A brand new day


Did everybody see the ruckus caused by the Lt. Col. for this article, called "Why presidents no longer fire generals"?

Back in March, we wrote a Think Again column outlining the various failures of the FCC under recent Republican rule. I'd like to note a New York Times story from last week that adds some interesting detail about who has been running the show over there:

For the last three years, Daniel Gonzalez has been the loyal lieutenant and gatekeeper to Kevin J. Martin, the chairman of the Federal Communications Commission. He has kept the agency humming, the paper flowing and the staff vacancies filled as Mr. Martin's chief of staff.

Described by some as the sixth commissioner, he has helped shape policy on regulations that decide winners and losers among the nation's broadcasters, telephone companies, wireless carriers and cable providers.

As largely unheralded officials like Mr. Gonzalez prepare to exit the government in the final months of the Bush administration to seek high-paying jobs at law firms or companies, Mr. Gonzalez faces a far more uncertain future. Instead of cashing in on his access and expertise, he faces the possibility of financial ruin.

Hoping to pursue a career in an entirely different field from telecommunications, Mr. Gonzalez invested in a small energy company three years ago and then joined the company's board in 2006. The company, law enforcement officials say, turns out to have been a fraudulent venture that took more than $54 million from investors.

There is no evidence that Mr. Gonzalez committed a crime or violated federal ethics rules. But many of the company's lenders say in lawsuits that he, along with other board members, personally guaranteed millions of dollars in outstanding loans to the energy company, even though his financial disclosure statement indicated that his net worth was only in the hundreds of thousands of dollars.

What's interesting is that, despite helping to guide an FCC that violated its public trust so dramatically, it was only the multimillion-dollar Ponzi scheme that will prevent Mr. Gonzalez from "cashing in" when he leaves government.

I got a feeling I need to stay quiet a bit longer here about how proud I am of our country right now and thrilled that my daughter may have a chance to grow to maturity in a country that may be ...

And so here, thank goodness, is George Zornick:

Last week, the race for president narrowed to two candidates with stark policy differences in almost every area, and Tim Russert pledged that the media will have a role in "really trying to keep pushing this back to this big debate on big issues and not get caught up in a lot of this minor squirmishing."

For our readers' benefit, we have reproduced, in full, the big debate on big issues that took place on Russert's Meet the Press yesterday:

RUSSERT: There clearly are big differences on big issues: the war in Iraq, Iran, health care. Issue after issue.

Want to know what those differences are? Tune in to Meet the Press next week for the Big Issue Sentence, and (maybe) you'll find out.

Earmarks are becoming a hot story, partially due to John McCain's presidential campaign, which is making the fight against earmark abuse central to its message. The Associated Press ran a long story on earmarks last week, and over the weekend Fox News was running a special called "Porked: Earmarks for Profit."

Certainly wasteful spending by members of Congress on pet projects is a problem that can and should be combated. But neither of the above stories provided some of the valuable context that readers need to assess the problem being discussed.

For the record:

  • Total value of all earmarks for 2008 (good and wasteful), projected: $17 billion, or 0.5 percent of total federal spending

Contrast that cost with, for example, the war in Iraq:

  • Cost of Iraq war per month in 2008: $12 billion (For the year, that's 4.2 percent total spending.)

McCain Suck-up Watch: In an editorial, the Los Angeles Times falsely asserted that Sen. John McCain "oppose[s] a constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage." According to remarks he made in March, McCain supports amendments to state constitutions to ban same-sex marriage and would also support under certain circumstances an amendment to the federal Constitution banning same-sex marriage. The Times also called McCain "an unusually centrist candidate"; however, McCain has said that he has "the record of a mainstream conservative." Details here.

"Leon Uris I enjoyed": The literary criticism of John McCain

JG: A final question: Senator Obama talked about how his life was influenced by Jewish writers, Philip Roth, Leon Uris. How about you?

JM: There's Elie Wiesel, and Victor Frankl. I think about Frankl all the time. "Man's Search for Meaning" is one of the most profound things I've ever read in my life. And maybe on a little lighter note, "War and Remembrance" and "Winds of War" are my two absolute favorite books. I can tell you that one of my life's ambitions is to meet Herman Wouk. "War and Remembrance" for me, it's the whole thing.

Then there's Joe Lieberman, who lives a life of his religion, and who does it in the most humble way.

JG: Not a big Philip Roth fan?

JM: No, I'm not. Leon Uris I enjoyed.

More here.

From TomDispatch:

"Latin America is not Washington's to lose," says a new report from the Council on Foreign Relations, "nor is it Washington's to save." The Monroe Doctrine, the report declares, is "obsolete."

"Good news for Latin America, one would think," writes Greg Grandin, Latin American expert and author of Empire's Workshop. "But the last time someone from the Council on Foreign Relations, which since its founding in 1921 has represented mainstream foreign-policy opinion, declared the Monroe Doctrine defunct, the result was genocide."

