Archive for October, 2008

Halloween News You Missed

October 31, 2008

Before we get to the news you missed this Halloween, a word from our sponsor:

And now, the news you missed:


Footnote in American History

October 28, 2008

We begin today a new series entitled Footnotes in American History.  The footnotes come from actual texts which have been lost. Some are from lost texts written hundreds of years in the future and channeled directly to this blog. Today’s footnote is in that category.

Footnote 72
This marked the first time that the Republican Party, as it was known then, had nominated a woman for either the presidency or the vice-presidency.  She was widely regarded as unqualified and most scholars agree that General McPain chose her because she was sexy. Science has since established that men lose some cognitive ability in the presence of pretty women and she was reputed to have been pretty.  No photographs of her are known to exist and her name is lost to history.

Presidential Endorsement

October 24, 2008

Unaccountably, neither the McCain campaign nor the Obama campaign heeded my warning that an all-expense paid trip to the Caribbean might sway this blog’s long and anxiously awaited endorsement for president. That means you get an unvarnished opinion and I don’t get a trip to that villa overlooking the sea.

Much of the country seems to have made up its mind already without waiting for my sage advice.  Even General Powell endorsed Senator Obama without waiting.  Almost every public poll has Senator Obama leading, not only in the irrelevant popular vote but in the one that counts: the Electoral College.  The Washington Post has a contest going that enables you to march through the states picking the ones that will go for Obama and the ones that would be red on election night.  I entered, but now I can’t figure out how to go back and look at my entry.  I think I awarded 327 electoral votes to Obama and gave Florida to Senator McCain.  I told a friend recently that I thought Obama would get 370 electoral votes, but I’d had a lot of wine when I said it.  I can’t remember what first prize in the Washington Post contest is.  Maybe it’s a trip to the Caribbean!

Given that he is so far behind, it is a complete mystery why the McCain campaign has not come through with a Caribbean vacation for me.  It wouldn’t cost any more than Sarah Palin’s wardrobe and he needs all the endorsements he can get.  But, let’s face it; the McCain campaign is a train wreck, so I shouldn’t be surprised.  Senator McCain deserved better; both from his staff and from himself.  Now it looks like it may be too late.  Instead of circling the wagons, they are circling the drain.

I suspect team McCain of relying too much on the Democrats to blow another election; after all, the Democrats haven’t won a presidential election since 2000.  But the McCain reliance on inept Democrats may be misplaced.  Even the national Democratic party wins sometimes. The party of Dither, Pother and Fuss has stopped dithering.

Which brings me to Shakespeare.  What would he do?

Senator Obama is more Hamlet than Macbeth.  He is an intellectual, something which American presidential candidates usually go to great lengths to hide; he is thoughtful; he is smart; and makes carefully considered decisions.  And Lawrence Olivier’s pronouncement that Hamlet, “. . .is the tragedy of a man who could not make up his mind” was wide of the mark. After making up his mind, Hamlet was a man of decisive action.  Just ask Polonius.  No wait.  You can’t; he’s dead.  Instead ask Hillary Clinton and the legion of Democrats who thought it was too early for Obama to mount a serious presidential campaign.  For that matter, ask John McCain.

True, Senator Obama resembles Macbeth in that he is a man of ambition.  But he hasn’t murdered George Bush or Dick Cheney to get the job of president.  And, as far as we know, he is not a man given to seeing ghosts in his dining room.

Besides, Michelle Obama would make a lousy Lady Macbeth.

Senator McCain, on the other hand, acts more like Coriolanus than Othello.  Both Coriolanus and Othello were soldiers and good ones.  They slaughtered Goths, Visigoths and Turks with fine bravery and both were, in their own way, noble.  But Othello didn’t fly off the handle.  Even when his fatal flaw, the green-eyed monster of jealousy, was exposed, he demanded proof before he acted.  That Iago’s “proof” was a pack of lies wasn’t entirely Othello’s fault. And his flaw was personal, not public.  In the end, Othello destroyed only himself and Desdemona, not an entire country.

Coriolanus was different.  Prick his pride and rage spewed forth.  Not for him the considered decision.  Not for him the selfless devotion to country.  He preferred to destroy Rome rather than admit to a fault.  Self-confidence is a fine trait; self-certainty can be deadly.  Senator McCain is more Coriolanus than Othello.

That leaves us with a contest between Hamlet and Coriolanus and that choice is clear:  Vote for Barack Obama.


