G-20: fear and understanding

My friend Bill Sumrall left a comment on yesterday’s post quoting George Orwell’s “1984.” That got me to thinking about the symbolism in this small but powerful book.

“Room 101” in the book represents that which every man fears most. I believe the “101” might represent the trepidation of college freshmen in the rudimentary courses ending with that number. It gave me pause then when I discovered in college that my psychology101 course was to meet in room 101.

All this brings to mind a quote I read somewhere along the way, “Man fears most that which he does not understand.”

I’m not about to write on this blog about the economic crisis faced by the countries of this world. I do a good job of managing my personal financial affairs, but when the talk turns to “millions,” “billions” and even “trillions,” it’s way over my head.

What follows are two seemingly unrelated statements:

Red flags go up when I receive articles via email from Web sites – right or left – which have an ideological agenda to push.

I am knee-deep in research on "la moria grande" – The Black Death, the plague which swept Europe in the 14th Century, and The Great Plague of London in the 17th Century – and the subsequent breakdown of societal structure and mores. An economic disaster of global proportions could have the same effects.

I am trying to read about all this economic handwringing and grasp as much understanding as I can. CNN.com (LINK), a source I trust, tells me:

“This week's London Summit brings together the leaders of the world's 20 largest economic powers, known as the Group of 20, to discuss the global financial crisis and decide new measures to set the world on a more stable economic footing.”

To me, that’s a start.

Then, I received an emailed article from one of those “red-flag” sites, prisonplanet.com (LINK), with the headline: “UN & IMF Back Agenda For Global Financial Dictatorship: Frog march to new world reserve currency system continues apace.”

Basically, the Group of 20, the United Nations and the International Monetary Fund, according to this article, are bogeymen who want to establish a single world currency and a “new world financial order.”

So what’s going on in London is – what? – an attempt to take over the world and establish one world government?

The article goes on to say that Secretary of the Treasury Timothy Geithner – and by extension President Barack Obama – are complicit in this heady conspiracy.

At the bottom of the article are links to 12 related articles on the same Web site with headlines such as “Obama Denounces Global Currency While Creating The Very Means For Its Introduction” and “Two-Faced Geithner Assures CFR (BJ: Council on Foreign Relations) Puppet Masters He’s ‘Open’ To Global Currency.”


A lot of people smarter than me and possibly smarter than you are working on this global financial problem.

What I fear most, and what I don’t understand, is the inability of persons to attempt research and to separate the wheat from the chaff – the truth from propaganda and poppycock.


A neocon by any other name

Anyone who closely followed the Bush administration’s foreign and domestic policies knows what a “neoconservative” is and the names of persons and publications falling under that ideological umbrella.

Over a period of seven years, I have reported on various blogs – “Vocal Yokels,” “I See My Dreams” and “DemWit” – who these ideologues are and their positions of influence.

If you’ve stumbled upon my blog and have no idea what I’m talking about, you probably won’t be interested in this post from my archived “I See My Dreams,” but it’s a pretty good crash course, just in case you’re curious:

“Sphere of influence,” I See My Dreams, 12 March 2007.

In it, I name names.

Speaking of names, a neocon by any other name is stlll a neocon.

That’s why I read with a great deal of interest that William “Bill” Kristol, son of the godfather of neoconservatism, Irving Kristol, and editor of The Weekly Standard, has something up his sleeve.

On January 26, Kristol wrote in his last column for The New York Times that “Jan. 20, 2009, marked the end of a conservative era."

Not so fast.

Because the mothership of neoconservatives, The Project for a New American Century (PNAC), became far too familiar and because this bunch bungled our foreign policy to the point of embarrassment, Kristol has announced a new version with a new name.

According to The Progress Report, Center for American Progress (3/27/09), Kristol’s “new ‘political organization’ for neoconservatives is now a reality.” The Foreign Policy Initiative (FPI) is “the brainchild” of Kristol, Robert Kagan and former Bush administration official Dan Senor. Kristol and Kagan founded PNAC in 1997, and this is just putting a new face on their old tricks.

