Do you know what it means?

››› ››› ERIC ALTERMAN

"A Quest for Glory and a Bonus Ends in Disgrace." Was this the Times' hed for Bush's SOTU? For Rudy's race for the Republican nomination? Alas, non.

I see from this Times op-ed that Jake Weisberg does not like Bush as much has he did when he attacked those writers he thought were a little too mean to the president in favor of guys like Andrew Sullivan who were holding his crown for him, here. It recalls a similarly misguided attack by Peter Beinart on Paul Krugman, also for being prematurely anti-Bushist. Thank goodness such judgment is not rewarded anywhere in the mainstream media ...

Speaking of the much-admired-until-recently-by-the-so-called-liberal-media George W. Bush, George Zornick observes that last night during President Bush's State of the Union address, we were told that "the armies of compassion continue the march to a new day in the Gulf Coast." Here's what the new day looks like: residents in 40,000 trailers, provided by FEMA, that contain potentially dangerous levels of formaldehyde. (Yes, the stuff they use to embalm dead bodies.) House Democrats issued a report yesterday that charges FEMA "ignored, hid and manipulated government research" on the seemingly obvious risks of living in a small dwelling tainted with that toxic material. The report cites a letter written by a CDC expert to a FEMA lawyer, which stated there was no "safe level" of formaldehyde, and that "failure to communicate this issue is possibly misleading and a threat to public health." The researcher's letter was ignored and his office was bypassed when FEMA was investigating the safety of the trailers -- they found no safety risk that couldn't be cured by "opening windows," according to the report.

Think Progress notes a few other notably non-compassionate facts about New Orleans:

FACT - KATRINA HAS SLIPPED FROM BUSH'S RADAR: In the 2007 State of the Union, there wasn't a single mention of Hurricane Katrina or the ongoing Gulf Coast reconstruction effort. [SOTU, 1/23/07]

FACT - GULF COAST STILL STRUGGLING TO RECOVER: "Almost 40% of the people displaced from New Orleans by Hurricane Katrina" lived "below the poverty line last year," according to a Census Bureau survey. The survey also found that "nearly a third of those who fled the hurricane could not find jobs last year, and thousands more weren't trying." [USA Today, 10/8/07]

FACT - BUSH HAS SHORTCHANGED SCHOOL RECONSTRUCTION: The estimated cost of hurricane-related destruction in K-12 and higher education in Mississippi and Louisiana is $6.2 billion," but "the federal government has provided only $1.2 billion." Foreign governments contributed $131.5 million to recovery funding for Louisiana colleges, slightly less than the $135 million contributed by the U.S. government. [Southern Education Foundation, 8/29/06]

The "army of compassion" marching on New Orleans is one of Bush's favorite formulations, and residents of the Gulf Coast can be forgiven if they call for a precipitous withdrawal of these forces.

Speaking of New Orleans, Eric will be moderating a panel there on Friday, March 7, during the Regional Equity 08 conference, which is dedicated to setting strategic action and policy priorities for regional equity. Eric's panel will be on about "Navigating New Media to Spark Social Change."

Also, the boss will be speaking tomorrow in New York, on a panel that addresses the question "What institutional and social factors promote or undermine ethical presidential leadership?" It's being held at the Center for Jewish History, 15 W. 16th Street. The event is free and open to the public, and begins at 1:15 p.m. Registration is here.

A full list of Eric's appearances can be found here.

Correspondence Corner:

From: Siva Vaidhyanathan
Hometown: Charlottesville,VA

Eric,

The absolute best thing about Rudy Giuliani tanking in Florida (as he has in every state so far) is that the rest of America is discovering what New Yorkers, his police commissioners, his children, and his ex-wives have known for years: The better you get to know Rudy, the less you want him around.

I have enjoyed Rudy's downfall as much as I enjoyed watching the Miami Dolphins suffer, sputter, fade, and lose their historic monopoly on undefeated seasons.

