31 December 2008

Coates on Blago/Burris/Rush

Ta-Nehisi Coates explains why the Burris appointment, and Bobby Rush's defense of it, is problematic.

And 2008's Cliches Are. . . .

Lake Superior State University's annual list of "banished words"--those terms and phrases that rapidly became cliches--has been published. Among the nominees: "green," "maverick," "Wall Street/Main Street," "bailout," and "first dude."

It's a good, albeit brief, list. What's missing? I'd like to suggest a series of words and phrases that had already become tiresome by June:
1) "under the bus"
2) "drinking the Kool-Aid"
3) "carrying water for"
4)"taking the blue pill/red pill"
5) "cultist"
6) and how about eliminating the nouns created by adding "Mc" to an adjective? e.g., "McSame, McHottie"?

Storming the British Compound: "Chill"

Steve Schippert at NRO’s The Tank tells us to chill out about Iranians' invasion of the British compound in Tehran to “protest British policies” in supporting Israel. Schippert argues that the entire thing was, most likely, orchestrated for PR. Moreover, The Times asserts:

There appears to be little doubt that the Iranian regime orchestrated or at least inspired the attack on Gulhak. Just days ago Major General Mohammad Ali Jafari, the commander of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards, suggested his force should facilitate “revolutionary action” similar to the capture of the “Den of Spies” – the US embassy -- on November 4, 1979

PR stunt or not, this was a foolish action; it's unlikely to endear Iran to the British, many of whom are supportive of the Palestinians (and not in the freaky George Galloway kind of way).

30 December 2008

"The Darkling Thrush"

I leant upon a coppice gate
     When Frost was spectre-gray,
And Winter's dregs made desolate
     The weakening eye of day.
The tangled bine-stems scored the sky
     Like strings of broken lyres,
And all mankind that haunted nigh
     Had sought their household fires. 
 
The land's sharp features seemed to be
     The Century's corpse outleant,
His crypt the cloudy canopy,
     The wind his death-lament.
The ancient pulse of germ and birth
     Was shrunken hard and dry,
And every spirit upon earth
     Seemed fervourless as I.
 
At once a voice arose among
     The bleak twigs overhead
In a full-hearted evensong
     Of joy illimited;
An aged thrush, frail, gaunt, and small,
     In blast-beruffled plume,
Had chosen thus to fling his soul
     Upon the growing gloom.
 
So little cause for carolings
     Of such ecstatic sound
Was written on terrestrial things
     Afar or nigh around,
That I could think there trembled through
     His happy good-night air
Some blessed Hope, whereof he knew
     And I was unaware.

--Thomas Hardy (written 30 December, 1900)

On "The GOP's White Supremancy"

The Huffington Post’s Paul Jenkins offers “The GOP’s White Supremacy,” a thought-provoking discussion of how, and why, both “Barack the Magic Negro” and the election of the white supremacist (a son of a former KKK Grand Wizard, no less) to the Palm Beach County Republican Executive Committee, which GOPers effectively blocked, illustrate the conflicts over diversity within the Republican party. Notable quote:

Conservatives have for years hidden behind a disdain for quotas, political correctness and diversity gone wild to explain away the everlasting supremacy of white men in the Republican Party. The subtext, of course, is that selection, and election, is based on competence, not gender, race or ethnicity. And that the most competent simply happen to be white men. Always.

Its a sweeping statement, and there is some room for debate here. Although Jenkins mentions Palin and Clarence Thomas as exceptions to the above, he forgets to include Kay Bailey Hutchinson, Michele Bachmann, and a few other Republican or Conservative women. But his comments on minorities provide some food for thought, especially considering Bill Kristol’s strange bit of literary criticism in a recent New York Times column:

Obama has selected Yale’s Elizabeth Alexander to compose and read a poem [at his inauguration]. I still remember watching Maya Angelou read “On the Pulse of Morning” at Bill Clinton’s inauguration in 1993 — and thinking that American culture really was in a state of irreversible decline, as she indulged in that multicultural cataloguing of “the Asian, the Hispanic, the Jew, / The African and Native American, the Sioux, / The Catholic, the Muslim, the French, the Greek, / The Irish, the Rabbi, the Priest, the Sheikh, / The Gay, the Straight, the Preacher, / The privileged, the homeless, the teacher.”

I’ve looked at some of Alexander’s poetry, and am confident she’ll be a big improvement on Angelou. It makes me think our culture isn’t necessarily getting worse. It may even be getting better.

Kristol fails to explain how Angelou’s poem illustrates “that American culture really was in a state of irreversible decline”; he instead implies that it is simply because the poem makes note of the variety within our cultures. How does one stanza represent the entirety of a culture, anyway? The point is, Kristol’s weird sneer at Angelou’s note on American inclusiveness goes a long way toward proving Jenkins’s point. Although the GOP in and of itself is not innately racist, sexist, or homophobic, its gatekeepers and spokespeople--the people with the bullhorns--tend to go to peculiar lengths to disprove this.

Added: In a column at The Daily Beast on "The 'Magic Negro' Debacle," John Avlon suggests that the would-be RNC chair's haha-heehee CD simply represents a larger issue: that of the Republican Party's "tone deafness" on racial matters. He argues that this is something the party must overcome if it's to regain power. I agree, and offer that this is no time to gather 'round and protect Saltzman from the forces of the "liberal media" or "PC cultists"; rather, this episode offers an opportunity for soul-searching that the party should take advantage of if it's to regain not just relevance, but also the moral authority it's claimed for itself lo, these many years.

29 December 2008

Rumor Control: Palin is NOT Not a Grandmother

An update to a months' old post, "Palin is Not a Grandmother (Yet)": Bristol Palin gave birth on Sunday, 12/28, to a seven pound, four ounce boy. The infant's been named Tripp Easton Mitchell Johnston (Politico).

Penguin Cancels "Angel at the Fence"

The tale of an enduring love found during the Holocaust was, shall we say, a lie.

Herman Rosenblat, who claimed that he met his wife, Roma, while he was imprisoned at a Buchenwald sub-camp, when she would approach the camp’s fence to give him apples and bread, has ‘fessed up. He’s said that he “embellished” his story. In reality, it turns out that Roma’s family was 210 miles away from the camp were Rosenblat was interred.

His publisher has canceled Rosenblat’s book on the story.

When scholars and survivors expressed doubt about Rosenblat’s tale because of the camp’s layout—there was no place private enough where he could receive Roma’s gifts—he defended his experiences’ veracity. Last month:

He said that his section of Schlieben, a sub-camp of Buchenwald, was not well guarded and that he could stand between a barracks and the six-to-eight-foot fence out of sight of guards. Roma was able to approach him because there were woods that would have concealed her. (NYT)

It seems as though all possible factcheckers, excpeting the scholars and those who survived the camps with Rosenblat, went to sleep on this one. His agent, Angela Hurst, believed Rosenblat’s story, and declined to research his tale, because “He was in so many magazines and books and on ‘Oprah.’ It did not seem like it would not be true” (NYT).

Well, that’s okay then.

