Saturday, February 27, 2010

Semper Paratus

Because of its maritime history, Cape Cod has an almost reverential regard for the Coast Guard and its traditional mission as guardian of our seaways, shorelines, seafarers, and ships.

Since 9/11, the USCG has been part of the Department of Homeland Security. In addition to search & rescue, it is a first responder to natural disasters and maritime emergencies at home and abroad; a drug interdiction agency; a sentinel against illegal immigration, the smuggling of WOMD and other weaponry; and the overseer of American port security. In light of that expanded mission, it is disheartening to read that, after a decade of underfunding, its 2011 budget is to be cut by a further 3.3%.

It is, of course, problematical for the USCG to be part of a federal department so gigantic and revenue-devouring that libertarians foam at the mouth just thinking about it. Hence, when the Administration looks for places to cut in response to taxpayer outrage, the DHS is an inviting target.

There are, fortunately, voices calling for a reversal, including that of Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md) chairman of the sub-committee overseeing Coast Guard and Marine Transport matters, who said, "I think you will have the unanimous support of [this] committee. We will proceed...very effectively and very efficiently".

Realistically, though, numerous federal agencies participate in the oversight of DHS, and the Coast Guard, as one of that department's 22 components, could get lost in the shuffle of Congressional budgetary infighting. So I would urge readers to contact your senators and congressmen, and ask that they seek some way to reduce the federal budget other than further starving a quintessential element of our national security.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Photos Don't Lie? (Revised)

Sorry, the photos didn't print through on my previous post this subject. For the full story on this "birther" photoshopping exercise, link to:

Photos Don’t Lie?, the reliable rumor debunker, has pulled a birther doozy off the blogosphere. The upper pic is a Photoshopped version of the actual photo shown below it.



Read all about it at:

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Operation Paperback

I've found no recycling effort more satisfying than sweeping all my never-to-be-read-again paperbacks off the shelf and into the hands of our servicemen around the world.

"Hurry up and wait' is a cardinal mantra of the military, and we all know how tedious waiting around -- or being hospitalized -- can be. Reading is a powerful antidote to such boredom.

There must be literally millions of used paperbacks gathering dust on bookshelves around the country, and I urge you to give yours a new life; especially in such a rewarding way.

Just link to They'll give you detailed, step-by-step instructions on how to go about it.

Monday, February 22, 2010

The Supremes III

Those who read my two previous posts (1/21 & 2/3) lamenting the Court's appalling decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, will be heartened by a poll conducted by WashPost/ABC, which finds that 8 in 10 Americans disapprove of the ruling, and 72% want Congress to act on it.

Of course, any such legislative relief depends upon Congress -- already drunk on corporate donations -- to sober up and act according to the wishes of the electorate. The more cynical among us might be inclined to say, "don't hold your breath."

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Stimulus Redux

Herewith the actual numbers to date, per the always reliable and impartial

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Mash Note to Rachel Maddow

As a moderate Liberal, I'm not a big fan of Rachel Maddow; too strident and too far left of center-- a sort of mirror image of Rush Limbaugh. But she's now come up with (on MSNBC) a witheringly accurate indictment of GOP hypocrisy vis a vis the Stimulus package.

The Administration's quest for bi-partisanship is, she believes, hopelessly and naively quixotic, given the lockstep determination of Republicans to monolithically oppose any Democratic policy initiative, the good of the country notwithstanding.

Hers is the most well-constructed and vividly graphic assessment of the sorry situation that I've seen to date. Watch it at:

Thursday, February 11, 2010

This Is Not About Texas

There is an article in this coming Sunday's (2/14) New York Times Magazine that will -- if you are a First Amendment true believer -- stand your hair on end.

It deals with the effort by some members of the Texas Board of Education to infuse their statewide public school system's history and science curricula with Fundamentalist religious doctrines.

Why should non-Texans care? Because Texas has more pupils and spends more on education than any other state. Consequently, major textbook publishers take care to reflect the TBOE's standards across their booklists, thereby infecting virtually every other school district in the country with a religion-driven agenda that may be anathema to unsuspecting parents, nationwide.

Even if you yourself subscribe to that agenda, you should nevertheless have a problem with such egregious subversion of the 1st Amendment. The supporters' contention that this is what the Founders intended is so labyrinthine in its rationale as to defy objective refutation.

If you are not an NYT subscriber, you can link to the article at:

Citizen's Lament

There is much to lament in the increasingly dire economic straits of the mainstream media (especially the daily newspaper), but perhaps the most pernicious consequence (aside from the appalling loss of jobs) is the coincident erosion of studied, thoughtful news analysis.

How many newspapers nowadays can afford the time, reportorial/editorial staff, and space necessary to responsibly discharge a function so vital to the role a press must play in a democracy? Dishearteningly, the answer must be: very few -- and we are all the poorer for it.

