Thursday, December 31, 2009


Only 60 percent of the posts I managed in 2008 (blame Facebook); a big change from occasionally meaningful school board work to entirely pointless BOCES board work; an as-yet-unknown new boss for Paul; new instruction in voice and sax for Olivia. . . A new president who seems at times oddly distant and detached; a pathetic Congress and an even worse state legislature; friends who've lost jobs while I've plodded along and survived pretty well; new book contracts for DZ; the as-yet-unknown fate of PZ's Afghan program; the last Lutwak of our generation engaged to be married. . . It's been a year of ups and downs. Thank goodness for family and friends, and may 2010 be affirmative, propitious, redemptive.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Christmas Trip

Happy holidays!

Monday, December 21, 2009

Practice Time

O's working her new instrument in Jazz Band now, so Paul has leased an alto to keep her company.

Required Reading

Krugman on how we must change Senate rules to get things done:
Remember, the Constitution sets up the Senate as a body with majority — not supermajority — rule. So the rule of 60 can be changed. A Congressional Research Service report from 2005, when a Republican majority was threatening to abolish the filibuster so it could push through Bush judicial nominees, suggests several ways this could happen — for example, through a majority vote changing Senate rules on the first day of a new session.
Under the current Republican minority, filibusters now affect 70 percent of proposed legislation. It's just nuts.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Required Reading

Gail Collins on what might happen if we scuttle health care because we're getting a terrible bill.
“People always think there will be another day,” said Jack Duncan, who was counsel for the subcommittee that handled [a vetoed 1971 bill aimed at providing high-quality early childhood education and after-school programs for any American family that wanted them] in the House. “Well, there might be another day, but not in my lifetime.”

Friday, December 18, 2009

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Unemployment at a Glance

Thanks to Kris for this. Tompkins County is the only red blob in NYS in 2009.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Grade 13

Kris sent me an article from the Chronicle of Higher Ed (only available to subscribers, so I won't link to it) about the advent of Grade 13 at colleges.
The promise of No Child Left Behind is manifesting in the shaky proficiencies demonstrated by today's college freshmen. According to the 2009 ACT College Readiness Report, only 23 percent of high-school graduates have the requisite skills to earn at least a C in entry-level college courses in the four general areas of English, mathematics, science, and reading. That means 77 percent of all graduating seniors have serious deficiencies in one or more areas.
The authors blame NCLB, which I think is a post hoc fallacy. There are many, many reasons for this decline, a big one being that we send a lot more kids to college than we ever did before. (Another reason, and I don't have time to expand upon it today, is that the American Dream, which once meant "Through hard work and determination, anyone can succeed," is now defined as "The aspiration of young Americans to live better than their parents did." There's a big difference there.)

Care to hazard a guess as to how many community college kids need remediation? How about Ivy Leaguers? What do you do? The Chronicle writers complain that failing too many kids leads to job insecurity.
Pressure to retain students does no one any good if they pass college humanities courses without being able to write even a five-paragraph essay.
Are we actually graduating kids from college who are semi-illiterate? How does THAT help us compete in a global economy?

Friday, December 11, 2009

Required Reading

Happy Hanukkah! In his column today, David Brooks reminds us that the whitewashed version of history is not nearly as interesting as the unvarnished truth.
It commemorates an event in which the good guys did horrible things, the bad guys did good things and in which everybody is flummoxed by insoluble conflicts that remain with us today. It’s a holiday that accurately reflects how politics is, how history is, how life is.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

And More Ambivalence

I'm equally ambivalent about our governor. It doesn't help that I met him back in the days when he swore he had no desire to be governor, which made him the ideal lieutenant governor. He seemed to be genuinely a good guy, even if he did come from the dysfunctional State Senate. And then the governor blew up, and the rest is history. Now Paterson couldn't get a favorable rating on "Dancing with the Stars," and people are lining up to come talk to us about why they'll be great attorney generals once AG Cuomo knocks him out of the race.