UPDATE: Lerner Publishing Group has pulled its children's book based on the Rosenblats. Published this fall, Laurie Friedman's Angel Girl is being taken from store shelves, and Lerner is offering refunds to people who purchased the book.

28 December 2008

The Babies and Obama

(click to enlarge)
Okay, this might just about overload the "adorable" factor, but it is the sentimental season.
H/T to The Back Forty

27 December 2008

Friedman’s Silver Lining

In his column, "Time to Reboot America," Thomas Friedman wonders at the policies and mindsets that have led to the USA’s current condition (well, what else do you expect him to do?). He ends a rather discouraging comparison of his recent experiences with Hong Kong’s infrastructure—its transport system, its wireless access, and so on—with a reminder that, despite the current domestic mess, it wouldn’t be wise to write the USA off yet:

America still has the right stuff to thrive. We still have the most creative, diverse, innovative culture and open society — in a world where the ability to imagine and generate new ideas with speed and to implement them through global collaboration is the most important competitive advantage. China may have great airports, but last week it went back to censoring The New York Times and other Western news sites. Censorship restricts your people’s imaginations. That’s really, really dumb. And that’s why for all our missteps, the 21st century is still up for grabs.

Yup.

"Angel at the Fence"--Another Suspect Memoir

A new memoir, titled Angel at the Fence: The True Story of a Love that Survived, by Herman Rosenblat, a 79-year-old Holocaust survivor, has come under scrutiny.

The memoir tells of Rosenblat's experience at Buchenwald; apparently, the teenaged Rosenblat met a young girl at the camp's fence--she on one side, he on the other. She would bring him apples and bread. In New York years later, Rosenblat went on a blind date. Turns out his date was the same young woman who brought gifts to the fence.

The problem? Holocaust historians and Rosenblat's fellow survivors say it's not true. While Rosenblat was held at the concentration camp, scholars and survivors say the camp's layout negates any possibility that Rosenblat would have discovered a space isolated enough that he could meet the girl undetected by guards or other survivors.

The New Republic has published an extensive discussion of Rosenblat's story; the site has added an update as well, in which several people close to Rosenblat claim the story of love beyond barbed wire is concocted:
auther [sic] Herman Rosenblat's sister-in-law and a fellow Holocaust survivor, both speaking publicly for the first time, say that Herman's story is fabricated. Sidney Finkel, a 77-year-old Holocaust survivor who was liberated with Herman, tells TNR that he ate with Herman and Roma Rosenblat the night before the couple was to appear on the "Oprah Winfrey Show" for the first time, in February 1996. At the Omni Hotel in downtown Chicago, Roma told Finkel that she was not hiding in Schlieben as Herman tells in his story, and was in fact hiding in another part of Poland. “It’s made up,” Finkel tells Sherman in an exclusive interview.
Sad.
Although people making stuff up and presenting it as autobiography is nothing new (heck, America is all about self-invention). The problem is when we approach matters like the Holocaust. Scholar Deborah Lipstadt is troubled for, as she notes,
"If you make up things about parts, you cast doubts on everything else," Lipstadt told me. "When you think of the survivors who meticulously tell their story and are so desperate for people to believe, then if they're making stories up about this, how do you know if Anne Frank is true? How do you know Elie Wiesel is true?" (TNR)
Exactly. Presenting such a work as fiction is one thing; presenting it as fact is another. If it's prove that Rosenblat embellished or fabricated his Holocaust love story, well...to make a concentration camp the backdrop for a romance is rather dismissive, don't you think? You'd think that after the debacle with Margaret Seltzer's "memoir" earlier this year, Penguin would be a bit more attentive to fact-checking.

Do read the piece at TNR, and be sure to read the comments--other survivors are chiming in.

Update: Rosenblat has recanted the story, and Penguin has canceled publication of Angel at the Fence.

A Plea to the Media. . . .

Can y'all please find a different way of headlining stories about Bruce Pardo and the horrific Christmas Eve mass murder in Covina, California? Headlines about "Santa massacre," "Santa rampage," "Santa killer," and "Santa shooter"--lil' ones can read those, you know. It's called "tact."
Thank you.

26 December 2008

Election Night Thugs Under Further Scrutiny

On Election Night, a young man named Ali Kamara was walking about a Staten Island neighborhood when he was set upon by thugs who, shouting "Obama!," set about beating the living heck out of him. Just over a week later, police arrested two 18 year-old men, Ralph Nicoletti and Bryan Garaventa, for the assault. Turns out they'd been cruising about looking for Black and Hispanic victims. But that's not all. . . .

Rumproast, which has kept a steady eye on the Kamara case, reports that Nicoletti and Garaventa might well have beaten another man--and put him into a coma--on the same evening that they ran into Kamara. Nicoletti and Garaventa might well be looking at federal charges. Head over to Rumproast for the full story.

Kudos to Rumproast for keeping this story in the public eye.

Rumor Central: They Keep Coming

FactCheck has released a post-Election Day summary of misinformation fomented by partisans on both sides of the aisle. Although the primary emphasis focuses on items related to the automaker bailout, several residual rumors election-related rumors remain.

FactCheck finds:

· It's not true that unionized auto workers at Detroit's Big Three make more than $70 an hour, as claimed by some opponents of federal aid.

· And no, 3 million workers won't be tossed out of work if aid is not forthcoming, as claimed by those favoring a taxpayer bailout.

· President-elect Obama never promised to seek a ban on all semi-automatic weapons, as claimed by some fearful gun owners.

· And no, Obama did not propose a Gestapo-like civilian security force as claimed by a Republican member of Congress from Georgia and any number of overwrought bloggers.

· Democrats in Congress are not discussing any plan to confiscate the assets in 401(k) retirement accounts, another falsehood spread about by chain e-mails and Internet postings.

· House Speaker Nancy Pelosi did not demand a 757-size personal jet, a false claim resurrected when Democrats criticized Big Three executives for flying to D.C. on their own private jets to beg for aid.

· And Pelosi's husband doesn't own a $17 million stake in a food company that she may (or may not) have tried to help with an exemption from a new minimum wage law.

Also worth a read, FactCheck’s article, “Our Misinformed Electorate.”

What amazes is that so many of these items originate as unsubstantiated stories on the Internet, then are picked up and reiterated by people who should know better—people who have access to “real” researchers (e.g., Representative Paul Broun [R-GA]). It’s more than evident that these stories are perpetuated by pathos—emotive appeals lacking in factual support—the problem is, we’ve seen rumors of this ilk stimulate some very real hysteria that extends beyond both the Clinton- and Bush- Derangement Syndrome. People convinced that “our way of life” is under threat are calling for rebellion and for secession; some of these accompanied by veiled threats against the President-Elect himself (Here's a CSM story from about a month ago that touches on these issues; Googling reveals more recent examples, and this blog is always on top of these things amongst the PUMA groups).

The odd thing is, people write that, because fringe elements pushed the anti-Bush envelope, this deserves a retributive anti-Obama stance (Google "Obama is not my president" for a whole lotta testifying to this). “Because you didn’t support my president, I’m not supporting yours,” etc. Not only is this tit-for-tat juvenile in the extreme, the self-righteous “not my president” nonsense only helps partisans maintain some sense of superiority over others. If you object to a process or to a proposal, find a way to help enact change that utilizes reason and analysis (what gifts these are!) instead of having what is, essentially, a temper tantrum. It doesn’t matter who started it; the fact is, it’s got to end if we’re to climb out of this hole we’re in.

