News Commentary


When I decided to take up blogging again (I know, I know, I’ve been MIA the last few days), I mentioned that I’d probably be doing a fair amount of aggregating, which is nothing more than an extension of what I do for (to?) friends. I come across stories and columns I think they might want to read and send them off to the friend’s Inbox.

So here’s today’s aggregation tango:

SOMETIMES IT’S GOOD TO BE ANONYMOUS

I know it’s early, but I’m ready to declare the Albuquerque Journal’s ($ sub. req.) sports editor, Randy Harrison, as Editor’s Note Writer of the Year.

An anonymous writer to Sports Speak Up lambastes Mark Smith in a long paragraph about Smith’s alleged sins in arguing that Kentucky basketball coach John Calipari should be coach of the year. The writer gives no mercy to the idiot Mark Smith.

The Journal sports desk, bless them, allows the writer to spool out enough rope to hang himself and then drops in a gentle note:

Whether Calipari deserves the award is debatable, but this much is not: Rick Wright, not Mark Smith, wrote the comment.”

At least now we know why it’s good to be anonymous.

(Note: The link goes to Sports Speak Up for the full comment, but I couldn’t find the comment that appeared in the print edition. This probably is the Luddite in me coming out. Maybe you’ll have better luck.)

**********

FDR and the COURT

A book review in The New York Times looks at a history of Franklin Roosevelt’s attempt to “pack” the court.

Historian Alan Brinkley writes: “He proposed a “reform” of the courts that would, among other things, have added an additional justice to the Supreme Court for every current justice over the age of 70. It became the most controversial proposal of his presidency — so much so that it nearly paralyzed his administration for over a year and destroyed much of the fragile unity of the Democratic coalition.”

**********

DIANE DENISH AND THE GOP

A friend sends a report from Rasmussen in which the pollster says Diane Denish has a comfortable lead over everyone in the Republican gubernatorial race. Of course, it’s early and these things can and often do change, if Rasmussen is to believed, the Republicans have work to do.

**********

DAVID FRUM FALLS FROM FAVOR

Not bad alliteration there, eh? A four-bagger even. David Frum, former Bush speechwriter (he coined “axis of evil”) wrote in his blog that Republicans had only one group of people to blame for their troubles — Republicans.

Well, in the land of the ideological pure, you can’t be running around saying things like that. Frum explains how he got fired from the American Enterprise Institute.

**********

ERIC CANTOR MEETS MONTY PYTHON

What do you do when reality doesn’t square up with your propaganda? You follow the advice of Monty Python and RUN AWAY! RUN AWAY!

Republican Eric Cantor, claiming it wasn’t just the right-wingers throwing their own violent party, said his office had been shot at. Took a bullet through the front window it did, by gosh. The shooter is unknown, but you know in your heart it had be an evil liberal.

Along came the cops who investigated and don’t you hate it when this happens. The police said a gun had been fired somewhere straight up in the air and the bullet came down on the window of a Virginia office belonging to the Republican. It didn’t even pierce the blinds.

So what did Cantor do? Held a quick press conference, took no questions and Monty Python’ed his way out of there as fast as he could.

**********

A CHRISTIAN CALLS OUT GLENN BECK

All right, so the Rev. Jim Wallis is a liberal. He’s still a Christian, isn’t he? Glenn Beck says any church that says social justice is important is a communist church. Or socialist church. Or Nazi church. Something like that. It’s hard to go in a straight line when Glenn Beck is being Glenn Beck.

Rev. Wallis begs to differ. The question for Beck: What would Jesus do? The answer: Not what Glenn Beck does.

********

THE TEA PARTY TIME MACHINE

Writing in the Washington Post, Colbert King says we’ve seen the enraged faces of the Tea Party at another time in American history. Think the 60s. Think the South. Think the faces of those who would intimidate children at the schoolhouse door or Americans trying to vote.

Eric Zorn at the Chicago Tribune has collected a sampling of health reform doomsayers. It makes for interesting reading, especially when juxtaposed with Ronald Reagan’s view of Medicare way back when.

Zorn writes:

There’s a wonderful 1961 recording on the Internet (here, with a transcript) of Reagan opposing a health care program for seniors. Why? Because, he said, it would soon tell doctors where they had to live, and from there we’d be “a short step to all the rest of socialism” where a person would have to “wait for the government to tell them where he will go to work and what he will do.”
If a Medicare-style entitlement passed, warned Reagan, “one of these days you and I are going to spend our sunset years telling our children, and our children’s children, what it once was like in America when men were free.”

Susan Jacoby, writing in The New York Times, brings to mind Dave Sanchez, a retired teacher and administrator I have written about in the past in my Albuquerque Journal column.

Jacoby and Sanchez agree that on many occasions the single biggest obstacle to success in the classroom is the local school board. (Let us now pause a moment to reflect on the Texas Board of Education, who just a few days ago eliminated Thomas Jefferson because of those awful things he wrote about the separation of church and state.)

Jacoby writes: “Our lack of a national curriculum, national teacher training standards and federal financial support to attract smart young people to the teaching profession all contribute mightily to the mediocre-to-poor performance of American students, year in and year out, on international education assessments. So does a financing system that relies heavily on local property taxes and fails to guarantee students in, say, Kansas City the same level of schooling as students in more affluent communities.”

This caused me to dig up an old column I did with Dave Sanchez. He is retired now. He majored in math and philosophy at UNM, got his master’s at Michigan, served in the Marine Corps, returned to Michigan and then on to postdoctoral work and teaching at the University of Chicago, spent a year in England, 11 years at UCLA, then served as vice chancellor and provost at the National Science Foundation and finally returned to teaching at Texas A&M.

