Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Obama: Spill-Lite, Baby, Spill-Lite

The NY Times reports President Obama plans to unveil a new coastal oil drilling plan today. If the oily details leaked to the press are correct, he intends to endanger just a little less sugar-white beach offshore of Pensacola than his predecessor desired. As the Washington Examiner reports:
Under Obama's plan, drilling could take place 125 miles from Florida's Gulf coastline if lawmakers allow the moratorium to expire. Drilling already takes place in western and central areas in the Gulf of Mexico.
Call it "Spill-Lite, Baby, Spill-Lite."

We'll wait for official confirmation. But we won't be surprised if the advance reports are true. By now, it's apparent that Mr. Obama is no dedicated conservationist, any more than he's the wild-eyed, dedicated socialist Republicans and Teabaggers claim.

As the ugly health reform debate showed us over the last year, Obama wants to govern as a centrist in an era when centrists are all but extinct. For Obama "centrism" apparently means giving everyone but liberals a slice from the ideology pie.

Knowledgeable sources say it's unlikely more drilling areas will produce more oil or bring down prices. As Pensacola's own Enid Siskin pointed out four years ago:
Our country contains less than 5% of the world’s gas and oil reserves and uses 25% of the world’s petroleum. We cannot drill our way to energy independence. It’s only through conservation, increased efficiency, and use of a combination of alternative, renewable energy sources that we’ll ever be self sufficient.
Thirty-four years ago, well before the Iranian hostage crisis, that good and honest man Jimmy Carter knew this, too. As president he tried vainly -- some say, naively -- to educate the American public to the facts as if we were adult enough to listen. We know how that turned out.

Now, Obama appears poised to try the same strategy he used in the health care reform initiative: offer a long-standing conservative, corporate-friendly, half-assed solution that Republicans cooked up in an earlier life when they weren't completely crazy, and call it "bi-partisan." He has to know issuing more drilling leases is no solution to what ails our energy policy. Indeed, he said as much, himself, on the campaign trail.

Obama is smart enough to realize expanded drilling won't do much except delay the day of reckoning over our excessive oil appetite for less than a blink in time. Just as he surely knew that health reform without a public option would soon be undermined by the corporate greed of insurance companies.

Carter wanted, like most presidents, to be president of all the people -- the dopes and fantasists as well as the realists. He strove to teach us hard lessons so we could be smarter for our own good. We wouldn't listen.

Obama wants to be president of all the people, too. Apparently, he accepts the fact that some part of the public just doesn't get it and never will. So, he hopes giving them some of what they want -- even if it's nuts -- will remove partisanship from the debate.

What do you bet -- just like health care reform -- neo-Republicans won't take his 'yes' for an answer?

Dept. of Amplificeation
3-31 pm

Told you so. Neo-Republicans today rejected Obama's ancien Republican oil drilling proposal, apparently because while it certainly is stupid, it isn't quite insane enough for them.

Or, maybe they just want a white guy to sing their oldies-but-baddies. Ya' think?

Right-wing Reformageddon

Two items worth reading yesterday: Eugene Robinson on why we should be worried about right-wing violence and, for fun, Tom Tomorrow on "Health Reformageddon."

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

North Florida Welcome Mat

You can tell a Right Wing wacko by his driving habits. That's the observation by a reader of Ezra Klein's blistering take-down of WaPo columnists Robert Samuelson (no, not the Robert Samuelson) and the deeply disturbed Charles Krauthhammer.

Klein was pointing out how both long-time favorites of right-wing Post editorial page editor Fred Hiatt recently wrote anti-health care reform articles that show they suffer from an "absence of empathy... that borders on a clinical disorder." To this, reader "nylund" adds a comment that describes his parallel observations "now that I've moved to a conservative area in a conservative state." He writes:
Nearly every single conservative take on policy can really be summed up by "I got mine, eff you." Now that I've moved... I've found this extends beyond the editorial pages of political coverage but to nearly every aspect of life. Even things as simple as merging lanes become NIGHTMARES because everyone puts the self above the common good. I swear that most would prefer that a 10 car pileup happen in their rear view mirror rather than let another car merge into their lane ahead of them. The wife and I are shocked on nearly a daily basis by how much disregard and an absolute lack of empathy we see for others in all aspects of life on a daily basis.

And the GOP (and its increasing Randianism) actually tells them such behavior should be viewed as a virtue!

Hey, nylund! Welcome to Pensacola!

The Rain in Maine

A friend who lives in Maine writes that she and her husband have just seen the warmest winter in memory:
[T]his winter in Maine was surprisingly mild -- we have had no snow since January!!! And the ice is out which is about a month early so the natives are chomping at the bit to get the State to allow the kind of fishing that usually doesn't start until April.
Of course, Maine people don't know the meaning of 'hot.' Our friend also says --
Fifties in daylight qualifies as late summer temps around here. We turned on the air conditioning twice last summer.
Still, a warmer-than-normal winter is consistent with worldwide climate data compiled by scientists as of the last official day of winter. As the Associated Press reported yesterday: "the winter just finished was the fifth warmest on record, worldwide."
Oh, sure, nearly two-thirds of the country can dispute that from personal experience of a colder-than-normal season. But while much of the United States was colder than usual, December-January -- climatological winter -- continued the long string of unusual warmth on a fglobal basis.
Unexpectedly, a library archivist in Springfield, Illinois, with whom we happened to be talking yesterday, echoed the same view as our Maine friend. Thinking it would help break the ice, so to speak, we murmured some inanity about what a lovely day it was in Springfield -- sunny and high 50's -- and how welcome it must be after their hard winter.

"We didn't have that hard a winter," she replied. "Oh, sure, people complained. But I'm an old-timer here. I've seen much worse many times. To tell you the truth, we've had it unusually easy the past several years. Folks have forgotten how bitterly cold it used to be. They've gotten soft."

If you're a climate-change denier, a Teabagger, or a coal company executive all of this is not a reality you want to hear. To avoid coming down with a bad case of Cognitive Dissonance, you'll just have to keep listening to right-wing radio, watching Fox News, imagining what you see out your window is representative of the whole of Planet Earth, and voting Republican.

Dead Dolphin

A dead dolphin washed ashore in Gulf Breeze near the bridge to Pensacola Beach yesterday. It was found by residents of Baybridge Condominiums in Gulf Breeze.

PNJ reporter Sean Dugas calculates this is the eighth dolphin to wash ashore in the Florida Panhandle "from Walton to Escambia County." A necropsy is planned to determine the cause of death.

Dolphins are vulnerable to many diseases that also afflict humans.