According to The Progress Report, “The Wonk Room's Matt Duss writes that Kristol and Kagan seem to be re-naming their old organization because it became ‘inextricably bound in the public's imagination to one of the worst foreign policy blunders in American history’ - the invasion of Iraq. Noting that FPI's first public event next week, Afghanistan: Planning For Success, features a heavy representation of Iraq war advocates, Duss suggests that a far better title for the event would be ‘Afghanistan: Dealing With The Huge Problems Created By Many Of The People On This Very Stage.’ ”

Stay tuned.

PHOTO: William “Bill” Kristol


Earth Hour tonight, RSVP

On Sunday, March 29, the first of three negotiating sessions on climate change will convene in Bonn, Germany. Thus begins a year of international efforts, which will culminate in the United Nations Climate Change Conference (LINK) in Copenhagen, Denmark, December 7-18.

The policies formulated at this critical conference will replace the Kyoto Protocol.


The World Wildlife Fund, the one with the panda logo, is asking you to take an hour – Earth Hour – to make a statement to those participating in these important negotiations:

* To vote for Planet Earth, turn your lights out from 8:30 to 9:30 local time, Saturday night, 28 March 2009.

* To vote for global warming, do nothing.

It’s as easy as that, and you will join 1 billion people in 71 countries and territories around the Earth who want to make their support for Planet Earth known before the Copenhagen conference.


Eiffel Tower in Paris
Sydney Opera House
Acropolis and Parthenon in Athens
The London Eye
Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco
Rome’s Colosseum
The Coca Cola billboard in Times Square


Your home



For The Comments Zone: What will you do for an hour in the dark?


CBS' Randall Pinkston

On Wednesday of last week, anchor Meg Oliver closed out CBS’ “Up to the Minute” with an announcement that, after three years, she was leaving the broadcast.

The next couple of days I got really antsy as the show disappeared from the local affiliate’s lineup. I tuned in for news and got Judge Judy instead.

Since I’m up early in the morning, I have, for some time, watched this comprehensive news broadcast, one of the best on television. When I switched to basic cable a couple of months ago, I became more dependent on it for, as the program says, up-to-the-minute news. The 30 minutes of nothingness offered nightly by the networks doesn’t do it for me.

It’s been pretty tough on low-key political bloggers lately what with the glut of economy reporting and the dearth of any other news of note.

I was thrilled, then, to tune in this week and find “Up to the Minute” and even moreso to find a long-trusted newsman in the anchor seat – CBS’ Randall Pinkston.


In the early ‘70s, when Mississippi schools were being integrated – a transitional, even traumatic, time for blacks and whites – WLBT-TV in Jackson hired the state’s first African-American evening news anchor – Willie Pinkston.

Pinkston, a Yazoo County, Miss., native, and graduate of Millsaps College in Jackson, soon became the state’s most popular newsman. Not only was Willie Pinkston “cool,” he was a real pro, and bolstered the station’s viewership.


To my surprise and delight, I learned some years back that Willie Pinkston of the old WLBT days and Randall Pinkston, one of CBS’ best reporters, are one and the same.

At that time, I left a message on his CBS voice mail. I had something to say to him. Although a call-back wasn’t necessary, this gracious gentleman returned my call. We chatted for a while. I told him a lot of people get credit for positive changes which took place in Mississippi during turbulent days, and I felt he played a very important role in those days. He seemed genuinely touched and told me if I ever needed anything to give him a call. What a nice guy!


So, here I am, needing real news, news I can trust, and once more I’m turning to Mr. Pinkston.

Sticking with the “tried-and-true” can be very comforting in times like these.


