Sunday, July 31, 2005

Playing POTUS

"Tell your friend POTUS he's got a funny name."
"I would, but he's not my friend, he's my boss; and it's not his name, it's his title."
"President of the United States."
--The West Wing, Pilot

How can you not like a show that begins with that conversation? Granted, Sam Seaborn (Rob Lowe) was getting out of bed with a stoned call girl, he didn't know she was a call girl, and the reason for a page from POTUS was because the President (Martin Sheen) had wrecked his bicycle into a tree, but it can't be all serious.

Over the weekend I rented First Daughter with Katie Holmes. I had actually rented The Upside of Anger with Kevin Costner, but at Video Stop you get a free older DVD when you rent a new release. Anyway, I had a really hard time taking Michael Keaton as the President of the United States seriously. I couldn't get past the fact that in my head Keaton is/was Batman. I expected to see him in his tight superhero attire, not a suit and tie.

As I contemplated the men (and some women) who have played POTUS onscreen, I wondered how many pull it off and can be taken seriously. On television today was Independence Day. Bill Pullman does a convincing job of playing the president during his Independence Day speech, but aliens? Come on. He could do better.

Along with Bill Pullman, the men who have played POTUS and have done a terrible job (I realize the roles weren't written for serious drama, but mostly comedies) include: Every POTUS in My Fellow Americans (Jack Lemmon, James Garner, and Dan Akroyd...though in a serious role I think Garner would be great), Jack Nicholson (Mars Attacks!), Michael Belson (Wag the Dog), and Tim Robbins (in one of the Austin Powers movies). These I would consider complete failures, mostly because of the script.

There are a few, I don't know what category to put in. Morgan Freeman played POTUS in Deep Impact, but his role was limited. I love Morgan, so I'm biased. Harrison Ford played POTUS in Air Force One. This was too much a role written for Ford--Indiana Jones meets American Government 101. Bad idea. I really liked Gene Hackman in Absolute Power, but that may have been a stretch in creative writing...given another role, maybe he would make a great POTUS, but then again this is Lex Luther, how do we get past that?

Okay, there are way too many to name in one post, but my favorites are Martin Sheen, Sam Waterston, Michael Douglas, Bruce Greenwood, and Jon Voight. Martin Sheen played Kennedy, a role I'm highly critical of, and pulled it off successfully and he currently plays a very convincing Jed Bartlett on The West Wing. Sam Waterston is not only a Lincoln historian/buff, he plays an remarkably believable Lincoln on mini-series. You wouldn't know it wasn't Lincoln and most of Lincoln's own words are engraved in the memory of Waterston. I really like Kevin Kline in Dave, but his match in a drama is definitely Michael Douglas in The American President. Douglas is convincing and equally matched in performance by Annette Benning and again, Martin Sheen. The American President is probably my favorite film with POTUS...

Okay, not quite, Thirteen Days is my favorite. You've gotta love Kevin Costner, he makes great baseball flicks and Kennedy films. What more can you ask for? Bruce Greenwood plays Kennedy in the film and at times you need a double take to realize it isn't Jack Kennedy on the screen. At the end of the film, Jack, Bobby, and Kenny O'Donnell are walking back in the White House after the crisis (thirteen days refers to the 13 days of the Cuban Missile Crisis in October of '62) and the silhouette of Greenwood is unbelievable. I used to rent this one so much that Albertson's finally gave it to me. I've now upgraded to DVD and watch it every few months.

Last, but certainly not least is Jon Voight in Pearl Harbor. He is FDR. If there is anything in that movie I like it is his performance. I feel about Pearl Harbor as I do about Titanic, the love story is great, but once the tragedy begins, I can't stand it anymore. Voight is amazing and actually represents the fragility of FDR in his wheelchair-bound state. (I should also give an honorable mention to Gary Sinese as Truman and Anthony Hopkins as Nixon and I can't leave out Jason Robards who has played POTUS the most.)

Realizing that The West Wing may be nearing an end, I predict that the new Geena Davis show Commander-in-Chief will not shine as women have not done very well in the roll of POTUS and will not be capable of replacing The West Wing, which in it's seventh season will see the election of a new POTUS. No one can match the performance of Martin Sheen as Jed Bartlett, but of Jimmy Smits (as Matt Santos) and Alan Alda (as Arnold Vinick), Alda would make a better POTUS. But...if Leo McGarry (John Spencer) can be the vice-president, I'd vote for Santos.

