31 December 2008
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"
6) and how about eliminating the nouns created by adding "Mc" to an adjective? e.g., "McSame, McHottie"?
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
I leant upon a coppice gateWhen Frost was spectre-gray,And Winter's dregs made desolateThe weakening eye of day.The tangled bine-stems scored the skyLike strings of broken lyres,And all mankind that haunted nighHad sought their household fires.
The land's sharp features seemed to beThe Century's corpse outleant,His crypt the cloudy canopy,The wind his death-lament.The ancient pulse of germ and birthWas shrunken hard and dry,And every spirit upon earthSeemed fervourless as I.
At once a voice arose amongThe bleak twigs overheadIn a full-hearted evensongOf joy illimited;An aged thrush, frail, gaunt, and small,In blast-beruffled plume,Had chosen thus to fling his soulUpon the growing gloom.
So little cause for carolingsOf such ecstatic soundWas written on terrestrial thingsAfar or nigh around,That I could think there trembled throughHis happy good-night airSome blessed Hope, whereof he knewAnd I was unaware.
--Thomas Hardy (written 30 December, 1900)
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
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
27 December 2008
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. America 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. China
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.
26 December 2008
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.
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.
· It's not true that unionized auto workers at
· 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
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.
19 December 2008
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
14 December 2008
12 December 2008
11 December 2008
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
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
08 December 2008
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
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”)
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.
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
03 December 2008
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.
02 December 2008
The Register-Guard’s editorial comment today notes that “many in
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 to consider as it contemplates its own answer to the Nov. 26 massacre in Mumbai. India
With two ongoing wars having killed almost 5,000
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. U.S. Indiashould take a hard look at results before embarking on a similar path. (R-G) U.S.
Worth considering indeed. Yes the urge for vengeance is strong, and understandable, but unless an attack on
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
"It was intended to be a working draft,"
said. "[Darling] doesn't really know how I got it." (Washington Post) Martinez
Update: Former Florida governor Jeb Bush is considering a run for Martinez's seat.