Just a matter of 'Time'

In the ‘90s, a middle school music teacher, a colleague of my husband, asked me to suggest and loan her a videotape from my collection - a musical which would appeal to her students. Without hesitation, I said, “ ‘West Side Story.’ The kids will love it, and you can tell them it’s based on Shakespeare’s ‘Romeo and Juliet.’ ”

Regrettably, she returned the movie with a disappointing note. In the movie, there’s a scene in Pop’s candy store, where members of the Jets attempt to rape Anita, who has come to warn them that the Sharks are ready to rumble. The scene is nothing more than very tasteful choreography by the master Jerome Robbins and is prevented when Pop intervenes.

The principal stuck his head in her music classroom just as this scene was unfolding onscreen and ordered her to stop the film.

“That’s a real shame, “ I told her. “Does he think these kids don’t know about sex?”

I could not help but recall the incident when a report on local CBS affiliate WSPA caught my ear.

This same school, some 15 years later, now has a sex-education program which is a model for the nation. More than that, it’s a program which is working.

Connie LeGrand of WSPA reports (LINK):

“A sex-ed program in Anderson County (SC) is receiving national attention for its effectiveness in decreasing teen pregnancies. Anderson District 3’s model is featured in an article in Time magazine which hit news stands Monday.

“The program is called IMPACT, and it’s financially supported by the Women’s Leadership Council of the United Way of Anderson County. Students at Starr-Iva Middle School take the classes from sixth through eighth grades. The District wants students to know that abstinence is the safest choice, and the only sure way to prevent pregnancy, but the comprehensive sexual education program adds information about birth control and sexually transmitted diseases, skill-building and role-playing to help students make that decision.”


“The program started five years ago, and in 2006 there were 19 (teen) pregnancies in the district. By 2007 that number dropped to four, and in 2008 there were only two. According to Starr-Iva Middle School Principal Mike Ruthsatz, it improves students’ self-esteem. ‘You can just see it … towards the end of the year, I’ve seen a lot of the students, they are a lot more outgoing, and they are more confidant about themselves,’ says Ruthsatz.”

Hats off to the Starr-Iva Middle School community for such caring support of its kids.


The fundraising treadmill

Get out that fountain pen. Dust off that Smith-Corona. Or, use the link below to a handy email form! Occasionally, DemWit deems pending legislation important enough to call you to ACTION.

I urge you to fill in the form which will direct your support of “The Fair Elections Now Act” to your senators and representative in Congress.

This important legislation is being sponsored by Sens. Dick Durbin (D-Illinois) and Arlen Specter (R-Pennsylvania) and Reps. John Larson (D-Connecticut) and Walter Jones (R-North Carolina).

The Public Campaign Action Fund, based in Washington, D.C., is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization dedicated to improving America’s campaign finance laws.

Now, that’s a cause I can get behind!

The Fund explains the bill:

The Fair Elections Now Act “will allow congressional candidates to run for elected office using a mixture of small donations and limited public financing. Candidates would qualify by raising a specific number of small donations from their communities, and agree to not take any large contributions or any money from lobbyists.

“With the huge challenges we face as a country, we need our lawmakers' full attention on addressing the critical issues of the day, and not spending countless hours dialing for dollars. The Fair Elections Now Act would free our elected officials from the fundraising treadmill and allow them to focus on doing the job we elected them to do-working to solve our nation's problems.”

Hear, hear!

I urge you to support this important legislation. Please contact your senators and representative in Congress in your usual manner.

Or, use this handy email form.


The amazing blogosphere

My faithful readers will remember two recent posts on Mississippi author Thomas Jefferson Young: “A white house” on January 19, 2009, and “Jefferson Young revisited” on February 13, 2009.

This morning I received in my email inbox the following comment to the original post from a middle school librarian in Round Rock, Texas:

Mrs. Lori Lockwood has left a new comment on your post "A white house:"

Wow! I found your post by complete coincidence while looking for info on Monticello, Miss., my hometown. We moved there in 1975, and I got to know Mr. T. J. Young in my teens while clerking at my dad's drugstore during the 1980s. He came in every Saturday and was quite a character. He never spoke of his novel, and I only found out about it through one of the other clerks who read it (and loved it). By that time, the town library no longer had a copy. I'm thrilled to finally find out the name of it---I ordered a copy online and can't wait to read it!

