Filtered news 8/11

Sick, sick priorities    “I’m getting a little depressed about Iraq… . There doesn’t seem to be any way out.”  Yeah, poor, poor Dubya.  Nevermind all the dead people, maimed people, tortured people, sick people, hungry people displaced people, terrified people and hopeless people....  They're certainly ne reason to be "a little depressed."

You just can't kill enough Dick Cheney for strikes against Iranian forces.

  Two American Bar Association committees say that “President Bush’s of terror suspects should be overturned” as it still permits harsh treatment in violation of international treaties. “The CIA should follow the same rigorous standards adopted by the military that are intended, in part, to ensure that captured U.S. soldiers are extended the same protections,” according to an ABA resolution expected to be adopted next week. “ from rules that guide even our armed forces,” ABA president Karen Mathis said. 

American income inequality :

In America, the top one-tenth of one percent of earners makes about the same money per year collectively as the millions of Americans in the bottom fifty percent combined. This is putting a tight squeeze on the middle class, while leaving millions of others in the cold. On Friday, August 10th, David Brancaccio talks with Pulitzer prize-winning financial reporter David Cay Johnston, as well as author and advocate Beth Shuman about the state of our country’s vast income divide and how it’s hurting those just trying to make ends meet. The will feature book excerpts from both authors and stories of low-wage earners fighting for income equality.

Who -- damn it -- supports the troops?  Last month, congressional Dems and the Bush White House fought over whether to give U.S. troops a pay increase for 2008. Dems fought for a 3.5% raise, Bush insisted that was . The “pro-military” president thought the troops could get by with less.

This month, congressional Dems and the Bush White House are , this time over educational benefits for those who wear the uniform. Take a wild guess who wants to do more for the troops.

The Bush administration opposes a Democratic effort to restore full educational benefits for returning veterans, according to an official’s comments last week.

Senate Democrats, led by Virginia’s Jim Webb, want the government to pay every penny of veterans’ educational costs, from tuition at a public university to books, housing and a monthly stipend.

The G.I. Bill has been neglected in recent years, and with no lengthy wars with major troop deployments in decades, there’s been minimal political pressure to keep the education benefits at full-strength. As of now, veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan can expect the federal government to cover only 75% of their tuition costs. Dems and veterans’ advocates believe that’s not enough. The Bush administration is unmoved. What a surprise.

Being black is dangerous “Nearly half the people murdered in the U.S. each year are black, part of a persistent pattern in which by violent crime, according to a new Justice Department study released yesterday.”

The ONE campaign released the results of a bipartisan survey of likely Democratic and Republican New Hampshire primary voters. :

– Nearly all Democrats (97%) and 70% of Republicans agree that America’s standing has suffered in recent years.

– Democrats (91%) and Republicans (78%) agree that the United States also needs to improve diplomatic relations by doing more to help improve health, education and opportunities in the poorest countries around the world.

– Democrats (90%) and Republicans (85%) agree that it is in keeping with the country’s values and our history of compassion to lead an effort to solve some of the most serious problems facing the world’s poorest people.

See more results from the survey

   Immediately following President Bush’s , MSNBC’s Chris Matthews spent three unbroken minutes fawning over the president’s “powerful rendition” of his “philosophy” without uttering a single critical word. “I thought in listening to the president, I was listening to one of the great neoconservative minds,” gushed Matthews.

Calling Bush “powerful” on three separate occasions, Matthews marveled at the president’s defense of his foreign policy:

We were given a rare opportunity to hear the real philosophy of this administration with regard to the war in Iraq. A powerful rendition by the president of why we’re there. When he talked about the fact that we can support emerging democracies in the Middle East, and that’s the only way we can prevent future 9/11’s, you’re getting to the heart of why this administration is fighting that war in Iraq.

