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.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Postracial America

OK, I agree with Frank Rich that the birther movement, the beer summit, etc., prove that America's not close to being postracial. The good news is that my daughter is the only person close to me whose narratives about friends entirely omit race as a descriptor. I don't know whether that's generational, personal, or a credit to her upbringing, but it's always something of a surprise.