Where There’s Gunsmoke There’s Fire

There was an article in the paper on Thanksgiving Day about upcoming DVD releases that got people around the table reminiscing about old TV shows. Barbara said that she, for one, could live for the rest of her life without ever seeing “Hopalong Cassidy” again (I never have). “Stuff that you could watch with your kids and not have to worry about,” as one of my relatives put it.

Then again, there sure were a lot of Westerns back in the day. And they didn’t call it the “Wild” West for nothing. I don’t know how many war-painted “redskins” died in the average week. I know that I saw my share of dusty Main Street duels in my early years. And, as Barbara asked, what exactly did Miss Kitty do for a living?

James Arness and Amanda Blake from Gunsmoke, 1956. MPTV.net

Always With the Questions

National Public Radio’s got a debate coming up on 4 December, you can submit your questions.

Senator Edwards, in a New Yorker interview early this year, you were quoted as saying that you had made your decision to approve the use of military force in Iraq not solely on the evidence presented to you by the administration, but that you had seen confirming evidence in the Senate Intelligence Committee, and that you had “meetings with former Clinton Administration people.”

These questions are for you and Senators Biden, Dodd, and Clinton.

Given that it was clearly wrong, what evidence did you see that convinced you an invasion of Iraq might be necessary? Who provided that evidence? Why did it convince you to authorize the Bush administration to use force when a majority of the Democratic members of the Intelligence committee voted against it? Who were the Clinton administration people who encouraged you to vote against the majority of Democrats in Congress on the use of military force? Are those people still advising you or any of the other candidates despite being so spectacularly wrong on Iraq? Will they continue to advise you on foreign policy and national security if you are elected?

From the Dept. of the Glaringly Obvious

Terri Gross, on NPR’s “Fresh Air” added her name today (probably not for the first time) to the long list of pundits wondering why people around the world seem to hate what America does while simultaneously enjoying Amreican movies, American music, and American popular culture in general. One of the group of young Moroccan terrorists chronicled by her interviewee apparently wore his hair in the style of John Travolta’s character from Saturday Night Fever.

Is it really that hard to figure out? That there’s a dichotomy between enjoying the things America produces and stands for, and the foreign policy decisions made by the country’s leaders? It would seem that unless you approved of American foreign policy, it shouldn’t be to much of a stretch to believe that you could disapprove of it and still like movies and music. What you do about your dislike is more of an equation based on your hope that things will improve.

And Tony Manero wasn’t exactly the most socially-adjusted movie role model.

The Good Gonzalez

John Nichols of The Nation, about five minutes into this video of the Q&A segment of an impeachment seminar at Dartmouth on 26 November, talking about Democratic Representative Henry B. Gonzalez, who Nichols says brought articles of impeachment against every president who started a war without a congressional declaration.

He was the chairman of the Banking Committee. His fellow Democrats hated him for doing it.

He went to the floor in 1987 when the Democrats were looking at Iran-contra, and he said: “You know, we have to impeach Ronald Reagan and George Bush for Iran-contra. They have clearly violated their oaths of office. They have clearly assaulted the Constitution.”

All the other Democrats said: “Don’t do it. We’re doing so great politically that we’ll just sit back and give them a little slap on the wrist and in 1988 we will sail through to victory because the people will realize the high crimes and misdemeanors, the sins of the Regan and Bush years.”

And of course, we know from the success of Mr. Dukakis’s presidency how wise they were.

h/t to NH Ex-pat at Blue Hampshire.

Dad On Mouseland

Tommy Douglas memorial plaque at the IAMAW's 
William W. Winpisinger Education & Technology Center

I wrote a post the other day about “Mouseland”, an animated short based on a set-piece speech by long-time Premier of Saskatchewan Tommy Douglas. The clip’s been around for a while, but it’s been making the rounds at Daily Kos the past couple of weeks thanks to the efforts of one commenter in particular.

Now, normally my Dad doesn’t say much about the stuff on my blog, even though I see my folks a couple times a week or more. I picked up so much of my political attitudes from my parents that there’s not a lot to argue about, and sitting around agreeing that politicians from both parties tend to turn whatever they do to crap gets boring pretty fast. But Dad did have something to say about Mouseland.


I just read your blog article on “Mouseland.” I first saw a cartoon version of “Mouseland” at an IAM convention when William W. Winpisinger was the International President of the Machinists. “Wimpy,” as you may remember, was a socialist in the Minnesota Democratic-Farmer-Labor tradition (he was originally an auto-mechanic in Minneapolis) and he was a fan of both Tommy Douglas and the Canadian version of government medical care. He seriously flirted with the idea of backing a labor political party in the U.S. on the model of Tommy Douglas’s New Democrats in Canada. At the Machinists education center in Placid Harbor, Maryland, which is named after Winpisinger, there is a conference room named after Tommy Douglas. When I attended a retirees’ conference there earlier this year, I took a picture of the bronze plaque honoring Tommy Douglas that is mounted outside the entrance to that conference room.

I see that the UFCW is now behind the Mouseland feature; the Machinists were showing it thirty years ago, but or course there was no internet then.

It’s in the blood.


You probably can’t tell it from my blog, which has no editor watching over my words and no staff overseeing my hastily-jotted notes, but once upon a time I fancied myself a proofreader and copy editor.