Yes, I'm a nerd.

Saturday, July 30, 2005

A Post of Epic Proportions

In a surprise move on the Senate floor Friday, Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist publicly endorsed lifting restrictions on stem cell research. Frist (R-Tennessee), a heart surgeon and likely candidate for President of the United States in the 2008 election, announced that he will support a bill, already passed in the House of Representatives in May, that will loosen federal prohibitions on human embryonic stem cell research. As an opponent of abortion whose reaction to this last spring's case in Florida regarding the life support of Terri Schiavo, this announcement that Frist believes "embryonic stem cells uniquely hold specific promise for some therapies and potential cures," came out of nowhere.

Is Frist merely playing his cards right in hopes to attain the nomination of his party in 3 years? Not likely, but he certainly is staging something that will win him friends on the left side of the isle. Praise has already come from the mouth of Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nevada). The question isn't whether liberals will love him, the question is how much will his own party hate him? He was seen at the White House today with President Bush on a completely unrelated matter, but it is clearly obvious that his own party is at odds with him for the moment.

Senator Arlen Specter (R-Pennsylvania) who certainly has his work cut out for him right now as the chairman of the Judiciary Committee, implied that Frist's speech was the most important speech on the Senate floor this year. Specter, who is battling cancer, was one of few Republicans to praise Frist.

The bill that has already passed the house already has the promise of a veto. Bush has in previous statements made it apparent that a veto is intended, but one must wonder with the clout of Dr. Frist behind it how solid that veto will be. I agree with Senator Frist---"Whether it is Diabetes or Parkinson's Disease, or [his] own field of heart disease, Lou Gehrig's Disease or spinal cord injuries, stem cells offer hope for treatment that other lines of research simply cannot offer."

The 25-year old space shuttle program seems to be nearing a close. NASA announced that upon launch, the space shuttle Discovery did indeed lose large pieces of foam insulation. The space shuttle program appears to be too costly and risky. During the launch of last week's postponed Discovery send-off, foam insulation separated from the shuttle, a problem also existing in the doomed Columbia launch over two years ago, but the foam did not damage the orbiter. The loss caused NASA to take precautions that included grounding/suspending future shuttle flights. Sadly, as much as I love the shuttle program, it seems all NASA can do at this point is clean up one failure after another and try as they might, they just can't win. I predict an end to the shuttle program, that is older that I am, by the time I graduate from ISU.

A storm has been brewing in Washington, D.C. since the announcement of Chief Justice Rehnquist's cancer. The political storm of the century has arrived with the recent Supreme Court nomination. No one quite expected the storm to arrive as early as now and under the circumstances of a resignation/retirement letter of Associate Justice Sandra Day O'Connor. With President Bush's nomination of Judge John Roberts, Jr., the questions have risen and the accusations are flying. In a case that appeared before the D.C. Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals, question of President Bush's authority to contravene the Geneva Conventions, thus establishing a military tribunal to try detainees at Guantanamo Bay, not only takes a stab at the sensitivity of American political culture as it relates to Gitmo, but to Judge Roberts as well. The decision (riding on the shoulders of 3 Republican appointed judges including Roberts) showed deference toward executive power and usurpation.

Not only has Gitmo risen in the hoopla, Senator Edward "Teddy" Kennedy (D-Mass.) says, since the recent release of Robert's documents that he shows a "rather cramped view of the Voting Rights Act." Teddy tends to take things and make them more than they are, but folks this seriously is only the beginning. When it comes to the Supreme Court, the storm is always brewing from each nominee in each administration to the next.

One more bit of Supreme Court news, the confirmation hearings are set to begin either August 29 or September 6. The Supreme Court will reconvene on October 3 and collectively the federal epicenter is hoping to have an appointment and confirmation done by that date. The time table and format of the confirmation hearings are still being discussed in the Judiciary Committee, but Chairman Specter is shooting for an August 29 opening hearing.

Both parties are cooperating in the process, I'm assuming it is the Democrats though that are pushing for the September 6 date so they can keep the Senate's month long recess, but given that September 29 is the last business day before the high court reconvenes, those Senators are going to have to suck it up and get back to work. It's what they get paid for, right??

I've recently added a poll on the confirmation process. Honestly, I don't think it will take much to get Roberts through. I don't know much about the guy yet, but there doesn't seem to be any major clouds hanging over the guy's head. I'd expect maybe Senator Clinton (D-New York) and Senator Kerry (D-Mass.) to put up a fight, but only because they are presidential hopefuls and need to have a strong track record. Always expect a fight out of Teddy Kennedy, he's naturally angry. And maybe in all this fighting we'll be lucky enough to see a few step up...namely Obama, Bayh, and Biden.

It should be a colorful fall in Washington.

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Hello, Summer

The Lincoln Forum scholarship is sealed tight and on it's way to California!! My sense of relief is unmeasurable and it has been a great day since that envelope made it to the post office. Since I ended summer school and started right in on that scholarship essay, today I FINALLY feel like it is summer vacation. With three weeks left before fall semester begins I don't have any big plans, but I'm more than happy to not have anything important to do. Look for posts on my adventures in writing about Lincoln, something about the space shuttle, and who knows what else!

Sunday, July 24, 2005

Nick's Daily News, NASA, and Needing a Vacation

I see that Nick Speth has posted on the Supreme Court nominee Justice Roberts... I would recommend reading his post on the high court and abortion. He's right on target and I think we have to be mindful of what the respective parties are hoping for out of judicial nominees. Sadly, it does come down to Roe v. Wade more often than not.

Also in the news, it seems NASA is still trying to make a shuttle launch date Tuesday. It is unfortunate that they are having so many unforseen problems with the Discovery. This was their one chance to prove something following the Columbia disaster and it just isn't happening. It is probably safe to say that the shuttle program is quickly coming to an end. With Challenger & Columbia in less than ten years you have to wonder why we're still trying. But, we are the world's superpower and Cold War attitudes have yet to disappear in the our nation's space program.

So as you can see I'm not too engrossed in any big news for the moment, I watched MSNBC for a few hours this morning, but this Lincoln essay really is, well for lack of a better way to put it, kicking my butt. I believe I'm on draft #6. Now I need a proof reader and after a few last minute changes it should be ready to send off. I'll be glad to be done with this. My summer seems to have filled up with school related jobs and I'm ready to enjoy the rest of my summer...all three weeks of it. I need a vacation!

Friday, July 22, 2005


There's a storm brewing in Washington as Senator Kerry asks for the documents of Supreme Court nominee Roberts, the storm has yet to settle in the streets of London, and the space shuttle program is nearing an end, but I've had a horrible day and I just want to talk about music.

I was pretty young when Ben Folds Five's "Brick" came out. Too young to realize that it was about abortion, but impressionable enough to take from the music video that someone was drowning in regret. It was a catchy tune, I think, Ben Folds can sure play the piano, something I admire, and it got quite a bit of radio time. It also took a lot of heat from the critics. Something in singing about abortion to a crowd that's fueling the Backstreet Boys, N*SYNC, and Britney Spears fame doesn't look too good. Hey, I like the song, so who am I to say whether or not it was well received.

Well, Ben Folds is back and at it again, this time they've downplayed the controversy and have a new single called "Landed." Not landed in the typical sense of the word, nothing to do with an airport or other things, but landed as in has come back from another place and is ready to try again, turn around, etc. Nice comeback for a band that is in no way fit to compete for air time with the Maroon 5, Rob Thomas, and Gwen Stefani welcoming radio stations. They certainly aren't incompetent, just in a different ballpark than the hip-hop/pop artists featured on the airwaves.

Ben Folds to me is like Macy Gray, Billie Meyers, and others, a little out of place, but brilliant. It seems in all the hype of the pop-era, the boy bands, and the comebacks the good music just keeps getting missed. We've somehow picked up on Howie Day and a few other really good and solid muscians, yet we're still buying the Never Gone albums. This won't change because the cd purchases are being marketed to the 14-18 group more often than not and no one really cares what the 18-24 group wants.

