Friday, September 12, 2003

Still at the top of his game

Johnny Cash, Country Music's Bare-Bones Realist, Dies at 71

Some of the first music I can remember listening to as a child was Johnny Cash at Folsom Prison which my dad had on reel-to-reel tape. Most of the songs were over my head at that age, but for some reason the song “25 Minutes To Go” about a man counting down the minutes to his execution really stuck with me.
Many years later when I was in high school I remember being moved upon first hearing his tribute song "Ira Hayes" about the Native American WWII veteran who helped raise the flag at Iwo Jima.

Norbizness has one of the better tributes to Cash by simply posting the lyrics to his song “The Man in Black.” I'm not sure if there was ever a more radical protest song in our nation's history.

Check out Cash’s last work the music video - for his cover of the Nine Inch Nails song “Hurt” which won all kinds of accolades this year from MTV.

Thursday, September 11, 2003

Government growth explodes under Bush

I nearly missed this article in the Wall Street Journal while I was on my maternity leave last week:

Despite Bush’s Credo, Government Grows
As Conservatives Groan, Study Cites Increase of Employees on Federal Contracts, Grants

from the Sept. 4 issue, page A4.

“The Bush Administation has brought the era of big government back...”

According to this study from the Brookings Institution, the number of full-time employees on government contracts and grants has zoomed by more than 1 million people since 1999. The study found that the growth during the Bush years has occurred in such diverse areas as the Department of Health and Human Services and the General Services Administation - not just in areas such as homeland security and defense.

The study has upset a number of conservative scholars who bemoan the increase in the government’s size since Bush took office.
“We are now seeing the biggest expansion in government since Lyndon Johnson was in the White House,” says Stephen Moore, president of the Club for Growth. “It is pretty much an across-the-board mushrooming of government. We have the biggest education, foreign aid and agriculture bills in history, and bigger expansions are on the agenda.”

Heritage Foundation economist Daniel Mitchell called the growth in government under Bush “very troubling for conservatives.”
“That is quite discouraging,” Mitchell said, “particularly since we made so much progress under Clinton in reducing the size of government.”

Mitchell notes that government was much better contained under President Clinton, in part because he faced a skeptical Republican Congress.

But now, with Republicans running the whole show, government growth is exploding. And that wouldn’t be so bad except that Bush blindly refuses to acknowledge and pay for the growth and thus his fiscally irresponsible tax cuts are causing the deficit to roar out of control.

So if you want to get the nation back to some semblance of fiscal sanity the answer is obvious - elect a Democratic president in 2004 (again), either that or put the Democrats back in control of the Congress.

Wednesday, September 10, 2003

More Bush lies exposed by the WSJ

The ever invaluable Wall Street Journal has another story today exposing the Bush administrations "selective use of intelligence" during the run-up to the invasion of Iraq.
This time it is the Bush team's claim that Iraq had developed drones - unmanned aircraft - capable of carrying chemical and biological weapons that is being called into question.

"The Air Force, which has expertise in designing such unmanned aerial vehicles, or UAVs, was never convinced Baghdad had developed drones capable of effectively distributing chemical and biological weapons as the White House claimed.
"But the Air Force dissent, attached to a classified report last October on the Iraqi threat, was kept secret even as the president publicly made the opposite case last fall prior to Congress voting on the war resolution."

Just more confirmation of the Bush administration's pattern of covering up, hiding or ignoring evidence when it doesn't match up with their predetermined notions. That is the danger that is inherent in a president who is driven by ideology rather than reason.

Why I won't be moving to Alabama anytime soon

No More Mr. Nice Blog has a good rundown on the sad situation in Alabama where a Republican governor tried to do something to fix the state's miserably regressive tax system only to get slapped down by the very people he was trying to help.

"...austerity measures needed to balance the budget were likely to include cuts of more than 20 percent at some agencies, steep cuts in money for school textbooks and supplies and cuts in money for already overcrowded prisons that could force officials to grant early parole to thousands of nonviolent felons."

Susan Pace Hamill, the Alabama law professor and divinty school graduate who influenced Gov. Riley's change of heart on taxes, summarized the arguments for the change in tax structure here.

She notes that:

"The moral well being of a society is judged on how the powerful treat "the least of these" and Alabama miserably fails this test."

And it looks like Alabama will continue to fail this test for the foreseeable future.

Tuesday, September 09, 2003

Bloom County is back!!

Well, sort of. At least a Sunday-only version of the strip featuring Opus the Penguin is scheduled to return to the funny pages by Nov. 23, according to the Washington Post.

I hope he brings back all of the characters and not just Opus and Bill the Cat. I want to see Milo and Binkley, Steve Dallas and Oliver Wendell Holmes, and all the other great characters. That was the weak point with Outland, Berke Breathed's post-Bloom County strip. He just let all of these other great characters he had built up just fall away.

Monday, September 08, 2003

D.C. stands for Disenfranchised Citizens

Imagine for a moment that we are in an alternate universe where Democrats are in control of the U.S. House of Representatives. In this alternate universe, the U.S. Congress controls the budget for a tiny state whose population is overwhelmingly Republican. Now, imagine the outrage that would be heard if the Democrats in Congress were to use their budgetary powers over this group of people to experiment with various liberal social programs - perhaps they require that all the schools in this state distribute free condoms beginning in junior high school, or maybe they force all of the schools to adopt a non-graded, open format where students study at their own pace with no time or age restrictions limiting how quickly or how slowly they advance. Imagine that the Democrats can force this tiny state to serve as its guinea pig despite the unanimous objections of its political representatives.

OK, now back to reality. In the real universe, the Republicans control Congress and the tiny state that they are experimenting with isn’t really a state - it’s the District of Columbia, which is overwhelmingly Democratic. And the social experiment that the Republicans are trying to force onto the District is school vouchers.

“The plan to spend $10 million on vouchers for District of Columbia children, an idea supported by President George W. (Leave No Child Behind) Bush, was approved only narrowly, by a vote of 205-203. Four Democrats voted for it, with 201 Republicans.”

The political representatives for D.C. are opposed to the voucher plan because it would not help their public school system. Instead it would give a select few students the opportunity to bail out of the public school system, but since all of the public school children cannot be absorbed by local private and religious schools most will be (ahem) LEFT BEHIND!!!

The District’s non-voting representative in the House, Eleanor Holmes Norton, tried to have the voucher legislation stricken from the budget bill, but her efforts failed after a tie vote of 203-203 - a decision that she was not allowed to vote on!!!

I’m not sure that I would support D.C. statehood as opposed to having the Disctrict absorbed by an existing state- most likely Maryland - but situations like this just scream out the need for some resolution to the disenfranchisement of more than 600,000 people.

Edwards goes to the top of my bad list

Sen. John Edwards is sinking Democratic hopes of regaining control of the Senate in the near future. Edwards of North Carolina has announced that he will not run for re-election in 2004 so that he can cocentrate on his long-shot bid for the presidency.
Since N.C. doesn't have a Lyndon Johnson rule that allows someone to run for president and senator at the same time, Edwards only other option was to drop out of the presidential race.

It is very unfortunate and highly irritating that Edwards did not pursue that option. He has no chance whatsoever to win the party's nomination for president and isn't even at the top of anyone's list as a vice-presidential prospect. His decision not to seek re-election gives the Republicans a wide open shot at picking up another Senate seat to go along with the ones being vacated by retiring South Carolina Sen. Ernest Hollings and retiring Georgia Sen. Zell Miller.

There is some speculation that Edwards was afraid he could not win a second senate term, but if that is the case what makes him think he can win the presidency?
In the past, U.S. Senators have used presidential bids to build up their name recognition and political clout - at least, that is what I saw with Sens. Paul Simon, John McCain, Al Gore, Richard Lugar, Arlen Specter, Tom Harkin, Bob Kerrey - just to name a few - none of whom gave up their senate seats to run. It's just not worth it.