Name: Edward Furey
Hometown: New York City

With the Ted Kennedy endorsement of Obama today, it's worth noting that the Obama-Clinton contest has some resemblance to the 1960 primaries, which pitted Kennedy against Hubert Humphrey, who was the traditional (Stevenson) liberal standard-bearer. This time, it's Obama as the younger, charismatic challenger and Clinton as the slightly older, more conventional liberal. Religion became an issue in the primary campaign when Kennedy won the Wisconsin primary by a margin that seemed inadequate in a state with a substantial Catholic minority.

So the battle was joined in West Virginia, then 95 percent Protestant. And there things started to get a little rough. Anti-Catholic fliers began appearing, and various Kennedy foes in the area, some associated with Humphrey (and perhaps LBJ, who was an undeclared contender), found ways to remind people that Kennedy was a Catholic and they were not.

Kennedy, a decorated war hero, was contrasted to Humphrey who had tried to enlist but was turned down for health reasons and was 4-F in the war years. Kennedy surrogates, including FDR, Jr. (himself a naval veteran of the Pacific War), made sure that everyone knew that while Kennedy was fighting in the Solomon Islands, Humphrey was not.

Both sides were landing low blows that were not only unworthy of them, but probably even worse than anything anyone in the Clinton or Obama camps has said in this campaign. And yet the ticket went on to win in November, and Kennedy and Humphrey would work together later on.

Name: Pat O'Neill
Hometown: Milmont Park, PA

"If this can't be nominated for Best Picture, can any animated comedy ever be nominated for Best Picture?"

The answer -- according to the Academy's current rules -- is "no." Disney's Beauty and the Beast was nominated for Best Picture, but that so riled the old guard that within two or three years they created the "Best Animated Feature" category, so they could isolate that form into its own place, never again to show its face in the "real" Best Picture category.

Name: M. Wetzel
Hometown: Bartlesville, OK

Hi Doc, All the experts on Wall Street are begging for interest rate cuts by the Fed. "Damn the inflation, full speed ahead." The three biggest drags on our economy are, 1. the true rate of inflation, 2. the true unemployment rate, and 3. the huge debt load carried by the average family. Anyone who buys groceries can tell you that the real inflation rate is much higher than the 2% limit called for by the Fed, how much higher is hard to calculate, but it is closer to 7 or 8%. Bush brags about creating new jobs, but most of those jobs are in the service sector, low paying, not really capable of supporting a family. The real unemployment rate is really about 8 to 10%, those persons who have stopped looking for work are not counted. The headlines are full of corporations planning to lay off more employees. And finally the debt load, the average family is spending 138% of their income, this is impossible, it cannot continue. So the ploy by Bush to get us to spend more with some small rebate paid to us in 4 months would be laughable if it were not so unrealistic. The Wall Street studs cannot expect the downtrodden consumer to bail them out again for the tenth time.

Name: Brian Donohue
Hometown: http://dailyrevolution.net

A certain anniversary quietly passed yesterday, virtually unnoticed by the MSM. I found the link to it on BBC's front page -- it seems the Brits are better at remembering our most painful moments of passage than we are.

There's a musical connection for me to this event: it must have been 3 days after Challenger lit up the sky and made us all weep, when I went to Carnegie Hall here in NYC for what must have been the great Rudolf Serkin's last concert there (he died in '91). We're talking here about a man who is arguably one of the top five instrumental artists of the 20th c. He started out with a Beethoven sonata, might have been the Waldstein, then some Brahms, and an intermission. After that, he came back onstage, walked to the front and said, "this is for the astronauts." He sat and played the Mozart C Minor Fantasy. It remains in memory, and I'll recall it on my deathbed, most likely, along with my kid's birth and a few other things.

People who don't care about classical music think it's all about the past. But when it's done right (and no one did it better than Serkin), it's all about the moment and its emotional weight. I can assure you that if by the end of that Mozart piece there was a dry eye in that great house, it sure as hell wasn't either of mine.

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