Okay this was a long rant about nothing really important. I guess if I had a point at all it was to tell you all to at least listen to the new Ben Folds Five single. It's not powerful lyrically, just some breakups, makeups, and get your life on track moments, but it's different, powerful, and beautiful. Ben Folds got me through the day today. Nothing political about that, but I've had some pretty political days to compensate for days like today.

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Supreme Court Nomination

It appears President Bush is nominating Justice John Roberts to fill the vacancy left by retiring justice Sandra Day O'Connor. I don't have the time right now to go into the politics of the nomination or what the confirmation process will bring, so I'm going to refer readers to Nick's Daily News (the link to Nick's blog is on the sidebar) and I hope he covers it. If not, I'll catch up and get to it soon.

Monday, July 18, 2005

Westmoreland: Questionable Legacy

There are moments when I have to really try to set aside everything I know and everything I believe to truly understand the significance of a life. For the last few hours I've been wondering a lot about men, who in trying times, are not a success, but neither a failure.

General William Westmoreland died today at the age of 91.

Westmoreland was appointed the head of the military advisory mission to Vietnam in 1964 by President Lyndon B. Johnson, he served as Commander of MACV (Military Assistance Command, Vietnam) until 1968 commanding U.S. combat forces in Vietnam and later became chief of staff of the Army.

I wish for the sake of appearing less nerdy, I didn't understand so well the outcomes of the war America could not win. I wish the Vietnam War was more foreign to me and I understood less the costs and the casualities (both those who died in Vietnam, and those who lived to come home). But I understand fully that there are lessons and costs that we have only now started to see. There are men and women whose entire outlooks have changed, politicians who have changed ideologies, and kids, close to my own age, who will never serve their country for fear of what may become of them.

Westmoreland once said: "It's more accurate to say our country did not fulfill its commitment to South Vietnam. By virtue of Vietnam, the U.S. held the line for 10 years and stopped the dominoes from falling." Can we really say we stopped anything? Sure, the dominoes didn't fall, but neither did the Soviet Union for another 20 years. We didn't fulfill our commitment to South Vietnam, we left there turning our backs on everything we went in there believing.

So in his death I've come to realize that the significance of his life is this: He did what most men were unwilling to do. He served this country through thick and thin, torment and triumph, victory and defeat. And for that today this nation lost a patriot. Agree with Vietnam or not, Westmoreland's dedication in the face of defeat was admirable.

General William Westmoreland
1914 - 2005

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Losing, Leaks, and Lincoln

The All-Star Game has come and gone...sadly. The National League lost to the American League tonight, 7-5. It will be now eight years that the American League will have had home-team advantage at the World Series, something I hoped would change with tonight's game, but I guess there is always next year. The game itself was pretty exciting. John Smoltz took the loss for the National League, but another Brave, Andruw Jones had a stellar night with a 2-run homer. All in all I was impressed with the performance of the National League and just as impressed with the performance of the American League and MVP Tejada. It just doesn't get any better than this.

Next alliterative element of the post title...leaks. I'm sure by now you've all heard about Karl Rove and the supposed CIA leak. When I hear Rove's name I never take it too seriously. Maybe it's time I should. But then again in Washington they investigate EVERYTHING, so this could just be a fluke, or it could be real criminal charges against the Bush ally and deputy chief-of-staff. I would recommend reading The Washington Post for further information, I don't have a lot of info right now.

And the reason for my lack of information...I'm wrapped up in a few things for the moment. Mostly this crazy little (who am I kidding it's huge) scholarship essay for the Lincoln Forum. By the 31st of this month I have to have this essay written on what may have happened had Lincoln not been assassinated. Okay, in my head and on paper I've probably answered this question a million times when it comes to the Kennedy assassination, but I've never looked so deeply into the Lincoln assassination. I've been deep into the Sandburg biography. I love Sandburg. I still contend that the greatest thing to happen while LBJ was in office was the awarding of the Congressional Medal of Freedom to Carl Sandburg. Anyway, I've been researching and today I finally got my works cited page done. It's rolling along, but it might take me to the deadline to tweak it . Be patient with the posts for history calls.

Sunday, July 10, 2005

Disappointment, History, & Baseball

*Editor's Note: I noticed that the brains at Blogger finally caught up on the post count and The Political Game is sitting at 157 posts. It's about time! That 62 number was a bit discouraging.