I know I should be pissed that Paterson is threatening to cut the budget himself and to take money away from schools and municipalities midyear, but there's a part of me, the part that's still warm and fuzzy about him, that says that he's right--if the state doesn't face its budget woes today, we can all watch it circle the drain before too many tomorrows go by. What part of that doesn't the legislature get? Oh, yeah--the part about getting re-elected in 2010.

I'm not ambivalent about Cuomo, although he's become a better speaker over the past year. I liked his father. That's pretty much it.

Monday, December 7, 2009


Ah, Pearl Harbor. Those were the days. No White House dithering, no talking heads dissecting every strategy, real or potential.

I'd even fast forward a bit to my youth, when every choice seemed black or white, right or wrong. Today what keeps me up at night is my ambivalence, even about issues everyone around me seems to have already decided. Here are just a few.

Afghanistan. I'd say pull out tomorrow were it not for the fact that the only people I know who've spent any time there believe with all their hearts that the Taliban make the Nazis look like Eagle Scouts. I know the history; I remember when we backed the side that we now are fighting. I've also read bin Laden's son's book and am fairly convinced that al Qaeda's work in the U.S. isn't finished.

Marcellus Shale. We leased gas rights on a small part of our property back before anyone in CNY had heard the word "frack." We did a fair bit of research at the time, but of course back then, you didn't have self-declared experts crawling out of the woodwork to talk about radiation poisoning, earthquakes, and faucets bursting into flames. Not long ago, I would have stood firm against anything an oil or gas company wanted to do, even if it were to build magnet schools for impoverished orphans in the Southern Tier. But there's a part of me that believes that anything beats reliance on oil and that farmers deserve to profit from land that no longer benefits them in any other way. Of course, the only way I can ever retire is if I win the lottery or a well comes in, so greed enters the equation, too, as does the fact that our progressive county is woefully NIMBY when it comes to alternative energy in less invasive forms. I've heard all the arguments. I haven't signed any petitions, pro or con. I can honestly say that when our lease comes up next year, I don't know what we'll do.

House Health Care Is any health care bill better than no health care bill? I would have said yes six months ago; now, I'm not so sure. It seems possible that the current bills will increase rather than decrease health care costs, and they will almost certainly dial back abortion rights. Do we just let this die? Do we fight to the bitter end no matter what we get?

Clearly, I myself am dithering. The good news is that I can now run for state or federal office, since I've proved I don't stand for anything or have any real opinions.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Required Reading

Winter of our discontent, indeed. You know when the usually chipper TIME magazine is calling this a crappy decade that things are truly bad. Now Gail Collins weighs in on the pileup of bad news.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Required Reading

Tony Horwitz, author of Confederates in the Attic, on the parallels between two terrorists, 150 years apart.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Reading List

I can't entirely recommend it, because it has its tedious sections, but the dual voices of purdah-confined mother and slightly-more-worldly son provide a fascinating contrast, and many of the facts were new to me. For example, I had no idea that bin Laden had his whole family around him in his Kandahar training camp, nor did I know that several of his very young children disappeared with him after 9/11 and have never been seen since. As the study of a man growing away from his roots and toward Jihadist extremism, it's not entirely successful, since neither son nor wife really understood the guy--but it's worth a few hours of your time.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Exporting the Culture Wars

The culture wars seem to have gone underground here, despite losses on gay marriage in ME and the advent of Sarah Palin's "memoirs." However, they are alive and well in Uganda, where members of our own Family are encouraging the former guerilla leader and current Christian crackpot president, Yoweri Museveni, in his attempts to wipe out homosexuality in his beloved Africa.

Homosexuality has been illegal in Uganda for a long time, but now there is an active attempt, supported by the president, to marginalize this criminalized group into oblivion. If a proposed bill passes, people will be jailed if they fail to report the existence of gay men and women in their families, villages, or workplaces. A gay person with HIV/AIDS or one who has sex with a teenager may be sentenced to death.

A conference that took place in Kampala earlier this year featured three truly homobigot Americans who make a living either promoting "reparative therapy" for gay men and women or, in the case of Scott Lively, blaming everything from the Holocaust to the Rwandan genocide on the misguided passions of homosexual men.