Eartha Kitt, 1927– 2008


19 December 2008

The Richest Man in Town

Wendell Jamieson’s essay, “Wonderful? Sorry, George, It’s a Pitiful, Dreadful Life” reminds us that It’s a Wonderful Life (a film I truly love) is a masterpiece of dark cinema rather than a corny, cheerful holiday flick. Sure, there are corny bits, but it’s as much based in reality (albeit "heightened" reality") as it is fantasy. As Jamieson points out,

It’s a Wonderful Life” is a terrifying, asphyxiating story about growing up and relinquishing your dreams, of seeing your father driven to the grave before his time, of living among bitter, small-minded people. It is a story of being trapped, of compromising, of watching others move ahead and away, of becoming so filled with rage that you verbally abuse your children, their teacher and your oppressively perfect wife. It is also a nightmare account of an endless home renovation.

In nearly every respect, George Bailey is “everyman.” He is generous and kind to a fault, but he’s also frustrated by closing opportunities and repressive expectations based on “honor.” The moments when George’s self-control shatters, when his anger, shame, and fear break through that kind demeanor, are chilling—and recognizable. Shouting and shaking Mary before their kiss? The blow up at the kids? Smashing up the living room corner that represents his burst dreams (per the model and the architectural drawings)? The assault on Uncle Billy? This is a cheerful holiday film?

Although we sympathize with Mary, the children, and the poor old fool, Uncle Billy, we recognize George’s fears and frustrations. We might well recognize George’s suicidal tendencies.

Sure, no angels-second-class will come down to rescue us, and it’s probably a stretch to assume that our friends and neighbors would spontaneously donate $8,000 to rescue us from apparent financial malfeasance (in today’s climate, those people would likely string George up). But the film is a redemption story, and George’s redemption is that every one in town (sans old man Potter) acknowledges his lifelong sacrifices and confirming that he has made a difference in their lives. A presence rather than a non-entity. The film reminds us that, regardless of our wealth or education, our lives touch and enrich each others’. This is why the film has achieved such a vast, persistent audience—because we relate to George, and because the film affirms that we matter.

17 December 2008

NORAD's Santa Tracking

NORAD's Santa Tracker is up and running. I love this effort to ensure all that Santa is on target for his Christmas Eve trip. Before today, I'd never taken the time to really check out the site; and I'm happy to see that NORAD informs children of Santa's progress in English, German, Italian, French, Spanish, Japanese, and Chinese.

14 December 2008

Poetry

"Oread" (1915)
Whirl up, sea—
Whirl your pointed pines.
Splash your great pines
On our rocks.
Hurl your green over us—
Cover us with your pools of fir.

--H. D. , Imagiste.

12 December 2008

Bettie Page, 1923-2008


Miss Bettie Page has passed on. In 1950s photos and film loops that range from the slightly risque to the slightly transgressive, she retained, and projected, an essentially innocent quality.

No wonder she's an American icon.

11 December 2008

Melancholies

Because it's that kind of day--gray, damp, and no amount of coffee seems able to jumpstart the imagination. . . .

Giorgio de Chirico, a Greek-Italian artist, produced some fairly disturbing images (he was a proto-surrealist). One of his "trademarks" was the insertion of classical figures into lonely, sterile landscapes (he loved deserted urban settings) . This 1912 piece is titled "Melancholy":





And just because I like it, here's "The Delights of the Poet," also from 1912:


09 December 2008

Nutjobs Convene at the NPC

A selection of "prominent" anti-Obama conspiracy theorists descended on the National Press Club Monday afternoon. David Weigel was there and he's got the goodies here.

That's a Long 15 Minutes There

Seriously—can we just let this fella slip back into obscurity now?

Please?

How Stupid is This Man?

So you’re a state governor, and you know the Feds have been investigating you for some time now—“for more than a year” in fact—on allegations of corruption.

You’ve two former associates: one a “millionaire-fundraiser,” has talking to the Feds. The other is in prison on corruption charges, and rumors have it he’s been singing like a canary.

So, knowing the Feds are hot on your arse, do you lay low for a while? Or do you hit the accelerator?

Either Rod Blagojevich is pathologically arrogant or he is dumber than dirt. Undeniably, he’s headed for the hoosgow.

It's been alleged that Blogojevich attempted to “sell” the senate seat vacated by Barack Obama; if Blogojevich didn’t get a “good” deal, he’d fill the seat himself. Additionally, " [f]ederal prosecutors said Blagojevich and the chairman of his campaign committee have been speeding up corrupt fundraising activities in the last month to get as much money as possible before the end of the year when a new law would curtail his ability to raise contributions from companies with state contracts worth more than $50,000” (AP).

And don't forget the media: this charmer has, apparently, threatened the financially-strapped Chicago Tribune, by “illegally threatening to withhold state assistance [. . .] in the sale of Wrigley Field, according to a federal criminal complaint. In return for state assistance, Blagojevich allegedly wanted members of the paper's editorial board who had been critical of him fired” (AP). Why a company headed for chapter 11 bankruptcy thinks it’s a good investment to buy Wrigley Field is beyond me, but it’s never a good idea to intimidate the press like this.

Sure enough, corruption is a bipartisan matter. Recall that Louisiana voters handed Democratic Representative William Jefferson his rear on a plate just a few days ago. Keeper of an ill-gotten, ill-hidden $90,000, Jefferson, like Ted Stevens, had no reason for maintaining his government position; his decision to run for re-election after indictment speaks of some whopping hubris.

08 December 2008

Back to Square One, eh?

So the Supreme Court declines to hear the current suit arguing that Barack Obama is not a "natural born citizen." Is there really any shock to this? The case is built on straws. and when no less a personage than David Horowitz chimes in to tell people obsessed with this concocted citizenship issue to back off (rather, to "shut up about the birth certificate"), you might consider the issue closed. We shall see.

Added: At The Next Right, Patrick Ruffini argues that "this kind of crap" will effectively derail legitimate critiques of the Obama administration. He's got a valid point: the story's received significant media coverage in the past few days, and, as more people become aware of it, the more likely that the public will imagine 1) it's a larger movement than it is, and 2) it's an issue within the mainstream Republican party (which it's not).

05 December 2008

Rumor Central: Obama Ring Thing

Rather Silly, Isn’t It?

So a London tabloid runs a story that Barack Obama purchased a $30,000 rhodium ring from a fancy jeweler for his wife Michelle. Shortly thereafter, Obama spokespeople and the alleged jeweler confirm that Barack Obama did not purchase a $30,000 rhodium ring for his wife Michelle (nor, it must be said, for any other lady). It’s been days since the story has been debunked, but does it cease to exist? Err…no.

I expect you can’t permit common sense or lack of facts interfere with a good old self-righteous rant about Obama’s alleged hypocrisy.

