It probably doesn’t bode well that I’m just four weeks into the semester and am already scrambling to keep up? I seem to have not only gotten older (in the 15 years since I last attended graduate school), but less efficient. And this afternoon is my French translation exam (the language I’ve chosen for my required competency); I haven’t studied since October. Que sera…

  • A plea to my brother: If this legislation passes, please get my beloved niece and nephew out of that state while they can still think.
  • Just read it. (I mean, “please.”)
  • I read about The Tapes in the Times on Sunday, and I have to say that I wasn’t as excited about them as others seem to be. Some said they “don’t appear to reflect too good” on Bush, many got excited about the Big Pot Revelation (still waiting for the Big Coke Revelation). Yes, he came across as calculating and manipulative, but we knew that already. I wish he was as moderate today as he sounded then (when he referred to recognizing the need for using “code words” with “this crowd” – referring to evangelicals). But Howard Fineman picked up on some exemplars of a well-known Bush trait, the “Win At Any Cost” factor:

    Bush’s response (to the threat posed by Steve Forbes in 2000)? To Wead – who might pass word along to Forbes – Bush threatened to take his ball and go home, then wait for the moment of payback. Were Forbes to win the GOP nomination by attacking him too hard, Bush told Wead, he could forget any support from the Bush family, including from his brother Jeb, the governor of Florida. Forbes “can forget Texas,” Bush tells Wead. “And he can forget Florida. And I will sit on my hands.” In other words, Bush would rather see the Democrats win the White House than a Republican who humiliated him by defeating him in the nomination race.

    While he fretted that Forbes might play too rough, it was of course okay for Bush himself to do so. Taking the measure of Al Gore in the summer of 2000, demonizing him as “pathologically a liar,” Bush was getting an angle on his foe – and cited family tradition. In 1988, then Vice-President George H.W. Bush ran a campaign that used cultural “wedge” issues to savage the candidacy of Democrat Michael Dukakis. “I may have to get a little rough for a while,” Bush the Younger tells Wead. “But that is what the old man had to do with Dukakis, remember?” Of course he remembered: Dubya and Wead had worked together on that campaign.

  • See Josh Marshall’s post on the tangled web involved in the administration’s planned attack on the AARP.
  • They’ve got no one to blame but themselves

    …A series of layoffs and mill closures culminated earlier this year with Pacific Lumber warning that it was on the brink of bankruptcy.[—]
    The demise of Pacific Lumber — with its own town and the world’s largest privately owned groves of ancient redwoods — would strike Humboldt County like a 300-foot redwood toppling to the forest floor.

    Pacific Lumber remains the biggest taxpayer and private employer, with friends and former employees in key places in county government and the state Capitol. The company supports charities and community affairs — and offers college scholarships to employees’ children.

    Since the early 1990s, Pacific Lumber has been at the center of one of the country’s longest and most volatile environmental battles over the fate of some of the world’s tallest trees and the wildlife they support.

    To end the strife, six years ago, the state and federal governments made a $480-million deal for 7,500 acres of Pacific Lumber’s oldest, grandest trees, creating the new Headwaters Preserve. The deal also required the firm to limit logging on its remaining 200,000 acres. But now the company contends that the terms are a huge financial burden and that it can’t get enough logging permits to turn a profit.

    “We’re 140 years old … and we’re about to go bankrupt because of overlapping and duplicative regulation,” company President Robert Manne said in a recent interview.

    Company officials warn that if they have to declare bankruptcy, monitoring and remedial work on its lands would be dramatically scaled back, to the detriment of wildlife and water quality. But state officials say that terms of the agreement would have to be followed no matter what.

    Environmentalists and other critics argue that the company has only itself to blame for its difficulties. They point out that financier Charles Hurwitz, whose Texas-based Maxxam Corp. acquired Pacific Lumber in a contentious takeover in 1985, soon liquidated hundreds of millions of dollars in assets, including a welding division and a farming corporation.

    “They have taken so much money out of the company and their debt is so high that without the logs … they are hurting,” said Richard Wilson, who was former Gov. Pete Wilson’s forestry chief when negotiations for the Headwaters deal were underway.

    Under Hurwitz, Pacific doubled logging volumes, spawning years of costly protests by activists who blocked logging roads and perched in trees to prevent them from being cut. There have been hundreds of arrests, numerous injuries and one death.