I am happy to report that there is an active presence on Facebook that aims to fight this bill, a bill that, along with its attempt to kill off gays in Africa, threatens to drive HIV/AIDS education underground, which may in itself prove fatal.

Sunday, November 22, 2009


Has it really been 46 years since that day in Mr. Raszmann's fourth grade classroom?

Local Biz

I received this notice from someone at TC3 about a Dryden business I'd never heard of:
Did you know that the warehouse of the sole U. S. distributor of Modigliani Italian dinnerware is located in Dryden? Another claim to fame (besides TC3) for Dryden! Most of their sales are done via the Internet and through high end retailers, but they've decided to open the warehouse for direct sales each weekend between now and Christmas. All prices are wholesale. I bought a serving platter for $17 that retails on their website for $86 and mugs for $9 that are usually $36 each. They have all kinds of dinnerware as well as glassware and eating utensils.

The warehouse is located at 39 Elm Street in Dryden and is open 10 - 4 Saturdays and Sundays until Christmas.
In the spirit of supporting local businesses, I'm passing it on.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Final and Official

While you don't like to see your candidate winning by 5 votes for a town seat or 8 for a county seat, we'll take it.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Empires Fall

I listened to an NPR chat on the rise of China and thought to myself, "How do I feel about the notion that China will be the economic world power by the time O is my age?"

The inevitability of our descent makes my feelings moot, I suppose. America has followed many of the traditional paths of declining empire--overextension in foreign fields of battle using mercenary adjuncts to a weak standing army, leadership in disarray with corruption and self-interest trumping founders' ideals, concentration of wealth in the hands of the few while the majority views the empire's riches as unattainable and thus feels disenfranchised and disconnected. . . .

But I don't think this will be a simple transfer of power or a pleasant decline. The speaker on NPR was a Brit, with inbred memories of what it's like to lose influence to an upstart. But the Brits didn't have to contend with the racial and ideological conflicts that are bound to emerge as China rises.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Johnson City to Andrew Cuomo: Take That!

Despite its name, Johnson City is not a city at all; it's a village of 15,000 in Broome County, making it a little bit bigger, population-wise, than the town of Dryden. Unlike Dryden, at 110 square miles, Johnson City occupies around 4 1/2.

Our attorney general has created a commission that is looking into ways in which NYS municipalities can consolidate for greater efficiency. Johnson City, which hasn't been solvent in some time, was a candidate for merger with its surrounding town, Union. After an absentee count, the referendum was turned down by the voters, who chose to pay more rather than lose their shoe mogul-inspired identity.

I venture to say that Cuomo is rapidly learning, as I did several years ago, that history trumps common sense when it comes to these battles.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Reading List

It's slight compared to some of his others, and the symbolism is sometimes heavy-handed, but I just love the way he loves his characters, warts and all. A sweet book.

Another Day, Another Absentee Count

Pat Pryor, once considered a long shot for County Legislature in Lansing, is ahead of Mike Sigler by 8 votes (3 of those contested by the Dems) and will have to wait for the drop-dead date for military ballots to know her fate.

Never doubt that your vote counts.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Fresh from MA

Paul came home from Althea's bat mitzvah with these treyf items. Clams, too, but those are all gone. . . .

Required Reading

Like Hofstadter, whom he quotes here, economist Krugman has become one of my favorite observers of American political life.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

And Another. . .

Richard Driscoll won the Town Supervisor seat in Newfield by 7 votes. I feel as though I had a dog in that hunt, so I'm pretty pleased with the results. Paul's coworker Joanne will be a first-time Town Board member.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

One Absentee Count Down

And Mike Lane, who was ahead by 39 Tuesday night, pulled farther ahead and won with a lead of 65 votes. In January, he will be our rep on the County Legislature again.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Too Close for Comfort

We have a handful of races in the county that will only be decided after the counting and challenging of numerous absentee ballots. Simon has the rundown for Dryden. My favorite race, of course, is the one in District 23, where luminaries such as Sarah Palin and Newt Gingrich sought to define the Conservative v. GOP side of the race, and the tortoise won while everyone else was scrambling and chasing his or her tail. Of course, he has to turn around and run again next year. . . .