(pedantic aside: the headline for The Daily Mail’s story, originally titled “Barack Obama to buy rare £20000 rhodium ring for his wife to say thanks for support,” now states, “Barack Obama denies claim to buy rare £20000 rhodium ring for his wife to say thanks for support”)

Nisoor Square Massacre: Blackwater Guards to be Charged

Five of the Blackwater employees who opened fire in Baghdad's crowded Nisoor Square on 16 September, 2007, “have been told to surrender to the FBI by Monday to face federal manslaughter and assault charges connected to the shooting deaths of 17 civilians” (ABC).

Granted, this is a good move by prosecutors, but I’m cynical about how this will turn out.

It's Getting Tiresome

Salon’s Alex Koppelman weighs in on the Obama citizenship mania and argues that, despite all the evidence confirming Obama’s natural-born status, the conspiracy theorisits won’t let this go.

You just know that when the Supreme Court shoots down the current lawsuit (which it is expected to do), the theories will simply grow more elaborate (e.g., someone has paid off /threatened Supreme Court Justices).

04 December 2008

The Beard "Mystery"

Okay, Bill Richardson’s post-campaign beard was great. I loved it. But all the media attention it’s getting is rather silly. He shaved it off a month ago--before election day. But, even though he made the talk show rounds sans-whiskers, and the media commented on his smooth look at the time, people are only noticing it because Obama commented on it? And the way the media has picked up on this story--I guess we can say we’re in the silly season, aye?


03 December 2008

Richard Nixon vs. the Professoriat

In recently released tapes we hear the 37th President railing against the intellectuals who declined to endorse his strategies in Vietnam.

On May 17, 1972, Secretary of State Henry Kissinger met “with Ivy League college presidents [. . .] in the aftermath of the President's decision to mine Haiphong harbor and escalate bombing in North Vietnam on May 8, 1972” (Nixon Archives). The following day, Nixon and Kissinger discussed the meeting, in which Nixon said:

The Ivy League presidents? Why, I'll never let those sons-of-b------ in the White House again. Never, never, never. They're finished. The Ivy League schools are finished ... Henry, I would never have had them in. Don't do that again ... They came out against us when it was tough ... Don't ever go to an Ivy League school again, ever. Never, never, never." (MSNBC)

Seven months later, on December 14, he reiterated his contempt for, and suspicion of, academics (as well as other groups):

Never forget," Nixon tells national security adviser Henry Kissinger in a taped Oval Office conversation revealed Tuesday. "The press is the enemy. The establishment is the enemy. The professors are the enemy.

"Professors are the enemy," he repeated. "Write that on a blackboard 100 times and never forget it." (AP).


According to transcripts, when Kissinger points out that he is a professor. When Nixon seems not to notice Kisinger's rebuttal, Kissinger quickly agrees with Nixon about his views on the press” (Nixontapes).

The diktat that “the professors are the enemy,” and distrust of academia (the implication that intellectuals are somehow “unAmerican”), may not have originated with Nixon, but he certainly grounded it within the Republican conscience. Nixon's paranoia manifested in the party ten years later when conservatives began airing their perception that an "adversary culture of intellectuals” existed. In reaction, thinkers such as Irving Kristol emphatically embraced populism, this move, however, as Mark Lilla argues in The Wall Street Journal, might well have led to the death of the Conservative intellectual tradition.

Odetta, 1930-2008


The musical historian and civil rights activist has passed at 77.
Let it shine, let it shine, let it shine.

02 December 2008

Avoid Following Our Lead

The Register-Guard’s editorial comment today notes that “many in India advocate attacking Pakistan to exact retribution for what is being called India’s 9/11.” Although India and Pakistan have a contentious history, and groups with ties to Pakistan are responsible for several terrorist acts in India, until there is some surety that Pakistan—especially Pakistan’s government—was or is involved in the Mumbai attacks (which seems extremely doubtful), India might want to “heed the U. S. Example”:

Americans can sympathize with the overwhelming urge to strike back after a horrifying terrorist attack. But the U.S. response to the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, offers much for India to consider as it contemplates its own answer to the Nov. 26 massacre in Mumbai.

With two ongoing wars having killed almost 5,000 U.S. military personnel and hundreds of thousands of Afghan and Iraqi civilians, al-Qaeda is stronger than ever — strong enough to be linked to the Mumbai attacks. As a strategy, full-scale military war on terrorism leaves much to be desired.

India should take a hard look at U.S. results before embarking on a similar path. (R-G)

Worth considering indeed. Yes the urge for vengeance is strong, and understandable, but unless an attack on Pakistan is justified—that is, unless genuine evidence links the government to terrorist groups—it would only wreak additional misery on the region as a whole.

Mel Martinez Declines a Second Run

Florida Senator Mel Martinez won’t run for a second term. Apparently, he’s not very popular in his region.

I first became familiar with Martinez during the Terry Schiavo controversy. Recall that Martinez’s legal counsel issued a memo explaining how the GOP could take political advantage of the Schiavo situation—specifically, how the Republicans could stir up the base and how the party could exploit the Schiavo matter against Florida’s Democratic Senator Bill Nelson. When the memo was exposed, Conservatives claimed it had been produced and circulated by Democrats to discredit the GOP.

Although Martinez gave the memo to a fellow Senator (surely on accident as he gave it to a Democrat), he claimed to know nothing about it until the memo’s contents hit the news. When Martinez’s aid, Brian Darling, ‘fessed up to authoring the talking points, he resigned. So how did Martinez get it?

"It was intended to be a working draft," Martinez said. "[Darling] doesn't really know how I got it." (Washington Post)

Whoops.

Update: Former Florida governor Jeb Bush is considering a run for Martinez's seat.

30 November 2008

S' long, Woolies (the denuding of the High Street)

I remember Woolworth’s five & dime from my childhood; they pretty much vanished from my geographic region by the 1980s, and they pretty much vanished period in the 1990s.

The United Kingdom has remained one of the last bastions of the Woolworth shop (the UK Woolworth group broke away from the US-based group in the early 1980s). "Woolies" is a consistent presence on the UK High Street, offering everything from magazines and “pic & mix” sweets to plastic goods and children’s clothing at fairly inexpensive prices.

However, due to the economic crisis, Woolies went into administration on Wednesday. Although the stores will remain open over the holiday season, unless the chain can find a buyer, 815 stores will close and tens of thousands of employees will be out of work.

Other major British retailers entering administration: PC World, MFI, and Curry's join Woolworth's. Ilva and Roseby's died in September. This means that my family's seaside town will feature a significant increase in empty High Street storefronts and deserted box stores lurking on street corners. Sadly, a significant portion of the community works in these shops, so an already depressed area will grow ever more so.

(Aside: fond memories of the ever-reliable Woolies. I bought both my last vinyl single and my last cassette single at a UK Woolworths).

Investigate First

Aryn Baker at Time looks at the risks of blaming Pakistan before a detailed investigation into the Mumbai attacks occurs.

29 November 2008

It’s That Time of Year

Who is included on Google’s “People in the News” column?

Santa Claus

Awesome.