I think Orson Scott Card titled one of his recent posts beginning with the word disappointment... it may have had something to do with Batman Begins, can't quite remember. Anyway, my disappointment has nothing to do with the film, but rather a recent read. Over the weekend I read London Bridges by James Patterson and as I finished it a few minutes ago I felt very disappointed. I love James Patterson, almost as much as I love the fact that when they make his novels into movies Morgan Freeman plays the charming D.C. detective and psychiatrist Alex Cross, but his latest addition to the Alex Cross series is horrible.

Okay, not horrible. It is afterall still Alex Cross, the Dragonslayer (and no, I"m not talking about George Hansen), and it is still the brilliant mind of James Patterson at work, but here's my problem with it--it's too real. I'm really picky about books. If they are history books, they have to be history, I will not read My Life until Bill Clinton dies and I won't read the smut and trash that the Kelly lady writes about the Bush family. History is history and a good history book has to be about something that hasn't happened in my lifetime. When I begin a book I don't want it to be eerily similar to real life events.. I love the willing suspension of disbelief. I like to pick up a book, read it cover to cover, and never once remember that it is real life. I like to forget the world when I pick up a book. The problem with London Bridges is it is too real. Terrorism is too much a part of everyday life right now. It's in the news, it's a common threat, and it scares me. I don't want to spend my free time reading about it. Sometimes ignorance is bliss.

The story picked up where Pop Goes the Weasel and The Big Bad Wolf left off. Alex Cross is again up against two ruthless killers and this time at a much larger scale. Cross is exceptional, his personal life is a nice touch and a needed distraction from The Job, but somewhere along the way the work of James Patterson was no longer unique, it was too similar to that of Michael Crichton and Tom Clancy. If I wanted to be discomforted and reminded of the bleak terror stricken world, I would have turned on CNN. Bridges was creepy mostly because of this post-9/11 world and last week's events in London.

Better luck next time, James Patterson. Hopefully 4th of July (Patterson's latest installment in the Women's Murder Club series) is better and makes up for this poor attempt to bank on the Alex Cross series.

My comment on history was mostly how I choose history related books, but also for anyone wondering, this date in history saw President John F. Kennedy throw the ceremonial first pitch at the MLB All-Star Game (July 10, 1962) at D.C. Stadium--now the newly renovated RFK Memorial Field. The All-Star Game is Tuesday, Home Run Derby tomorrow night, and interesting fact, President Kennedy is the only president in the history of the league to throw a pitch at an All-Star Game.

Last comment on baseball today--that little brother of mine that I was bragging about in the last week or so took first place in the BABA Bambino League Championships. They played a double-header Thursday night (it got dark on a light-less field) and then played one inning Friday in scorching heat. The kid is pretty good under pressure. He had 8 stolen bases, 2 homeruns, and struck out 9 hitters in 11 innings. Congrats to him and the Walton team!

So that's about it for the weekend. It has been a beautiful weekend, but it's time to get back to business soon. I see a Supreme Court fight lurking on the horizon and I'm still researching for a Lincoln Forum scholarship essay I've got to dive into this week.

Thursday, July 7, 2005

London Bridges

I had every intention of getting on and posting a little quip about my latest read, but given the circumstances of the day and the events unfolding in London today, I think I will pass and just give you all the link to The Washington Post.

It seems there has been a terrorist attack in London and there are (as of right now) 37 known casualties. Thousands are injured and they are still finding mysterious "packages." This is eerily similar to the aftermath of 9/11 and really scares me.

Tony Blair is returning from the G8 Summit where he and Bush have been deadlocked in an argument over global warming. I imagine Bush will return as well and the "coalition" will support the UK at this time.

And just to think I thought I'd have something brilliant to say about James Patterson's London Bridges today. I guess we live in a time of terrorism where nothing is ever quite the way you think it will be.

Monday, July 4, 2005

What I Love About America

Okay, there are many things I love about America, I have afterall lived here my entire life and have only left the country once...but in the spirit of Independence Day, I thought I would comment on two very important American traditions--1) major league baseball and 2) Arlington National Cemetery.