"If they are getting sick in the water, we could too," Amanda Wilkerson of Emerald Coast Wildlife Refuge says. "But we won't know the exact cause of death until we get the lab results."

Wilkerson told a Mobile television reporter that dolphins commonly share many respiratory diseases with humans. However, they also are highly intelligent creatures with a larger, more complex brain than humans, so suicide over the state of the earth cannot yet be ruled out.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Rosewood Revisited

Reginald Dogan, the dead-tree Pensacola News Journal columnist, might take a lesson from Reginald Dogan, the Pensacola News Journal blogger. While the former was deliberately dodging the most important public policy issue to emerge so far out of a sensational local murder case, the latter was justly commemorating the infamous Rosewood Massacre of January, 1823.

As Dogan writes, F.S.U. history professor Maxine Jones "will highlight the history of Rosewood and share the stories of some of the women who survived the lynchings and murders" this afternoon at the J. Earle Bowden Building in downtown Pensacola (120 E. Church Street). If you can't make it, you'll still have all of April to see the traveling exhibit at the Kate Coulson House, 200 Church Street, in Pensacola's historic district.

It's a timely reminder. Once again, as Frank Rich writes in yesterday's New York Times, we are witnessing across the nation the hysterical demonizing of a black man by a mob of vigilantes that "knows so little about history that it doesn’t recognize its own small-scale mimicry of Kristallnacht."

Substitute "Rosewood" for "Kristallnacht," and you have further proof that there is much our own history can teach us today.

Today, the "weapon of choice has been a brick hurled through a window," Rich writes. Then he adds ominously, "So far."

The Rosewood Massacre occurred not far from present-day Cedar Key. As Dogan summarizes it:
[O]n what was to be a festive New Year’s Day in 1923, a white mob rampaged through the small, mostly black town of Rosewood, killing six of its residents and burning all the buildings, homes and churches.

An all-white jury heard testimony of the unforgettable mayhem and unimaginable horror, but found no one to prosecute.

During the melee, blacks had fled any and whichever way they could. Rosewood disappeared as if it never existed in history or on a map.
The murderous race riot was one among hundreds of tragic events symptomatic of the curse that still hangs over America. As U. of F. history professor David R. Colburn wrote more than a decade ago ["Rosewood and America in the Early Twentieth Century," 76 Florida Historical Quarterly 175, (1997)]:
From individual lynchings to sustained violence against entire black communities, whites in both the North and South lashed out against black Americans in a ferocious and often calculated manner during the years 1917 to 1923. Aided by a federal government that refused to intervene to protect the life and property of black citizens, whites took whatever steps they felt were necessary to keep blacks in their place. From Chicago to Tulsa, to Omaha, East St. Louis, and many communities in between, and finally to Rosewood, Florida, white mobs, often in alliance with law enforcement officials, made clear their determination to deny blacks the rights and privileges accorded whites.
The story of Rosewood was rescued from history's dustbin only in 1982 by Gary Moore, an intrepid reporter for the St. Petersburg Times. The back-story of that reporter's investigation, described in Michael D'Orso's book, Like Judgment Day, is almost as gripping as the incident itself.

Indeed, if it hadn't been for Moore, Rosewood's fate might still be unknown and a panel of historians probably never would have been commissioned to investigate the incident. [See, "A Documented History of the Incident Which Occurred at Rosewood, Florida, in January, 1923"] Nor would the Florida Legislature have approved compensation for the surviving victims and a state-sponsored college scholarship program for descendants.

Good on PNJ blogger Reginald Dogan for bringing the Rosewood presentation and traveling exhibit in Pensacola to public attention. But we can't help wondering, what would have happened if back in 1982 reporter Moore had concluded, 'It's too late to debate whether lynchings and the destruction of Rosewood by a mob of racists is the way justice should be served'?

Saturday, March 27, 2010

When Juveniles Commit Crimes

"Murder is not only the most serious crime, but it is often the most understandable. Murder happens, in many cases, in the family. It is the sort of crime that might be committed by ordinary and even decent people who would be quite incapable of taking part in a bank raid or robbing the Co-op."

-- John Mortimer, Clinging to the Wreckage
We've been otherwise occupied the past two days, but down at the Pensacola News Journal, columnist Reginald Dogan seems to have been helplessly wringing his hands and slowly shaking his head over a "Homicide Shrouded in Mystery." Fourteen year old Warren Williams, reportedly "a good little kid, a good member of the chorus," has been charged with murdering his father.

Kris Wernowski reports the very few news details known to date:
Warren Williams, who was a Brown-Barge Middle School student, told police he took a handgun that was hidden in his father's chest of drawers to his own room, an arrest report says.

He took out the magazine, reloaded the gun, went to the living room and shot his father numerous times, the boy told officers.

The child then called 911 and told a dispatcher he had just shot and killed his father, according to the report. * * * When police arrived, they found the father on the living room floor with several live and spent shell casings near the body. The gun was on a nearby counter top.

The case is becoming a local sensation. Which is to say, it's a good bet that all we're likely to see from the media in the coming weeks and months is Nancy Grace-style coverage. Expect no analysis of any public policy issues that perchance arise out of the case. Macabre mayhem sells; public policy doesn't.

Dogan's article pretty much gives us the template. He more or less surrenders all pretense of thinking about the legal-policy question now pending -- whether the child defendant should be tried by the courts as if he were an adult:
A first-degree murder conviction as an adult would carry a mandatory sentence of life in prison. As a 14-year-old, he cannot face the death penalty.

Increasingly, children are being tried as adults for serious crimes, so it's too late to debate whether this is the way justice should be served. [emphasis added]

Warren is among more than 20 juveniles charged with adult crimes in Escambia County Jail.
Post hoc, propter hoc. (Loose trans: Since so many children are being tried as adults, justice is being served. Nothing to see here, folks, so let's just move along.)

Dogan is smarter than that. He can and should do better. The excessive frequency of remanding children to adult court hardly is probative evidence that "justice is being served." If anything, it merely proves that notorious cases can heap irresistible political pressure on prosecutors and the courts.

To be sure, there may be in individual cases legitimate reasons for remanding a juvenile offender to adult court for trial. Those reasons, objectively applied, may or may not require that in this case Warren Williams be treated as an adult; not to mention some or all of the other "20 juveniles charged with adult crimes" whom Dogan mentions.

But what are the appropriate standards or criteria by which to assess that question? Does the public have a clue? Do the media? Who makes the remand determination? Is it entirely up to the discretion of the prosecutor? The grand jury? A judge?