“This president is ready to fight like a rock through the rest of his term,” Matthews proclaimed. “He made it clear that he’s going to fight as long as it takes to develop a democracy in Iraq. There’s not going to be any change come September.”  Bush’s comments today, which contained , were nothing more than a rehashing of his tired old rhetoric. Yet somehow, Matthews, who is by partisan conservatives, only saw it through rose-colored glasses.  Matthews’ monologue is unsurprising, however, given his long record of hero worship for Bush and his supposedly “powerful” presidency:

– “We’re proud of our president. Americans love having a guy as president, a guy who has a little swagger, who’s physical.” []

– “Sometimes it glimmers with this man, our president, that kind of sunny nobility.” []

– “I like him. Everybody sort of likes the president, except for the real whack-jobs, maybe on the left.” []

– “A little bit of Lincoln there, I think,” referring to Bush finally admitting that telling Iraqi insurgents to “bring it on” in 2003 “sent the wrong signal to people.” []

Given the president’s on Iraq, Matthews should check his uncritical awe at the door.  Media Matters catches Matthews lamenting over the lack of in the Democratic presidential race.

Rudy and the terrorists  Wayne Barrett has a piece in this week's Village Voice that just rips into Rudy Giuliani's ceaseless and self-promoting claims that he's been immersed in terrorism issues practically from the day he entered public service.

In a July appearance at a Maryland synagogue, Giuliani sketched out his counterterrorism biography, a resume that happens to be rooted in falsehood.

"As United States Attorney, I investigated the Leon Klinghoffer murder by Yasir Arafat," he told the Jewish audience, referring to the infamous 1985 slaying of a wheelchair-bound, 69-year-old New York businessman aboard the Achille Lauro, an Italian ship hijacked off the coast of Egypt by Palestinian extremists. "It's honestly the reason why I knew so much about Arafat," says Giuliani. "I knew, in detail, the Americans he murdered. I went over their cases."

On the contrary, Victoria Toensing, the deputy assistant attorney general at the Justice Department in Washington who filed a criminal complaint in the Lauro investigation, says that no one in Giuliani's office "was involved at all." Jay Fischer, the Klinghoffer family attorney who spearheaded a 12-year lawsuit against the PLO, says he "never had any contact" with Giuliani or his office. "It would boggle my mind if anyone in 1985, 1986, 1987, or thereafter conducted an investigation of this case and didn't call me," he adds. Fischer says he did have a private dinner with Giuliani in 1992: "It was the first time we talked, and we didn't even talk about the Klinghoffer case then."

The dinner was arranged by Arnold Burns, a close friend of Fischer and Giuliani who also represented the Klinghoffer family. Burns, who was also the finance chair of Giuliani's mayoral campaign, was the deputy U.S. attorney general in 1985 and oversaw the probe. "I know of nothing Rudy did in any shape or form on the Klinghoffer case," he says.

The rest of the piece is long, but well worth it if you want chapter and verse on the extent of Rudy's actual involvement with terrorism prior, during, and after 9/11. Short answer: even if you squint, there's no there there.

Entertainment Stephen Colbert examines Rudy Giuliani’s terror rhetoric and asks the question: Should we let America’s Mayor choose America’s language?   (2) |  (4)   (0) |  (5) “Rudy has used the words ‘Islamic terrorism’ so many times that the phrase ‘September 11th’ is getting jealous.”

The vacation president  There’s just something amusing about the president’s penchant for vacations. As governor of Texas, Bush enjoyed an inordinate amount of “down time,” and he brought that style to the White House. When he’s at “work,” Bush leaves plenty of time for exercise and likes to knock off early. More importantly, he likes to get away from “work” more than anyone I’ve ever seen.  The amusing part of this, I suppose, is that one might assume that the president would have plenty to do. There is a war going on, and there are a variety of crises (economic, diplomatic, strategic) that demand real leadership. But Bush just . ()

President Bush tries to set an example for Americans whenever he can, in terms of physical fitness, faith, optimism and a certain overall moral rectitude. He also sets an excellent example on taking vacation.

On Thursday, Bush left for a weekend in Kennebunkport, Maine, and his family’s summer compound, Walker’s Point. On Monday, he heads to his Crawford retreat, where he has spent all or part of 418 days of his presidency, according to Mark Knoller, a CBS News White House correspondent and meticulous record-keeper.… Bush’s August sojourn will be his 65th trip to Crawford, according to Knoller.

The Houston Chronicle added, “The presidential vacation-time record holder is the late Ronald Reagan, who tallied 436 days in his two terms. At 418 days, and with 17 months to go in his presidency, Bush is going to beat that easily.”  It’s an interesting contrast with what the .

That's patriotism, conservative style  If he could prevent a terrorist attack, he wouldn't....  As 9/11 approaches, expect more and more of these .  Funny how he fails to point out that America was unified until we were lied to repeatedly by this administration which used charlatans as witnesses.  And all the war hawks in our media propped up as much terror as they could articulate so that the country feared a nuclear attack by Saddam more than life itself and we just had no choice but to invade a country that never attacked us. The right wing blogs try to perpetuate this fear every chance they get and like Malkin, they get upset when a bridge collapses in Minesota and the government quickly rules out terrorism….

America’s fabric is pulling apart like a cheap sweater.

What would sew us back together?

Another 9/11 attack.

The Golden Gate Bridge. Mount Rushmore. Chicago’s Wrigley Field. The Philadelphia subway system. The U.S. is a target-rich environment for al Qaeda.

Is there any doubt they are planning to hit us again?

If it is to be, then let it be. It will take another attack on the homeland to quell the chattering of chipmunks and to restore America’s righteous rage and singular purpose to prevail.

He misses the unity Osama’s attack instilled in our land and what better way to regain those warm and fuzzy jingoistic feelings highlighted by American flags being sold at twenty bucks a pop on street corners like Hollywood Star maps so we could hoist them on our cars. Those were the days. I wonder if Stu will volunteer to be the first person killed in an attack so that in his mind his death will serve the purpose he so longs for… (be gentle)

BilloWorld    (3787) |  (6055)   (1815) |  (3674) What a beautifully simple world Bill O’Reilly lives in. Devoid of nuance, self-introspection, or intellectual honesty, he can happily just go and categorize everyone is such neat compartments: Here’s the Bush-haters; there are America-haters, don’t you think it ironic that in BilloWorld, everyone else is the hater?

Obviously, in BilloWorld, someone with the audacity to even have a program discussing if there are grounds to impeach President Bush has to be a hater. Bill Moyers did a thoughtful and well-reasoned program (which, if you haven’t seen, ?) but obviously, it’s outrageously biased (ahem…pot, meet kettle).

Moyers refused to appear on The Factor to answer for this lack of “balance” (smart man), so what’s the Falafel Man to do? He asks his flunkie to approach Moyers while hailing a cab. That’s “journalism,” FOXstyle!

Everybody hates Bush    (3627) |  (4924)   (1003) |  (1735)  We almost missed showing you this little tidbit from last weekend’s “The Chris Matthews Show”. Matthews asks David Brooks who among the Republican presidential contenders would be considered the rightful heir to the Bush throne and David lets slip what we have all known for a while: Bush isn’t that popular, even with his own party:

BROOKS: Bush…you gotta remember though…a lot of Republicans hate Bush. I mean, we look..we talk about the Democrats, how they hate Bush, in private…

MATTHEWS: What do you mean, “hate Bush?”

BROOKS: They think Bush is incompetent and destroying their party.

Look how absolutely gobsmacked Tweety is with this information. For me personally, it just makes me angry. Because what it tells me is that these politicos enabling Bush to dismantle our Constitution don’t even have the courage of their own convictions–it’s just Party over Country over and over again.  Nitpicker points out that Brooks unintentionally revealed his true feelings about the party with Romney too...

  Giuliani responds to sick rescue workers by saying he was at Ground Zero as often as they were. EC has obtained the video:   I think this is going to be a real problem for His Rudiness. And unlike many gaffes, which are just offhanded statements that tell us little about the person in question, I think this one points to an underlying contempt for the folks who ended up sacrificing their health or even their lives during the clean-up process.

  • Such a pity     The committee is using misleading mail that tells voters an "audit" found "irregularities" in their party affiliation.

    Um...Sure...whatever you say     The freshman congressman said religious diversity in Congress put the country in danger. But that was just a "historic observation."     : God may destroy America over Hindu prayer in the senate. Muslim congressman probably won't help any either.   When Sali was running for Congress in 2006, Vice President Cheney visited his state and said, “Bill is ready to make a difference in Washington, and he’s going to be the kind of Congressman .” Now-Congressman Bill Sali (R-ID) is demonstrating his worth by the new :

    We have not only a Hindu prayer being offered in the Senate, we have a Muslim member of the House of Representatives now, Keith Ellison from Minnesota. Those are changes — and they are not what was envisioned by the Founding Fathers.