“Political Advertisement”

In 1984, New York artists Antoni Muntadas and Marshall Reese started a video project, titled Presidential Advertisement, for which they’ve gathered together political commercials from the past fifty years. They re-edit their project every four years, adding fresh ads to reflect the zeitgeist and technological innovations. Muntadas and Reese’s video is now 75 minutes long (15 minutes longer than the election-2000 version). The New Yorker recently featured a column on the project, and writer John Seabrook writes,
Watching “Political Advertisement” in its entirety is a powerful but disorienting experience. Time hurtles forward with each Presidential election, but there is no clear progress on the fundamental issues. Jobs, better schools, tax relief, help for small businesses, change, peace through strength, and out-of-touch Washington insiders ebb and flow in importance. It’s morning again in America in 1984, with the Reagan ads, but soon it’s nighttime, with the darkening sky of a 1992 Ross Perot spot on the national debt. (Seabrook)

Because the ads are presented chronologically and sans commentary, the film highlights how presidential campaign rhetoric remains, essentially, unchanged. While this isn’t entirely surprising (as Seabrook suggests, political ads do shape our political discourse), it’s rather saddening to realize that for 52 years, politicians have spoken of addressing and resolving the same problems. Of course, many of these issues have been about for much longer than 52 years, but to have them presented on film underscores something akin to cultural wheel spinning. And yet…we continue to have faith in presidential candidates who do little more than echo previous candidates. What’s that word? Hope?

A Century of Levi-Strauss

Not the denim company, but the anthropologist. Claude Levi-Strauss, whose studies of myth (and a few other things) heavily influenced the social sciences and the humanities in the 20th century, turned 100 yesterday.

Motor Mouth Zawahiri

Today, Ayman al-Zahawiri announced that Al Qaeda essentially gets credit for the current financial crisis. At least we can stop blaming all those unscrupulous financial institutions and consumers living beyond their means, eh?

This follows on some similarly silly commentary; last week, al-Zahawiri claimed that Obama is nothing more than a “house negro.” The international community pretty well laughed at the man’s rhetoric, which prompted petulant Al Qaeda members to complain about the media’s pro-Obama bias.

If nothing else, the boasting over the economic mess and encouragement of racial divisions suggests that we’re looking at an anxious (and peevish) group.


Aside:
Dawud Walid, an executive director for the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR) wrote a thoughtful letter to The Detroit News on al-Zawahiri's nonsense.


Mumbai's Battle: It’s Over

According to The International Herald Tribune, the three day siege has concluded. And more fingers point towards the LeT's responsibility. Consequentially, Pakistan is doing its best to stave off more regional instability:
Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi said India and Pakistan should join hands to defeat a common enemy, and urged New Delhi not to play politics over the attacks in Mumbai, Reuters reported.

"Do not bring politics into this issue," he told reporters in the Indian town of Ajmer during a four-day visit to India. "This is a collective issue. We are facing a common enemy and we should join hands to defeat the enemy."

President Asif Ali Zardari of Pakistan called Prime Minister Manmohan Singh of India to say he was "appalled and shocked" by the attacks, Reuters reported. "Nonstate actors wanted to force upon the governments their own agenda, but they must not be allowed to succeed," he said.
Read the rest here.

28 November 2008

Mumbai Terrorists Had Getaway Plan

I’ve been wondering about the Mumbai terrorists’ not committing suicide--taking hostages and engaging in shootouts with security forces rather than blow themselves up suggests that killing themselves wasn’t part of their agreement, which is rather strange if, as alleged, the terrorists included members of LeT’s “suicide squad.”

Well apparently the men were assured no suicide was necessary: they had a getaway plan. The Times of India reports that a captured terrorist claims that,

the group had planned to sail out [of Mumbai] on Thursday. Their recruiters had even charted out the return route for them and stored it on the GPS device which they had used to navigate their way to the Mumbai shoreline..

This suggests that the terrorists were willing to undertake a mission which they knew would be very risky, but not necessarily suicidal.

Sources said that the bait of safe return must have been used by the recruiters to convince the wavering among the group to join the audacious plot against Mumbai. (ToI)

So belief in The Cause is no longer sufficient to prompt young men to kill themselves afet sacrificing countless innocents? Does a heavenly reward for self-murder no longer seem guaranteed for the recruited?

This is telling.

"Black Friday" Indeed.

Upon a Wal-Mart’s 5:00 am opening, desperate shoppers, in competition for a limited supply of cheap goods, tore doors from their hinges. Their rush into the store killed one man, a Wal-Mart worker, and injured several others.

Further, “eager shoppers streamed past emergency crews as they worked furiously to save the worker's life” (AP).

This bloody stampede is metaphoric in so many sad ways.

Added: Apparently, the "experts" have declared "fear and greed may fuel retail stampedes." Gee--you think?

Pakistani Group Behind Mumbai Attacks?

According to the Times of India, security forces have captured several Pakistani men:

Police and central security personnel have arrested at least three Pakistanis including Ajmal Amir Kamal, a resident of Faridkot near Multan in Pakistan's Punjab province. All the three belong to the suicide squad of Lashkar-e-Taiba.

Update: The Times of India now writes that '[i]n all, nine terrorists were killed while one was captured alive in "Operation Tornado" executed by the NSG alongwith the army and naval commandos and Maharashtra police." The AP reports that the captured man's name is Mohammad Ajmal Qasam. The police allege that he is a Pakistan national and affiliated with groups in that country.

Lashkar-e-Taibab is based in Pakistan and aims to end Indian rule in Kashmir. However, there is no confirmation as yet if the Pakistan group is responsible for the Mumbai carnage. There remains a significant amount of uncertainty--and rumormongering--about the attackers. Pakistan has questioned reports of its citizens' involvement, as "India [has] in the past blamed Pakistan for terrorist attacks but subsequent probes [have] shown they were carried out by 'internal groups.'" Further, according to a Times article published late Thursday, Pakistan has released an official denial:

"Pakistan played no role in the Mumbai attacks," [Pakistan's] Defence Minister Chaudhry Ahmed Mukhtar said as investigators in Maharashtra suggested that Pakistan-based Lashkar-e-Toiba could be involved in the unprecedented strike.

Aside: Again, I ask: why didn’t these men kill themselves—especially if they’re members of a suicide squad? Was there a niggle about the surety of heavenly reward?

D-Listers

Royal Institute of International Affairs, wonders if we’ve entered the era of “celebrity terrorism.” The anonymous Mumbai attackers have, essentially, taken over international media. Top quote:

Welcome to the age of celebrity terrorism. The invitation to the world's D-list malcontents reads as follows: no matter how corrupt your moral sense, how contorted your view of the world, how vapid and inarticulate your ideas, how talentless you are and how exaggerated your grievance; an obsessive audience will watch your every move and turn you into what you most want to be, just before your death.

One thing: why have they taken hostages rather than kill themselves? That's the usual terrorist method, isn't it?

Aside: When the news broadcasts aired CCTV photos of some of the attackers—young men in western dress, with their rucksacks and weapons—they brought school shooters (Columbine, VA Tech) to mind. I hadn't really considered school attacks as "terrorist" in the past, but Cornish’s article, I think, reinforces the link. You feel tormented, anguished, so you grab a gun to avenge your pain on innocents and to get your slice of notoriety.