What role does the legislature play in loading the dice against treating a criminal child like a child? When, if ever, should a juvenile suspect be treated as an adult -- and why?

These are, in fact, hot questions among experts in the field of juvenile justice. They deserve to be aired by a newspaper columnist, not swept aside like realities as unalterable as the laws of physics.

As one recent study concludes [paid subscription req'd], "political factors" often play a large role in determining which juveniles will be treated as adults and which will not. In our increasingly cynical age, it may no longer be news that justice is at the mercy of politics. But that doesn't excuse shielding our eyes from the issue.

As one of the nation's foremost scholars in juvenile justice has noted [Donna M. Bishop, "Juvenile Offenders in the Adult Criminal Justice System," 27 Crime and Justice 81 (2000)]:**
From the beginning, juvenile courts responded to the public outrage generated by heinous offenses by subordinating the interests of youths to demands for penal proportionality. Although transfer of these cases was inconsistent with basic precepts of the juvenile court, it was politically expedient. Demands for harsh punishment threatened the legitimacy of the court and its therapeutic mission. By relinquishing authority over a few seriously violent offenders, the court placated the public and preserved its rehabilitative commitment to the vast majority of juveniles.
What Prof. Bishop means is (1) offenders whose violent crimes excite the public's imagination (fueled, inevitably, by the media) are the ones most likely to be thrown overboard no matter how remote the chances are that a particular child offender will be violent ever again; and (2) in many cases, even in cases of the most violent crimes, remanding children to adult court doesn't improve public safety.

In fact, according to Prof. Bishop, extent evidence suggests the opposite:
There is no evidence that transfer has any general deterrent value: the enactment and implementation of well-publicized transfer legislation does not appear to decrease the incidence of target offenses. Similarly, there is no evidence that transfer has marginal specific deterrent benefits over processing in the juvenile system. The existing research indicates that juveniles prosecuted as adults reoffend more quickly and at rates equal to or higher than comparable youths retained in the juvenile system. [emphasis added]
** (For those without access to Prof. Bishop's book or journal articles, some idea of her findings can be gleaned from this review of The Changing Borders of Juvenile Justice, a collection of essays edited by Jeffrey Fagan and Franklin E. Zimring.)

Friday, March 26, 2010

Bachmann Baloney

Michelle Bachmann (R-Embarrassed) truly is living in some delusional dimension:
"It is really quite sobering what has happened. From 100% of our economy was private prior to September of 2008, but as of Tuesday, the federal government has now taken ownership or control of 51% of the private economy."
Bonus quote: "The media wants you to believe that tea party patriots are toothless hillbillies," said Bachmann, who instead cast the tea partiers as intelligent, educated and professional people. "This is a very sophisticated crowd."

The Paranoid Party

Paul Krugman:
If you care about America’s future, you can’t be happy as extremists take full control of one of our two great political parties.
* * *
What has been really striking has been the eliminationist rhetoric of the G.O.P., coming not from some radical fringe but from the party’s leaders. John Boehner, the House minority leader, declared that the passage of health reform was “Armageddon.” The Republican National Committee put out a fund-raising appeal that included a picture of Nancy Pelosi, the speaker of the House, surrounded by flames, while the committee’s chairman declared that it was time to put Ms. Pelosi on “the firing line.” And Sarah Palin put out a map literally putting Democratic lawmakers in the cross hairs of a rifle sight.

All of this goes far beyond politics as usual. Democrats had a lot of harsh things to say about former President George W. Bush — but you’ll search in vain for anything comparably menacing, anything that even hinted at an appeal to violence, from members of Congress, let alone senior party officials.
* * *
[T]oday’s G.O.P. is, fully and finally, the party of Ronald Reagan — not Reagan the pragmatic politician, who could and did strike deals with Democrats, but Reagan the antigovernment fanatic, who warned that Medicare would destroy American freedom. It’s a party that sees modest efforts to improve Americans’ economic and health security not merely as unwise, but as monstrous. It’s a party in which paranoid fantasies about the other side — Obama is a socialist, Democrats have totalitarian ambitions — are mainstream. And, as a result, it’s a party that fundamentally doesn’t accept anyone else’s right to govern.

That's exactly right. And, such a party has no legitimate claim to the fealty of voters in a democracy.

It's not that the Republican Party is losing its collective mind and becoming utterly delusional; it's that it cannot bring itself to abide by the results of any election unless it is the winner. Others have been down that path, to the world's great regret.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Panama Beach Balcony Fallings

According to the Panama City Herald, a Spring Break reveler died early last night "after falling five stories from a motel balcony... ." He was identified late today as Brandon Ward Kohler, 19, of Winder, Ga.

The Panama City newspaper adds that this --
was the first fatal balcony fall during this year’s Spring Break — one of the busiest in recent years — and the only such death since 2008.
The paper sounds almost proud of those statistics, doesn't it? The "only such death" in three years.

Of course, another way of putting it is, Panama City Beach is batting 2 for 3 annual balcony deaths, or .666. That's a major league average. Never mind the other near-death experiences:
Two people have survived falls this year. Earlier this month, a 21-year-old spring breaker fell three stories between a parking garage and the Laketown Wharf resort on South Thomas Drive. He suffered deep cuts, bruises and a sprained ankle.

Days later, a 20-year-old spring breaker fell about 12 feet when a second-floor balcony rail broke at a rental house on Beach Drive.

We don't care to speculate about the how's or why's of Brandon Kohler's death. It is a tragedy.

But all those young people fallings off high places in a single beach town can't be coincidental.

It's probably too much to expect Panama City Beach bar owners to stop serving manifestly inebriated or high Spring Breakers when they still have spare change or plastic in their pockets. But you'd think a beach town that promotes itself as the place to be for Spring Break drunk fests would put wire cages, or something, around all of its hotel balconies and other high perches.

Dept. of Panama City Spring Break Necropsy
Another balcony death in Panama City: "Panama City Plunge"

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

G.O.P. Campaign Activities

Check out TPM's interactive map showing the latest Republican campaign activities. Or, just click on the image, below:

Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), chair of the DCCC, called for "some adult supervision within the Republican party" in an interview on MSNBC Wednesday. "The Republican leadership, instead of saying to its supporters around the country, 'calm down' ... they are pouring more and more gasoline on flames. And that is irresponsible," he said.

Get more details here.

Dept. of Amplification
03-25 am

Now, it seems Republicans have added hanging-nooses-in-the-mail to their bag of campaign tools. The isn't politics; it's thuggery. As we say, it's time Republicans had some adult supervision.