    Really? Sali may want to take a peek at of the Constitution, which notes that there is no religious test for public office:

    Sali’s not alone in his bigotry. In Dec. 2006, shortly after Rep. Keith Ellison (D-MN) was elected as the first Muslim congressman, Rep. Virgil Goode (R-VA) warned that “American citizens” need to “wake up” or “there will likely be .”  Last month, protestors belonging to the Christian Right anti-abortion group Operation Save America loudly interrupted the delivered in the Senate. Sali said that when a Hindu prayer is offered, it “creates problems for the .”    MahaBlog notes that Thomas Jefferson argued strongly for .

      What might the market turmoil mean for jobs, prices, and incomes?  -- Jared Bernstein on

    Entertainment  In the wake of this weeks report detailing hundreds of thousands of in Iraq, Jon Stewart takes a look back at all the other things that have gone mysteriously missing in the “magic hat” of Iraq.    (3595) |  (3785)   (1323) |  (2341)  According to General Patreaus, it’s all a . Phew! I was worried there for a second that nearly 200,000 guns went missing in a country filled with people who would like to use them to kill American soldiers. See, everything in Iraq really is going well.

    Global War on Verbs  (Alternative Headline: Emerging GOP consensus that War on Terror is being waged in the passive voice!)  I think it's a measure of how brain dead the Republicans have become on the "war on terror" that their big puffing or policy statements on the issue now most often amount to bizarre and sometimes incomprehensible grammatical reformulations or, failing that, reorderings of sentence structure.  So for example, now you have Mitt Romney , "There's not a global war on terror. There's a global war being waged by the terrorists and if I am president, there will be a global war waged on the terrorists and we will win."  This comes after Rudy's the War on Terror as the "Terrorists' War on Us." (see the )  Their perplexity and paralysis in the face of reality is making them look like one of those alien computers or robots at the end of one of the old Star Trek episodes where Capt. Kirk hits them with too much kick-ass logic and smoke starts to come out of their ears and then they explode.

    Entertainment Jon Stewart salutes Mitt Romney’s five sons, who have bravely decided to make the for their country and hit the campaign trail with their father.   (3612) |  (4246)   (1328) |  (2603)

    Romney: My sons are all adults, and they have made their decisions about their careers and they have chosen not to serve in the military.

    Stewart: Fair answer. I respect that. As long as you don’t then try to actually equate what they’re doing now with military service, i think you’re in the clear.

    Romney: One of the ways my sons are showing support for our nation is helping me get elected because they think I’d be a great president.

    Stewart. Oh, I get it. So they’re not actually in the military, but they’re about as close as you can get to supporting our nation.

    Terrorists are criminals This op-ed came out a couple of days ago, but I find the argument from Wesley Clark and Kal Raustiala that and deserve to be treated as such has a great deal of merit. There was this fad, post-9/11, for deciding that treating terrorism as a "miltiary" rather than a "law enforcement" problem would constitute getting serious about it, but that's mostly proven to be a huge fiasco.

    Now, of course, the "law enforcement" problem of Osama bin Laden ran into the snag that he was located in a country whose de facto government was protecting him and encouraging his activities. That -- Taliban control of Afghanistan -- was properly defined as a military issue, but it's been a huge mistake to take the view that, in general, we're in a "war" with what amounts to an unusually bloodthirsty but only medium-sized criminal syndicate.

    Rethinking objectivity One of the Atlantic's crack team of interns has pointed out to me that many of the arguments I've made here about the press, objectivity, and getting spun were summed up in proper essay/argument form by Brent Cunningham in a called "Rethinking Objectivity." Rather than balance that out with the observation that "some critics" think this intern is wrong, I'll just conclude with the fact that he was, in fact, correct and you should read Cunningham's article.

    Bill O'Reilly and John Edwards, Two Ships that Crossed in the Night  Fibbing goof Bill O'Reilly can't understand why John Edwards won't give any love to Fox News after they've given him such fair coverage on Fox. Take a look. It'll start your weekend on a good note ...    Also nice to see the Foxies crying a river about the hard shake they're getting from the Democrats.

    If you've been following the Scott Thomas Beauchamp Affair, I strongly recommend reading the from The New Republic. The short version is that the Army's investigation of the case appears to be confined to a) releasing no information about their investigation or details of its findings, b) leaking alleged details to the Weekly Standard, which no one will confirm on the record and c) keeping Beauchamp himself in communications lockdown where no one but family members in monitored conversations can communicate with him.