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Sunday, November 1, 2009

GOP Battles in the North Country

I've been so ensconced in our local races that I've had little time to take notice of the much more important race up north, although it's hard to avoid the negative TV ads. The upshot is that the GOP candidate is too liberal for the party, which ran a conservative wingnut against her and the Dem. The Dem is slightly to the left of the GOP candidate, although not on all issues. The GOP candidate was completely vilified, leaving only the Conservative and Dem still standing. This is a district that has gone Republican since time immemorial. Everyone and his brother has weighed in on the race, shining a spotlight on Watertown and environs that has never been seen before. Now Frank Rich touts it as a win for the Dems no matter what happens. PZ and I find that dubious. Yes, it shows a terrible schism in the GOP, but we knew that already. What it shows more clearly is that radical forces from outside can descend on a local election with dire results that have little to do with the will of the people. We'll see Tuesday which way the wind blows, but I can't believe anyone really wins here.

LATER: The Republican endorsed the Democrat. Whee!

Red Letter Day

Today, the Big Zs have been married 57 years, and I am the mother of a teenager! Here she is at last night's Halloween event at the Kimbers' (still a preteen).

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

All Politics, All the Time

Here are two of our ads in Tompkins Weekly. Here's today's KAZ letter in the Ithaca Journal. This morning Mike and I taped a couple of radio ads. Last night a big bunch of us labeled and assembled the final mailings.

I'm tired, and I'm not running.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Can't Tell the Players Without a Scorecard

To me, the most curious thing about last Thursday's "debate" in Dryden was that if I closed my eyes and listened, I couldn't tell the Republican town candidates from the Democrats. Everyone wants to move cautiously on gas drilling (not that the towns have much power, except when it comes to tracking aquifers, driveway access, and road repair costs). Everyone wants to control spending, offer opportunities for recreation, keep our roads in good repair, etc.

All things being equal, then, I have to support the people I know will work hardest.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Political v. Professional Models, Encore

I find myself once again stuck on a professional board, this time for BOCES. I've written often about the tension between political and professional boards, or perhaps the tension between me and professional boards. Once again, I'm the subject of an executive session on correct v. incorrect board behavior. Once again, I wonder whether this is worth the effort. Last time, things worked out. This time, I care less about the outcome, which makes me think it's time to bail. We'll see.

To some extent, I blame the New York State School Boards Association. Here are the association's thoughts about what makes a good school board member:
What makes a good school board member?
The legal requirements for board membership are few, but qualifications for effective service are many. The most effective board members possess most or all of these attributes:
Effective Communicator – Can describe what he or she wants and describe what others want; a good listener
Consensus Builder – Capable of working toward decisions that all can support and willing to compromise to achieve that goal
Community Participant – Enjoys meeting a variety of people, can identify the community’s key communicators and reaches out to the community
Decision Maker – Knows his or her own as well as others’ decision-making styles, can support group decision-making
Information Processor – Can organize priorities and schedules to handle lots of verbal and written information
Leader – Willing to take risks, be supportive of board colleagues, district staff and Community Leader – Willing to take risks, be supportive of board colleagues, district staff and community
Team Player – Helps promote the board’s vision and goals

What's missing here? Any notion of representation. I consider myself a representative of my (assigned) school district, its taxpayers, employees, and children. For that reason, the notion of rubber stamping administrative decisions is distressing to me.

I'm sure I'll have more to say on this as time goes by.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Oh, Good, We Set a New Record

For the earliest snowfall of 1 inch or more. We got maybe 2+ on the mountain.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Everything's Amazing and Nobody's Happy

Not new, but new to me. Louis CK and Conan.

And Now It's Winter

Winter storm watch? October 15? Bah.


Friday, October 9, 2009

But Is It Art?