Worthless Testimony

A reader sends us an alert that Rep. Dave Murzin's "Christian Student Veto Bill" is 'moving forward' in the Florida state legislature. The Northwest Florida Daily News reports:
The principal, football coach and former student body president of Pace High School successfully urged a House committee Monday to approve a bill forbidding public school officials from interfering with student-led prayer.
Essentially, what Murzin's bill would do is attempt to nullify a century of rulings by the federal courts, including the consent judgment entered last year by U.S. District Judge Casey Rogers. But, as we have said before, that's not possible. States cannot constitutionally "interpret or limit or nullify "the supreme law of the land."

That issue was decided by the American Civil War (1861-1865). This apparently comes as news to Pace High School Principal Frank Lay and his two 'Christians' in arms, but the Union won that war and the southern secessionist states lost. As one of the consequences, the First Amendment's prohibition against government-sponsored religion and religious exercises now applies to Florida and all of its constituent counties, cities, and towns.

Murzin's proposed bill not only is nutty, it's offensive -- even traitorous -- to the memory of the Union soldiers who sacrificed their lives to prevent just such 'state nullification'.

Okay, maybe a bonehead football coach can't be expected to know his own country's history. And it's for sure anyone unfortunate enough to have graduated from Pace High School is in need of remedial education.

By now, however, high school principal Frank Lay -- who confessed under oath that he automatically ordered prayers at school functions because he "didn't think about it" -- should have gotten the message. That he hasn't tells us that he's not only stupid; he's also a shameless liar whose testimony -- in court or in the legislature -- is worthless.

More Pace High School Religious Instruction

March 19: The Christian Student Veto Bill
Feb 20: Constitution 2, Christian Right, 0
Sept. 18: Late Editorial Update: Homo Neanderthalensis
Sept. 17: Lay, Freeman Beat the Rap with the 'I'm Stupid' Defense
Sept. 17: Pictures of a Pep Rally
Aug. 22: Stupid, Not Contemptuous
Aug. 5: The One and Only Faith
Aug. 4: Frank Lay's Criminal Contempt Order
May 31: Principal Lay Has a 'Come to Jesus' Moment
May 27: Laying Down the Puritan Law
May 15: Southern Hos-Pee-Tility
Jan. 16: Saving Ink

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

About Those Death Panels...

Eric Boehlert of Media Matters is worried--
that one of Fox News' more unhinged hosts might finally just snap and pull a Rev. Jim Jones, beseeching viewers to make the ultimate sacrifice.

Honestly, unless you've been monitoring the ticking time bomb that is the far-right media in recent days, you probably don't appreciate how frighteningly possible that cultish scenario has become, as the GOP Noise Machine, led by Fox News, publicly suffers a nervous breakdown. It's a mental and emotional collapse that's been advertised in recent days as cablers, radio talkers, and right-wing bloggers have reached for increasingly hysterical, often blood-curdling rhetoric to describe the irreversible atrocity -- an incurable, metastasizing malignancy!! -- that's about to seize and destroy the United States in the form of a bill to expand health care coverage.

Listening to the calamitous warnings (i.e. "the end of America as we know it"), it's not that unreasonable to think that at some point one of the media mob leaders is going to suggest that life itself just is no longer worth living.
Have heart, Fox News. Soon -- no thanks to the "say no to everything" Republicans -- that preexisting condition of yours won't matter, and you'll be able to get medical treatment for the paranoid delusions you were born with.

Whither the Joshua Generation?

Apropos of our recent rant about what has become of the Republican party, Bob Herbert makes a similar point:
A party that promotes ignorance (“Just say no to global warming”) and provides a safe house for bigotry cannot serve the best interests of our country.
As we occasionally have hinted, for much of the last year we've been engaged in an extended research project involving the life of a New England man born near the end of the eighteenth century who became an early pioneer on the "Old Northwest" frontier. One of the most striking things about this "first generation American" and his contemporaries is the palpable and sincere commitment they so frequently manifested to the ethos of the "virtuous civic man."

The "virtuous civic man" ideal of those first generation Americans, such as the pioneer we have come to know so well, broadly embraced what many might understand today as "Christian" values. But the first generation Americans were well aware that the ethos of the virtuous civic man did not originate with them, or even with the Founding Fathers. Nor, they well knew, did it start with the Bible.

The ideal is rooted in classical Greece and Rome philosophy, as Joy Connolly's recent book, among many others, establishes. It has been honored throughout much of humanity's history. Indeed, these same values could as easily be said to be at the root of almost every religion and secular humanist movement on Earth since history began. It embraces a set of values that lies at the very foundation of human progress.

Among those values are honesty, selflessness, and dedication to helping the less fortunate, less enlightened, less well-educated, and even the less deserving. The virtuous civic man was the apotheosis of the early American citizen. He acted deliberately, as much as possible, for the common good of others. That ethos also characterized their parents' generation -- the Founding Fathers of our nation, who risked everything for future generations, including their own lives.

The first generation Americans who inaugurated the great Western migration understandably felt impelled by a sense of gratitude and admiration to emulate the Founding Fathers' achievements to the maximum extent of their ability. Accordingly, they invented public financing of the first "internal improvements" -- such as canals, roadways, and postal delivery. They ushered in the Industrial Revolution, formed volunteer militias on the frontier for community protection, agitated for the abolition of slavery, passed laws in many states (including frontier Illinois) requiring that each local community establish homes for the poor and disabled and provide poor residents with publicly-paid for medical care. They invented, then spread across the land, the uniquely American idea of free public education for all, regardless of wealth.

These were just some of the more dramatic achievements in the early years of the Republic. On a local level, that same ethos of the virtuous civic man inspired first generation Americans to initiate an astounding array of social betterment organizations which many of us take for granted today. These ranged from the earliest municipal chambers of commerce to the profusion of "lyceums" (or public lecture and reading programs); and from thousands of local "temperance societies" to free city and county libraries.

If nothing else, the health care reform debate over the last year, as Jonathan Chait wrote recently, has exposed a "philosophical divide" between those (mostly proponents of health care reform) who embrace the ideals of civic virtue expounded by our forefathers and those (mostly opponents) who insist that it's every-man-for-himself. As Chait writes --
“Pay their own way”--that gets to the heart of the [Republican] party’s new vision of health as a consequence of personal morality. “I think a national health care act substitutes for a lack of personal responsibility,” complained Republican Representative Steve King last August. Newt Gingrich gloats that Americans have moved “away from the idea of government-run health care and toward more personal responsibility.”
President Obama plainly is conscious of this philosophical divide. Three years ago, he delivered a speech commemorating the Selma voting rights march that squarely addressed the same philosophical divide, albeit using the Biblical parable of Moses and Joshua:
I'm here because somebody marched. I'm here because you all sacrificed for me. I stand on the shoulders of giants. I thank the Moses generation; but we've got to remember, now, that Joshua still had a job to do. As great as Moses was, despite all that he did, leading a people out of bondage, he didn't cross over the river to see the Promised Land. God told him your job is done. You'll see it. You'll be at the mountain top and you can see what I've promised. What I've promised to Abraham and Isaac and Jacob. You will see that I've fulfilled that promise but you won't go there.

We're going to leave it to the Joshua generation to make sure it happens.
At the time, Obama was speaking about civil rights and racial equality. But he might just as well have been speaking about the unfinished "internal improvement" of national health care. We're here "because somebody marched." We're here because others who went before "sacrificed" for us. We, too, "stand on the shoulders of giants."

That's what makes the crude "kill the bill" chants of today's Republican party and the vulgar protests of health reform opponents so disquieting. As Bob Herbert writes, they do not serve "the best interests of this country."

Moreover, when they taunt, mock, and throw spare change at a health care reform supporter who is afflicted with Parkinson's Disease -- all the while shouting "no handouts" -- they aren't merely expressing dissent to a single piece of legislation. They are mocking the central ethos that inspired the Founding Fathers and the first generation Americans who created our Republic. They are undermining the very foundations of our Republic.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Reaching Beyond Our Grasp

Ah, but a man's reach should exceed his grasp,
Or what's a heaven for?
-- Robert Browning, Andrea del Sarto (1855)

The health care reform bill sent to the president's office for his signature is a welcome and historic first step. But only that. More needs to be done.

First, through Senate acquiescence with the reconciliation bill, which includes some very popular additional reforms and removes some of the more obnoxious compromises engineered last December in the Senate (and which, now, a majority of Senators have agreed to support).

Republicans, of course, are threatening to derail the reconciliation bill. It's what they do, these days. As Ezra Klein says, however, "the less you know about this, the more impressive it sounds."

Next, over the ensuing months or election cycles -- or however long it may take -- the insurance industry's royal-like exemption from antitrust laws needs to be revoked. Period. The House has passed a bill to do this already. The Senate needs to concur.

Finally, Congress should take another stab at establishing a meaningful version of the budget-saving "public option," or "Medicare for All." The intrepid Jane Hamsher of Firedog Lake lays out the path ahead and why it is so necessary that we reach for it.

A New Opposition Party

David Frum, a credentialed conservative Republican and former George W. Bush speechwriter, appears to be feeling a lot like our own relative, the once- upon- a- time lifelong Republican office holder who says he didn't leave the Republican Party, "the party left me."

Steve Benen describes Frum's angst:
GOP leaders knew there was a risk -- if they lost, they'd be stuck with a far more ambitious reform law than a scaled back, bipartisan deal many Dems would have accepted -- but they genuinely believed their combination of obstructionism, lies, and obstinacy would prevail. They gambled.

And they lost.

Former Bush speechwriter David Frum, in a fascinating piece yesterday, described the success of health care reform as the "most crushing legislative defeat" for the right in a half-century. It was, Frum explained, a debacle of conservative Republicans' own making:

"We followed the most radical voices in the party and the movement, and they led us to abject and irreversible defeat.

"There were leaders who knew better, who would have liked to deal. But they were trapped. Conservative talkers on Fox and talk radio had whipped the Republican voting base into such a frenzy that deal-making was rendered impossible. How do you negotiate with somebody who wants to murder your grandmother? Or -- more exactly -- with somebody whom your voters have been persuaded to believe wants to murder their grandmother?"

Frum concluded with a message to his fellow conservatives: "[I]t's Waterloo all right: ours."

All true, but what comes next? An extremist ideology-driven Republican Party reduced to representing ignorant Teabaggers, spittle-lipped psychotics, misogynist John Wayne worshipers, and unreconstructed Confederate racists holed up in a handful of states in the deep South?

That would not be good for American democracy. The nation needs at least two viable political parties. Every administration and congressional majority benefits from a loyal opposition party. Those in the majority and those in the minority should be working in tandem for the nation's good. None should go so far as to obstruct the nation's business just for the sake of obstruction or presumed partisan gain.

The public prevarications, obduracy, and demented misconduct of so many prominent present-day Republicans over the past year -- from Sarah Palin's continuing lies about "death panels" to Mitch McConnell's deliberate strategy of obstructing the duly elected President of the United States even before he was sworn in -- is blowing back to render this Republican opposition party worse than useless.

Today's Republican Party needs adult supervision. If it isn't forthcoming, then it's time for our relative and the millions of others who recognize the Republican Party of today is neither loyal nor an effective opposition, to start another political party; one dedicated to honest, thoughtful, loyal opposition in the best interests of the nation as much when it is in the minority as when a majority of voters elect it to govern.

Dept. of Amplification
3-22 pm
Even self-proclaimed 'moderates' who remain in this infantile version of the Republican Party are forced to look like lunatics, themselves.

Dept. of Yet More Amplification
3-22 pm
James Fallows recalls an exchange on the House floor last year which a correspondent "witnessed myself" that shows how low the modern-day Republican Party has sunk.
"GOP member: 'I'd like this in the bill.'
"Dem member response: 'If we put it in, will you vote for the bill?'
"GOP member: 'You know I can't vote for the bill.'
"Dem member: 'Then why should we put it in the bill?'

Health Care Reform and You

The New York Times is providing a clean & easy interactive decision-tree that helps you understand how the new health reform bill affects you (if at all). Just click on the graphic, below.

Mystery Book Reviews

Frank Rich ["Obama, Lehman and ‘The Dragon Tattoo’"] reviews two timely mystery books, one fiction and the other not. Both have relevance to the issue of pending financial reform legislation:
The question for the politicians at the center of this battleground is simple enough: Which side of the war are they on?

The Republican leadership revealed its hand unequivocally last week. Addressing the American Bankers Association, the party’s House leader, John Boehner, promised to delay and fight any finance-reform bill.

“Don’t let those little punk staffers take advantage of you, and stand up for yourselves,” Boehner instructed the poor, defenseless bankers. In late January he met the chief executive of JPMorgan Chase, Jamie Dimon, to make a pitch for donations. That may have been unnecessary. Chase and its employees, an A.T.M. for the Democrats in 2008, gave 73 percent of their contributions to the G.O.P. in the fourth quarter of 2009.

