Short version: Both parties made what were probably their best veep choices among willing candidates. Vice Presidential choices don't usually have much effect on the ticket, but this year may be an exception. I'm actually more interested in seeing the VP debate(s) than the Presidential version.
Both Biden and Palin have considerable strengths, balancing the primary candidate in important ways, while inviting the other party to step into bear-jawed traps.
Biden is behind only Rep. Gene Taylor [D-MS, busy rescuing the US Navy] on the list of Democrats I respect, and it's hard to pass Taylor since I put him among my top 5 most respected politicians nationally. Biden would certainly be a better President than the flim-flam faker playing the role of party nominee.
Palin is someone I can actually say I've seen coming, thanks to Dr. Jack Wheeler's To The Point News. She was, in fact the choice I'd been hoping for. Romney? Strong economic policies, but very damaging with independents and Weasel with a capital "W". Not the answer. Pawlenty? Good guy, very competent, may not swing his own state. If the political outcome is a "John Edwards," then why? Palin is the choice that brings the party together, sends the right reformist message, and offers real electoral upside. Plus a bear trap or 3 for the Democrats, in areas ranging from style, to energy/drilling issues, to the matador's cape of her 'inexperience' (which beats Obama's, and includes taking on a corrupt party establishment rather than Obama's silent hiding before same).
The best candidate for the job here really was a woman. Deal with it. And if the Dems don't deal carefully, they'll be burned. As Jack Kelly puts it: "Alaska is littered with the [political] bodies of those who tried to bully Sarah Palin and failed."
At the same time, Biden offers the GOP some traps on the foreign policy front, since he's one of the few Democrats with actual ideas in this area, instead of political slogans. McCain will need to tread much more carefully there than he would against the kind of Obama-Edwards type tickets the Nutroots like so much, because missteps will do a lot more damage to his primary attribute.
This election just became a lot more interesting.
While the Right blogosphere is hailing and the Left blogosphere is snarking at Senator McCain's pick of Alaska Gov. Palin (See the round up at Instapundit), every observer I have seen so far has missed a real point.
The Republicans have no Baby Boomers on their Presidential ticket.
This also remarkable because neither major American political party picked Presidential front runners who are Baby Boom Southern White Males after 15 years of such men being President.
McCain, at 72, is a pre-boomer Arizonan of the "Traditionalist" generation -- those born between 1920 and 1945. They are the ones whose whole life was defined by the Cold War. They fought in the Cold War hell holes of Korea, Vietnam and dozens of other lesser known engagements. They saw John F. Kennedy assasinated and put a man on the moon. They are the generation with the highest current voting turn out percentages and they were the ones who were known as "Reagan Democrats."
McCain would be the Third American President from the "Traditionalist" demographic cohort, after Pres. James E. "Jimmy" Carter and Pres. George H. W. Bush.
Gov. Palin, at 44, is an Alaskan from the post Baby Boom "Generation X" demographic -- those born between 1965 and 1980. They are the generation of the personal computer, of AIDS, of Gay Rights, of collapsing labor unions, and of the Challenger Disaster. Their demographic was the "birth dearth" that resulted from both wide spread hormonal birth control ("The Pill") and "Roe v Wade."
Gov. Palin is the first of the Generation X demographic cohort to be selected for Federal Executive Office. She will not be the last.
What this says about America is for others to analyze.
I simply note the obvious reality of a "Post-Baby Boom" Republican Presidential ticket that the Main Stream Media and other bloggers seem to have missed.
Update: Poster Bart Hall pointed out that I missed Pres. Carter's birth date.
Do it chronologically - start here and read upward. It's a fascinating arc.
Now I need to go offline for the weekend. Annual Catalina camping trip, here we come!!
See you all Monday night, and as usual, please try not to kill anyone or blow anything up while I'm gone.
Got picked up by The Flying Dutchman at the airport last night - not my last trip, but the beginning of some changes that will result in a lot less trips, thankfully - and instead of business we wound up chatting about McCain's VP choice.
I told him it had to be Palin. Or rather that McCain would be "idiotic" not to pick her.
Purely tactically, Biden's a sharp debater. Blustery, sometimes fact-challenged, but smart and sharp-tongued. Imagine a matchup of the likely GOP Veeps in the debate...they lose, it's a 'Crossfire'-type boring shouting match, or...if it's Palin, he's pinned. He can't bluster her down without seeming like an ass, he has to be polite, and she can go after him with an inside game that's all about "I am successfully running a state while you have sat in DC and made speeches for the last 40 years".
Plus he has to pick a woman (well, no but he'd be even more idiotic not to), and Fiorina, Whitman, and Hutchinson all bring too much negative baggage.
Here's hoping...and heading to Costco for the jumbo popcorn.
Update: Ohmigawd - could it be true?
Tensions are getting higher with the election's approach, so I want to emphasize that this post is in no way intended to be disrespectful of either side. A liberal friend brought up an interesting point, and I wanted to bring it to your attention here because of Winds' location right at the center of the blogosphere. My only interest is to expose the question to a larger community, to see if the observations hold true in a broader sense than in the smaller community that reads Grim's Hall.
We were recently welcoming a new reader, and asking her to tell us a bit about herself. In return, I thought perhaps we should all tell her a bit about ourselves. (Which is a useful exercise, actually -- it might make a good concept for the Winds community as well.)
At the end of a long string of comments, Jeffrey -- a committed liberal and Obama supporter, whose friendship I greatly value because of his careful thinking and insightful critiques -- noted that, unlike the rest of us, he hadn't mentioned anything about his family history. He wondered why so many people felt that was important.
The question reminded me of Prof. Althouse's post about one of McCain's earliest commercials, the one that started with old footage of Theodore Roosevelt, then FDR, then young McCain, then McCain today. She wrote:
"I thought: This is the feeling of being conservative — it is a deep emotional sense that the past matters and flows into the present and makes sense out of the future."
For many of us, it's a very strong sense: we see our ancestors behind us, past the parents and grandparents we may have known, we can imagine the ones who came before them from their stories, and from histories the ones behind them. It's a sense of belonging to that sweep of things that rose out of the past, of being part of a long current that -- like a river -- imparts force and direction.
It was an insightful comment she made, and something that I think tends to matter deeply to conservatives. Indeed, it may be the very quality that makes you a conservative.
I got the same sense the day after Sen. Clinton's speech, reading liberal blogs who talked about it. What was (without question or near comparison) the strongest part of her speech for me was her mother/daughter/Harriet Tubman metaphor. That's a force of that kind, where she sees herself as a part of a line that is itself part of a movement, imparting force and direction, and she gloried in it.
Yet I didn't see that quoted by anyone on the left. They quote the attacks on McCain, or the stories about the lady with the bald head from her cancer treatments, or the wounded Marine; but the part that really impressed me didn't seem to register at all with them.
Now, I don't read as many left-wing blogs as some of you do, so it's entirely possible that it was a major focus on a large number that I missed. Nevertheless, Jeffrey agreed that it was an interesting question, and so I want to put it to you.
Do you think that the sentiment is something that conservatives feel strongly, but that a mind that tends towards progressive politics doesn't feel as deeply? Or (if you are a progressive who disagrees) are there different forces that you feel a part of -- movements like the one that Sen. Clinton spoke so well about, stretching across generations, movements that swell around you, imparting force and direction to your life?
"We just want it to stop. It's not fair, it's blatant attacks against Barak Obama"
I'm listening to WGN, where Stanley Kurtz apparently just finished talking about his research. The first two callers - apparently triggered by the Obama campaign - both wanted Kurtz silenced.
I'm beyond disgust. I've been bitterly opposed to 'silence the critics' on blogs and in the media everywhere. This is not remotely the kind of politics that represents change that I want to be part of.
Steven Diamond is talking now...nice slam at Ayers. Makes me feel better about being liberal.
[Addendum, 13 hours later: WGN has posted the full podcast of the show. --NM]
Quoted in full, with their permission:
Dear Mr. Danziger,
If I may provide an explanation about today's events:
The ABC news cameras were intruding on the entrance of the hotel, creating an unsafe entrance/exit for our guests, which are our priority at all times. The police department asked them to move to the side several times so that our guests could enter/exit, and ABC refused. ABC was clearly told that they could stand on the sidewalk but it is illegal to block an entrance to any business, which is what they were doing. After not complying with the police requests, they were then asked to move to the other side of the street. It is our understanding that ABC continued to speak belligerently to the police and were arrested for not complying with police orders. The arrest resulted from issues between the police and ABC, not The Brown Palace Hotel.
Watch the video at the link; there's not enough info to support or reject her explanation.
Props to the Brown Palace for getting the problem and responding quickly...let's see how the story develops.
Edited for clarity; hard line breaks removed by NM to better suit this blog's format.
So I wanted to take a moment to talk about Blackwater some more; I actually mean to do two posts on it - this one about the organization and some of the politics around it, and other about an idea about society and people that being there gave me.
...and of course they talked smack (and some compliments) about me...
Ok, so who taught you that you carry your weapon like some bag from Prada? MKH might get away with it.. but guys, c'mon. REAL dudes know better.
Someone tell A-L he's carrying it LIKE a typical 'liberal'- ''eww, someone take this!''
And, as much as we kid Marc Danziger (the best dressed range trainee I've ever seen - Italian shoes, even) about the huge money he has spent on training, we ate some humble pie as he demonstrated that his investment was worth it.
Yeah - a little anxiety shooting in front of those guys - and since United lost my suitcase, I was shooting in dress shoes (interesting shooting in leather soles) and suit pants from one of my favorite suits (hence the 'don't get gun lube on the gabardine' that got me smack-talked on B5)
But enough about the trip, let me take a moment and talk about Blackwater.