You never know what stories people have inside them, even in little towns like Oma and Monticello, MS. . .

Posted by Mrs. Lori Lockwood to DemWit at 3/22/2009 11:28 PM

Lori has her own blog, “Book Talk.”

As my friend Papamoka often says on “Papamoka Straight Talk,” “We don’t get paid for blogging.” What we do get, occasionally, is a genuine satisfaction that our written words are touching lives across America and the world.



Express yourself!

For The Comments Zone this weekend:

1 – The first day of Spring.

2 – March 19, 2003 to March 19, 2009: six years in Iraq.

3 – This from The Progress Report, 19 March 2009:

“President (George W.) Bush's memoir will tentatively be called ‘Decision Points’ and is scheduled for a 2010 release by Crown. ‘Bush will concentrate on about a dozen personal and presidential choices, from giving up drinking to picking Dick Cheney as his vice president to sending troops to Iraq.’ He will also write about ‘his religious faith and his highly criticized response to Hurricane Katrina.' "

Fire away!


A family's filmography

Tragically, at 2:04 p.m., the first reliable online source, United Press International, reported that actress Natasha Richardson is “brain dead.” Throughout the day this has been the subject of speculation across the Web, citing various sources close to the family. The family has not yet made a public statement.

Last night TV’s “Entertainment Tonight” and “Inside Edition” reported that Ms. Richardson is “best known” for her role as Lindsay Lohan’s mother in “The Parent Trap.”

Most persons with any movie acumen know Ms. Richardson is a member of one of the world’s most famous acting dynasties.

It hits me hard when someone with beauty, youth and talent is tragically taken, persons like Princess Diana and JFK, Jr. Anyone my age could attribute this feeling to the loss of actor James Dean in a car crash at the height of his short-lived career. Or, maybe it was the day the music died.

The least I can do for The Now Generation is set the record straight on the contributions Ms. Richardson and her family have made to filmdom and the stage.


The beautiful Natasha Richardson met her husband Liam Neeson on Broadway, and the couple starred in “Nell” with Jodie Foster. She has starred in some 40 films, including “Gothic,,” “Maid in Manhattan” and “The Parent Trap.”

She won a Tony award for best actress in 1998 for her portrayal of Sally Bowles in “Cabaret.”

Richardson has won a number of British film awards for best actress for her roles in “The Comfort of Strangers,” “Asylum,” “Widows’ Peak” and “The Handmaid’s Tale.”


I first became aware of Liam Neeson in the suspense thriller “Suspect” when he portrayed a homeless, mute murder suspect defended by Cher.

Neeson’s numerous screen appearances include roles in “The Chronicles of Narnia” movies, “The Gangs of New York,” “Batman Begins,” “Nell,” “Michael Collins,” “Kinsey,” “Love Actually” and, most memorably, as Oskar Schindler in “Schindler’s List.”

He has won acting awards and nominations all over the world. Nominated for the Academy Award for best actor for “Schindler’s List,” he was beat out by Tom Hanks in “Philadelphia.”


Richardson is the daughter of actress Vanessa Redgrave and director Tony Richardson. Her mother’s vast filmography includes “A Man for All Season,” “Peter the Great,” “Murder on the Orient Express,” “Howards End” and my personal favorite as dancer Isadora Duncan in “Isadora,” a role which earned her an Academy Award best actress nomination in 1968.


The late Tony Richardson directed such films as “The Phantom of the Opera,” “Hamlet” (with Anthony Hopkins), “Tom Jones” and “Look Back in Anger.” In my opinion, one of his best films is “Blue Sky” with Jessica Lange and Tommy Lee Jones.


Lynn Redgrave’s movies include “Kinsey,” “Gods and Monsters,” “Shine,” “Coming Home,” “The Bad Seed” and “Tom Jones.” She was nominated for an Academy Award for best actress in 1966 for her turn in “Georgy Girl.” That role earned her a Golden Globes award for best actress. She has been nominated three times for a Tony award for best actress in a Broadway play.


Joely Richarson currently appears in TV’s “Nip/Tuck,” a role for which she has received two Golden Globes nominations for best actress in a drama series. Film roles include “The Patriot,” “101 Dalmations,” “King Ralph,” “Sister, My Sister” and “Under Heaven.” The last two movies earned her several foreign acting award nominations.


Just a few of the films with Sir Michael Redgrave: “The Importance of Being Earnest,” “Mourning Becomes Electra,” “The Lady Vanishes,” “Nicholas and Alexandra,” “Goodbye, Mr. Chips” and “The Innocents,”

Among Sir Michael’s many honors and awards is the Cannes Film Festival’s best actor award in 1951 for “The Browning Version.”

SOURCES: Various Web sites, including the International Movie Database (imdb.com)
'Now, she is gone.' - comment from a faithful reader.



The following direct quotes from recent articles – one about an inscription in Abraham Lincoln’s watch; the second, a statement from a gospel singer accused of assaulting his ex-wife; and the third, words from a former politician – have nothing in common, except as examples of the use of the parenthetical “sic.”

"Jonathan Dillon April 13 - 1861," part of the inscription reads, "Fort Sumpter (sic) was attacked by the rebels on the above date." Another part reads, "Thank God we have a government."

"To be accused of these allegations, which arose out of a child custody right [sic] dispute and my desire to spend time with our children as court ordered, is nothing less than heart wrenching."

Former Republican Senator Rick Santorum recently declared, "I really do believe that the fundamentals of American economy is [sic] still strong."

The insertion of “sic” is a journalism tool, and one I’ve found is rarely understood, so I thought I’d take a moment to enlighten.

The term “sic” is Latin for “thus” and is inserted into direct quotes to indicate the error preceding it is not that of the article writer, typesetter or copy editor.

In the examples, the correct words, of course, would have been “Fort Sumter,” “custody rights” and the verb “are” instead of “is.” The iron-clad rule is: direct quotes must not be altered, despite obvious errors.

BJ writes, “Have a good weak (sic).”


Are we having fun yet?

Bernard Madoff says he’s sorry.

The net worth of American households fell $11.2 trillion in 2008.

Last week, word came that fewer Americans are Christian. As a Christian, that is discouraging to me, but I understand the need to turn away from the fundamentalism that has infiltrated most Christian churches in this country. Far too many so-called spiritual leaders are not exactly setting a good example for their flocks.

I am listening to “Smoke, Mirrors and Murder: Ann Rule’s Crime Files Vol 12.” One chapter, “The Preacher’s Wife,” details what went on behind closed doors in the Tennessee home of the Church of Christ pastor shot dead by his wife.

A local Baptist pastor is in the Anderson County (SC) Detention Center accused of setting fire to his church. Yesterday he was charged with stealing $5,000 from church funds (LINK). In December, the church was vandalized four times, with “hate-filled messages” written on its walls. These incidents are still under investigation.

“Jesus wept.” John 11:35

A Gallup poll yesterday (LINK) says that 3 million more Americans than last year say they are “suffering” from the current recession. Five percent of Americans said their well-being had been affected when gasoline prices went up last summer. During the first days of this month, that figure has risen to 6 percent.

South Carolina has the highest unemployment rate in the nation. Yesterday, some 75,000 unemployed workers did not get their benefits due to “a computer error” which resulted in the inability to print checks. People swarmed their local unemployment offices in desperation. “The money’s there, even though it’s on loan from the federal government. We had a small computer snafu; that’s all,” was the reassuring comment by the head of the South Carolina Employment Security Commission. Hopefully, these folks will get their money in a day or two.

The Sears Tower where I’ve enjoyed the view from top on several occasions is now officially “The Willis Tower,” named for the London firm which owns the property. This American landmark, the tallest building in the Wester Hemisphere, once belonged to an American institution – Sears, Roebuck and Company – and has been in foreign hands since 1999.

The pope needs to learn to Google (LINK).

I have no idea what “tweeting on twitter” means.


It’s Friday the 13th. Are we having fun yet?


Kudos to a classmate

Some of the happiest days of my life were spent with the University of Southern Mississippi School of Journalism classes of 1979 and 1980.

In the movie “The Front Page,” Walter Matthau asks Jack Lemmon, “What do you think this is, The Student Printz?” I had the great honor of serving as executive editor of The Student Printz, one of the nation’s outstanding college newspapers, and more zany fun than Matthau and Lemmon sharing those days with a staff of college kids 15 years my junior.

We all share a deep and abiding love for our professor and mentor, Dr. Gene Wiggins. And we all have our own Wiggins stories! Dr. Wiggins retired last year after 35 years of nurturing journalism and mass communication students with his great sense of humor and keen knowledge.

Classmates Bill Sumrall, Tim Farrell (aka Father Tim), Becky Brown, Scott Boyd, the sisters Bruce (Barbara and Jana), Dana Gower and Kathleen Koch all went on to successful careers, but only one (so far) has been invited back to give the college commencement address.

Kathleen Koch, who had that distinction in 2007, recently left CNN after 18 years as a general assignment reporter. Kathleen was caught up in the big shakeup at CNN’s D.C. bureau, which resulted in the exit of some of the network’s best and brightest on-air talent.

I often marveled to see Kathleen reporting from the Pentagon or the White House, covering some of the biggest breaking stories of our time. And, I was always amazed that she has never lost her delicate Barbie doll good looks!

Many of you saw Kathleen’s outstanding post-Katrina special report, “Saving My Town: The Fight for Bay St. Louis,”

CNN promoted the 2006 special report thusly:

“What does it take to rebuild a community - physically and psychologically - from the ground up? Will residents return to rebuild? Will insurance companies honor their commitment to their customers? The residents of Bay St. Louis, Mississippi, have asked these questions for six months since Hurricane Katrina leveled much of their town.

“To help find the answers, CNN taps Kathleen Koch. For Koch, this isn't just a story of death, destruction and loss. It's the story of her hometown, where the house she grew up in, along with hundreds of others, has been reduced to a concrete slab. Join her and the residents of Bay St. Louis as one small community comes together to come back from the edge of extinction.”

Wiggins would have pocketed his red pen and given her an “A.”

Here is Kathleen’s parting memo to her CNN associates:

“2009 will be a year of change for the nation. And it will be a year of change for me. After 18 years with CNN, I am moving on.

“I am so grateful for the amazing opportunity I've had to cover so many disparate and challenging beats, from aviation, to hurricanes, the Pentagon, Capitol Hill. And while I've helped out on the White House beat since 1996, I've particularly enjoyed being there full-time for the past year. It takes a special breed not only to cover that beat, but to do the people's work within those gray sandstone walls. I have made friends there in the media and on the staff that I hope will last a lifetime.

“I am also grateful to CNN for its flexibility during the years when I worked part-time. The opportunity to put my family first while my daughters were young was worth its weight in gold.

“I have always said the best thing about CNN is the people you work with. And that is what I will miss most. After 18 years, you are my family. I will not begin to try to say thank you. The list would be endless. Just know that it has been an honor and a pleasure to work with you through blizzards, hurricanes, droughts, floods, plane crashes, hearings, press conferences, endless stakeouts ... We pulled together and put on stories that illuminated, educated, entertained and sometimes, when we did our job particularly well, changed people’s lives.

“You have all enriched my life, and for that I count myself a fortunate woman. As my friends on the Mississippi Gulf Coast always say, I am blessed.


All of your classmates have been blessed by your successful career, Kathleen. We salute your professionalism and wish you all the best.


Mr. Obama's gamble

President Barack Obama took a gamble when he handed Congressional leaders his proposed budget and told them to fill in the details.

“Now, wait just a minute” and “No dice” are phrases coming not from Republicans, but from members of the president’s own party.

The first kick in the teeth of Obama’s health-care reform dreams came from the chairmen of the House and Senate tax-writing committees – Charles Rangel (D-NY) and Max Baucus (D-MT).

The two Democrats have objected to Obama’s plan to limit tax deductions for the wealthiest 1.2 percent of taxpayers in order to pay for such reform. Their objection? Charities will be hurt.

The White House pushed back, saying “the impact on charitable giving would be small.”

Democratic leaders are chipping away at other Obama proposals involving energy, climate change, Medicare, Medicaid and subsidies to big farmers and agribusiness - in apparent constituency- or regional-oriented biases and outright power struggles.

Once more, nothing best expresses this inner-party struggle like the words of Walt Kelly’s “Pogo:” “We have met the enemy, and he is us.”

An article by New York Times writers Jackie Calmes and Carl Hulse - “Obama’s Budget Faces Test Among Party Barons” – exposes this inner-party conflict and is essential to understanding what Obama is up against.

Unless, of course, you’re a Democrat and just want to go ahead and shoot yourself in the foot and get it over with.


Nothing's plenty for me

If Seinfeld can get away with it, so can I. This is a post about nothing. Woke up this morning singing “Nothing could be finer than to be in Carolina in the morning …” One of those perfect days. Windows are open. Birds are in fine tune. And, there’s nothing on my mind.

Nothing’s plenty for me.


Dickens' 'Self-Tormentor'

From Charles Dickens’ “Little Dorrit,” beginning of Chapter 21, “The History of a Self-Tormentor:”

“I have the misfortune of not being a fool. From a very early age I have detected what those about me thought they hid from me. If I could have been habitually imposed upon instead of habitually discerning the truth, I might have lived as smoothly as most fools do.”


Ever feel this way?


Honoring Beverly Eckert

“Never underestimate the power of a woman.”

In the days following September 11, 2001, a group of women who lost loved ones to unbearable horror turned their grief to action and made this country safer.

We all remember “The Jersey Girls” - Kristen Breitweiser, Patty Casazza, Lorie Van Auken and Mindy Kleinberg – New Jersey women who lost their husbands that fateful day.

A fifth woman, Beverly Eckert of Stamford, Connecticut, also lost her husband that day and worked as tirelessly to get answers and to ensure our nation would never again suffer such a loss.

She was one of those women attending the 9/11 Commission hearings who reacted to testimony at the most appropriate times and in the most appropriate ways, and we marveled at their courage.

Spoken through tears, she once said of her efforts, “I just wanted Sean to come home from work. Maybe now, someone else's Sean will get to come home."

Her husband and high school sweetheart, Sean Rooney, died on the 98th floor of WTC’s south tower, and on Feb. 13, she was ready to commemorate his birthday.

Beverly Eckert, 57, was killed that day in the commuter plane crash in Buffalo, New York.

The Associated Press reported:

“Up until the very last moments of her life, Sept. 11 widow Beverly Eckert poured her grief into action — pushing presidents, lawmakers and even herself to do more to make the country safer.”


“She carried that grief to Congress as she advocated for better anti-terror efforts, part of a small group of widows, mothers and children who played the roles of lobbyists.

“She pushed for a 9/11 Commission. She pushed the Bush administration to provide more information to the Commission. And when the Commission's work was over, she pushed Congress to adopt their recommendations.

“Together, they forced lawmakers in 2004 to pass sweeping reforms of the U.S. intelligence apparatus.”

One of the first things the new Congress did following Election 2006 was to adopt all of the recommendations of the 9/11 Commission.

One week before her death, Eckert, as part of a group of 9/11 and USS Cole families, met with President Barack Obama to discuss how his administration would handle terror suspects.

Yesterday, I listened on C-SPAN as members of the U.S. House praised Eckert’s courage and tenacity before passing H.Res. 201 – “Recognizing Beverly Eckert’s service to the Nation and particularly to the survivors and families of the September 11, 2001, attacks.”

I just wanted us to take a moment to remember her, too.


The watchdog died

“The big story of the day.” The last time I heard that phrase a Today show reporter was talking about Michael Jordan’s reture to basketball. “That will be the big story of the day,” she opined. Thirty minutes later, Katie Couric announced, “We have breaking news …” The date was September 11, 2001.

If this is not the big story of the day, it should be:

Story: “Obama releases internal Bush Justice Department memos,” CNN, 3 March 2009 – LINK

Analysis: “Secrets, Lies and Destroyed Videotapes, CBS, 2 March 2009 – LINK

This story will be all over the news and the Internet, so why bother to mention it here? Because it bears repeating again and again. It makes Watergate, CREEP and “ratf*cking” look like schoolboy pranks. That episode resulted in the resignation of a president and an eventual pardon by his successor.

The nine memos which the Bush administration refused to release - hiding behind the veil of national security - basically say that the president – in the "war on terror" – can ignore the Constitution and is not bound by U.S. laws, does not have to answer to the legislative and judicial branches of our government, is not bound by the Geneva Convention and can opt out of any U.S. treaty agreement. The memos further state that warrantless wiretaps against U.S. citizens are within the administrative branch’s powers, and that it’s appropriate to torture and to “render” prisoners to countries where torture is legal.

In one memo, John Yoo, then a deputy assistant attorney general, wrote: “"First Amendment speech and press rights may also be subordinated to the overriding need to wage war successfully." He said the "Supreme Court has recognized that the government's compelling interests in wartime justify restrictions on the scope of individual liberty."

We could bring in a whole slew of legal lights to debate whether what Bush called a “war on terror” is, in fact, a “war” at all, or was Yoo continuing to tie the war in Iraq to 9/11?

So, how did the Bush administration get away with this and with keeping these memos a secret for so long? How could the CIA destroy 92 relevant videotapes which might incriminate this bunch of neoconservative hooligans?

The watchdog died.

What brought Watergate to light was vigilant and investigative reporting, something that did not exist through most of the years George W. Bush occupied the Oval Office.

Listen to the words of this conversation which took place on “Imus in the Morning” on 15 May 2005:

David Gregory, now host of NBC’s “Meet the Press,” then Chief White House Correspondent, had just stated the 9/11 Commission Report refutes Vice President Dick Cheney’s continuing claim that Saddam Hussein and 9/11 were connected.

Don Imus: "Do you agree with me that he (Cheney) should be impeached?"

David Gregory: "As I said, I'm not here to make those kinds of judgments, and I know where you're trying to go with it. I've known you a long time, and I'm not a sucker. I mean it's not like I'm sitting here doing a crossword puzzle, and I'm going to get caught off guard, you know what I'm saying?"

“I’m not here to make those kinds of judgments.”

That morning I mailed Gregory a letter to 30 Rock telling him that’s precisely what he is there to do – it’s his job as it traditionally has been the job of the Fourth Estate to serve as a watchdog over government.

Gregory might never have seen my letter, but he did get tougher.

The best “puppy” in the current White House just might be the new watchdog being nourished by statements like this from the nation’s highest law enforcement official:

Attorney General Eric Holder has issued a statement today saying, "Americans deserve a government that operates with transparency and openness. It is my goal to make OLC (Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel) opinions available when possible while still protecting national security information and ensuring robust internal executive branch debate and decision-making."