For a short while after I attended the New York University Summer Institute of Book and Magazine Publishing, I thought I was going to be able to make a career of proofreading manuscripts. I did a couple, including The Random House Guide to Grammar, Usage, and Punctuation, but work petered out, I didn’t follow up, etc.

Even so, I get a laugh out of stories like this:

For Want of a Proofreader, or at Least a Good One, a Reading Exam Is Lost
Published: November 20, 2007

In an episode that has embarrassed the Department of Education, thousands of flawed testing booklets forced the invalidation of United States reading scores on an international exam administered without major mishap in 56 other countries.

The contractor that printed the faulty exams for the government is reimbursing it $500,000, government officials said yesterday. But the department admitted it had not proofread the tests.

Conducted every three years, the international test focused on science literacy in 2006, but also included sections on reading and math. The problem with last fall’s test was that pages in the exam booklet were assigned incorrect numbers. As a result, questions referred students to texts, said to be “on the opposite page,” but in reality printed on a previous page.

“The testing industry is stretched,” Dr. Schneider said in a conference call with reporters. “There are some systemic problems, but the problem with this test was simply a copy-editing problem. A good copy editor would have caught this in 10 seconds.”

Haw. Haw.

Marshmallow Missiles

A commenter at Washington Monthly‘s “Political Animal” column made a mention of how Aristotle’s dictum that heavy objects fell faster than light objects was incorporated into Catholic doctrine, which provoked this response:

Actually heavy objects fall faster than light objects. It is only when they are placed in an artificial medium like a large evacuated tube that they fall at the same rate. That is why missiles are made of metal and not marshmallow, but any attack on old Aristotle will do, however silly, if it allows to pock a knife into the Catholic Church.

And you kind of just don’t know where to begin. It was Galileo, as the story goes, who disproved Aristotle’s thesis, not by building a vaccuum chamber but by dropping two differently-sized cannonballs off the Tower of Pisa. And there are ever so many reasons missiles aren’t made from marshmallow, not the least of which is the giant s’more on the launching pad you get when the engines kick in.

Science education in this country seems to have taken a turn for the Dark Ages.

Economy By Any Other Means

It’s almost painful to watch people talk on blogginheads.tv. Megan McArdle, the biggest of the Ayn Rand fans on The Atlantic‘s staff is on a segment talking about Cambodia, and Robert Wright, who’s interviewing her gets to say stuff like: “…the genocide, I don’t know that much about it…” Really, Robert? I mean, you’re talking to someone about Cambodia, wouldn’t you want to brush up a bit?

The real stunner comes near the end of the clip, when McArdle talks about endemic corruption in Southeast Asia and how the economies of Cambodia and Vietnam were retarded compared to “Thailand and other places that didn’t have communist regimes” that also had corruption, just after talking about the genocide for a couple of minutes. She didn’t seem to mention more than two decades of war in Vietnam, either. I wonder if that had any effect on the economy?

Ted Koppel is a Moron, Again

Ted Koppel made his bones on the story of American hostages held in Iran, so it’s hardly a wonder that he sees the situation in Pakistan with US-backed dictator Pervez Musharaff as parallelled by the 1970’s situation in Iran with US-backed dictator Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi in his “Morning Edition” political analysis today.

But it’s eerie to see how he manages to get it completely wrong.

The Shah was a dictator, installed after a CIA-backed coup in 1953 overthrew the elected government of Mohammad Mossadegh. He governed through intimidation, arrest, torture, and murder. He siphoned off billions of dollars — in a time when that meant even more than it does now — for his family’s enrichment. And he did that over a period of more than two decades as the tide of discontent (and the number of victims and relatives of victims) rose.

But in Koppel’s view, the reason the Shah fell is that Jimmy Carter was dedicated to a human rights agenda that led to him telling the Shah not to just gun down democracy advocates. Democracy, says Koppel, is what led to the Islamic state that’s ruled Iran since the Shah’s overthrow. Not a hint that perhaps it was the Shah’s repressive policies and the fact that he and the US had overthrown a democratic regime that led to a backlash.

Koppel even approvingly mis-cites Sen. Chris Dodd’s respons the other night at the Democratic debate, when Dodd said national security was more important than civil rights. In Koppel’s view, US interests come ahead of the lives and liberty of some wogs, never mind that every time the US makes that determination it seems to bite us in the ass. Of course, Dodd wasn’t even speaking about civil rights elsewhere, he was talking about the rights of Americans coming in behind national security.

Ted Koppel is a moron.

There He Goes Again

Lou Cannon’s explanation for Ronald Reagan starting off his 1980 general election campaign near the site of a famous civil rights triple murder with a speech about “states’ rights” is that Reagan — who was 69 years old at the time and had served eight years as a governor in addition to making political speeches for conservative causes for two decades by then — was just a blunder by a poor young country boy who “had not yet become the skilled operator the nation would see as president.”

According to Cannon, Reagan had a “showman’s superstition that it was bad luck to cancel an engagement once it was booked.” Too bad he didn’t have some sort of superstition that would have convinced him to support the right of black people. Cannon’s quick to make the point that Reagan was no bigot, it’s just that he was “understandably anathema in the black community not because of his personal views but because of his consistent opposition to federal civil rights legislation, most notably the landmark Voting Rights Act of 1965.” Well, that clears things right up He wouldn’t say anything bad about you to your face. He might even shake your hand. But he wouldn’t support your rights.

Unless you were a state, that is.