    Since the mid-1990s, a number of Pacific Lumber’s neighbors have contended that excessive logging along steep slopes has triggered landslides, filled streams with sediment and flooded their property.

    Before the 1999 Headwaters deal, the California Department of Forestry suspended the company’s license for repeated forest rules violations…

    (Read the book The Last Stand: The War Between Wall Street and Main Street Over California’s Ancient Redwoods for some history.)

  • The UK Guardian published a disturbing excerpt from a new book that looks at the process behind Britain’s decision to join the US in invading Iraq. See the accompanying commentary, also. I know Tony Blair has some big fans among Left At The Altar readers, but I remain flummoxed: what was he thinking?
  • This kind of talk can create unemployment. But Tom Regan rounds up world press opinion that journalists, while not being specifically targeted by the US military, are left vulnerable by virtue of “negligence and indifference.”
  • Two articles this weekend wonder how the US military can continue to function without a draft: in World Press Review and the Christian Science Monitor (which actually provides a round-up of other articles). I didn’t know this about the reprehensible No Child Left Behind act (from the WPR story):

    A provision of President George W. Bush’s No Child Left Behind Act allows recruiters special access to the names, phone numbers and addresses of high school juniors and seniors. People can opt out, but it is like a form of negative option recruiting — one has to take the initiative to be taken off the list. The neighborhoods of children whose parents have opted out at greater rates are often in wealthier and more educated parts of a state.

    Body and Soul posted about the intensified recruiting efforts; there are some interesting comments to the post, as well.

  • Very interesting series in the Christian Science Monitor on religion in modern-day Europe and how public expression and participation differ from the US. An “enlightening” excerpt:

    The differences are rooted in the 18th century, when the Enlightenment, the philosophical revolution that laid the foundations of the modern Western world, was interpreted quite differently by Americans and Europeans in one crucial respect.

    In Europe, says Grace Davie, an expert on religion at Exeter University in England, “the Enlightenment was seen as freedom from religion … getting away from dogma, whereas in the [US] it meant freedom to believe.”

    In America, a country founded in part by religious dissidents fleeing an oppressive government, “religious groups are seen as protecting individuals against the interference of the state,” says Mr. Weil.

    In Europe, on the other hand, the post-Enlightenment state “is seen as protecting individuals from the intrusion of religious groups,” Weil argues, after centuries during which the official church, be it Catholic or Protestant, had always been closely identified with temporal powers.

    While religion and democracy have always been intertwined in America, where churches were at the forefront of battles against slavery and in favor of civil rights, this has by no means been the case in Europe. There, estab-lished churches in countries such as Spain and France long opposed political reform.

    European mistrust of public religion is heightened even further, however, when it is mixed with patriotism in the kind of rhetoric that President Bush often uses.

    “God and patriotism are an explosive mixture,” cautions Nicolas Sartorius, an éminence grise of the Spanish left who spent many years in jail during Gen. Francisco Franco’s dictatorship. The dictator’s guiding ideology, he recalls pointedly, was known as “Catholic nationalism.”

    After a tortured, centuries-long history of wars fought over religion, in whose name millions died, Europeans are deeply skeptical today of patriotic exhortations infused with religious meaning, says Karsten Voigt, German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder’s adviser on relations with Washington.

    And nowhere is this truer than in Germany, he adds. “The mixture of patriotism and religion is anathema and heresy in German religious life because it was misused and went too far in the past,” Mr. Voigt explains. “Remember, German soldiers in World War I wore belt buckles reading ‘Gott Mitt Uns’ [God With Us].”

    Dominique Moisi, one of France’s most respected political analysts, agrees. Viewed from this side of the Atlantic, “the combination of religion and nationalism in America is frightening,” he says. “We feel betrayed by God and by nationalism, which is why we are building the European Union as a barrier to religious warfare.”

    It’s a three-part series – the third part yet to be posted.

  • From a Buzzflash editorial on the GOP-spin on Jeff Gannon, aka “Bulldog”:

    But the real issue here is that the White House Republican noise machine has now come out in defense of prostitution — and gay prostitution in particular — as a private issue, which Republicans are entitled to practice without being exposed by mean bloggers. Maybe the White House is scared of Gannon’s little black book filled with client names? Or we’ve just always misunderstood that they were earnest and committed supporters of gay hookers.

    So, let’s hear one for the Republicans, the hobgoblins of hypocrisy. Who would have thought that they would have embraced gay prostitution as a personal choice and privacy issue?

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