UPDATE :  At least the New York Times had the wisdom to wait for my endorsement and now it too has endorsed Senator Obama.  Not the biggest surprise in the world that the New York Times is endorsing the Democrat.  However, the Times has endorsed many Republicans since it first started endorsing presidents 148 years ago in 1860.  It is fascinating to look back and see which ones.  If this blog is still endorsing presidential candidates 148 years from now, I doubt it will be the current author doing the endorsing.

Sarah Palin’s Clothes

October 22, 2008

While the Nation anxiously awaits this blog’s presidential endorsement — coming Friday — here is something to pass the time.  (Note to the campaigns:  It’s not too late!)

Grand Canyon Raven

Grand Canyon Raven

Terry Tempest Williams has a new book out, Finding Beauty in a Broken World.  She had a signing here last week and we attended.  During her presentation she noted that she listens, from time to time, to Rush Limbaugh and other far-right radio personalities so she can understand what her relatives are thinking.  (She comes from Utah and a conservative family.)  She loves her family, even those who disagree with her about the issues of our time.

I too have some arch-conservatives in my family and I love them.  But not enough to listen to the aptly named Michael Savage or his ilk.  But I don’t need to; one of my beloved relatives keeps me posted on the thinking of the far right with multiple daily emails. He’s always inviting me to put something or the other on this blog so the blog will be “fair and balanced.”  I tell him that if I wanted this blog to be fair and balanced, I would sell it to Rupert Murdoch.

Nonetheless, Sarah Palin visited Roswell, New Mexico over the weekend and here is an interview with some of her supporters who attended the festivities. They afford a serious look into what motivates them politically and culturally.  (The interview came before the news that the Republican National Committee paid for Palin to have shopping sprees for clothes at Nieman Marcus and Sak’s to the tune of $150,000, which far exceeds what most people spend on clothes in an entire lifetime.  Whether they would still consider her one of theirs after that news is unknown.  I’ve been to Roswell and can guarantee that someone who spends $150,000 on clothes in two months is an alien there.)

But that’s not the point.  The point Ms. Tempest-Williams was making is that we all share our humanity and the planet.  In the throes of a presidential election, especially a divisive one, it is good to remember the words of Lawrence Kilham, “One of the most difficult of all things to endure for a crow, a raven, a wolf, or a human is to feel alone and separated from one’s own kind.  A sense of belonging is one of the most universal of all feelings.”

Nothing Happened Today

October 20, 2008

Blogs can be hungry beasts, always demanding to be fed.  Worse is the blogger’s lurking suspicion that if one doesn’t post almost continually, a fickle readership will depart for distant shores.  In that sense, blogs are like newspapers and newscasts which must report something daily or lose their justification for coming out every day.

On the other hand, blogs — especially like this one, with thoughtful readers — can be more like weekly magazines.  This is good news for their authors.  A.J. Liebling was the war correspondent for the weekly New Yorker during World War II.  Admitting that in war intervals occur during which nothing much happens, Liebling wrote, “Most fortunate are the writers for magazines, who, when nothing happens, do not have to write about it.”

Notice to Readers

October 17, 2008
St. Vincent Island

St. Vincent Island

This blog will shortly make its first endorsement ever in a United States presidential election.  We see that several major U.S. newspapers have jumped the gun on us and made their endorsements, including the Washington Post, The Los Angeles Times, and the Chicago Tribune.  (Did hell just freeze over?  The Chicago Tribune endorsed a Democrat? It has never endorsed a Democrat.  Not one. In its 161 year history. From 1847 until now.)

This sort of reckless behavior on the part of these newspapers is just the kind of thing thoughtful commentators decry in modern journalism.  Everyone knows they should have waited for me, everyone expected them to wait for my mature judgment on the subject, and everyone distrusts newspapers precisely because of such precipitate behavior.

Rest assured: These premature ejaculations of journalistic opinion will, in no way, affect my sober, wise judgment on the matter.  In fact, the only thing left that might affect my opinion is an all-expense paid trip to St. Vincent Island in the Caribbean, including a private villa overlooking the sea, servants, and a fine wine cellar.  Should either the McCain campaign or the Obama campaign wish to reach me before I announce my choice for president, I say to them: You have my telephone number.



The nerve.  Former Secretary of State and four-star general Colin Powell has made his presidential endorsement.  Why aren’t these people waiting for my judgment?  Probably it is “the bandwagon” effect.  Senator Obama is ahead in the polls, raised 150 million dollars in a month and has 3.1 million contributors.

