Tarryl Clark keeps an eye on Michele Bachmann’s mad rantings

January 31, 2011

I get interesting, if not exclusive, e-mail:

Dear Ed,

Even if you haven’t heard, it probably won’t surprise you: Following a weekend in which she tested the “Presidential waters” in Iowa (and rewrote American history to virtually omit slavery), Congresswoman Michele Bachmann delivered her own response to President Obama’s State of the Union address last night to a national Tea Party audience.

Even with Bachmann working harder than ever to increase her own fame, and push the agenda of her wealthiest supporters, last night’s speech was more than a little strange.

And as expected, she repeated many of her usual false claims, including:

• Falsely claiming that 16,500 IRS agents would be hired to be “in charge” of the new health care law. (This was debunked a year ago. FactCheck.org said it, “stems from a partisan analysis based on guesswork and false assumptions, and compounded by outright misrepresentation.”)

• Falsely claiming that President Obama and the White House “promised” the Recovery Act would keep unemployment below 8%. (PolitiFact.com calls this ‘barely true’, and has given Bachmann seven ‘false’ and six ‘pants on fire’ ratings for other statements she’s made.)

Michele Bachmann is wrong on the facts, and wrong on the issues.

Bachmann’s cuts to education would devastate Minnesota’s workforce, her cuts to transportation would wreck our infrastructure, and her tax loopholes reward all the wrong economic behavior.

By repealing health care reform, Congresswoman Bachmann would let health insurance companies deny coverage due to pre-existing conditions, add as much as $230 billion to the deficit, take health insurance away from tens of thousands of Minnesota families and raise costs for almost everyone else.

It’s clear that in 2011 and beyond, Republicans and Democrats are going to have to speak honestly about the challenges we face and work together to deliver the results Minnesotans deserve.

We need honest debate, and civil discourse. We need to speak up. We need to get active, and stay active. It will be our voices, our energy, and our commitment that leads America forward.

After all, as President Obama himself said last night, we’ll move forward together – or not at all.

Sincerely,

Tarryl Clark

PS Keep in touch on our Facebook page here, and let us know what you thought of Congresswoman Bachmann’s speech.

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The future: Promise, or threat?

January 30, 2011

Rather sweeping changes coming in Advanced Placement courses — World History, German and French for the coming year, Spanish and Latin for 2012-13, and probably Biology.  Changes for U.S. History (APUSH) got delayed however.

At AP’s website where teachers can look at the proposed changes, three quotes alternate on the first page, including one from our resident ghost, George Santayana:

We must welcome the future, remembering that soon it will be the past.

Promise?  Threat?  Meant to cheer, or strike fear and doubt?

Or is it  just a good line from Santayana in an ambiguous situation?

(You’ll find the quote here:  The Philosophy of George Santayana, Northwestern University Press, 1940, p. 560)


Charts conservatives hope you won’t see, that Tea Party members won’t read

January 30, 2011

Food for thought:

Increases in the national debt, by president since 1976

Increases in the national debt, by president since 1976 - I'm not sure the source; is it right?

Click the thumbnail for a larger version:

Increases in national debt to 2008

Increases in national debt to 2008

Gross national debt, by president:

Increases in gross national debt, by president

Increases in gross national debt, by president; z-facts via About.com

All this, and they want to lecture “liberals” on how government should be run?

Tip of the old scrub brush to Marion Young.


Gunning against UN peacekeeping

January 30, 2011

Chicago Boyz fancy themselves as hard-nosed, free-enterprise economics sorts of guys (as opposed to capitalists — but let’s not let Texas education politics muddy the waters).  It seems to me, too often people who self-label themselves as skeptics are not, and those who label themselves as “just give me the facts” sorts of people don’t really want to look at the facts at all.

A recent Chicago Boyz post expresses excitement about Republican investigations into corruption, which would indeed be news were it directed at corruption among Republicans in Congress, and good news at that.  Despite the hopeful ambiguity of the statement, I gather the author favors investigations into corruption in the UN, as if that were one of the top problems we face in the world today.