The names have been announced for the MLB All-Star Game to be held July 12th in Detroit. For those of you who know nothing about baseball (and you're learning as you go mainly because I'm obsessed), the All Star break's main purpose is two-fold; first, to give teams the last minute chance to readjust rosters, make trades, and gear up for post-inner league play and the post-season, and second, the team that wins the All-Star game is given home team advantage in the World Series. As they say, "this one counts."

The two all-star teams are composed by division. National League vs. American League, and the teams (all of them, meaning all of the teams in each division) must be represented. Ballots are cast for the starters, pitchers, and reserves. Not entirely fair, but baseball isn't always fair.

So the names came out and I noticed a few things, both the Washington Nationals (previously the Montreal Expos) and the Chicago White Sox who have had amazing seasons so far were rewarded for their pitching staffs. Noticing also the number of Cardinals and Red Sox players, the all-star game will be a St. Louis/Boston matchup. And...much to my surprise, there were only 3 Yankees selected. YIPPEE!! I hate the Yankees. But also to my disappointment, one of those "damn Yankees" is outfielder Gary Sheffield. I loathe Sheffield. For a Braves fan the only unforgivable sin is trading to the Yankees! My only other disappointment with the all-star announcement was the lack of representation for my Atlanta Braves. John Smoltz and Andruw Jones. That's it, but I guess with Chipper Jones injured and a roster of ten rookies, who else is left? WHO ELSE IS LEFT? How about Marcus Giles? He's by far the most talented second baseman in the entire league. And what about Furcal? He's on fire! Alright, I'll get off my Braves soapbox, the 2005 All-Star lineup is as follows:

American League:
C Jason Veritek, Boston
1B Mark Teixeira, Texas
2B Brian Roberts, Baltimore
3B Alex Rodriguez, NYY
SS Miguel Tejada, Baltimore
LF Manny Ramirez, Boston
CF Johnny Damon, Boston
RF Vladmir Guerrero, LAA
DH David Ortiz, Boston
SP Mark Buehrle, Chicago WS
SP Bartolo Colon, LAA
SP Jon Garland, Chicago WS
SP Roy Halladay, Toronto
SP Kenny Rogers, Texas
SP Johan Santana, Minnesota
RP Danys Baez, Tampa Bay
RP Justin Duchscherer, Oakland
RP Joe Nathan, Minnesota
RP Mariano Rivera, NYY
RP BJ Ryan, Baltimore
RP Bob Wickman, Cleveland
C Ivan Rodriquez, Detroit
1B Shea Hillenbrand, Toronto
1B Paul Konerko, Chicago WS
1B Mike Sweeney, Kansas City
2B Alfonso Soriano, Texas
3B Melvin Mora, Baltimore
SS Michael Young, Texas
OF Ichiro Suzuki, Seattle
OF Garrett Anderson, LAA
OF Gary Sheffield, NYY

National League:
C Mike Piazza, NYM
1B Derrek Lee, Chicago C
2B Jeff Kent, LAD
3B Scott Rolen, St. Louis
ss David Eckstein, St. Louis
LF Carlos Beltran, NYM
RF Bobby Abreu, Philadelphia
SP Chris Carpenter, St. Louis
SP Roger Clemens, Houston
SP Livan Hernandez, Washington
SP Pedro Martinez, NYM
SP Jake Peavy, San Diego
SP John Smoltz, Atlanta
SP Dontrelle Willis, Florida
RP Chad Cordero, Washington
RP Brian Fuentes, Colorado
RP Jason Isringhausen, St. Louis
RP Brad Lidge, Houston
C Paul Lo Duca, Florida
1B Albert Pujols, St. Louis
2B Luis Castillo, Florida
3B Aramis Ramirez, Chicago C
SS Cesar Izturis, LAD
SS Felipe Lopez, Cincinnati
OF Moises Alou, San Francisco
OF Miguel Cabrera, Florida
OF Luis Gonzalez, Arizona
OF Andruw Jones, Atlanta
OF Carlos Lee, Milwaukee

This really could be a novel! The second American tradition and one that I personally admire is the cemetery in Arlington, Virginia. Burial at Arlington National cemetery is reserved for the greatest American patriots. It is a beautiful and breathtaking exhibit of patriotism, respect, and honor.

Arlington National cemetery is undergoing construction. It is adding 26,000 graves to the roughly 215,000
already in place.