Thanks to Chuck, who sent this lovely print (available for purchase), which another blogger referred to as the height of garish faux patriotism. Jesus produces the Constitution a la Moses with his tablets. Various historical figures sing. Liberal reporters and Supreme Court justices cringe. Got to love it! Go to the website to see what's really happening.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Required Reading

Thanks to Cousin Jeremy for this one from the SF Chronicle.
Of all the current assaults on our noble republic, perhaps none is more dangerous than the public option - specifically, the public library option. . . .

Monday, October 5, 2009

Required Reading

Krugman on the politics of inconsistency.
Think about just how bizarre it is for Republicans to position themselves as the defenders of unrestricted Medicare spending. First of all, the modern G.O.P. considers itself the party of Ronald Reagan — and Reagan was a fierce opponent of Medicare’s creation, warning that it would destroy American freedom. (Honest.) In the 1990s, Newt Gingrich tried to force drastic cuts in Medicare financing. And in recent years, Republicans have repeatedly decried the growth in entitlement spending — growth that is largely driven by rising health care costs.

Local Politics

It's October, and the local political season is heating up. We in Dryden have some of the few contested races around--one of three real contests on the County Legislature, and a big contest for Town Board. See the Dryden Dems or Mike Lane's website for more!

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Looking Up Trees

Do you know how to tell a red maple from a sugar maple? Granted, it's harder to do in winter, but it's hard now, too. I paraded around the woods today with thumbtacks to label trees we might tap, staring up 75 feet and pondering: Is that a curved sinus? Are there really five lobes, or did a caterpillar chew the side? I could look at leaves on the ground, but I'm never quite sure if leaf A derived from tree A or B or maybe blew over from C. The only tree I am pretty sure about is the one that turns scarlet earlier than any of the others. It's a red maple. I think.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Get Big Money Out of Politics

As I watch Obama and Congress flounder about on critical issues of health care and climate change, it becomes even clearer to me that until we have public financing of all elections, nothing important will ever get done. This primer by the Brennan Center lays out the facts fairly neatly. I understand the First Amendment fears, but a voluntary system just doesn't go far enough.

Monday, September 28, 2009

A Cautionary Tale

Locally, teachers score these tests, but this essay (soon to be a book) shows how truly difficult it is to score the subjective portions, whether you're an educator or not.


The things I agreed with him on may have been limited to proper use of the conditional, but he represents to me the last bastion of intelligent, thoughtful, well-spoken conservatism, and for that, I'll miss William Safire.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Birds in the Woods

I saw this guy yesterday as I walked down the driveway. And we've heard a lot from this guy at night.

Required Reading

Frank Rich on a book that offers eerie parallels between the tipping point of Vietnam under JFK and Afghanistan under Barack, including a nice comparison of the Karzais to the Diems.
Much as Vietnam could not be secured over the centuries by China, France, Japan or the United States, so Afghanistan has been a notorious graveyard for the ambitions of Alexander the Great, the British and the Soviets. “Some states in world politics are simply not susceptible to intervention by the great powers,” Goldstein told me. He also notes that the insurgencies in Afghanistan and Vietnam share the same geographical advantage. As the porous border of neighboring North Vietnam provided sanctuary and facilitated support to our enemy then, so Pakistan serves our enemy today.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Meet the Candidates BBQ

Today in Stewart Park, around 4 PM on a chilly but sunny day, we will eat chicken and meet our local candidates and hear speeches and be very glad that we're dealing with local politics and not national or state politics. Pix to follow. LATER: Or not--forgot the camera!

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Saturday, September 19, 2009

America: Exceptional and Unique, Both

Thanks to Kris for passing this one along.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Reading List

Diane L recommended this one, which is by the son of someone she works with. It takes place in NYC a few years before I got there in the '70s, but the landscape is terribly familiar. Inspired by the famous, prophetic photograph of a plane, the Trade Towers, and Philippe Petit, it's a lovely tale of the missed chances, chance collisions, and near misses that make up real life.

