The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

Ivins on our Israel policy

Molly Ivins' column published in today's Chicago Tribune raises some good questions about why we can't ask good questions about our policies toward Israel:

For having the sheer effrontery to point out the painfully obvious—that there is an Israel lobby in the United States—[researchers] have been accused of being anti-Semitic, nutty and guilty of "kooky academic work." Harvard professor Alan Dershowitz, who seems to be easily upset, went totally ballistic over the mild, academic, not to suggest pretty boring, article by Mearsheimer and Walt, calling them "liars" and "bigots."
Of course there is an Israel lobby in America; its leading working group is the American Israel Public Affairs Committee. It calls itself "America's Pro-Israel Lobby," and it attempts to influence U.S. legislation and policy.

As she points out, Israelis are pretty harsh critics of their own government (and ours); why can't Americans criticize the Israeli government, too?

Great moments in energy policy

Let's sum up: The administration's energy and foreign policies have helped create a dire shortage of oil and prevented creation of alternatives. Yet, Bush is "probing" rising gas prices. There are only two possible conclusions: either he does not understand the connection, or he is lying about not understanding the connection.

"Energy experts predict gas prices are going to remain high throughout the summer, and that's going to be a continued strain on the American people," Bush said....
Under pressure from GOP leaders, Bush is taking a tough public line with the U.S. oil companies that are recording record profits and paying hefty salaries and retirement packages to executives.

Remember Upton Sinclair's wisdom: "It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends upon his not understanding it."

This story directly connects to two important milestones for today. First, as of 1pm Eastern time today (17:00 UTC), there are no more than 1,000 days left in the Bush administration. Let's start the countdown; it's our own "thousand points of light."

Second, as many people know, today is the 20th anniversary of the Chernobyl disaster. The Russian and Ukrainian governments are still cleaning up from it, yet nucular—sorry, nuclear—energy is starting to look more environmentally friendly than its principal competitors, oil and coal. This suggests that our problem isn't from where we get our energy, but how much we use. What a concept.

Soldier Field loses landmark status

As many predicted, and as the perpetrators denied, Soldier Field has lost its landmark status following its destr--er, renovation in 2003, former Interior Secretary Gale Norton announced as one of her last official acts on Friday. Says Chicago Tribune architecture critic Blair Kamin:

If you obliterate a building's form, the government's decision suggests, you obliterate its meaning. Norton wisely ignored the arguments of those who claimed that Soldier Field retained its historic significance, irrespective of how it looked. Perhaps they would like to drop a steel-and-glass box inside the White House.

I'm reminded of Archimedes, I think it was, being skewered by an invading Roman for no apparent reason.

Rumsfeld still ought to go

It's unusual to find such rousing agreement between left and right, but Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld has gotten it. The Economist says "George Bush is a fool for keeping Donald Rumsfeld in his job" (though I can think of other reasons):

Getting rid of Mr Rumsfeld is no guarantee that things will get better. But keeping him ensures that they will get worse. Mr Bush made a huge mistake in not accepting Mr Rumsfeld's offer to resign in the wake of Abu Ghraib. Every day he keeps him in his job he compounds his mistake and weakens his presidency.

Chicago Tribune columnist Steve Chapman, on the other hand, finds a reason to keep him:

Should the president fire Donald Rumsfeld? That's like asking if Disney should retire Mickey Mouse. Why get rid of someone who represents everything important about an institution—particularly if doing so leaves those things unchanged? No, President Bush should keep Rumsfeld as a perennial symbol of the administration's essential characteristic: hubris.

Finally, Josh Marshall has a good explanation why Bush can't really fire him:

If Rumsfeld goes, you need to nominate someone else and get them through a senate confirmation. That means an open airing of the disaster of this administration's national security policy. Every particular; all about Iraq. Think how much they don't want that...

Two happy thoughts in conclusion: First, the general election is only 199 days away; and second, there remain fewer than 1,005 days and 1 hour in the Bush administration.

Newspapers afraid to print Ryan's party affiliation

Josh Marshall reports that newspapers are reluctant to say that convicted felon George Ryan is a Republican:

As we mentioned earlier, the AP really, really didn't seem to want to mention that George Ryan, the former Illinois governor convicted of corruption today, is a Republican. The AP waited until the very end of the article to note that Ryan is from the GOP.
Time never got around to mentioning it. ... While failing to mention the party affiliation of the guy who got indicted, they did manage to have this as the second sentence of the article ...
On Monday, former Governor George Ryan, 72, became the third of the state's last six governors to be convicted of political misdeeds, and the current administration of Democrat Rod Blagojevich is also being investigated.
It's almost a tour de force of party ID bamboozlement.

Our home-town paper, the Chicago Tribune, identified him as "the Kankakee Republican" in the sixth paragraph.

It's just like Rush says: liberal press bias.

Ryan guilty on all counts

Republican former Illinois governor George Ryan was convicted on all counts of corruption in his Federal felony trial:

A federal jury convicted former Gov. George Ryan today on all charges that as secretary of state he steered state business to cronies in return for vacations, gifts and other benefits for himself and his family.
Lobbyist Lawrence Warner, a close Ryan friend, was also found guilty on all charges against him in the historic trial.
On their eleventh day of deliberations, the six-woman, six-man jury found Ryan, 72, guilty on 18 counts of racketeering, mail fraud, false statements and tax violations. Warner, 67, was convicted on 12 counts of racketeering, mail fraud, extortion, money laundering and evading cash-reporting requirements.

More later.

Krugman: Exxon-Mobil is "enemy of the planet"

Economist Paul Krugman (sub.req.) in today's New York Times lays out exactly how Exxon-Mobil has tried to undermine climate research since the mid-1980s:

The people and institutions Exxon Mobil supports aren't actually engaged in climate research. They're the real-world equivalents of the Academy of Tobacco Studies in the movie "Thank You for Smoking," whose purpose is to fail to find evidence of harmful effects.
But the fake research works for its sponsors, partly because it gets picked up by right-wing pundits, but mainly because it plays perfectly into the he-said-she-said conventions of "balanced" journalism. A 2003 study, by Maxwell Boykoff and Jules Boykoff, of reporting on global warming in major newspapers found that a majority of reports gave the skeptics—a few dozen people, many if not most receiving direct or indirect financial support from Exxon Mobil—roughly the same amount of attention as the scientific consensus, supported by thousands of independent researchers.

I still haven't forgiven Exxon for the Exxon Valdez disaster (and neither have the sea otters, who are still affected). This is just one more nail.

Terror alert: Pamphleteers

TPM Muckraker reported today that the Dept. of Homeland Security has a new warning about radical animal-rights groups:

Such radical extremist groups may use several tactics—each devastating in its own way—including:
- "organizing protests"
- "flyer distribution"
- "inundating computers with e-mails"
- "tying up phone lines to prevent legitimate calls"
- "sending continuous faxes in order to drain the ink supply from company fax machines"

I particularly like the fourth item, since several Republicans have been convicted recently of doing just that in New Hampshire during the 2002 election.

Religious nuttiness for the holiday

The Chicago Tribune carried two Assoicated Press stories about religious fanatacism this morning. First, Christians were attacked at Mass in Egypt yesterday. When American Christians, who currently run the government, claim to be "persecuted," perhaps they should reflect on the Egyptian situation.

The second story, from Manila, Philippines, tells of Catholics voluntarily getting nailed to crosses to show their devotion. In a concession to the fact that we no longer live in ancient Roman times, the 10 cm (4 in.) nails pounded through their hands and feet—in one man's case, for the 20th time—were "soaked in alcohol to prevent infection."

Happy Easter!