Corruption is not pretty.  Corruption should be prosecuted.  Corruption is not the target of the Chicago Boyz and their fellow travelers, however — the UN itself is.

Do they know what they’re talking about?  I have my doubts.  James Rummel complains about UN corruption in humanitarian missions after 9/11.  Um, don’t look now, boyz, but you’re confusing things.  The UN is located in New York, but didn’t carry out humanitarian missions there after 9/11.  Of course, that’s not what they meant to imply — Rummel was complaining about the Oil for Food program in Iraq, which was set up in 1996 to allow Iraq’s people to get needed food and medicines from foreign suppliers, food and medicine that had been cut off as a result of Gulf War I, putting Iraqi citizens in dire straits.  (The mention of 9/11 was just gratuitous red meat to the conservatives, probably.)

Ultimately the program was found to be riddled with fraud.  The UN shouldered blame, but a careful reading of the Volcker Report on the incident shows facts we should consider:  The fraud was contrary to UN guidelines — that is, not caused by the UN — and the UN could not monitor the program adequately because it was underfunded.  Why was the UN program underfunded?  In 1996, all UN programs were underfunded because North Carolina Sen. Jesse Helms successfully cut U.S. funding because of his allegations of fraud and waste — allegations that didn’t bear out.  In addition, political considerations pushed operations to high-cost contractors.  In particular, the U.S. didn’t want Swiss banks to be in on the operation at all.

So, the last time the Republicans went after the UN  for fraud and abuse, the Republicans’ actions caused fraud and abuse. And if we look to pin blame for the problems, fingers point to the U.S.

Oy.

I don’t think a new investigation and cutting funding to the UN makes a lot of sense, now.

Rummel also complains that UN sanctions didn’t seem to affect Saddam Hussein after 9/11.  This is astonishingly selective memory.  All evidence we have now indicates that there were no weapons of mass destruction — and, consequently, the judgment must be that the UN sanctions worked, and worked well.  This is a continuing embarrassment to the United States, and while we wish it were ancient history and could be forgotten, we do so at great peril as we deal with every other nation on Earth who well remembers that the U.S. invaded Iraq to stop the spread of “weapons of mass destruction,” only to find there were none.  Don’t embarrass the U.S. further by looking dotty in foreign relations.  (Were I feeling snarkier, I’d put in a link to Bush’s “humorous” show at one of the Washington correspondents association dinners, where he feigned searching for WMDs in the Oval Office, under White House beds, etc.)

But then, in comments, the truth starts to get smoked out in comments at Chicago Boyz.  One commenter complains about all the socialist nations sitting on the human rights commission, including the U.S.    One commenter complains about how ineffective  the UN has been in making peace in Korea, Vietnam, and Israel.

Oversimplifying, but no more so than Chicago Boyz, we should note that the truce in Korea has held for more than 57 years, even without a formal end to hostilities.  That sounds rather successful, to me.  And Israel’s existence since 1948 seems to have caught hold, even if to the chagrin of major Arabic groups in the region.  Israel is generally considered the great power in the area.  Not exactly a failed enterprise on the UN’s part, on that score.

Vietnam?  That was never a UN project. Much as it pains me to point it out, it was the U.S. who stopped elections in Vietnam in the 1950s (1956?), and it was the South Vietnamese government whose corruption so often derailed attempts to make a lasting peace that would have kept any part of Vietnam noncommunist.  (Investigations into corruption, anyone?)

So, of the three so-called “failed” UN peacekeeping projects, two really were very successful, and the third had nothing to do with the UN.  Is this the accuracy and level of analysis that calls for an investigation of the UN now?

A complete set of facts might be useful before going off half-cocked.  Since 1948 the UN was called in for 64 peacekeeping operations — the UN has no troops, and so cannot wage war nor force war-waging nations to stop.  If we conceded the two operations, Israel and Korea, as failures, that would leave 62 other operations unstudied.  Most of those missions ended years ago, and without making an actual count, I’ll wager most of them ended successfully.  We don’t regard Guatemala anymore as a hotbed of unrest and civil war, for example.  Angola isn’t perfect, but neither is there a civil war there fueled by Cuban assistance, for another example.

