Monday, August 31, 2009

Jaycee’s Stepfather and Two Women Who Helped Crack the Case on the Early Show (video)

In an interview on the Early Show (CBS) Jaycee’s stepfather, Carl Probyn said Jaycee and her two daughters are taking in their new life one step at a time.

"It's like being on Mars," Probyn said. "This is a brand new situation. ... It's pretty remarkable what they have to face."

Probyn said it's going to take a long time for his stepdaughter and her daughters to integrate into a life outside of captivity, but they are receiving assistance from National Center for Missing & Exploited Children.

Watch the interview below:

Krugman: “True transformation requires more than electing one telegenic leader”

In yesterday’s NY Times op-ed, Paul Krugman zeroes in on “the vast expanse of corporate influence” in the congressional struggle for health care reform:

We tend to think of the way things are now, with a huge army of lobbyists permanently camped in the corridors of power, with corporations prepared to unleash misleading ads and organize fake grass-roots protests against any legislation that threatens their bottom line, as the way it always was. But our corporate-cash-dominated system is a relatively recent creation, dating mainly from the late 1970s.

And now that this system exists, reform of any kind has become extremely difficult. That’s especially true for health care, where growing spending has made the vested interests far more powerful than they were in Nixon’s day. The health insurance industry, in particular, saw its premiums go from 1.5 percent of G.D.P. in 1970 to 5.5 percent in 2007, so that a once minor player has become a political behemoth, one that is currently spending $1.4 million a day lobbying Congress.

That spending fuels debates that otherwise seem incomprehensible. Why are “centrist” Democrats like Senator Kent Conrad of North Dakota so opposed to letting a public plan, in which Americans can buy their insurance directly from the government, compete with private insurers? Never mind their often incoherent arguments; what it comes down to is the money.

Krugman points out that more is at stake than health care reform:

And what about other challenges? Every desperately needed reform I can think of, from controlling greenhouse gases to restoring fiscal balance, will have to run the same gantlet of lobbying and lies.

As you read Krugman's conclusion below, recall that a major campaign pledge by Barack Obama was to bring a new politics to Washington in large part by banning the influence of lobbyists from his administration. Krugman writes:

I’m not saying that reformers should give up. They do, however, have to realize what they’re up against. There was a lot of talk last year about how Barack Obama would be a “transformational” president — but true transformation, it turns out, requires a lot more than electing one telegenic leader. Actually turning this country around is going to take years of siege warfare against deeply entrenched interests, defending a deeply dysfunctional political system.

It's no wonder that 93 readers of Krugman's op-ed recommended this response by Paul M. Coopersmith of Inverness, California:

One of your best-ever columns, Paul. A rather devastating, but totally accurate indictment of the current state of affairs in 21st-century America.

Until we liberals and progressives take to the streets, fill the town hall meetings with our bodies, and let our elected officials understand in no uncertain terms that they will lose their jobs if they continue putting their own needs above those of their constituents, conditions in this country, for all but the very wealthy, will only continue to deteriorate.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Ted Kennedy, Jr. Remembers Dad: “He was a lover of everything French, cheese, wine, and women”

Mary Jo Kopechne

Much has been said and written in the past several days about the late Sen. Edward M. Kennedy as the nation mourns his passing. For the most part, those who have praised him for the good he accomplished in his long career in the U.S. senate have not failed to note, without bothering with details, the public man was not without his personal flaws.

So it was that on Saturday morning while watching the Memorial Mass at Our Lady of Perpetual Help Basilica, I held my breath momentarily during the remembrance of Ted Kennedy, Jr. Describing his father, Ted, Jr. said, “He was a lover of everything French, cheese, wine, and, yes, women.”

The camera caught Vicki Reggie’s startled, pained expression an instant before she forced a smile.

Ted Kennedy and women. It was a topic seldom if ever mentioned during the 2008 Democratic primary while the Obama campaign, party leaders, a considerable coterie of upscale elitist Democrats, and their media allies celebrated Ted’s passing the torch to their preferred candidate in the hope of keeping Camelot alive.

However, the above rabid mob, zealous in their efforts to destroy Hillary Clinton, dug up every right wing attack on the Clintons they could find from the nineties, zeroing in on Bill Clinton’s sexual indiscretions. But they didn’t just heap ridicule and scorn on the former president. They repeatedly knifed Hillary Clinton for her choice to preserve her marriage and keep her family together over the years while pursuing an exemplary career of public service.

It’s way past time someone asked the questions that Maureen Callahan poses today in her article in the New York Post titled Kennedy’s Free Pass with Women. Callahan begins:

In all the obits published and specials aired this week, Chappaquiddick gets a few paragraphs, a few minutes, a tidy recapping of the events of July 19, 1969: The married Ted Kennedy, driving late at night with young campaign aide Mary Jo Kopechne, pitches off a bridge and into the water below. He escapes; she drowns. He does not report the accident for 10 hours. He pleads guilty and gets a suspended sentence, two months in jail.

In most of these narratives, Chappaquiddick is told as Ted's tragedy, the thing that kept him from ever becoming president. And in these narratives, he is chastened, goes on to make amends through a life of public service, advocating for the disadvantaged and the downtrodden -- and, especially, women. No one's perfect, right?

But how is it that so many women unabashedly revere Kennedy today? The particulars of Chappaquiddick are especially gory; his behavior after the accident approaches the amoral. Once he broke free and swam to the surface, Kennedy said that he dove back down seven or eight times to rescue Kopechne. Failing, he swam back to shore and checked back into his hotel, and a short time later lodged a noise complaint with the desk clerk. The people in the room next to his were partying and it was interfering with his sleep. Then he asked the desk clerk for the time.

