Tuesday, April 18, 2006

my hometown paper

The Washington Post is feeling pretty good this morning after winning four Pulitzer Prizes yesterday -- one more than The New York Times (which means, I guess, that I can stop acting so damn apologetic that I actually LIKE my hometown paper).

The Post should also feel good about the front page feature on women who have lost their limbs in the war in Iraq. In addition to addressing the impact that being an amputee has on women in a society that puts such great value in physical appearance, the article confronts the lack of public discourse about the issue of the female casualties of this war (370 wounded, 34 killed). Liberals, says the article, are keeping their mouths shut because they don't want to "jeopardize support for women serving in combat roles" and conservatives simply don't want to bring attention to anything that reminds people that soldiers are being wounded and killed. Read it if you have the time.

You should always make time for Dana Milbank, who covers former Senator Mike Gravel's announcement yesterday that he is seeking the Democratic nomination for President. Gravel isn't shy about the fact that he knows he will not win, but that he's thrown his hat in the ring in order to draw attention to his two pet issues: national ballot initiatives (boo) and a federal sales tax (boo). According to Milbank,

"It's surprisingly cheap to exploit the media's presidential obsession: Gravel spent about $1,500 to rent a room and microphone at the National Press Club and to get U.S. Newswire to send out his press release. His grandkids drew up some campaign posters. And he had a glamour photo done with the requisite pose of the open-collared candidate viewing a distant horizon (although in this case the studio lights are reflected in the candidate's eyes)."

I admire the conviction, but his pet issues bite, so I'm moving on.

I'm pretty bummed to hear the news that former Illinois Governor George Ryan has been convicted in his corruption case (fraud, racketeering, tax violations, generally unethical behavior). I know close to nothing about the case and I'm not suggesting that he isn't truly guilty. Instead, the issue is that I'm a fan of Ryan's for his decision in 2003 to commute the death sentences of all of his state's death row prisoners. (There was a great documentary about the decision called Deadline. Just checked -- it's available on Netflix.) I had the chance to see Ryan speak about his decision soon after leaving office and, conviction or not, I think he is a great man.

There's an article about efforts by Zacarias Moussaoui's defense team to save his life and generate some sympathy from the jury by portraying him as a troubled young man. Forget troubled, it appears as if he is schizophrenic (as are numerous members of his immediate family). I have enough problems with the idea of someone being put to death for something he was PLANNING to do, but I'm particularly uncomfortable with the dismissiveness with which we as a society respond to mental illness. While Moussaoui is a unique situation (the scapegoat for a national tragedy), how can we so bluntly discuss putting someone to death for being mentally ill? The crimes that they commit are no less heinous and they should, particularly if they are a danger to society, be secured, but why isn't more time spent trying to address the illness that has led them to the point where they can do the things that they do? The guy in Oklahoma who killed his 10-year-old neighbor and who had plans to eat her? HELLO, it doesn't take a medical degree to pick up on the fact that this guy was sick, but he actually made it clear that he IS mentally ill through posts to his blog about the things that his mind was telling him to do. And now prosecutors in that case are already discussing the death penalty. While we're busy acting righteous about ridding the world of evil, we're allowing these people to commit their crimes every time we allow them to go untreated.

Thank G-d for conservatives who enable me to avoid leaving you on a low note.
How's this for a chuckle? At yesterday's White House Easter Egg Roll, parents had to make their way past protestors who warned them that their kids were going to get a cold as punishment for mixing and mingling with the gay and lesbian parents -- and their children -- who had also come to the event. Considering the fact that it was raining yesterday and kids are little germ buckets, that's pretty much like saying, "If you attend this event, the sun is going to come up tomorrow."

Time to take a shower.

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