One commenter complaints about a “fantasy world” about the UN that the left occupies:

One of the big differences between the Left and Right is that the Left is more controlled by fantasy narratives and can’t separate the real world organization from the one that Leftists would like to have. In other words, they can’t separate the real world U.N. from the noble goals it is supposed to achieve.

Quite the opposite, it’s the right who occupy a hallucinogenic world with regard to the UN, unable to count accurately even the peace operations of the UN, and unable to accurately state the history of operations they wish to criticize.  Fantasy narratives in this case reside almost completely on the right.  Rightists can’t separate the real world UN from the ignoble beast they wish to crucify.

They hope to take the UN hostage to begin the crucifixion, soon.

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Beginning, beginning of the end, end of the beginning, end

January 30, 2011

January 30 is a momentous date, according to the AP list of events that occurred on this day.

Franklin D. Roosevelt, National Portrait Gallery

Franklin D. Roosevelt, National Portrait Gallery

Beginning: Franklin Roosevelt, the only president of the U.S. to break the tradition of getting elected to two terms only, was born on January 30, 1882,  in Hyde Park, New York.  (Both Ulysses Grant and his cousin, Theodore Roosevelt, had tried to break the two-term tradition  before.)  Roosevelt served at the 32nd president, winning election in 1932, 1936, 1940, and 1944.  During his first term the date of presidential inaugurations was moved from March 21 to January 21, partly in appreciation for the period of time the nation drifted seemingly deeper into depression between Roosevelt’s election in November 1932 and his inauguration in March 1933.  Roosevelt contracted polio in 1921, won election as New York’s governor in 1928, and then won the 1932 presidential race.  His death on April 12, 1945, pushed Harry Truman into the presidency for three years before he had to face the electorate.

End of the beginning: On January 30, 1933, Adolf Hitler took office as chancellor of Germany.  A World War I veteran, Hitler had spent time in prison for trying to overthrow the government. Hitler was seven years younger than FDR, but their careers occasionally coincided on key years.  Hitler’s assuming power in January gave him a two-month jump on FDR; at the time, few people, if anyone noticed the coincidental rise, nor could see the significance of the events of the year.  According to The History Place:

Germany was a nation that in its history had little experience or interest in democracy. In January 1933, Adolf Hitler took the reins of a 14-year-old German democratic republic which in the minds of many had long outlived its usefulness. By this time, the economic pressures of the Great Depression combined with the indecisive, self-serving nature of its elected politicians had brought government in Germany to a complete standstill. The people were without jobs, without food, quite afraid and desperate for relief.

Now, the man who had spent his entire political career denouncing and attempting to destroy the Republic, was its leader. Around noon on January 30th, Hitler was sworn in.

“I will employ my strength for the welfare of the German people, protect the Constitution and laws of the German people, conscientiously discharge the duties imposed on me, and conduct my affairs of office impartially and with justice to everyone,” swore Adolf Hitler.

Democratic-based government in Germany was doomed for the foreseeable future.  Few foresaw that.

Beginning of the end: On January 30, 1968, during the Vietnamese new year celebration known as Tet, Vietcong and North Vietnamese army regulars kicked off the Tet Offensive, striking targets all over Vietnam simultaneously.  Caught nearly completely by surprise, U.S. and South Vietnamese forces lost control of Saigon, the South Vietnamese capital for a time.  While the U.S. and South Vietnamese eventually won these many battles and pushed out the invading forces,  the simple fact that the thought-to-be-decimated forces of Ho Chi Minh could pull of the offensive at all sent the chilling message that victory in this guerrilla did not yet belong to South Vietnam and the U.S., nor had a tide been turned.   After tumultuous elections in the U.S., Richard Nixon’s presidency could not turn the tide, either.  A “peace” was negotiated, mostly between North Vietnam and the U.S., in 1973, but it did not hold.  In 1975 relations between North Vietnam and South Vietnam hit crisis again, and the U.S. pulled out the last forces left in South Vietnam in April.  Vietcong and North Vietnamese forces defeated the rapidly dissipating military of the South, and the country was united under communist, North Vietnam rule.