Well.  This blog jumps on no bandwagon.  Not for us the silly herd mentality.  This blog is a Border Collie to all those sheep. It carefully, maturely analyzes the issues of the day and makes its independent judgment on what is best for the country. .

But Senator McCain, time is short.  I imagine that either AIG or Lehman Brothers executives have canceled some of their luxurious winter vacations this year after being caught with their hands in the cookie jar, then dining on pigeon breast; I am certain you’ll have no trouble finding me a nice villa on St. Vincent Island.  Discounted airfares are available.

Waugh on Journalism

October 17, 2008

In the last couple of weeks we inveighed against the press coverage of our current presidential campaign and found it seriously lacking in seriousness.  We’re not the first and we won’t be the last.  Here is Evelyn Waugh from his satire on journalism, “Scoop,” written in 1938.

Once Jakes went out to cover a revolution in one of the Balkan capitals. He overslept in his carriage, woke up at the wrong station, didn’t know any different, got out, went straight to a hotel, and cabled a thousand-word story about barricades in the streets, falling churches, machine guns answering the rattle of his typewriter as he wrote, a dead child, like a broken doll spreadeagled in the deserted roadway below his window—you know.

Well they were pretty surprised at his office, getting a story like that from the wrong country, but they trusted Jakes and splashed it in six national newspapers. That day every special in Europe got orders to rush to the new revolution. They arrived in shoals. Everything seemed quiet enough, but it was as much as their jobs were worth to say so, with Jakes filing a thousand words of blood and thunder a day. So they chimed in too. Government stocks dropped, financial panic, state of emergency declared, army mobilized, famine, mutiny—and in less than a week there was an honest to God revolution under way, just as Jakes had said. There’s the power of the press for you.

Thought for the Day

October 15, 2008

There are 10^11 stars in the galaxy. That used to be a huge number. But it’s only a hundred billion. It’s less than the national deficit! We used to call them astronomical numbers. Now we should call them economical numbers. -Richard Feynman, physicist, Nobel laureate (1918-1988)

The Sons of Atwater

October 12, 2008

Outrage piles upon outrage.  Conservatives are outraged that a liberal may soon be president of the United States.  Liberals are outraged that conservatives are outraged.  The media professes to be outraged that everybody else is outraged.


Sorting through all this outrage may take a while but we’ll give it a try.  First, the Republican candidate for President hired the political grandsons of outrage-expert Lee Atwater to run his campaign. Atwater was the modern guru of attack ads, wedge issues, rumor mongering and “negative politics.”  The people running Senator McCain’s campaign are the sons of Lee Atwater’s political acolyte, Karl Rove.  Rove and his sons are not as smart as Atwater but they have better computers.

Then the Republican candidate, rather than choosing a moderate anti-abortion running mate, chose an inexperienced right-wing populist zealot. Together, guided by the Sons of Atwater, they lit a fire under their fringe supporters who started screaming hate-filled epithets at the Democratic nominee.

This enraged many Democrats who were already worried about the possibility of an assassination. Those Democrats took to the media to complain about the outrage.  (Calmer Democrats called it “irresponsible.”  So did some of the moderate Republicans who think the McCain campaign is a train wreck.)

The media piled on.  Nothing sells so well as outrage. Never mind that the world’s economy is collapsing.  That’s too complicated. Let’s do simple.  Let’s cover the name-calling. Which ironically helps the name callers get more free publicity while the talking media heads discuss the name calling and, often, whether they should even be talking about it. (They shouldn’t.)

Name calling replaces political conversation; outrage displaces composure and the media covers it all. That was the point, of course.  The Sons of Atwater wanted it to happen and knew it would. It fires up the base and keeps their candidate in every news cycle.  Outrage marches on.

Bah. I am weary of the amoral Sons of Atwater.  They are exhausted volcanoes.  The media can safely ignore them and quit throwing sacrificial lambs into their maw.  If only it would.


UPDATE:  10/18/08 – Our friend at Wild Resiliency sent along the news that a new documentary about Lee Atwater opened last night.  Here is a review.

Lawyers as Moose

October 10, 2008


The Constitution’s Sixth Amendment guarantees everyone who is charged with a crime the right to a lawyer.  Trials, being adversarial events, require that criminal defendants have trained adversaries to compete with trained prosecutors.

But what happens if a lawyer doesn’t show up for the trial?  Here is Judge Easterbrook of the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals:

A lawyer who does not show up for trial might as well be a moose, and giving the defendant a moose does not satisfy the sixth amendment.