Magazines remain one of the few purveyors of the sort of analysis to which I refer, but, regrettably, only 2% of the population reads magazines any more, and they're relatively expensive for the average wage-earner.

I, for one, find myself increasingly turning to free internet sources having pockets deep enough to support and publish such analysis. Case in point, STRATFOR, a private-enterprise global intelligence organization which supplies strategic guidance in the form of well-written articles to its subscribers and clients. All to the good, but who's there -- or interested enough -- to refute any faulty conclusions at which they may arrive? Few bloggers -- no matter how reliable -- have the resources to do so, and certainly none of the MSM.

STRATFOR is accountable only to its shareholders and subscribers; not to the community at large. This is not to suggest that, as a consequence, they lack reliability or circumspection, only that they have no public responsibility, as does the press.

The only answer to this increasingly distressing scenario is for the MSM to accelerate (if sheer survival is not already a sufficient goad) its so-far elusive quest to reinvent its economic model in order to bring it profitably in line with the realities of the contemporary, digitally-dominated, marketplace. It cannot happen too soon.


For an example of a STRATFOR article, link to:

The Borowitz Report

Try it, you'll like it:

Monday, February 8, 2010

Healthcare Reform Redux

The politically centrist Kaiser Health News, which has been reliably tracking the healthcare reform debate for these past months, has teamed up with the New Republic -- a liberal debating forum -- to produce the article linked below.

Marshaling an array of incontestable facts, the article takes the GOP to task for egregiously claiming that it's been left out of the healthcare debate while concurrently trying to scare the bejeezus out of Seniors by telling them that the Democrats are out to take away their Medicare.

In the end, of course, the debate comes down to whether one believes in a monolithically capitalistic free market economy, or one in which the government steps in with progressive social-welfare initiatives designed to "provide for...the General Welfare" (U.S. Constitution: Article I, Sect. 8).

Read the article in full, and draw your own conclusions ("we report, you decide") at:

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Eye Opener

Democrats in Congress came up with this chart comparing job losses/gains during the last year of Bush vs. the first year of Obama. We ain't there yet, but those claiming that Obama's stimulus policies are ineffectual are invited to look at a blow-up of the chart at:

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

They Report, You Decide

Kaiser Health News (KHN) has done its usual comprehensive and balanced job in writing about the controversial issue of selling health insurance across state lines. Some may deride their approach as "he said/she said" journalism, but this article is an example of when that format is quite simply the best way to lay out the facts.

Read about it at:

The Supremes II

In a well-reasoned article in The Jurist, legal scholar William Ross convincingly refutes criticism of President Obama for his temperate SOTU chastisement of the Supreme Court's decision in the Citizens United case, regarding which I posted a comment on January 21.

Read Mr. Ross' piece at:

Kermit For Congress

We see by today's Cape Cod Times that perrennial candidate, Peter White, is running again. The local motelier, a peace activist, renewable-energy advocate and global climate change Cassandra all but defines the term "grass roots". Peter's benign and gentlemanly mien is in sharp contrast to the virulent partisanship characterizing today's political arena. As to his chances as an Independent, Jim Henson might well have sung the famous lyric, "It's not easy being green" with Peter White in mind; I'd be surprised if his high school class didn't vote him "most persistent". Lest it seem I'm treating his candidacy lightly, I'm quite serious in my belief that it's time such a concerned and progressive independent was elected to Congress by like-minded Cape Codders, and he has my vote.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Must-See-TV For Aging iSurfers

PBS's new program, Digital Nation, should be required viewing for anyone old enough not to have balanced a laptop on his/her highchair tray while gumming Gerber's. For anyone younger it will merely be same old same old.

For those of my generation, it is a fascinating mix of multitasking and virtual reality that is simultaneously informative, enlightening, compelling, and just a bit disturbing.

If you've ever wondered: what's the world coming to?, this program will tell you -- vividly.

It's being streamed live at: as I write, and will of course soon be repeated on one of your local PBS stations.

Who Do You Trust?

Back in July of 2009, when Walter Cronkite died, ran a click-poll that found Jon Stewart to be the most trusted newscaster in America.
Yesterday, Fox News ran a full-page ad in several of the nation's major newspapers claiming that-- based on a Public Policy Poll --Fox is now America's "most trusted news network".
ABC, CBS and NBC were included in the findings, and while none would likely describe itself as a “news network”, the results are, nevertheless, telling.

That a faux newscaster and a faux news network should emerge as America’s favorites is an irony simply too great to let pass without comment. That it says something profound about the puzzling political paradox that is America in the 21st Century is questionable, but somehow troubling.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Today's How To

For all you news junkies out there, I thought I'd share this primer on how to construct a TV news story. It's British, but it's universal: