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Memorial Day News

Good Morning, Conflucians. Today is Memorial Day. This holiday began informally as Decoration Day, a day to honor the Civil War dead by decorating their graves. The day was widely celebrated for the first time in 1868.

…after World War I, observances also began to honor those who had died in all of America’s wars. In 1971, Congress declared Memorial Day a national holiday to be celebrated the last Monday in May. (Veterans Day, a day set aside to honor all veterans, living and dead, is celebrated each year on November 11.)

Today, Memorial Day is celebrated at Arlington National Cemetery with a ceremony in which a small American flag is placed on each grave. Also, it is customary for the president or vice-president to give a speech honoring the contributions of the dead and lay a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. About 5,000 people attend the ceremony annually.

As everyone has heard by now, President Obama will not attend the events at Arlington Cemetery, but will laying a wreath in Abraham Lincoln Cemetery in Ellwood, IL, taking a break from his vacation in Chicago.

There has been some criticism of Obama for skipping the ceremony in DC, but lots of progs are defending him too. The Week quoted Erik Erikson of Red State as the best example of critical opinions on this issue. Here’s a sample of what Erikson had to say:

By suggesting this President, in the midst of a war, should probably be going to Arlington National Cemetery for Memorial Day instead of taking his second vacation in a month, conservatives are somehow suggesting he use dead soldiers as political props.

After eight years of the left demanding publicity of flag draped coffins returning to Deleware [sic] from overseas to use as political props against George W. Bush, it is more than a little humorous to have the left now accuse the right of doing the same. It also ignores a fundamental point leftists too busy calling our soldiers “war criminals” and our dead soldiers “political props” miss — going to Arlington National Cemetery to lay a wreath at the tomb of the unknowns has nothing to do with using dead soldiers as political props and everything to do with a Commander in Chief who seems to not like the military showing some basic respect to the men and women, alive and dead, who have actually kept us free.

Even I find that a little over the top, but I don’t really see how soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan have “kept us free” either.

On the defense-of-Obama side, David Corn writes about The Right Wing’s Memorial Day Attack on Obama:

There’s a hole in the bottom of the ocean. Unemployment is still near 10 percent. There are two wars underway. And what are conservative pundits fretting about? That this year President Obama won’t be laying a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Arlington National Cemetery on Memorial Day.

OK, but why did Obama have to go on vacation? I do find that a bit troubling with all the problems we have–particularly the oil spill, which he should really appoint someone to handle if he isn’t going to do it.

Fox News has a critique of Corn’s attitude: A Tale of Two Americas On Memorial Day 2010 and CBS News points out that Obama isn’t the first President to skip the ceremony at Arlington Cemetery.

Olivia Hampton at the Guardian UK points out that we have been in Afghanistan for nine years now, Obama has dramatically escalated that war, and yet and we aren’t even close to achieving our supposed goals.

The war’s intended objective was to rid the United States of extremist threats from far away lands, but domestic extremism of all hues is now on the rise, the Taliban has regrouped, Osama bin Laden and Mullah Omar have eluded capture and Afghanistan once again is ablaze.

For all the soldiers who now lie dead on this Memorial Day, America’s pride is again wounded and an arrogant war has failed to bear the promised fruits of democracy to that rugged, mountainous terrain called Afghanistan.

In other News, the BP oil spill continues apace, and Maureen Dowd is tentatively turning on The One. She’s even calling him Barry! She’s mostly worried about Obama’s inappropriate affect rather than the people who are suffering from his inaction, but that’s Modo. It’s always about appearances for her. Here’s a sample:

F.D.R. achieved greatness not by means of imposing his temperament and intellect on the world but by reacting to what the world threw at him.

For five weeks, it looked as though Obama considered the gushing that became the worst oil spill in U.S. history a distraction, like a fire alarm going off in the middle of a law seminar he was teaching. He’ll deal with it, but he’s annoyed because it’s not on his syllabus.

James Carville is much more worried about the reality on the ground: BP Gulf Oil Spill: ‘This is Literally a War We’re In’

Last week, Carville called President Obama’s response to what is poised to become the country’s biggest environmental disaster on record “lackadaisical.”

Today he said Obama was doing “better,” but said it’s clear BP has lost control of the situation.

“I do know, for too long, they were taking BP’s word for everything which turned out to be wrong at every junction,” Carville said. “It’s all turned out on the wrong side.”