"The expansion means installing roads and utilities, building a new stone wall as a boundary, landscaping and creating 5,000 cremation niches. The work is necessary to accommodate the large number of veterans from World War II" (AP).

6,400 funerals a year take place at Arlington, but the number is expected to increase as more and more of the WWII generation pass. A hilltop expansion of the cemetery overlooking the Pentagon and the Washington Monument was originally planned for 1990, but was delayed for financial reasons. This expansion, the first in over a decade, is a 12 million dollar project and will expand the cemetery by another forty acres. The expansion will allow the cemetery to accommodate burials until 2030 and two more expansion are being planned to keep the cemetery in service for at least six more decades.

Being the Kennedy nerd that I am, I love Arlington, but I also recognize the historic significance of such a place. There is nothing more humbling that walking to the top of that hill and looking out over generations of fallen soldiers, men and women who have served this country unselfishly, sacrificing everything, with no regret. That is what Independence Day is about.

Happy 4th of July and God Bless America...the land of the free and the home of the Braves!!

Sunday, July 3, 2005

The Passing of an Unknown Statesman

I tend to shy away from enviromental issues, mostly because I don't know all the ins and outs of environmentalism and don't want to sound like an idiot. But occasionally things pop up in the news that I feel I should address and yesterday one such thing did pop up...the death of Senator Gaylord Nelson.
Gaylord Nelson, 1916-2005
Progressive Wisconsin Senator Was Founder Of Earth Day
By Patricia Sullivan
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, July 4, 2005; Page A01

Gaylord Nelson, 89, the three-term Democratic senator from Wisconsin whointroduced mainstream America to the modern environmental movement by founding Earth Day, died of cardiopulmonary disease yesterday at his home in Kensington.

One of the leading environmentalists of the 20th century, Nelson alsoco-sponsored the 1964 Wilderness Act and sponsored or co-sponsored laws thatprotected the Appalachian Trail and banned the pesticide DDT, Agent Orangeand phosphate detergents. He backed fuel efficiency standards in vehiclesand strip-mining controls. He wrote the first environmental education act. He once proposed a ban on the internal combustion engine, as an amendment tothe Clean Air Act.
Sadly, I didn't know Nelson for Earth Day fame, I knew only of his stance on the Vietnam War and his role in the congressional opposition to the war in the last few years of conflict. What a fine, upstanding, and environmentally aware Democrat I am!!

With the unpredictable nature of the judiciary branch right now and the added pressure on the executive branch to select a nominee, I thought it would be nice to recognize the merits of the legislative branch (even if only one man and one senator). Knowing that the legislative branch is due to disappoint me soon enough, this may be the only chance I have to comment on a positive aspect of the legislature before the filibuster fight begins. I'm already hearing that Ted Kennedy and others are threatening to thwart any attempts by the Bush administration to nominate a neo-conservative justice to the bench (as they should, but it really slows down the process...) and it REALLY scares me that Arlen Specter is the chairman of the Judiciary Committee!

With such an impressive environmental legacy and at a time when statesmanship is a thing of the past in Washington, the passing of such a steadfast senator is a great reminder that it doesn't have to be "politics as usual." Everyday people, even unknown senators from Wisconsin, can make an impact on everyday life.

Friday, July 1, 2005

O'Connor Resigns...Her Legacy Unmatched

Sandra Day O'Connor has submitted her resignation (retirement letter) to President Bush this morning. I honestly didn't see this I'm a bit speechless. There are a few surprises in this one. I really thought Rehnquist would die and Stephens would resign long before O'Connor. I'm hearing rumors that her husband has Alzheimers and she has sold her Georgetown home. Whatever the case this is going to shake up Washington.

I don't know much yet, but I know this--Sandra Day O'Connor has symbolized for a generation of women interested in the court, politics, and plain old history a transition from a typically patriarchal and male dominated society. She is a beacon shining bright for those of us with higher political aspirations. Granted, Reagan didn't get what he bargained for with her nomination, she has over time shifted to the left (as most Supreme Court justices do) and has played a key role as the swing vote, but she has been a precedent setting justice with a steadfast consideration for the Constitution of the United States of America. She is also leaving at a time when the Court has either the most to gain or lose. Her resignation shocked me most because of the man behind the desk at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. If Bush wants a legacy when he leaves, a lasting legacy, other than Iraq, here is his big chance. He'll either walk the walk, or buckle.