So begins Grandin's sweeping analysis of whether or not the U.S. is "losing" Latin America, or as we used to put it, our "backyard." "A better metaphor," Grandin points out, "might be Washington's 'strategic reserve,' the place where ascendant foreign-policy coalitions regroup and redraw the outlines of U.S. power, following moments of global crisis."

In "Losing Latin America," Grandin explores those moments of crisis when Washington tried to work out a new way of dealing with, or dominating, in its "backyard" -- from the "liberal multilateralism" of New Deal diplomats (after World War II applied to the world) to "the foundational principles of what, after 9/11, came to be known as the Bush Doctrine: the right to wage war unilaterally in highly moralistic terms." He reconsiders the partnership the neoconservatives and the religious Right first built in the 1980s in Central America on a mountain of mutilated corpses and which has since been applied to Iraq.

The question is: In another moment of crisis and ebbing power -- this one -- what will a U.S. administration work out next in a Latin America that has pulled away from its domination, a place where a growing set of left-leaning democracies are determined to pursue their own collective interests whatever the Bush administration has in mind.

Amid the decay of the Right -- "Even if John McCain were able to squeak out a win in November, he would be the functional equivalent not of Reagan, who embodied a movement on the march, but of Jimmy Carter, trying desperately to hold a fraying coalition together" -- what, Grandin asks, might an Obama Doctrine in Latin America turn out to be.

And the evidence he finds at hand is not encouraging. He concludes: "It seems that once again that, as in the 1970s, reports of the death of the Monroe Doctrine are greatly exaggerated."

Correspondence Corner:

Name: Thomas Heiden
Hometown: Stratford, CT


I'd thought I was too jaded or cynical for such a response, but I have to admit that watching Barack Obama speak Tuesday night got me dewy-eyed. Although he was not my first choice (Edwards was), it is still sinking in how wonderful it is he'll be the nominee. I watched Hillary's speech as well; although not particularly a fan, there is reason for all Democrats to be proud of her, and proud for ourselves.

Neither of them have haloes, of course, but what a great moment! To Hillary's followers: how can you think of the word "failure"? This was the first real try for a woman, and she got more primary votes than any candidate in the history of the nation! Many worthy goals are not attained on the first try -- ask Eric if he can play like Duane Allman yet.

Over the past few years, like many others, I've been worried sick over our nation, and felt that its revolution was in the greatest danger since Washington and the remnant of his army fled Long Island. But to see Hillary and Barack get 35 million votes between them tells me in unmistakable terms that the American Revolution is not dead yet! Excelsior!

Name: Michael Green
Hometown: Las Vegas, NV

Bravo, Brother Pierce! I knew the New York Daily News had a great sports section and read it when I was in graduate school in New York City. Through the internet, I kept up. One day, I wanted onto a Michael Goodwin column that just plain lied, I believe in reference to Harry Reid. I started checking his columns. Goodwin almost makes Charles Krauthammer look sane ... and I thought that was impossible.

Name: Ken Bilderback
Hometown: www.whapwhap.com

The Associated Press and 25 newspapers are launching an in-depth analysis of Congressional earmarks.

The press has been asleep for seven years of scandals, but now comes alive to carry John McCain's torch.

We don't know the results of this study yet, except that it's sure to provide ammunition for the GOP, even if only one piece of pork is uncovered.

This project is not inherently bad until compared with newspapers' sorry performance holding the Bush Administration accountable. Where was this effort during the run-up to war? For No Child Left Behind? For unfunded mandates? Health care? Media concentration? Federal appointments? Yadda, yadda, yadda.

Where was this project when the GOP ran Congress?

Just asking.

Name: Don Schneier
Hometown: Springfield, MA

Proto-Conservative George Will has characterized political activity as an 'organization of animosities'. This pseudo-profundity, in conjunction with the advocacy of Small Government, amounts to an expression of a sociopathic worldview, currently used to justify the prevailing greedmongering and chicken hawkery, not to mention the standard insults against Liberalism. But there are available to Liberals more suitable alternative conceptions of Politics -- for example, "the organization of sociability to achieve ends that are beyond the means of individuals or of mere aggregates of individuals." Still, the Conservative mindset is not to be taken lightly, because part of understanding Liberalism is understanding how it contrasts with Conservativism. Plus, and more immediately, if Obama is to carry out his promise to unify the country, he will need to figure out how Conservatives fit into his scheme.

Name: Chuck Lawhorn
Hometown: Waldorf, MD

That great club that used to be in Georgetown -- there were two. The Bayou was underneath the Whitehurst freeway and had one of the greatest sound systems it was ever my privilege to stand on. I'm a bass player who used to use Moog Taurus pedals, and standing on Low C (not like E Power Biggs used to do) and feeling the giant subwoofers under the stage was wonderful.

The other great club in Georgetown was the Cellar Door, where Nils Lofgren trapped Neil Young until he listened to his songs, at which point Lofgren became the piano player on some of Young's best recordings.

Eric replies: Thanks, it was the Bayou. It was bliss, on occasion, as was the Biograph almost next door. I don't know how anybody grows up anymore ...

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