Republicans in the Senate will be no different. Mitch McConnell’s strategy of unmitigated obstructionism remains gospel there. Just as Charles Grassley and Olympia Snowe played the Democrats with months of fruitless negotiations on health care reform, so Richard Shelby and Bob Corker have been stalling a financial reform bill with similarly arid feints at “bipartisanship.” Corker insisted that any bill exclude regulation of extortionate “payday lenders,” who just happen to be among his biggest campaign contributors.
Which book do you suppose -- fiction or non-fiction -- describes how "The top five executives" at two failed Wall Street banking corporations "collectively took home $2.4 billion in bonuses and equity sales -- that’s nearly a quarter-billion dollars each -- between 2000 and their 2008 demise." (Hint: the fiction book was written in 2004.)

Sunday, March 21, 2010

219 to 212

By that narrow margin of seven votes, with not one vote of support from the Republican Party, we as a nation (to quote James Fallows) have --
moved FROM a system in which people can assume they will have health coverage IF they are old enough (Medicare), poor enough (Medicaid), fortunate enough (working for an employer that offers coverage, or able themselves to bear expenses), or in some other way specially positioned (veterans; elected officials)... TOWARD a system in which people can assume they will have health-care coverage. Period.
There will be time enough to fix less salubrious aspects of the law; almost assuredly, too, the day of a public option, or "Medicare for all," has come much closer tonight.

Speaking personally, we're "specially positioned" by age and circumstance well enough that it won't make any difference in our own life. It matters very much to us, however, that all Americans now and in future generations will enjoy the freedom from worry and want that guaranteed medical coverage ensures.

The Imminent Demise of the Republican Party

Huffington Post:
A protester sitting in the House gallery just disrupted the early business going on in the chamber by screaming out: "The people have said no!" and "You took an oath." Leadership tried to gavel the members back into session and ordered the Sargent in Arms to remove the unruly man. Before he was escorted out, however, he did receive a fair amount of applause from the Republican side of the aisle.

Outside, meanwhile, bullhorns and chants are seeping into the press room and even the chamber. Chants of "Naaaannnccy" and "vote them out" are constant, as are the usual "kill the bill" refrains. At one point, three lawmakers, presumably Republicans, went outside the Capitol building -- on a second floor balcony -- to greet the protestors. And they each held up one side reading: "Kill" "The" "Bill".
Steve Benen:
It's not terribly unusual for some nut to start shouting from the visitors' gallery in the House, interrupting proceedings, and they're always quickly escorted from the room. But I've never heard of an instance in which House members actually applaud the nut. This sort of thing simply doesn't happen in the United States Congress.

And we're not just talking about a GOP member or two. Jonathan Cohn, who was literally a few feet away, said "at least a dozen" Republican lawmakers cheered on the protestor.

We have a highly educated relative who was born to life-long Republican parents some six decades ago. He was, himself, a prominent and highly successful Republican politician, holding an elective office at the state level in the Midwest for nearly a decade, before he voluntarily retired from politics.

He longer considers himself a Republican. "I didn't leave the Republican Party," he told us recently. "The party left me."

If the irresponsible, near-psychotic behavior of national Republican office-holders continues, many more people will be coming to the same conclusion for themselves. Down the path Mitch McConnell and John Boehner are leading them lies the death of Abraham Lincoln's once-great political party.

History in the Making

It's not often that an historic event is so widely apprehended in advance that virtually everyone gets to see it as it happens. This is likely to be such a day.

As disappointing as it is that there is no public option in the pending congressional medical reform bill, and that "Medicare for All" remains only a fond dream embraced by a substantial majority of Americans, today is very likely to be a watershed moment in our nation's history. The question to be resolved is, Will we or won't we join the rest of the civilized Western world in achieving near-universal medical coverage?

Uniform opposition is expected from what remains of the Republican Party, for purely political reasons, the good of the nation be damned. Democrats, typically, are sufficiently divided to cast the matter in considerable doubt, although as the Booman says:
[T]he Democrats who vote against it and survive are going to regret their vote more than the Democrats who vote for it and lose. That's just reality. You can't be a Democrat and vote against historic legislation like this without looking and feeling like an asshole later on.
For a projected time-line of events (subject to the usual slippage in sausage-making), click here.

Here's a video of President Obama's latest appeal. Ezra Klein has the transcript.

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Sunday Funny

Jamie Paige today yanks at the covers to expose the ugly in-fighting at the Maritime Park Committee ["Power Struggle Erupts Over Park Nomination"]. Essentially, the article offers a rare glimpse into Pensacola's good ol' boy network.

There's all manner of inside gossipy stuff, here, including rare mention of long-time "political power-broker" Jim Reeves and the oft-whispered-about, semi-mysterious "Irish Politician's Club" that inhabits a windowless room in the bowels of McGuire's downtown restaurant. Amidst all the blowing smoke and hilarity of watching greedy developers biting at each other, this inconsequential tidbit leaped out at us:
"We no longer have a master politician on this board," Merting said, referring to Collier's resignation. "Some might say being a judge is not a political job. Oh, contraire. We need someone who can get things done when it comes to getting permits and support and things like that."
One might call that a journalistic foe-pah.

Sunday Sports Report

Today, PNJ sports reporter D.C. Reeves somehow manages to write a 5,300-plus word front-page investigative report on the striking racial imbalance among high school football coaches in the two-county greater Pensacola area without once mentioning the word "racism." Now, that takes skill. Or, something.

To his credit Reeves tries, just a little, to dig into the statistically improbable numbers:
In Escambia County, where 22 percent of residents are black and 59 percent of high school football players are black, Smith is the only black head coach. The last before him was Horace Jones, Washington High's head coach from 1979 to 1982.

Since Smith graduated from Catholic in 1990, there have been 57 head coaching vacancies, and he's gotten three of them.
He also reports "Escambia County has 10 black assistant football coaches. Santa Rosa, where 17 percent of players are black, has one."

These curious numbers are suggestive, certainly, but not conclusive. Pensacola School District superintendent Malcolm Thomas probably senses this. That's why he can pull the wool over Reeves' eyes with the risible explanation that "it's extremely difficult to find black teachers willing to accept the beginning pay of between $32,000 and $33,000."

Say, what? Black teachers aren't "willing to accept" the standard starting pay but white teachers are? But black coaches, however, are willing to accept the lower pay of an assistant coach rather than be paid as a head coach?

Thomas' convoluted excuses are wearily familiar for a school system that never really became fully racially integrated, even after 1972 when a federal court ordered it.