Now, with her resignation I see a lot of potential fights. Can we say filibuster? It's coming and coming quick if the president hopes to replace her by the opening of the October session of the Court. The only 3 names I've heard so far (and this is brand new information to me) are three senators: Mel Martinez (former Bush cabinet member and now Florida representative), DeWine from Ohio (very bad idea as far as I'm concerned), and from here in Idaho Mike Crapo (who is in questionable health and his fate is about as iffy as that of Rehnquist). The problem is, senators haven't had a good track record when it comes to getting confirmed. Of those 3 I'd most likely support Mel Martinez for his politics, though I'd really like to see Bush name a centrist, something he will not do. And with Mel, I'm all too quickly remembering the appointments of Abe Fortas and William Howard Taft. How much do Americans want to blend the branches of government and how much (or little) do they want to reign in the president? Now is the time to find out.

For a few years now I've thought less and less about the Court and have thought less and and less about the idea of going to law school, but when I see O'Connor and read her opinions, it doesn't matter what I've led myself to believe. I would stop everything, change directions, and do everything in my power to end up where she has. That's a pretty amazing legacy she is leaving behind. My appreciation to Sandra Day O'Connor is limitless. Whatever this appointment process brings, in the end, she made history. She was the first female associate justice appointed to the Supreme Court, sixty-one years after women got the right to vote. The world is a better place because of strong women like Sandra Day O'Connor.

He Walks the Walk

No, this isn't going to be one of those "if he looks like a duck, quacks like a duck, must be a duck" commentaries... I just thought I'd comment tonight on some pretty important men in my life. Ha. Just kidding! I wanted to post about Mark Felt, Jimmy Carter, George Bush, and my little brother. Okay, pretty important men and a few of which are in the news today. See? It's all relative.

Recently in the news is a bit of suspicion surrounding the president-elect of Iran. The AP has reported that president-Elect Mahmoud Ahmadinejad may have played a role in the Iranian-hostage crisis during the administration of Jimmy Carter. Today I heard Jimmy Carter's statement that he can neither support or deny the allegation against Mr. Ahmadinejad and I also heard that President Bush is stepping up an investigation of the guy. Now, realizing that Carter has nothing to either gain or lose in this, I can't give him too much credit, but I think (in my humble opinion) it takes a lot of guts to talk about something that may have ruined your own administration. Also, realizing that President Bush has everything to gain (if this is settled and the truth is revealed) or everything to lose (if this leads him on a path that implies military action in Iran), he stepped up too. With the Middle East in shambles, it takes a lot of guts to say "we'll look into it." To read about this developing story here is a link to Yahoo! News.

Third man of the hour. Bob Woodward's much anticipated novel following the recent revelation of the true identity of Deep Throat is due out next week (published by Simon & Schuster, who also published Woodward's Shadow). The Secret Man, yes, what a creative title, is supposedly Woodward's account of how it all happened, how he and Felt met, and how they brought an end to Nixon through uncovering the scandal that is Watergate. I don't know the motivation behind Felt's revelation and I don't know if this is all a publicity stunt, but it is still worth mentioning that three men (we shouldn't forget Carl Bernstein) risked everything for what they believed was the good of the nation. Maybe you have to understand the dynamic of the J. Edgar Hoover FBI to truly understand the risk Felt took, but you don't have to know much to understand what it took two unknowns at The Washington Post to put it all on the line for a story they believed in. Here is another link, this one to a story by Bob Thompson in the Post.

Last, but certainly not least, let me mention some Little League baseball. My little brother plays in the Bambino league and tonight his team won game 2 of the tournament and successfully cleared the double elimination round. Next week I'm assuming he'll go into the championship after beating a few teams (they're pretty good and I'm not just bragging because he's my kid brother). Anyway, last night he and I were chatting on the phone about the other teams and how he can tell which players are real competition and which are just there. I gave him my "for the love of the game" philosophy (basically, kids who eat, sleep, and play baseball) and he, explaining his rivalry with another team's catcher, said: "he walks the walk."