Liked 'Em Better When They Were Silent

The Cornell Dems are sharing this, which needs no commentary.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Yes, You Are a Racist

Maureen Dowd has joined those of us who find the delegitimizing of the Prez all about race. The Confederates are coming out of the attic.
The state that fired the first shot of the Civil War has now given us this: Senator Jim DeMint exhorted conservatives to “break” the president by upending his health care plan. Rusty DePass, a G.O.P. activist, said that a gorilla that escaped from a zoo was “just one of Michelle’s ancestors.” Lovelorn Mark Sanford tried to refuse the president’s stimulus money. And now Joe Wilson.

Friday, September 11, 2009


The skyline as it appeared when I arrived in NYC in 1978.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

New Site

The Dryden Democrats have a nice, new website, courtesy of Wendy Martin and Simon St. Laurent.

Secede, South Carolina!

It's always those boys from SC who make a mockery of the halls of Congress. In 1902, two SC senators were censured for coming to blows over the Philippine conflict. In that case, it was Democrat Tillman, a white supremacist, who assaulted his counterpart. He had previously vowed to "poke old Grover [Cleveland] with a pitchfork."

After that, "conduct unbecoming a senator" became grounds for censure. I don't know the rules for representatives, but I think censure might be too good for Joe Wilson. There are already petitions circulating for that purpose.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Respecting the Office

When I was in school, it would not have been uncommon to see an assignment that asked students to write an essay about how they could help the President meet his goals for America. Then came Watergate. We learned that presidents were fallible and even criminal, and we started deconstructing them. Entire books were written about JFK's parade of girlfriends, when previously, that subject had been taboo. The derision that began with making fun of Jimmy Carter's accent and sweaters now has culminated with fury over Obama's speech to schoolchildren, which was as mild and conservative a speech as you'll ever hear.

Oddly, I'm pretty sure that the people who kept their children home are the same ones we saw come out in Dryden to rail against our town supervisor, who does not say the pledge of allegiance. This brings up an interesting question: Can you divorce the position of president from love of country? Are the two intertwined, or has the culture of celebrity separated them?

I probably never would have said this back when LBJ was running the place, but I think we'd better get back to a position of respecting the office even when we revile the person in the office. Otherwise, we look pretty stupid trying to impose our system of government on others. I would never have kept O home if GWBush had come to her school to read a book about goats. I would have recognized the historicity of the moment and encouraged her to pay attention.

This in no way contradicts the fact that if our current president fails to lead on health care, I will feel free to vilify him any way I can. There's a difference between disagreement with the person and disrespect for the office. To my enormous surprise, given their previous "my country right or wrong" philosophy, that's a nicety the far right seems to have rejected.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

State Fair 2009!

KAZ in the Journal

I had to cut 250 words, and they printed it weeks after I sent it in, but here it is.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Sad News

Every state probably has one fleabitten journalist who burrows deep into the state capital and has to be carried out feet first. NY's is Jay Gallagher, who has reported on state doings for Gannett for 25 years. Now he's been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. Of course, he's writing a blog on the experience. It's bad news for those of us who've relied on him to tell the truth about the Three Men in a Room and other gross injustices in Albany.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Push Back

September 2nd @7:30 pm, Vigil in the Park for a Public Health Care Option Now!

Please join the local MoveOn Vigil in handicap-accessible DeWitt Park, in downtown Ithaca, on Wednesday, September 2nd at 7:30pm. Help us send a message to Congress: We need a public health care option NOW!

Help get the word to Representatives Arcuri, Hinchey, and Massa to stand strong for a good health care bill.

Current, accurate information about the health care bill(s) will be available. Please feel free to bring any brief personal stories related to health care. Bring candles or flashlight.

Monday, August 31, 2009

A Little Bit About the Weather

It seems remarkably unfair that our every move this summer has been washed out by rain, whether it be baseball in Cincinnati (see photo) or hiking around in the Poconos (photos to come from DL), and LA is Burning.