Old One Ball

Ron Rosenbaum breaks down an unending urban legend and questions our near-obsession with Hitler's sex life--and how "experts" (and others) offer up Hitler's sexual preferences and abilities as reasons for his derangement. Read “Everything You Need To Know About Hitler's ‘Missing’ Testicle.”

27 November 2008

27 November, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving Day.

Aside: Jon Swift exhorts us to celebrate “the true meaning of Thanksgiving” before liberals eradicate the holiday.

26 November 2008

India

Khwab

In a dream
I flew across the blue ink heavens,
Through the air
Passing Broome red underneath as
Garuda crossing the Indian Ocean
To India.

As the sun rose
And unsettled the grey mist on the Ganges
I sat in a boat
With rhythmic creaking oars
To the slap thud of washing clothes
On stony steps,
To the ringing bell of funeral pyres
Vultures flapping, rose petals following
In the wake of burning dead

And on into the fumed traffic
Crimson-saried women flying in the air
Scooter taxis with alto horns
Rushing through crowds and sacred cows.
Computers flashing
In canyons of glass and stone
White smoke curling, incense
Floating like the women bathing,
Combing jet black hair
While the Ganges ran down their shoulders

And in the dark of the fiery furnace
Men and women slept where they worked
Making black iron for bread.
Sweet smells of Madras
The rushing Calcutta streets
Moon shadows on flute tunes
In the temple
The four-clap beat and the hum of the drum
Dusty men sleeping on stone
And balancing women with baskets of rubble.

Rolling camels in Rajasthan
Two-humped shadows in the slipping sand
A thousand mirrored fragments
Held in the palm of my hand,
Like infinity
`And eternity in an hour'

--Michael Hyde

24 November 2008

“His Confident Smile and Kind Eyes. . .

Are an inspiration to us all.”

Seriously, the script for the Obama commemorative plate advert is hysterical. It simply oozes cheese.

Sadly, the phrase above has worked its way into household talk; e.g., “your confident smile and kind eyes inspire me to have another slice of pie.”

“His Confident Smile and Kind Eyes. . .

Are an inspiration to us all.”

Seriously, the script for the Obama commemorative plate advert is hysterical. It simply oozes cheese.

Sadly, the phrase above has worked its way into household talk; e.g., “your confident smile and kind eyes inspire me to have another slice of pie.”

22 November 2008

42 Years On, Lennon Forgiven

In 1966, John Lennon declared that The Beatles were “bigger than Jesus.” Rather than explicate the comment (why add to forty two years’ worth of explication?), let’s just note that it set off a firestorm among many Christian communities. Some eventually let go of it, but for others it’s taken 42 years.

Today, in an article celebrating Lennon and the Beatles, the semi-official Vatican newspaper, L'Osservatore Romano, has forgiven the late Mr. Lennon.



A Good Sign for Higher Ed?

As with the rest of the nation, things are tough for public higher ed institutions. Spending cuts are increasing, which means that, in most cases, students suffer from overcrowded classes, insufficient class sections, inadequate resources, and so on. But there's some good news.

Earlier this week, Florida Governor Charlie Crist opted to raise the cost of in-state tuition to help cover expenses at Florida's colleges and universities (Florida's residential tuition rates have typically been set by the state legislature). Today the New York Times reports that "several of the highest-paid [university] presidents said that they would give back part of their pay or forgo their raises." Although these folks have helped generate a bit more cash for higher ed, problems remain: with the job market as it is, many folks will be heading to community colleges or four year institutions to enhance their employability. However, with the credit industry as it is, how will those folks pay for their education? Time to hear more from Obama on his plans for higher education.

Added 01/06/09: Apparently, things aren't looking so strong for the academic community. The job market is down by at least 25% according to this blogger.

Thanks, Jonathan Martin

Reading Jonathan Martin’s blog at Politico has been one of my more pleasant daily rituals, but, alas, he’s taken the “Change” meme to heart and has brought his blog to a close.

Dang

SNL's FauxBama Stays

One of the more compelling questions since the election, right up there with "should Hilary become Secretary of State?" and "should Summers' Harvard remarks disqualify from becoming Treasury Secretary?," has been "who should portray Obama on Saturday Night Live?

Fred Armisen has given it the old college try, critics argue, but, well, he kind of sucks at it. Rumors have flown that Lorne Michaels is on the lookout for a replacement Obama player. Hold!
NBC is loyal and declares that Armisen shall continue his work as fake Obama.

There you go.

On Whining About the Obama Vetting Process

People are complaining that Obama’s vetting process is too tough? Too bad.

Yes, it’s been the most rigorous cabinet compilation in history. In addition to the requisite FBI background check, Obama’s people are, “requiring prospective candidates to complete a seven-page questionnaire that requires the disclosure of nearly every last private detail. In addition to the obvious questions involving past criminal history, candidates are asked about personal diaries, past blog posts, and the financial entanglements of extended family members” (CNN).

Yes, it’s rather invasive (as David Gergen asserts), but it’s also wise. We’re talking about government employees and it’s wise to discover any questionable material prior to giving them a high profile job. Any financial conflicts of interest? Is the professional history complete and credible? Any predilection for abusing official powers for sex or money? Any history of exploiting immigrant labor? Any habits of visiting prostitutes or posting on Craig's List? Better to find out now rather than later--perhaps in the headlines of a national broadsheet or the front page of the Drudge Report.

Not A Cuddly Toy

"Yang Yang was so cute and I just wanted to cuddle him. I didn't expect he would attack" (CNN)
So said a 20 year old college student, who, forgetting that pandas are actually animals and not animatronic stuffed toys, climbed into the panda enclosure at a Chinese zoo.
Yang Yang bit the student over his arms and legs. The student has undergone surgery and will be fine.
Apparently, Yang Yang has been involved in this kind of event before. In 2006, he bit a “drunk tourist who broke into his enclosure and tried to hug him while he was asleep. The tourist retaliated by biting the bear in the back (CNN).

Tip: If a 6 ½ foot fence separates you from an animal, there’s a reason.

21 November 2008

Cancer: Still Here

Throughout his tenure, President Bush has reduced funding for cancer research regularly.

I know times are hard--very hard--but please consider donating to The American Cancer Society.

Thank you.

Obama to Nominate Clinton for Sec of State After Thanksgiving

Politico hears that sources close to President-Elect Obama confirm that he will nominate Senator Hillary Clinton as his administration's Secretary of State. The official announcement will come after Thanksgiving.

20 November 2008

A Fresh Faux Pas for Sarah Palin?

After pardoning a Wasilla turkey, per Thanksgiving tradition, Governor Sarah Palin participated in an interview with the not-so-pleasant backdrop of bloody in-progress turkey slaughter. Nice, eh?

Apparently, the interviewer asked Palin if she minded being filmed in front of the turkey-cones-of-death, and Palin replied “no worries.”

Does this reveal something sinister about Palin? No. It does, however, suggest that she doesn’t really think about how her media appearances play out. It's a curious, albeit gruesome, reminder that we've seen this kind of ineptness before (but McCain's people got the blame for that).