He said Obama needs to tell Americans exactly what is happening with relief efforts and why the gulf region is so important to the country’s economy and environment.

“I think the president has to address the nation,” Carville said. “His legacy depends on what happens with the oil in the Gulf of Mexico.”

Personally, I think if Obama “addressed the nation,” he would still sound like a boring, pedantic, detached lecturer in a 101 class he has taught many times.

Meanwhile, MSNBC reports BP, government warn oil may leak until August and people in the Gulf are getting very discouraged, as we know from Dakinikat’s frequent updates.

“I was just sitting here thinking our way of life is over. It’s the end, the apocalypse,” said fisherman Tom Young of Plaquemines Parish on the coast. “And no one outside of these few parishes really cares. They say they do, but they don’t do nothing but talk. Where’s the action? Where’s the person who says these are real people, real people with families and they are hurting?”

“There are people who are getting desperate, and there are more getting anxious as we get further into the shrimping season and there is less chance they will recover,” said the Rev. Theodore Turner, 57, at Mount Olive Baptist Church in Boothville, near where oil first washed ashore. Fishermen make up about a third of his congregation.

The disaster, in its 42nd day Monday, is already the largest oil spill in U.S. history and officials are calling it the country’s biggest environmental catastrophe.

And yet our lackadasical, inert, vacationing President still hasn’t declared it a national emergency. Why not, for heaven’s sake?

But at least one administration representative claims that the government is “prepared for the worst.” Apparently the latest BP “solution” to the leak may cause an increase in the oil flooding out of the ocean floor.

“The worst is that we have oil leaking until August, until these relief wells are dug,” said Browner. “And we will be prepared for the worst.”

The worse I’ve heard is that the relief wells might not work and the oil could flow until all the oil comes out–maybe years. But the administration is prepared to deal with “the worst,” like when they predicted unemployment wouldn’t go above 8 percent.

From the MSNBC article:

As David Rensink, incoming president of the American Association of Petroleum Geologists, told me several weeks ago, these wells are not often used and are especially difficult to drill at such a depth. Basically, BP hopes to drill down to intersect the leaking well in order to inject cement and plug it. But the leaking well is only 7 inches in diameter. Experts compare it to a nurse trying to locate your vein to to draw blood—except the vein is a mile below water and then another three and a half miles under the seabed, and the operation has to be carried out with remotely operated robotic devices.

There are also concerns that trying to tap the well could make the situation worse. In its application for the permit to drill the relief wells, BP warned that an additional blowout could cause 240,000 barrels of oil a day to spew into the Gulf.

If that fails? The Gulf well could continue spewing oil for years.

So I guess the administration isn’t really prepared for the worst. They’re just lying liars as usual.

From the NYT:

independent scientists and government officials say another disaster is playing out in slow motion — and out of public view — in the mysterious depths between the gusher and the coast, a world inhabited by sperm whales, gigantic jellyfish and diminutive plankton.

More than a month after the BP PLC spill began, the disaster’s dimensions have come into sharper focus with government estimates that more than 18 million gallons of oil — and possibly 40 million gallons — has already poured from the leaking well, eclipsing the 11 million gallons released during the Exxon Valdez spill.

”Every fish and invertebrate contacting the oil is probably dying. I have no doubt about that,” said Prosanta Chakrabarty, a Louisiana State University fish biologist….[Unseen events below the ocean’s surface] can ripple across the food chain. Every night the denizens of the deep make forays to shallower depths to eat — and be eaten by — other fish, according to marine scientists who describe it as the largest migration on earth.

In turn, several species closest to the surface — including red snapper, shrimp and menhaden — help drive the Gulf Coast fishing industry. Others such as marlin, cobia and yellowfin tuna sit atop the food chain and are chased by the Gulf’s charter fishing fleet.

Many of those species are now in their annual spawning seasons. Eggs exposed to oil would quickly perish. Those that survived to hatch could starve if the plankton at the base of the food chain suffer. Larger fish are more resilient, but not immune to the toxic effects of oil.

And so the disaster continues as Dear Leader relaxes in the Chicago White House. Will he ever act?

Yes, I’m still focusing mainly on the oil spill news. But please post cheerful links in the comments if you have them. And have a nice Memorial Day everyone!