    Perhaps Beauchamp made this stuff up. And that's not a throwaway line; I freely concede it may turn out to be the case. There's no getting around the fact that the legacy of the Glass Affair puts an extra hurdle of credibility in TNR's way.

    But the behavior of the Army Public Affairs Office suggests that what they are pushing is not an investigation that would pass any muster in the light of day but a war against a particular article and publication.

    And not to put too fine a point on it, but going back over recent years -- the WMD stories, al Qaeda link, the Iraq War and more -- when you've got the goods, you take it to a real press outlet. When you're blowing smoke, you take it to the Standard.

    How the hawks get the upper hand E.J. Dionne has a good tick-tock today about

    Several members from swing districts — including Reps. Heath Shuler of North Carolina and Patrick J. Murphy of Pennsylvania — expressed openness to having Congress stay in town to fight if important constitutional issues were at stake.

    But the moment passed. Even some very liberal Democrats worried about the political costs of blocking action before the summer recess....One anxiety hovered over the debate: If a terrorist attack happened and Congress had not given Bush what he wanted, the Democrats would get blamed for a lack of vigilance.

    Note the way the incentives work here. If you pass the bill, the results are ambiguous. Sure, a lot of people will be angry, but they'll probably get over it eventually (or so the thinking goes). But if you stall the bill and a terrorist strikes, you are firmly and completely screwed. Goodbye political career. So which choice do you think a risk-averse politicians is likely to make?

    This same dynamic was at work before the war, too. If you favored the war and things went south, the resulting mess would be long-term and ambiguous. There would almost certainly be a way to weasel your way out of any trouble and stay in office. But if you opposed the war and then, after the invasion went ahead over your objections, the Army discovered a serious nuclear arms program or an advanced bioweapons lab — both considered distinct possibilities at the time — you'd be out of office at the next midterm. For risk-averse politicians, the choice was obvious.

    Nobody wants to risk being proved wrong in a way that's so crystal clear there's simply no chance of talking your way out of it. It's this fear that gives national security hawks the upper hand in any terror-related debate. Still.

    Coconut Road corruption  Here's a corruption case that raises an interesting constitutional question. Actually, the 'question' seems pretty open and shut to me. But it is apparently being treated as one of some ambiguity. So here goes.

    In 2005, rapscallion Congressman Don Young (R) of Alaska snuck in a $10 million earmark for a highway interchange (the "Coconut Road" project) which stood to benefit real estate mini-mogul Daniel Aranoff. The earmark appeared just days after Aranoff raised 40 grand for Young at a fundraiser. Adding to the fun on this little escapade is that this was an earmark for a road building project in Florida, which -- unless my spatial reasoning is failing me -- must be about as far as you can get in the United States from Alaska, the state Young nominally represents.

    OK, so far, not a particularly surprising story, certainly for the Alaska congressional delegation. But here's where it gets more interesting.

    The 'Coconut Road' earmark wasn't in the bill passed by the House and Senate. I don't mean it wasn't in the original bills before they went to conference (where the separate bills from the House and the Senate are reconciled into a single bill). It wasn't in the final, reconciled piece of legislation passed by both houses of Congress after conference.

    But it is there now.

    So here's what happened. Apparently Young added the text after Congress had already passed it but before the president signed it. As Laura McGann in this post, this must have occurred during the process called "bill enrollment" when revisions of grammar and technical but not substantive changes are permitted to be made.

    The president did sign the bill. But the portion apparently added by Young, if I understand anything about our system of government, was never passed by Congress. So it means nothing.

    Based on this -- to my mind -- neatly fatal insufficiency to the earmark, local officials in Southwest Florida are investigating whether they can ignore the earmark and use the money to widen Interstate 75, which is what the bill had prescribed before Young's extra-constitutional handiwork.

    Now, here's my question. I know some squirrelly things happen in the legislative process. But this strikes me as in a whole other category. In the previous Congress there was a lot of controversy over the fact that the Republican leadership was basically rewriting bill's de novo in conference. And while that may make a mockery of the legislative process it doesn't have narrowly constitutional implications -- at least as I read it -- since the whole Congress does pass the final law, even if it was just something Tom DeLay wrote out on a gumball wrapper and they're only given five minutes to read it.

    Anyway, to my question: how common is this? Laura got a quote on this from Keith Ashdown from Taxpayers for Common Sense who said, "I’ve seen little gimmicks and little tricks used to make sure somebody’s friend or contributor is taken care of but this is by far one of the more underhanded, surreptitious examples I’ve seen — ever."

    Is something even similar to this a commonplace occurrence?

    So, how common is this -- addressed to those of you on the Hill? Is there any question that this never-passed earmark lacks any force of law? And shouldn't there be some sanction -- by the Congress itself if not legally -- for his having done it?

    Immigration follies 

    In a new effort to crack down on illegal immigrants, federal authorities are expected to announce tough rules this week that would require employers to fire workers who use false Social Security numbers.....Experts said the new rules represented a major tightening of the immigration enforcement system, in which employers for decades have paid little attention to notices, known as no-match letters, from the Social Security Administration advising that workers' names and numbers did not match the agency's records.

    And here, via Michael O'Hare, is the analysis, admittedly a little cryptic unless you

    The poor souls in DHS, apparently unhinged by anticipating the '08 elections, or some new horror from an IG or a Hill committee hearing, have completely forgotten (3), and worse, put a serious enforcement program into the hands of civil servants in the Social Security Administration, an army that will be as hard to call back as the sorcerer's apprentice's brooms. It's been so long since the last helpful political briefing that they have also forgotten that the employers in 3a and consumers in 3b are W's people! They're Republicans! Guys, we deplore illegal immigrant workers when Rupert needs a story — maybe even abuse a few; we don't actually deprive ourselves of them!

    Like I said, to find out what (3) is. Also (1) and (2). My only demurral is that I have my doubts that this new initiative is going to be quite as thoroughgoing as Michael suggests. But we shall see.

    Just sayin'....

    We find ourselves involved in a war solely because of Presidential action. The Supreme Court has effectively destroyed the War Powers Act as a Congressional check on illegal Presidential wars. Pundits are saying that Congress must find a new way to play a part in war-making decisions - must strengthen its oversight and rely more heavily on the power of the purse. I agree with these cream-puff remedies but suggest emphatically that what is more important is that Congress comply with the provisions of the safeguarding package that our Founders provided in the Constitution for keeping a bridle on the chief executive, of which the provision for impeachment is an essential part. Is it responsible for Congress to use all of the safeguards except the one the Founders considered most important? The truth is that when the decision is whether to wage an undeclared war, Presidents can do as they please. The Senate and House Intelligence Committees and the Congressional military committees will be told something about it, usually after the fact and only when public hysteria has reached a level where criticism will be stigmatized as un-American. A few members of Congress will complain in unnoticed speeches. The big newspapers will mention the actions "with some concern." A majority of the public will support the President, cheifly because the war has already begun and the "enemy" has been identified by the President as a serious threat to our nation. So, what are we to do? I suggest a conservative return to the remedy suggested in the Constitution.... If we do not, all future Presidents will be able to claim immunity for unlawful conduct of foreign affairs. We have a responsibility to draw this line in the nuclear age.

                    -- Rep. Don Edwards (D-CA)
                       Chairman, House Subcommittee on Constitutional and Civil Rights

    1983: You wouldn't have guessed that, would you?  It's funny how Arthur Schlesinger that if we didn't impeach Nixon, we'd get more of the same from future presidents. And it's funny how we got exactly that, causing Don Edwards to predict that if we didn't impeach Reagan, we'd get more of the same from future presidents. But of course, people who say the same today are just a bunch of DFHs who want to cost Democrats the next election. And why would it cost Democrats the next election? Because despite all that Nixon, Reagan and W did, the only impeachment we know anything about is... Clinton's.

    Every mile an obligation  It was just over 90 years ago that the first highway was constructed across the country.  Constructed is not even the right word.  Carl Fisher, who made carbide gas headlights for the autos of that time (and who would go on to build the original Indianapolis Speedway) decided that the best way to sell more cars was to have more and better roads.  Together with some friends, Fisher raised the money to build stretches of connecting road that knitted together already existing local routes, and by 1915, you could drive from Times Square to Lincoln Park in San Francisco along the newly christened "Lincoln Highway" -- provided you had a couple of months and a good supply of spare parts.  

    At the time, the United States already had about 200,000 miles of "improved" roadway, meaning that it had been graded and topped with gravel, cobbles, bricks, or crushed shells.  The Lincoln Highway route was mostly dirt, and included parts of Native American trails, Pony Express paths, and stagecoach routes.  One section went though the Donner Pass.

    In 1919, a military "expedition" left Washington D. C. to travel to the west coast along this newly completed route.  The drive across America took two months, and with trucks wallowing through mud and rickety wooden bridges collapsing under the weight of rattling World War I era tanks.  Along on that twisting trip down narrow dirt lanes was a young lieutenant colonel, Dwight Eisenhower, who more than 40 years later would support (though not propose -- that came much earlier) a system of wide, straight, paved highways crisscrossing the nation.  

    Today, there more than 47,000 miles in the Interstate Highway system, built at a cost of over $2.5 million dollars per mile.  I have my qualms about the Interstates, particularly the way they -- unlike the high-speed highways of most other nations -- penetrate into the heart of cities, the way they advantage trucking over other forms of transport, and the ways they've encouraged the enormous problems of sprawl.  Still, the creation of that system represents an enormous achievement, as do all the great bridges that span rivers and harbors, and the beautiful system of National Parks with their grand old lodges.

    It also represents an enormous obligation.  

    Politicians are all too eager to put their names on some new stretch of four-lane, or some new bridge, and occasionally even deign to designate some new park land.  There's barely a public construction site in this country that's not studded with signs informing you of the officials who brought home that stretch of concrete bacon.  But when it comes to maintaining the highways, inspecting those bridges, and keeping those lodges in repair... that's not so sexy.

    But it's more than a surplus of vainglory that causes us to build up castles of infrastructure that we try to maintain on mobile home budgets.  It's an attitude of selfishness and shortsightedness that can best be defined by a single word:  .  

    I live just three miles away from the bridge that collapsed in Minneapolis last week, so perhaps more intensely than some of you, I am asking the question, "What the hell has happened to our infrastructure?"  

    Some of the reasons our infrastructure has been ignored and that bridge went down are:

    • "Government is not a solution to our problems.  Government is the problem."  That is a Ronald Reagan quote.


    • The constant ridiculing of "tax and spenders" and the "it's your money, you earned it, you should keep it" drumbeat of talk radio.


    • The union-busting, outsourcing, we can do America on the cheap philosophy that has infected corporate America, school boards, state legislatures -- all of us.

    People say this is not the time for finger pointing.  Is it a coincidence that the very people who say that are the ones who screwed things up?  If you ever intend to use a bridge in the future, this is precisely the time to ask, "Has conservatism screwed up America?" ... Having conservative's short-term, bottom line, give the people only what they think they need now approach as our governing theme, has been a giant bust.  How is Reagan's "service economy" looking to you now?  How much of your two or three hundred dollar tax cut would you give back to be sure that bridge you cross every day has been checked out, and the money to keep it safe has been spent?

    Every minute of Tim Bedore's commentary from NPR's "Marketplace" is worth a listen.  And a rousing "Amen!"  From Minneapolis to New Orleans, the results of cheating our nation and enriching those who get sweetheart contracts is leaving deadly scars on the landscape.

    Now is indeed the time to point fingers and give a failing grade to a political philosophy that says we can run America on the cheap.

    Pastor Dan in the NY Times In the 5 years since Markos started Daily Kos, the site and the community have spawned plenty of sub-communities.  There are regular diaries for people under 35 or people who garden or care about food issues or come together to draw attention to comments they thought were notable and all kinds of other things that interest people are aren't directly about politics.  One of the more fascinating developments has been the formation of a Daily Kos "congregation," eventually leading to the creation of , Daily Kos' sister blog:

    Street Prophets is the online forum that mobilizes progressive people of faith to name, discuss and take action on critical political and religious issues. An offspring of Daily Kos, the largest political blog on the Internet,

    Because make no mistake: we are people who live and vote our values. We are believers in "justice, freedom, compassion and love," in the words of Rita Nakashima Brock. We are progressive, Democratic-leaning and vitally concerned with those whom Jesus called "the least of these." We are the faithful for whom the religious right emphatically does not speak.

    So come on in and make yourself at home. We believe that most, if not all topics touching on faith and politics are appropriate on Street Prophets. While this forum represents people of widely differing (and often directly conflicting) theologies, our goal here is to focus on forwarding the progressive political discussion that our shared values make possible...

    [Street Prophets'] vibrant community of netroots faithful includes a broad range of faiths, including devout Buddhists, Christians, Hindus, Jews, Mormons, Muslims, and Neo-pagans -- even those whose deepest faith is in the conviction that there is no God. All who seek to promote a new conversation about the role of religion in America's public life are welcome here.

    Street Prophets was founded by Daniel Schultz, who folks around here know better as longtime kossack .    I know pastordan as a valued participant in many important discussions we've had around here, a passionate and witty community member, and someone with a great love of 80's punk music.  I was very pleased to meet pastordan and Mrs. Pastor at Yearly Kos, and was happy to sign their quilt and make a modest contribution to their fund to help out bloggers in need.  And I'm extremely proud to see about him in Saturday's New York Times.


    The brick church, more than a century old, stands at the junction of two county roads tracing the glacial hills of southeastern Wisconsin. In the field across the way, the summer corn stretches eight feet from root to tassel. This being a Sunday morning, the Rev. Daniel Schultz greets the faithful on the front steps as they arrive for 9 a.m. worship at the Salem United Church of Christ. Pastor Dan, as he prefers to be known, is the only man in the congregation wearing a coat and tie.

    Over the next hour, he leads the 70 worshipers in a round of "Happy Birthday" for Jim Maul, a longtime member. He invites a half-dozen children to the pulpit, where he crouches among them to teach them to recite "The Lord's Prayer." In the part of the service designated for "sharing joys and concerns," he listens as people rise in the pews to tell of a relative's surgery, a brother's recovery from a liver transplant.

    Here is ministry at its most venerable, ministry at its most tender and intimate and finely grained. And it comes from a minister with a strikingly unlikely double-life, one part as the small-town preacher in a socially conservative spot of the Midwest, the other as an abrasive and confrontational voice of the religious left in the blogosphere.

    Exactly one week after Mr. Schultz presided over Sunday worship at his home church here, he gave a sermon in the vast arena of the McCormick Convention Center in Chicago. Instead of the farmers, factory workers and tradesmen who typify his regular congregation, the audience for his denunciation of the Iraq war consisted of the self-proclaimed "netroots" attending Yearly Kos, the annual political and media convention organized by the Daily Kos Web site.

    Some of the least satisfying discussions we've had here at DKos have involved religion.  We all know that many politicized evangelical religious groups have demeaned civic discourse in the country, and instead of honoring the constitutional protections of freedom of (and from) religion, the modern Republican party has made common cause with people who want to impose their narrow religious views on America and the world.  It's important that we call out people whose politics are cloaked in religion but really advance xenophobia, exclusion, bigotry, views and policies that are anti-science and anti-progress, and rank moral hypocrisy.  But the misuse of religion in politics doesn't mean that it behooves progressives who seek to create majority coalitions to mock, ridicule and excoriate people of faith.  If for no other reason, it's really stupid politics, because you have to reach people where they are and not where one might wish they were, for most Americans adhere to some kind of religious faith.  Progressive politics need not embrace religion, but it must accept that religion is an important part of the lives of a large number of Americans, and treat with respect matters of religion and faith.

    Thus, it's good for Daily Kos and progressive politics in general that we have people like who educate us about the radical religious right.  But it's also good for us that we have people like pastordan and the other community members at Street Prophets working out a new and affirming vision of a religious left that respects secular government and the separation of church and state but connects the various strands of meaning in the lives of people and communities, and inspires them to translate their faith in to progressive politics.  

    My favorite part of the article is the conclusion:

    Along the way, Mr. Schultz chose as his theological heroes Reinhold Neibuhr, Martin Buber and Jack Kerouac. What impresses many congregants here far more, though, is the way Mr. Schultz and his wife, Jennifer Milazzo-Schultz, have enacted their faith by taking in two foster children. He has also managed to express his politics without imposing them.

    "Over all, we're a fairly conservative congregation, but everybody loves him," said Denise Goetsch, a member of the church's governing board. "Whatever people's personal politics are, they're here because they believe in God. And Dan's been good at making friends with pretty much anybody."

    Mr. Schultz's sermon here the week before Yearly Kos offered a prime example of how. Drawing on a passage from I Corinthians, Mr. Schultz preached for social justice while speaking directly to his humble church and its obscure home.



    August 11, 2007 - 2:34pm