Here’s video, but and here's a caution: it’s pretty dang grisly.

(admission: I was going to post this as "Palin's Fowl Faux Pas," but nah.)

Scrooge and Marley? Not Fannie and Freddie

No Scrooge Mae or Marley Mac here.

Fannie and Freddie have halted foreclosures and evictions for the holiday season.

God bless 'em.

(Fear not; goodwill never overstays its welcome. Foreclosures and evictions shall begin anew as the year turns. Unless, of course, you're a financial institution or, apparently, the self-deluded head of an automaker. Then you get some leeway).

Conservadrama

In all honesty, I'm typically not so drawn to stories about Republican Party battles/ideology, but geez—all this Conservative drama is fascinating.

Ramesh Ponnuru, a senior editor for National Review, has a fresh article in Time, “Rebooting the Right.”

Ponnuru claims that the Republican Party is “not descending into civil war. That would be too tidy. What is unfolding instead is an overlapping series of Republican civil wars, each with its own theme.” Additionally, he asserts that, “[w]hen a party suffers the kind of beating the Republicans have taken in the past two elections, the public has not rejected one of its factions. It has rejected the party as a whole.” Ouch.

Read his fine analysis here.

Utah’s Republican Governor, John Hunstman, seems to agree with Ponnuru. He's told Politico that, well, the party pretty much better get its act together and welcome the 21st century pronto.

“If we’re going to survive as a party, we need to focus on the environment,” Huntsman said. “There’s a fundamental tone deafness with our party when it comes to the environment. ... The last place we can be as a party is be viewed as the anti-science party. That’s not a model for the future.”

[moreover. . .]

He also was critical of the Bush administration’s foreign policy, and advocated for a more multilateral approach. He attributed the Republicans’ recent political struggles to the lack of an “organizing principle” to drive voters to the party — something the Cold War accomplished for decades.

And he argued the war on terror can’t fill that role.

“The war on terror can’t be the organizing principle of the Republican party,” he said. (Politico)

Lord knows they've tried to make the "war on terror" an organizing principle, but people didn't buy into it for very long (in 2004, yes. But 9/11 was still an open wound). The lack of an organizing principle manifested itself solidly in the McCain campaign as it veered from tactic to tactic rather than articulating a considered, coherent "theme," if you will.

At least Rahm Emanuel is playing nice by encouraging the GOP to submit ideas to the Obama administration. Today he met with Mitch McConnell, Eric Cantor, and Mike Pence. Further, according to The Crypt, he has “spoken to almost two dozen Republicans in the last two weeks to tell them that the new administration is serious about bipartisan cooperation” (Politico).

Some good news for GOPers, then.

Poem

"Merry Autumn"
It's all a farce,—these tales they tell
About the breezes sighing,
And moans astir o'er field and dell,
Because the year is dying.

Such principles are most absurd,—
I care not who first taught 'em;
There's nothing known to beast or bird
To make a solemn autumn.

In solemn times, when grief holds sway
With countenance distressing,
You'll note the more of black and gray
Will then be used in dressing.

Now purple tints are all around;
The sky is blue and mellow;
And e'en the grasses turn the ground
From modest green to yellow.

The seed burrs all with laughter crack
On featherweed and jimson;
And leaves that should be dressed in black
Are all decked out in crimson.

A butterfly goes winging by;
A singing bird comes after;
And Nature, all from earth to sky,
Is bubbling o'er with laughter.

The ripples wimple on the rills,
Like sparkling little lasses;
The sunlight runs along the hills,
And laughs among the grasses.

The earth is just so full of fun
It really can't contain it;
And streams of mirth so freely run
The heavens seem to rain it.

Don't talk to me of solemn days
In autumn's time of splendor,
Because the sun shows fewer rays,
And these grow slant and slender.

Why, it's the climax of the year,—
The highest time of living!—
Till naturally its bursting cheer
Just melts into thanksgiving.
--Paul Laurence Dunbar (1893)
[Sorry--I couldn't get the spacing right on this. Beginning with line two, every other line should be indented one space].

Gordon-Reed's Hemings History Wins National Book Award

Annette Gordon-Reed's The Hemingses of Monticello, a “prodigiously researched” history of Sally Hemings and her children, who were most likely fathered by Thomas Jefferson, has received the 2008 National Book Award for nonfiction.

Between this and the Obama win, I suspect that, somewhere, Paulie Abeles is seething. Or weeping.

Blog Toy

Go to Typealizer, enter a blog address, and receive an analysis of that blog.

Apparently, MP&GS falls under the category of “The Mechanics,” which Typealizer describes as:

The independent and problem-solving type. They are especially attuned to the demands of the moment are masters of responding to challenges that arise spontaneously. They generelly prefer to think things out for themselves and often avoid inter-personal conflicts.

The Mechanics enjoy working together with other independent and highly skilled people and often like seek fun and action both in their work and personal life. They enjoy adventure and risk such as in driving race cars or working as policemen and firefighters.

The analysis includes a breakdown of “parts of the brain that were dominant during [blog] writing."

I’m hesitant to proclaim accuracy (apparently I’m unemotional and lacking idealism), but it’s not a bad way to waste time whilst waiting for something to print/download/whatever.

19 November 2008

The FEC Goes PUMA Huntin'

Some residual pain for the "never say die" Clinton supporters.

The FEC is sending letters to PUMA pac's Darragh Murphy. It seems she’s neglected to file the “report of receipts and expenditures as required by the Federal Election Campaign Act.”

Uh oh.

The letter, available online at the FEC’s site, is dated 03 November, 2008. You can go to the FEC to review the letter, but you can review the letter and some fine supplementary commentary here.

h/t Kevin K

House GOP Opts for Conservative Leadership

You’d think that its losses in 2006 and 2008—losses brought about by the public’s dissatisfaction with the government’s role in the Terry Schiavo case, Katrina/Rita, corruption, the war(s), etc.--would have provided some food for thought. But, ah, no.

Apparently, the GOP’s leaders haven’t been paying attention to the electorate. It’s not Ronald Reagan’s base anymore. Alan I. Abramowitz, a professor of political science at Emory) has published a survey detailing the general voting population’s demographics; he concludes that “[a]s a result of changes in American society, today's electorate is very different from the electorate of twenty, thirty, or forty years ago” (Abramowitz). It seems that the GOP base (especially the Conservative base) of White, married Christians is dissolving. Members of this group “now make up less than half of all voters in the United States and less than one fifth of voters under the age of 30” (Abramowitz). And you know, there’s no indication that these numbers will increase.

So what is the GOP to do? There seem to be two options. One is to try to appeal to the people who don’t identify as White, married Christians. Unfortunately, those folks are moderate to liberal:

[i]n 2006, according to data from the Cooperative Congressional Election Study, 57 percent of these voters supported a woman's right to choose an abortion under any circumstances, 66 percent opposed a constitutional amendment to prohibit gay marriage, and 71 percent favored a single-payer health care system. Any attempt by Republican leaders to significantly increase their party's support among voters who are not married white Christians would therefore require changes in some of the party's longstanding policy commitments -- changes that would clearly upset a large segment of the current Republican base. (Abramowitz)

So what do Republican House members opt for? Tacking further to the right.