New Look

I've changed the look of the blog so that everyone, even relatives with macular degeneration, can better read it. Bigger fonts, dark letters on light background, etc. I hope it works for all.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Monday, August 24, 2009

Reading List

Mark and Y loaned me this, and it's not what I expected. Although it does focus to some degree the world of Civil War re-enactors (we happen to know one right in Freeville!), it's bigger than that and has proved very helpful in illuminating the sort of states' rights/hands-off emotions that are rising up right now in midst of the health care battle. The notion of packing serious heat at a town meeting would not be at all foreign to some of the folks in this book.

When we first traveled to England, we three were struck by how close the English are to their history, compared to Americans. It seems to depend on which Americans you mean. This is a scary book in a lot of ways.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Eat Local, Terrorize Close to Home

The theme among talking heads this week is "enough is enough," and I'm with them. The very best of the articles this week is by Joe Klein, who pulls no punches, for once.
In 1993, when the Clintons tried health-care reform, the Republican John Chafee offered a creative (in fact, superior) alternative — which Kristol quashed with his famous "Don't Help Clinton" fax to the troops. There is no Republican health-care alternative in 2009. The same people who rail against a government takeover of health care tried to enforce a government takeover of Terri Schiavo's end-of-life decisions. And when Palin floated the "death panel" canard, the number of prominent Republicans who rose up to call her out could be counted on one hand.
For Chrissake, no Republican has stood up to suggest it's not okay to bring assault weapons to a town hall meeting. It's absolutely evident that the notion of bipartisanship is bogus. Obama needs to pull the plug on the Baucus panel and go with his gut, if he has one. This baby steps process is a losing tactic. If necessary, FDR should rise up from the grave and kick Barack's ass.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009


I want to blog this quote from an interview with Nixonland author Rick Perlstein (thanks, PZ) because it's just so smart.
Past liberal leaders had a much better sense of the way conservative ideas were "reactionary"--that is, automatically opposed to change no matter what form the change took. They understood that you pushed past the resistance of reactionaries--you didn't let them cow you. Then, if the program truly is enlightened and well designed--like social security, Medicare, and the 1964 civil rights act--the reactionaries will claim they were for these things all along (they may even campaign to "save" social security and "save" Medicare and "preserve" the "true spirit" of the civil rights act)--and then automatically oppose the next change that comes along. It's a cycle, you have to expect it, and most of all, you can't act shocked (like many in the Obama administration seem to feel shocked) when it happens again.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Moments of Clarity

Gail Collins of the NYT wrote in January about the Obama inauguration, comparing the crowds to those at Woodstock. I think there is indeed a parallel--both represented moments when the gauze curtain lifted, revealing a possibility--but in both cases, the curtain dropped almost immediately, and we reverted to the SOS.

Monday, August 17, 2009

What's Wrong with the USA?

Chuck, as depressed as I am about the death of the public option (among other depressing events), sends this plaintive message from NYC:
Saturday, on Broadway, a woman calls my name. At first I didn’t recognize her; gradually it dawns on me that she is a former neighbor who lived near me when I lived on 110th Street twenty-five years ago. . . . When I knew her back then, she was your standard-issue Upper West Side liberal; absolutely archetypal. But now, out of nowhere, she immediately starts tossing out weird Obama fantasies from the extreme left – “he’s a secret Republican, he’s a secret fascist, he wants to destroy Social Security, he wants to eliminate public education, he wants to ruin everything we’ve ever achieved, he’s a monster”….etc., etc. I couldn’t get away from this woman fast enough.

Sunday, my friend Kitty and I take the ferry to Ellis Island for a tour. On the boat, we find ourselves surrounded by perhaps a hundred middle-aged-to-elderly yeshiva women, all dressed in black, all wearing sheidels. These ladies are talking about Obama, in terms that are nothing short of extreme hatred: “He’s a monster! He’s destroying this country, tearing it apart! My mother was in the concentration camp, and she wept the night Obama was elected. She couldn’t believe what was happening. He’s going to take everything we have and give it to people who don’t deserve anything!” etc., etc. Then they actually talked about what if something “happened to Obama.” Their conclusion? “That would be awful. He’d be a martyr. It would be just like what happened after Kennedy. Remember, after Kennedy they passed all that worthless legislation that nobody wanted, and that’s what would happen with Obama. That would be worse than anything…”

What’s the matter with this country? I’m at the point of giving up.

Big Insurance Owns the Debate

And wins, by the looks of it. I liked this piece by a former insurance PR guy, who explains how the big companies created the language today's town hall "independents" are using.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Yasgur's Farm

This is my favorite reminiscence of Woodstock yet, besides Mark's story of choosing another week at camp over a weekend at the peace and music festival. I especially appreciate the point that no one can ever feel that isolated again. You can't be your own generational nation if at any moment you can check in with your mom.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Fact Check

Instead of blathering on about health care, which was the ONLY issue (okay, that and gas drilling)to be discussed with Ithaca's congressman at last night's fundraiser, I will take Randy's advice and stick to the Annenberg site. I am linking to it at right. Click regularly for the quickest way to separate fact from fiction.

Reading List

I'm not sure how this became a bestseller, except that having Parade magazine behind you is almost as good as being in with Oprah. So many people, on hearing of PZ's journeys in the Karakoram, told me to read it, that I decided I really had to do so. (PZ, on the other hand, although he's met Mortenson--probably the way most Westerners who've spent time in the mountains between Pakistan and Afghanistan have run into one another--has never read the book.) It's a slightly maudlin tale of Mortenson's hapless and eventually fruitful attempts to build schools in the tiny villages that dot the Northern Areas. Toward the end of the book, he's seeing madrassahs pop up next door to many of his secular schools, so it's unclear whether his attempts to counter terrorism through enlightenment will succeed. (In fact, to be honest, I think his goal was to counter ignorance, not terrorism, but editors and donors and politicians somewhat co-opted his message.) What I enjoyed most were the descriptions of the land and people, which paralleled letters PZ sent a decade ago. I still have absolutely no desire to go there.

Required Reading

I don't usually blog other blogs, but Mark sent this Maher screed along, and I found it laugh-out-loud hilarious when I wasn't weeping. A highlight:
The average voter thinks foreign aid consumes 24% of our federal budget. It's actually less than 1%. And don't even ask about cabinet members: seven in ten think Napolitano is a kind of three-flavored ice cream. And last election, a full one-third of voters forgot why they were in the booth, handed out their pants, and asked, "Do you have these in a relaxed-fit?"

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Lies, Damn Lies, Statistics

While I'm alone among my Dem pals in my belief that just about any tactic is okay when it comes to revolution, I can't abide the lies. Sarah Palin on Facebook talking about her Down's baby having to face a Death Panel--lie. Spotaneous screaming at town hall meetings unrelated to corporate lobbyists--lie. Canadians wish they had our system--lie.

Where is the President? When he was running for office, he had a website devoted to separating fact from fiction. I thought it was pretty clever. Where's his fact v. fiction website now, when his agenda is truly on the line? Even can't keep up, although they make the occasional attempt.

Friday, August 7, 2009

No Real Challenge

And now Maloney has decided not to challenge Kirsten Gillibrand, her departure eased, no doubt, by the powers that be in the Party. Meanwhile, I have an invitation to meet and donate to that most hapless of perennial candidates, Jonathan Tasini.

I don't dislike Gillibrand; she's been fairly impressive the few times I've seen her. I do dislike the feeling that choices are removed before we the people have a chance to weigh in, just to avoid the expense of a primary and the odor of disunity. All you need to do is look at the health care chaos to see how divided the Party really is. Why pretend?

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Reading List

It's a daring, fully realized, completely believable channeling of Laura Bush--the first-person story of a quite pleasant woman bound by passivity, compassion, silence, expectations, self-loathing, and fate. Who cares if it's the truth--it's better than the truth, because it's a work of the imagination. When I'm done, I'll have to go back and read more by Curtis S. She's really something.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Bambi in the Front Yard

Taken from just outside the garage. Bambi was undeterred until Sadie came running from the back yard.