Here’s what he had to say about a national curriculum: “I really do believe that a mandated national curriculum is needed. I tutored a boy once who was flunking math terribly and one day I discovered he didn’t know his multiplication tables. You can’t solve problems until you have the tools. We’re still fighting those battles.”

I have long maintained that the last publicly acceptable form of bigotry is gay bashing. It is often quite ugly. But it takes a Marine Corps general to make it flat out weird.

A retired Marine general, living somewhere in an alternate universe, testifies before Congress. He tells senators that the Dutch Army failed to protect the city of Srebrenica during the Bosnian war partly because of the presence of gay soldiers in its armed forces.

No, I’m not making it up. If only I were.

Here’s the Dutch defense ministry, operating in the real world, not the general’s alternative universe:

“It is astonishing that a man of his stature can utter such complete nonsense,” said Roger van de Wetering, the Dutch defense ministry spokesman. “I have never heard of a single statement by a Dutch political or military leader that drew a link between the fall of the enclave and the fact that there were Dutch homosexual soldiers.”


I was driving on Loma Larga in Corrales when I heard the caller to KKOB say what so many others had only hinted at in the past year or so. I don’t remember what the “topic” of the moment was during the Jim Villanucci show that day. I’m not sure it makes a difference when the callers call. They tend to say whatever it is they want to say, regardless of the “topic.”

This one said he had a solution to America’s problems. He said we needed to send two or three million Americans to Washington to take care of the “problem.” Villanucci asked him what he meant. He said again that Americans needed to take care of the problem. Villanucci again asked him what he meant. Take care of the problem how?

The caller said: “Kill em! Kill ‘em all! Take ‘em out!”

I pulled over to the side of the road and listened for a few more minutes. In the past, I’d heard other KKOB callers hint at assassinating the president. It was not uncommon. But this was the first time I’d heard anyone come right out and say it.

I sat on the side of the road wondering how the assassination suggestion (demand?) made it on the air. I’ve been in those radio studios. I know they have a little button that may be used to engage the delay that prevents anyone from using George Carlin’s famous Seven Words. Those words might get the radio station a hefty fine from the FCC.

But encourage people to assassinate the President of the United States? No little button for that. That goes on the air.

Villanucci pleaded with his listeners not to say such things. But he didn’t do it because  such things are vile. He said he didn’t want listeners saying these things because he was afraid he’d hear from the Secret Service, as he apparently has in the past.

KKOB assuredly is not alone in the country when it comes to such daydreams. We all know talk radio is nearly 100 percent right wing. It commands the airwaves. We all know that rage and anger are the primary entertainment tools for talk radio. The problem is that the unhinged among us sometime take their cues from such encouragement.

In a Washington Post story on John Patrick Bedell, killed at the Pentagon after opening fire on police, Mark Potok, author of a Southern Poverty Law Center report on violent militias in America, said: “People are bringing completely groundless conspiracy theories into the mainstream, and they are doing it for purely opportunistic reasons. To some, it may be only a ratings game, but the danger is that some people actually believe these tall tales and a few will actually act on them.”

Then we have Joseph Stack, who had a complaint with the IRS. So he flew his airplane into an IRS building and in the process killed a Vietnam veteran nearing retirement. One Republican congressman came close to calling him a hero.

We’ve gotten to the point now where we put this stuff up on billboards, literally. On the blog, The Daily Beast, a slide show of hate billboards underlines the point.

Add to that the leaked Republican PowerPoint presentation encouraging fund raisers to use fear as a selling point and to paint Democrats as “evil” and a question arises: What the hell are we doing to ourselves?

Another story from the “free market,” where all is glorious if those meddlesome “socialist, fascist, commie” reformers would just let insurance companies dump people when the mood strikes. It’s all about money, friends, but we know that, don’t we?

In today’s Journal (Saturday), Win Quigley has written a superb column on the tragic killing of Tyrus Toribio, the little boy found buried in sand in an Albuquerque park. His mother has been arrested in the killing.

A lot of words have been written and said about this terrible event, but no one has approached it with the insight and humanity as Quigley did in this morning’s Journal ($ sub. req.)

Here’s how it begins:

A single paragraph in the Journal’s coverage of the Tiffany and Tyrus Toribio tragedy jumps out at me.

Toribio’s attorney, Lelia Hood, said her client recently fell on bad economic times when retailer Linens ‘n Things closed its doors. Hood said Toribio had worked for the retailer for about 18 months before losing her job.

What grabs me is that 18 months is a long time for a young woman to work in a single retail store, an industry where turnover is expected to be high. My image of an accused murderer is tempered just a little bit by the possibility Tiffany Toribio was, like most of us, trying to get by.

I suspect his careful examination of human frailty will result in the usual e-mail deluge from those who see no worth in such careful examination, but if you can get your hands on a Journal, do yourself a favor and read Win’s column. You won’t regret it.

A Pennsylvania newspaper has apologized for accepting and printing a classified ad that openly hopes for the assassination of Barack Obama.

How did we get here? What have we done to ourselves that brings us to the point where newspapers print classified ads hoping for the assassination of the President of the United States?

How did we come to this? How did we do this to ourselves?

Whenever I’m in the mood to complain about local politicians, a friend comes to their rescue. He sent the link to this story on local Florida politics from a Kentucky Fried Chicken in St. Petersburg. I feel better already.