According to the Aug. 4, 1969 edition of Newsweek, that clerk, Russell E. Peachey, told Kennedy it was 2:25 a.m., then asked, "Is there anything else I can do for you?"

"No, thank you," Kennedy replied.

Callahan continues:

In 1990, GQ magazine ran a devastating profile of Kennedy. Two 16-year-old girls near the Capitol startled by a limo rolling up, the door opening, Ted sitting in the back with a bottle of wine, asking one, then the other, to join. A former aide who acted as Ted's "pimp." His penchant for dating women so young that one did not know he was the subject of many books. Kennedy, at a swank DC restaurant with his drinking buddy Chris Dodd, throwing a petite waitress on his dinner table with such force that glass and flatware shatters and goes flying. Then Ted throws her on to Dodd's lap and grinds against her. He is interrupted by other waitstaff. He is later caught in the same restaurant, in a semi-private area, having sex on the floor with a lobbyist.

There’s more in Callahan’s article on Ted’s escapades, before she points out:

Most feminists don't think Ted Kennedy was a misogynist. Upon news of his death, NOW, Emily's List and Planned Parenthood all released emotional, laudatory statements. It's true that Kennedy's legislative record deserves such a response. And he was quiet enough in the last 15 years of his life that it's not hard to minimize his past behavior if you want to.

Keep in mind, many of these same feminists lauding Kennedy today were among those who chose to disparage Bill and Hillary Clinton during the 2008 Democratic primary. And as I’ve mentioned repeatedly over the ensuing months, it wasn’t just Ted Kennedy, especially among Democrats, who has been given a free pass for his womanizing over the years – the list includes his brothers JFK and RFK, Martin Luther King, Jr., and Jesse Jackson.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

President Obama, An Unlikely Protégé of the Late Liberal Lion of the Senate

Glenn Thrush at Politico reports on the Axelrod and Edwards embrace at last night’s memorial for Ted Kennedy. I’m reminded that Axelrod is the guru who convinced Americans that a political candidate’s compelling personal narrative was more critical to his or her success than relevant qualifications backed with a substantive resume.

Who can forget Edwards standing tall in his jeans at a campaign site, talking to the folks about his life as the son of a mill worker and his impassioned pledge to resolve the rift between the ‘two Americas’ – the rich and the poor? In case you didn’t know, that was all Axelrod stuff.

Axelrod was also instrumental in the successful campaign of Deval Patrick for governor of Massachusetts and would later lift some of the rhetoric from Patrick’s speeches to pad presidential candidate Obama’s rousing orations. As Hillary Clinton pointed out in a subsequent debate: “That’s not change you can believe in, that’s Xeroxing.”

As we soon discovered, though, Obama was Axelrod’s golden boy with a personal narrative so powerful it even caused the likes of Chris Wallace and David Brooks to fall into a swoon from which they’re only now beginning to awaken. Not to mention the fact that the Kennedy clan saw a flicker of hope for reviving Camelot by passing the torch to the young senator whose sole claim to superior judgment was a speech he gave as an Illinois legislator opposing the Iraq war.

(Have I mentioned that I signed a petition at my church opposing the invasion of Iraq? Odd - I've never once thought that action qualified me to be president of the United States.)

Eight months in and the former peace candidate who gave the eulogy today at Ted Kennedy’s memorial mass has adopted most of the national security policies of George W. Bush, while our military lingers in Iraq and we pour more and more troops and treasure into the nine-year war in Afghanistan.

As Obama continues to follow in the footsteps of his predecessor, it becomes increasingly difficult to see him as a protégé of Ted Kennedy who was known as the liberal lion of the U.S. Senate.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Shock and Outrage in Response to Jaycee Dugard’s 18-Year Ordeal

Google image of backyard compound where Jaycee Dugard and her daughters were enslaved by the Garridos for 18 years. (graphic courtesy of

The unfolding of the Jaycee Dugard kidnapping/multiple rape story in the past couple of days has an eerie nightmarish quality about it, and I’ve had to force myself to read beyond the headlines. Trying to imagine what Jaycee endured during the 18 years of her abduction fills me with outrage equaled only by the story of the Somali girl a few months ago who, after three adult men raped her, was stoned to death for adultery – as I recall, she was about the same age as Jaycee at the time of her death.

Jaycee was only 11 when the two fiends Phillip Garrido and his wife Nancy abducted her at a bus stop on her way to school. Rather than using her for his depraved purposes and then abandoning her in Somali style, Garrido – aided and abetted by his wife – enslaved the child for his sexual pleasure all those years.

The AP reports:

Dugard was taken directly to the house and sheltered from the world in a secret, leafy backyard, investigators said Thursday. Her abductor, investigators said, raped her and fathered two children with her, the first when Jaycee was about 14. Those girls, now 11 and 15, also were kept hidden away in the backyard compound behind the Antioch home.

"None of the children have ever been to school, they've never been to a doctor," El Dorado County Undersheriff Fred Kollar said. "They were kept in complete isolation in this compound."

Never been to a doctor? My mind freezes in the attempt to grasp what Jaycee’s two experiences of childbirth were like in those circumstances.

One can only ask how will the now 29-year-old Jaycee and her daughters ever find their way to healing and wholeness after the deprivation and abuse they’ve suffered?”

Still stunned by Jaycee’s horrific ordeal, I search in vain for words of wisdom to conclude this post.

Maybe later.