
As in 2003, the last thing that Iraqis and the U.S. military needed was to “bring ‘em on.”
Transcript: Read more
Today is National Train Day, which would be my favorite day of the year but it’s actually the first one ever so I have no particular opinions about it.
With the price of gas approaching $4 a gallon, more commuters are abandoning their cars and taking the train or bus instead.
Mass transit systems around the country are seeing standing-room-only crowds on bus lines where seats were once easy to come by. Parking lots at many bus and light rail stations are suddenly overflowing, with commuters in some towns risking a ticket or tow by parking on nearby grassy areas and in vacant lots.
The question is: What happens next? What really shouldn’t happen is for politicians to run around talking as if expensive gasoline is a temporary phenomenon. Responsible leaders will tell people that prices will fluctuate, but that as long as the Chinese and Indian economies keep growing, the general trajectory will be upward. Then they should sympathize with people who would like to take transit, but find it prohibitively inconvenient and with people who’ve just started taking transit and are finding it annoying and they should commit to making transit better and more available.
Alternatively, you could act like southern Florida and propose steep service reductions on your commuter rail system. But that’d be crazy. Jurisdictions with existing commuter rail lines need to make service more frequent. With transit, you can get into good equilibria and bad equilibria. On the good path, you have tons and tons of people who want to ride your line and as a result service is very frequent so as to accommodate all the traffic. And because service is so frequent, lots of people find the line convenient to use. On the bad path, infrequent service leads to low ridership which leads to infrequent service which leads to low ridership.
What do you get when you combine warming’s impact on the habitat of grizzly bears with the melting of the polar bears’ Arctic ice feeding ground?
“One of the real things that is happening is that grizzlies are moving north, at the same time the polar bears are forced to be on the beach and we have found a number of grizzly bear polar bear hybrids,” said biologist George Divoky, who has worked in the Arctic region for over three decades.
Such hybrids in zoos are not uncommon, where it “was considered a ‘cryptid’ (a hypothesized animal for which there is no scientific proof of existence in the wild),” as Wikepedia explains (here).
The first confirmed Grolar Bear found in the wild was in April 2006:
A DNA test conducted by Wildlife Genetics International in British Columbia confirmed that it was a hybrid, with the mother a polar bear and the father a grizzly
And just so animal rights activists don’t start shouting that humans have driven polar bears into desperate one-night stands with the fearsome grizzlies, National Geographic explains (here), it’s not like that at all: