Eleanor McGovern Is Dead

If you’ve ever read any of the books of 1972 Democratic Presidential candidate and former U.S. Senator George S. McGovern, you know the amount of love and affection he had for his wife Eleanor (nee Stegeberg). She was one of a pair of twins on his college campus, a cheerleader, and she’d tied for the high score with him on a current events test. They were married on Halloween, 1943 while he was on a three-day pass from bomber flight school, and spent their first night at his parent’s house before he had to report back for duty.

Eleanor McGovern died Thursday at 85.

Last year, I bought a copy of McGovern’s autobiography Grassroots which. oddly enough, is inscribed: “For Eleanor, from her friend, George McGovern.”

1,408 Days

It’s been 1,408 days since the invasion of Iraq. In fifty more days, the Iraq war will have lasted as long as the American Civil War.

Freedom Is on the March

A viewer comment from “The Cafferty File” segment on CNN’s “The Situation Room”:

CAFFERTY: Wolf, the question this hour is: How can there be any progress in Iraq, when most of the members of parliament don’t bother to show up for work?

And Jay in Birmingham, Alabama: “Looks like our efforts to bring American-style democracy to Iraq are finally succeeding: corruption, poor border control, a do-nothing legislature. All they need now is a war-mongering president, and the transformation will be complete. Freedom is on the march.”

Two Decades in Portland

This month marks my 20th year in Portland. I moved here to go back to school five years after I dropped out of Lane Community College when the economy in Eugene hit a low in the early 1980s. Reed College used to have something called the Eliot Scholars Program, for students 25 years of age and older who hadn’t finished their undergraduate degree, and they accepted my application, due in no small part to the recommendation letter of my younger brother. Also, there was Barbara.

I’ve only had two homes here in Portland. One was the rental house Barbara was living in when I first moved, the other is the house we’ve lived in since 1990. They’re only about four blocks apart. With the exception of a two-month summer course at NYU, I’ve never been away from Portland for longer than a couple of weeks of vacation since I got here.

If You Prick Us, Do We Not Have DNA?

Francis Collins, the head of the Human Genome Project and born-again Christian is interviewed in the February 2007 issue of National Geographic on the topic of reconciling science and religion. Asked what he thinks about “Darwinian explanations of altruism,” he responds:

Many would argue that altruism has been supported by evolution because it helps the group survive. But some people sacrificially give of themselves to those who are outside their group and with whom they have absolutely nothing in common. Such as Mother Teresa, Oskar Schindler, many others. That is the nobility of mankind in its purist [sic] form.

Now, far be it from me to defend evolutionary psychology — I think that altruism is much more simply described as a self-gratification mechanism based on personal goals and beliefs — but I’d like to think that the guy in charge of mapping our DNA realizes that any human helping any other human has something in common with the object of their altruistic actions.

Obama: Three Men and No Tie

In an opening salvo from the mainstream press in the 2008 Democratic primary race last month, the first strike against Barack Obama was on the first-grade-level, where someone’s name is compared to a homophone with bad associations (deduct points if you laughed when you read the word “homophone”). It quickly progressed to the point where fashion-sensitive children begin to make fun of the wardrobe of their chosen targets.

So it was last month, when CNN’s senior dick analyst Jeff Greenfield appeared on “Teh Situation Room” to spend two-and-a-half minutes talking about Obama’s clothes. If you didn’t see it, he mentioned Obama’s appearances before Christmas wearing “a jacket, a collared shirt, but no tie.” He calls it a “striking contrast” with the John Kerry look of 2004 — which looks pretty much the same to me in the video — but which Greenfield says is a “blazer, the kind of casual wear you see at country clubs, and lawn parties in the Hamptons.”

I should say at this point that I’ve made it through 45 years of life without having to know the difference between a “jacket” (presumably a sports jacket) and a “blazer.” But then I’m not the fashion plate Greenfield is.

Greenfield then shows George W. Bush and Ronald Reagan in jacket-less mode talking about their “rancher” look, before moving on to wonder who else on the world stage doesn’t wear a tie with their jacket. Of course, he comes up with Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Much kerfuffle was made.

But that was last month. This week, though, I saw a different politician on TV, with a jacket (or maybe a blazer) and no tie. But I haven’t heard any snide remarks about it from Greenfield or anyone else. The guy’s name is George W. Bush. He was on CBS’s “60 Minutes”. Maybe it was a blazer.

1,401 Days

It’s been 1,401 days since the United States invaded Iraq. In 58 days, the Iraq war will have lasted longer than the American Civil War.

Clinton on Withdrawal, Getting Tough on Iraqis

Sen. Hillary Clinton, in an interview with Steve Inskeep of NPR’s “Morning Edition” (not all of her comments are in the article accompanying the audio, transcripts are my own).

On her fellow Democratic legislators (beginning at 1:52):

INSKEEP: Do you think the Iraqi government really isn’t trying hard enough? Or are they being asked to do the impossible here?

CLINTON: Well, I think that, uh, there has been a, uh, a lack of attention and focus on, y’know, dealing with the, uh, problems that exist, uh, that keep the Sunnis an insurgency, and they have also refused, uh, to attempt the disarmament of the militias which keep the, y’know, the death squads operating. And in thinking about this there are some of my colleagues, as you know, who say “cut off funding for American troops.” I think that is, uh, y’know, not appropriate at this time until we get more of our troops out of harm’s way, and frankly the President has the money to do this if we can’t stop him.

Now, maybe I’m mistaken, but I didn’t think any of Sen. Clinton’s colleagues were calling for defunding troops already in Iraq — those in harm’s way — but maybe she’s heard too much FOX News while she was in Iraq.

On the Iraqis (beginning at 3:19, I’ve bracketed a couple of words that seemed slurred on the recording).

INSKEEP: Are you saying that withdrawal is an option, even if that would be seen by some as failure?

CLINTON: Well, I think that [what I’ve] called for, for more than a year and a half is , uh, a phased redeployment that is tied to certain conditions being met by the Iraqis. I think you’ve got to get tougher on them. Y’know, in this part of the world, unfortunately, uh, the reality is that people respond to pressure and to threats. We have no — we have not made any credible threats. Y’know, we are providing security for the Iraqi government. I think that is leverage that we can use….

Ahh, yes, the old “get tougher” routine. Because once you’ve shocked and awed the heck out of someone’s cities; destroyed their electrical, water, and other infrastructure; occupied their country for four years; turned the old dictator’s torture prison into your own torture prison; enabled foreign terrorists and just about anyone else with a few pounds of explosives to set off multiple bombs each day in the capital; driven more than a million of the inhabitants to flee the country; and fostered conditions where 100,000 to 650,000 people have been killed by your troops, terrorists, militias, or other armed people, then it’s time to get tough. Because really, living in conditions where there are people using power tools on the heads of their friends and family or where they might get shot by soldiers at a roadblock or just assassinated isn’t enough pressure or threat to get them to do anything. Damn lazy Iraqis.

Isn’t it nice to live in a part of the world where people don’t respond to pressure or threats? Truly, like Hillary Clinton, I think we’re a better class of people for it.

EXTRA BONUS POINTS if you noticed that the sentences the Senator managed to get out without an “uh” or “y’know” were the ones where she talked about her colleagues who were killing the troops and how we’d been coddling the Iraqis. Wonder if she’s been practicing those parts of the speech?