Today, House Republicans chose for its leadership several of the more conservative members of its caucus.

They’re planning to focus on fiscal Conservatism, which many people might happily go along with (unless, perhaps, they have some worries about further deregulations, cuts to Medicaid/Medicare, concerns that the government might not help out in critical situations [e.g., Katrina] etc. Despite this declared focus, it’s worth wondering if they’ll also remain determined to pursuing a socially conservative agenda. My guess is, well, "duh."

So here's the new lineup:

John Boehner (OH) remains Minority Leader.
Eric Cantor
(VA) becomes Minority Whip
Mike Pence (IN) becomes Conference Chairman
Democratic House members have their leadership to-do tomorrow.

David Frum, Post-NRO

As he leaves NRO, David Frum unveils his plans for a new website, NewMajority.com, which will debut shortly after the inauguration. Frum says the site will feature a variety of opinions, and they won’t be simply Conservative or Republican; as Frum explains, “they - and people like them - are the people conservatives and Republicans need.” He elaborates further:

Over the past three years, I have been engaged in some intense rethinking of my own conservatism. My fundamental political principles remain the same as ever: free markets, American leadership in the world, and intense attachment to inherited moral and cultural traditions. Yet I cannot be blind to the evidence that we have seen free markets produce some damaging and dangerous results in recent years. Or that the foreign policy I supported has not yielded the success I would have wished to see. Or that traditions must evolve if they are to endure. There are new princip[l]es too that must be included in a majority conservatism: environmental protection as a core value and an unwavering insistence upon competence and integrity in government. (Frum)

Frum's site offers the potential for being an invigorating forum; let's hope it works out for him.

HRC as SOS Within The Week? Some Think So. . .

Politico’s Mike Allen, who has a pretty good track record on these things, asserts that Hillary Clinton will probably be named as Secretary of State within the week—before Thanksgiving Day. Bill Clinton has decided to facilitate things and cooperate with the Obama people’s vetting and desisting from activities that might conflict with his wife’s work:

a friend [of the Clintons] says: “There’ll be some changes. There’ll be things that he did in the past that he won’t do now. He’s open to looking at what the Obama people think make sense. The Obama people will say, ‘Here’s what we’re comfortable with you doing.’ And President Clinton will look at it and most likely, say, ‘OK, I can do that.’ Like her, he wants the best for this country. My read of the situation is that he’s open to working something out – that everybody’s happy. It doesn’t feel to me like that’s going to be terribly difficult.” (qtd. in Allen).

So after a week of hemming and hawing. . . .there it is.

Complicating the Story of Cilivization?

This is way too cool.
German archeologist Klaus Schmidt has discovered an ancient (and I do mean ancient) temple in Turkey.

The temple, called Gobekli Tepe, is 11,000 years old. Eleven thousand. This monument was created 6,000 years before Stonehenge and, what, seven thousand years before the Pyramids?

It’s mind boggling-ly old.

The thing is, folks have known about this place for yonks. They just assumed it was a medieval cemetery.

The Smithsonian has an article on the place here.

18 November 2008

Senator Stevens and Filibusters

Senator Ted Stevens showed up at the Senate today (which kind of surprises me, what with being a convicted felon and all, but I suppose the man has to see his term through to the end. At least until he heads to the hoosgow). There’s no word if he wore his Incredible Hulk tie or not.

Today is Stevens’ birthday, and the Senate decided to postpone a hearing on whether to expel him from the GOP caucus, but it’s only postponed for a few days and, according to Jim DeMint (R-SC), “it's clear there are sufficient votes to pass the resolution" (MSNBC).

Right now, it looks as though Stevens won’t be returning to the Senate. Although ballot counting continues in Alaska, Stevens’s Democratic opponent, Mark Begich, is leading by some 2,000 votes.

Alaskan officials anticipate that all votes will be counted between 5 and 6 PDT today.

If Begich wins, that puts Democrats dangerously close to the filibuster-proof number of 60-seat majority (they’re at 57 right now). And with Lieberman (I-CT) having saved his Homeland Security chairmanship today, we might expect that he’ll continue to caucus with the Dems. Add to this Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and, well, that looks like 60 to me. Truthfully, I'm not so sure this is a good thing. I'm suspicious of one-party rule (really--how ofen does it turn out well?).

Even so, I'd love to see Al Franken win in Minnesota (although it seems unlikely).

Update: Stevens has lost his bid for re-election.

"The Year of the Woman"? Not So Much. . . .

Amanda Fortini at New York Magazine has considered how, rather than breaking misogynist stereotypes, Hillary Clinton and Sarah Palin (and the media's treatment of them) might have reinforced sexist perceptions of women. Read "The Bitch and the Ditz" here.

17 November 2008

"No!" (poetry)

“No!”

No sun--no moon!
No morn--no noon!
No dawn--no dusk--no proper time of day--
No sky--no earthly view--
No distance looking blue--
No road--no street--no "t'other side this way"--
No end to any Row--
No indications where the Crescents go--
No top to any steeple--
No recognitions of familiar people--
No courtesies for showing 'em--
No knowing 'em!
No traveling at all--no locomotion--
No inkling of the way--no notion--
"No go" by land or ocean--
No mail--no post--
No news from any foreign coast--
No Park, no Ring, no afternoon gentility--
No company--no nobility--
No warmth, no cheerfulness, no healthful ease,
No comfortable feel in any member--
No shade, no shine, no butterflies, no bees,
No fruits, no flowers, no leaves, no birds--
November!

--Thomas Hood, 1844

13 November 2008

P. J. O'Rourke on the GOP

Just passing this along:
In a column titled "We Blew It," P. J. O'Rourke runs down the GOP's positions on various issues (including social conservatism and economic matters) that have led, in his opinion, to the Conservatives' recent political misfortunes. It's a biting, incisive piece, so give it a read.

12 November 2008

From TV Land to the Louvre

Awww, Wally—this is great.

Tony Dow, who played The Beav’s older brother, Wally Cleaver, in that classic of Cold War Americana, Leave it to Beaver, will soon have a sculpture on display at the Louvre.



Dow’s piece is a bronze, abstract figure of a woman holding a shield; it’s titled “Unarmed Warrior.” The work is one of three by American artists selected for the Société Nationale des Beaux-Arts exhibition.

Pretty keen, no? Congrats, Wal....um...Mr. Dow.

Cue O'Reilly: The "War on Christmas," 2008

Not that Bill O'Reilly would have ever seen a cease fire in this battle created to inflame the "culture war" and to increase his ratings. Anyway, the AP reports that:
Ads proclaiming, "Why believe in a god? Just be good for goodness' sake," will appear on Washington, D.C., buses starting next week and running through December. The American Humanist Association unveiled the provocative $40,000 holiday ad campaign Tuesday.
Here we go. It's not even Thanksgiving and we've heard the first salvo in 2008's Xmas war.

Nevermind that the ad's aim is to make "agnostics, atheists, and other types of non-theists" feel a little less isolated during the holiday season; you know the "keep Christ in Christmas" folks won't take this one lying down.