Reeves may be a sports reporter, but we're guessing he isn't a hard-core baseball fan. Otherwise, by now he'd have dug as deep into the applicant pool numbers for every local coaching vacancy over the same period as the run-of-the-mine baseball fan does while analyzing batting stats.

Maybe the sports reporter plans a follow-up article, testing the veracity of superintendent Thomas' transparently silly suppositions about what "black" coaching prospects want. For one thing, Reeves might inquire into how many of the overwhelming number of white football coaches have been fired or 'transferred' for serious defalcations. There are some interesting stories to be uncovered there, we're pretty sure.

For another, he could statistically analyze the selection and rejection numbers in every football coaching hiring and firing event since 1990. Here's hoping he has a hard-core baseball fan to assist. At a minimum, the PNJ should spring for a copy of Measuring Racial Discrimination by Blank, Dabaddy, and Citro.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Tea Party Bigots

"At the end of the day, plain old bigotry and racism is what this frothing frenzy against health care is all about." here... and here.

Stewart Udall (1920 – 2010)

Stewart Udall, the paragon of a virtuous civic man, died today at the age of 90. He--
served six years in Congress as a Democrat from Arizona, and then headed the Interior Department for eight years under Presidents Kennedy and Johnson. His son Tom and nephew Mark also became congressmen, then both were elected to the Senate in 2008.
Under Stewart Udall's leadership from 1961 through 1968, the Interior Department aggressively promoted an expansion of public lands and helped win enactment of major environmental laws, including ones to protect endangered species.

Udall helped write several of the most far-reaching pieces of legislation, including the Wilderness Act of 1964, which protects millions of acres from logging, mining and other development.
There's more here... and here and here. He was a gentle man of vision who worked ceaselessly for a better world, rather than for only himself.
edit 3-21

Spring Break '10

Sean Dugas must have drawn the short straw at the Pensacola News Journal. Today, he puts his name on the obligatory Spring- Break- on- the- Beach column. The lede says it all:
Meeting hot co-eds while enjoying a beach Spring Break is a collegiate dream of many who visit Pensacola Beach.
If meeting "hot co-eds" is the "collegiate dream" of anyone visiting Pensacola Beach, then we need a better class of Spring Breakers. They're wasting their time and money in school.

It gets worse. "Creating romance shouldn’t be a problem," Dugan writes, "but creating a good pick-up line after a Capt’n Fun Bushwacker might be."

Much of the rest reads like a supplement to The Bartender's Guide. But, our favorite over-the-top, gushing purple prose is this little piece of advice:
Nothing says, “I’d like someone to talk with,” like a solitary walk at sunset or a pair of bare shoulders at the pool in need of sun screen.
No, Sean. Someone taking "a solitary walk at sunset" just might be saying, "I'd like to be as far away from over-sexed, drunken journalists as I can get."

Friday, March 19, 2010

The Eight Years War...

... and counting.

Here's a time-line of the worst war idea ever hatched by any U.S. president over our nation's two hundred and thirty-three year history. The war in Iraq is seven years old today, almost to the hour. Going on eight.

From Crooks and Liars:
"As of today, iCasualties lists 4,703 allied service members killed in Iraq and Iraq Body Count estimates that 95,680 - 104,382 Iraqi civilians (not insurgents/military/soldiers) have been killed.

"And that doesn't include injured veterans or those who committed suicide. Tens of thousands of families have been torn apart by the what we now know was the illegal invasion and occupation of Iraq. We've spent $747.3 BILLION in Iraq, with the full cooperation of the pearl-clutching deficit hawks in the Republican Party.

"And not one of us can honestly claim that we are safer. What a sad anniversary."

The Christian Student Veto Bill

Florida state representative Greg Evers (R-Baker) either is an idiot or he supposes his constituents are. Quite probably, both.

Evers is a state legislator from the netherworld of northern Escambia and Santa Rosa counties. He's also the brother of a teacher at notorious Pace High School. (Pity the unfortunate students at Pace who apply for admission to college. Thanks to principal Frank Lay and a handful of others in the secretarial pool and on the faculty, the school has earned a national reputation for rank stupidity.)

Evers was first elected in 2001 to fill the seat of Jeff Miller ("It's time for your business to go away") Miller, who was sent to Washington to become a feckless congressman. Since then, Evers has accomplished exactly zero in public office. Nothing. Zip. Nada. So, naturally, he's running for a promotion to replace term-limited Pistol Packin' Peaden as state senator.

Imagine! Three consummate idiots in a row -- Miller, Peaden, and Evers -- elected by what must be the dumbest collection of voters in the entire nation. Let this be a warning to anyone who contemplates moving to Northwest Florida.

Evers now is positioning himself for the coming election by pushing proposed legislation which "is designed" -- so says Rick Outzen's Independent News, relying on a report from Destin's Northwest Daily News -- "to allow student-initiated inspirational messages at some school events."

That's a misleading circumlocution. In fact, the bill is 'designed' to "require schools to set aside school time for any student request to express religious views," as Paul Flemming more candidly reports for the Pensacola News Journal.

House Bill 31 essentially tries to wedge "prayer" through the back door of public schools by giving anyone at the school, even a single student, absolute veto power over the policies and rules of "District school boards, administrative personnel, and instructional personnel." Here is the complete text of House Bill 31:
Delivery of inspirational message.-

(1) District school boards, administrative personnel, and instructional personnel are prohibited from discouraging or inhibiting the delivery of an inspirational message at a noncompulsory high school activity, including, but not limited to, a student assembly, a sports event, or other noncompulsory school-related activity, if the participating students request and initiate the delivery of such inspirational message.

(2) District school boards, administrative personnel, and instructional personnel are prohibited from taking affirmative action, including, but not limited to, the entry into any agreement, that infringes or waives the rights or freedoms afforded to instructional personnel, school staff, or students by the First Amendment to the United States Constitution, in the absence of the express written consent of any individual whose constitutional rights would be impacted by such infringement or waiver. [italics added]
The bill is a deeply deceptive muddle. It doesn't address "voluntary" private prayer, of course, because that's always been allowed under the Constitution. Even we remember muttering a prayer or two just before a calculus exam. Individual, silent prayer is perfectly legal in public schools and always has been.

Instead, Evers' bill seeks to enable proselytizing prayer at public school-sponsored events which are "non-compulsory" and yet within the ultimate control of public school authorities. Think football games, thespian productions, school assemblies, or graduation exercises. These are "public school events" paid for with public tax money, even if attendance is non-compulsory. The First Amendment to the United States Constitution applies.

Accordingly, as another state rep, attorney Marty Kiar (D-Davie), points out, Evers' bill is "blatantly unconstitutional." State legislatures have no authority to interpret or limit "the supreme law of the land."