Mahatma Gandhi addresses Indians

Mahatma Gandhi addresses Indians

An end: Hindu extremist Nathuram Godse shot and killed Mohandas K. Gandhi in India, on January 30, 1948.  Gandhi was known as “Mahatma,” which means “Great Soul.”  Gandhi campaigned for India’s independence and end of British colonial rule for most of the 1920s, including a period of time in prison for subversive activities.  Gandhi’s great contribution to political change is the massive use of non-violent, non-cooperation.  Non-violent tactics tend to highlight the moral positions of groups in conflict, and make the non-violent side appear to have the stronger case.  Such tactics expose hypocrisy and despotic government rules.  Though he resigned from his political party in 1934, Gandhi remained a key icon of the drive for India’s independence.  When violence broke out over the Mountbatten plan to grant independence in 1947, creating two nations of Pakistan and India divided along religious, Gandhi again appealed for peace, but became the most famous victim of the religious violence that still roils the region today.  Committed to peace and non-violence, Gandhi himself did not ever win the Nobel Peace Prize, perhaps because his life was cut short.  His work inspired other Nobel Peace laureates, including the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. (1964), the Dalai Lama (1989), Aung San Suu Kyi (1991), Nelson Mandela (with Frederik Willem deKlerk, 1993), and U.S. President Barack Obama (2009).

On January 30, 2011, much of the world holds its breath, watching events in North Africa, including especially Tunisia and Egypt.  Which of these traditions will today follow, to peace, or toward war?


Not over Up and Over It!

January 30, 2011

Nearly six million people have watched this — surely you’re among them:

Up and Over It!  Odd name for a dance company (would it be suitable for a synth pop band?).  Suzanne Cleary and Peter Harding, veterans of Irish step-dancing megaproductions.

But, did you click over to see their Facebook site, or their regular website?  This dance team takes dance in Ireland well beyond the range of “Riverdance,” and makes it really entertaining.

Acclaimed Irish Dancers Suzanne Cleary & Peter Harding blow the brains out of the Irish Dance show genre in a multi-media extravaganza. This brand new show liberates Irish Dance from its velvet-clad, tin-whistle-blowing, diddly-idleness and drags it kicking and screaming into the 21st Century. Inspired by hip-hop theatre, contemporary dance and electro-pop, Cleary and Harding present their alternative take on the Irish dance show format, asking what’s next for the 90s phenomenon we all loved or loathed?

Have you looked?  A sampler of their work:

Story telling by artists, but in media underused and underappreciated, probably because of the difficulties to work in them:

Most of the time, it’s just good fun to watch.  Isn’t that meaning enough these days?

(Sheesh!  Riverdance was ’90s?  High school kids today won’t remember it.)


Santayana’s Ghost

January 28, 2011

George Santayana was a Spanish-born (Madrid, December 16, 1863), American-educated philosopher who practiced education at Harvard University (died September 26, 1952, in Rome).  In an almost-off-hand comment in a book, he wrote the statement which is this blog’s unofficial motto:

Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.

(The Life of Reason, vol. 1: Reason in Common Sense)

Who or what is Santayana’s Ghost?  It’s the shade of Santayana, watching us, watching those condemned to repeat history as they repeat the bad parts over and over.  The shade smiles when a student learns a valuable lesson from history, and laughs with delight when those lessons find application to prevent further tragedies that could so easily be prevented, if policy makers only made the effort to avoid the errors of the past.

Why does the ghost haunt us?  Because he knows, as Santayana also wrote, “only the dead have seen the end of war.” (Soliloquies in England and Later Soliloquies, number 25 (1922))


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