There's more. Notice there is no enforcement mechanism or penalty specified in Mr. Evers' bill. What that means is the promise of endless litigation in the courts.

"Any individual" who claims her "rights" to public prayer were infringed at a public school event, and who didn't give an "express written" waiver of those rights, will be free to file a legal claim -- however frivolous it might be -- in court. That's a prescription for bankrupting public school budgets, just to cover the attorney's fees in having multiple frivolous claims dismissed. (On the positive side of the ledger, it certainly will enrich the American Civil Liberties Union. They might even send Greg Evers a "thank-you" note.)

Consider a few what-ifs, should this ridiculous bill actually pass. There is no doubt that Greg Evers, a Baptist farmer who wouldn't know a well-drafted law if it hit him in the head, imagines his bill will advance "Christian" prayer. That's why his proposed bill essentially hands a veto over school board actions to every school student, teacher, secretary, janitor, and even childless crank in the land.

But what if some student who is Quaker, Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist, Rastafarian, or even -- horribilis de horribilis! -- a secular humanist wants to "deliver" an "inspirational message" at half-time? Are that student's "First Amendment" rights violated if the school official in charge says 'no'?

What if a Northern Baptist doesn't care for the "inspirational message" delivered at a public school assembly by a Southern Baptist? Can she sue, too?

Would a Hasidic Jew waive his rights to hearing a loudspeaker message at half-time delivered by a Reform Jew? How would a member of the Baha'i faith react to an "inspirational" message in the lunchroom from a Wiccan? What about the response of an Episcopalian to an "inspirational message" in between acts of the school play from a member of the anti-gay Convocation of Anglicans in North America? Even "Christians" hate a lot of other "Christians" (we might almost say, "especially" Christians.)

So, hand them all a veto and an excuse for filing lawsuits against the school board and public school officials? It's all too ridiculous for words.

But that won't stop Greg Evers. He's running for higher office as a law-maker. He's obviously counting on the rank stupidity of voters of his district not to notice that he doesn't know the first thing about how to make laws that are consistent with the Constitution.

Dept. of Related Blogistry

Fox News: Sneer-and-Biased

Bret Bair, the guy who shamelessly sucked up to Bush and now has interviewed rudely interrupted Obama, is not a journalist. He is a Fox News wanker.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Who Is Less Popular Than a Congressman?

On the Dylan Ratigan Show, Michael Moore gives the answer. Watch below or read the summary:

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Nome on the Range

Haven't had enough cold, rain, or snow? As he does every year for reasons only his personal climate counselor could tell us, Bryan at Why Now? is virtually shivering through the Iditarod dog sled race. Day 12 was yesterday, and there are some early finishers, some laggards, and some nail-biting going on.

How to Have a Lavish Life Style

How can an impecunious, ambitious Republican attain a lavish life style? G.O.P. senatorial candidate Marco Rubio has one answer, as revealed by a detailed investigation conducted by the St. Petersburg Times: cheat, lie, steal, and break the law by using corporate campaign donations and a no-limit Republican state party credit card to cover your personal living expenses, your wife's living expenses, and the living expenses of your mother-in-law.

Naturally, he's the current favorite by as much as 18% among Florida Republicans.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Recurrent Thought

Honestly, right-wingers, as a class, are very, very stupid. They can't even tell the difference between a century-and-a-half old respected professional journal of medicine and an advertising circular.

An Old Friend Goes West

When the Northwest Florida Zoo closed last Fall for lack of public funding, it was announced that one of the first creatures to leave was Ivan, the rare komodo dragon. As we recall, local zoo officials wouldn't say where it went or whether he was sold or given away.

Turns out, Ivan up and moved to the Phoenix Zoo, where we just happened to stumble across it on our recent trip.

Phoenix is a great location for komodo dragons: hot, dry tropical weather, skilled zoo keepers, a local culture broadly committed to civic education and betterment; tourist promoters who know how to publicize a rare find like Ivan; and local governments and foundations willing to finance educational and tourist attractions for school children and the general public.

Not all communities are like that; those, for example, that don't have a komodo dragon anymore.

The day we were there, school buses from all over southern Arizona and thousands of local vehicles and rental cars filled three huge parking lots to overflowing, each one larger than your typical college football stadium parking lot.

In Phoenix, they're spending a million dollars just to build a decent habitat for Ivan and two of his close relatives. (The million came from a foundation.)

The Phoenix Zoo is not shy about promoting its komodo dragons, either. While the local press in Northwest Florida barely acknowledged Ivan's existence or his subsequent departure, in Phoenix everyone is excited over the coup they've scored.

Media coverage is daily and intense. He and his relatives are "our most popular exhibit, by far," one zoo official told us.

Ivan and the other two Phoenix komodo dragons are well-situated. They have indoor accommodations for the rare cool weather; and, when they're acting like randy teenagers and have to be separated, lots of space and two pools out of doors -- with interesting neighbors.

As for Ivan, he's still getting adjusted to his new surroundings. He was a bit surprised to see someone from the Florida panhandle, but he most graciously invited us to step inside his temporary abode for a chat. Not wishing to interfere with his adjustment to a new home, we felt we should politely decline.

We parted most cordially. "Be sure to tell all the lovely boys and girls in Gulf Breeze," he said as we backed away, "the next time they visit Phoenix, I'd love to have them over for dinner."

The 'Complexity Machine'

Karl Marx was right. Capitalism contains the seeds of its own destruction. The bankers will continue to buy the politicians and tilt the laws until the both of them have beggared us all. Exhibit A, via Ezra Klein:

Elizabeth Warren on Consumer Protection (MMBM) from Roosevelt Institute on Vimeo.

While We Were Gone

We had a couple of minutes before leaving last week and found ourselves remembering Mark Twain's hilarious Notice to the Next Burglar. Mindful of news reports that local burglaries are on the increase, we amused ourselves by idly jotting down on a spare post-it note our own version:
To the Next Burglar:
You may as well leave and try another house. Our defense here is utter confusion. We can't even find the valuables amidst the clutter of vacating the premises for you. If you are determined to proceed, however, kindly keep the lights low as the power bill has become ruinous. And, please vacuum when you are done. The machine is in the broom closet.
We'd intended to trash the note before we left for the airport, but accidentally left it on the table. Upon our return, we discovered some intruder or another -- possibly the one who had volunteered to bring in the mail and do her best to search the neighborhood every morning for the newspaper -- had taken a Sharpie and scrawled on the note --

Stole the Hoover!