My impression, as of Monday of last week, was that they had built essentially a body shop (placement service) for skilled trigger-pullers. I believed that they had levels of skill - from people who were basically somewhat more trained than I am up to the most elite operators. As of Friday night, my impression was very different.
I'm a big believer that people give you 'tells' about who they are and how they operate. The first thing I noticed was how buttoned-down the whole place was. Every building was neat, every building and door numbered, every vehicle had an ID on it. We walked into the vehicle shop where the Grizzlies (and the new secret vehicle) were being built and two minutes later a nice lady came around and offered us safety glasses.
When we did our hot laps (did I mention how fun they were? Did you see the videos?) course control - something I'm sensitized to from roadracing and motorcycle track days - was watertight.
The AR15 'sampler' we did was absolutely great - they built skills with care to conceptually explain what we were doing and to carefully 'pyramid' skills. The tests they gave us were pretty easy - but they were sound, well managed, and at every moment they carefully managed us in terms of safety, attention, and action. And I'll note that the conceptual points they made about what they were doing were simple, smart and even somewhat novel to me.
So every detail I saw wasn't one indicating a loosely run placement agency for retired cops and operators, but an organization that proceeds with more than a little care in everything it does.
Look, I know about the accusations - of overaggressive fire at vehicles, of the shooting and deaths at Nisour Square. I honestly don't know enough to have a real personal opinion on those events and others like them. I will suggest that in reality in any situation where people walk around with loaded guns the potential for tragic incident is there, and in any organization that ramps up as fast as they did they will get some losers and make some mistakes.
Overall, for me to judge them on those kinds of grounds, I'd want to compare them with a realistic standard - one with some grounding in history and fact - not one based on a kind of artificial notion of behavior. So I won't judge or condemn them for those actions until I have facts that take my views one way or the other.
I also can't comment in detail on their 'profiteering' except to suggest that you watch the clip from the Aviator where Howard Hughes confronts Senator Brewster. Large things need to get done quickly in wartime, and that means there will be large checks written and sometimes wasted. Anyone who can improve the procurement process - by saving the public money while still getting results - will have my support. But meanwhile, I'd suggest you read the CBO study on the costs of contracting in Iraq (pdf).
One of the things that impressed me the most about them was their ability to rapidly shift ground and innovate. Price - a wealthy former SEAL - started Blackwater as a training facility, intending to compete with Gunsite and Thunder Ranch, both schools I've attended. He put his school in North Carolina thinking that the population density and surrounding government facilities would give him an advantage over the remote Prescott, Arizona and Mountain Home, Texas locations of those schools.
They were approached by the Navy to train up sailors after the USS Cole, given that they could act in 30 days. Their response - "sure!" - and they created a huge training capability that became the basis of their business.
They have pivoted on a dime multiple times in order to respond to opportunities - and to create opportunities where they see them. Armored vehicles, energy, airships...that entrepreneurial "why not?" and "why not right now?" kind of attitude appears to drive the company.
I do think there are some interesting questions about the appropriate role for companies like this - and all the other contractors who support our military (see the CBO report, seriously). And I touched a nerve when I asked if they really believed that they had no impact on retention of highly trained operators (for the record, they strongly argued "no" and pointed me to Congressional studies that back them up - I'm still a bit cynical).
But I think it's critical somehow to create space in the defense ecology for the kind of dynamic, responsive organization that Blackwater represents. I'd love to see more and more of our defense spending channeled to companies like this and less to the large multi-megabuck multi-decade projects (the Crusader, anyone?). I'm looking forward to an interesting discussion with Joe about this issue.
Blackwater is a Defense 2.0 company - finding half-million dollar solutions to what have traditionally been ten-million dollar problems. That's something we need a lot more of, not less.
Some Economic News:
LA Times: "Los Angeles County poverty rate fell in 2007, census data show: Other Southern California counties also show slight declines. The effects of the sharp economic downturn and rising unemployment since last year are unclear."
NY Times: "Average U.S. Income Showed First Rise Over 2000"
Then a LAT article asks:
We have a market paradox on our hands. Consumer confidence is close to a 40-year low, suggesting that the economy is in worse shape now than in times that seemed far darker, such as the early 1980s, when both inflation and unemployment crept into double digits. Yet many of the current economic indicators, including inflation and unemployment, are rather positive -- or at least not as negative as consumer sentiment implies.
So why are consumers, myself included, so gloomy?
The article goes on to suggest that consumers helplessness in the face of larger economic challenges drives the negative sentiment.
I'll suggest an alternate answer - and actually pass on the obvious one which that the media is bearish on the economy - like they are on foreign policy, the environment and everything else - out of partisan loyalty to the Democratic party. Personally, I've heard this, think it's interesting, but don't buy it.
I'll suggest another reason:
New York Times Co., the third-largest U.S. newspaper publisher, reported revenue fell 10.1 percent in July as a slumping U.S. economy led to the steepest monthly declines in retail and classified advertising this year.
Ad sales decreased 16.2 percent to $129.4 million from a year earlier, led by drops of 30.1 percent in classifieds and 13.3 percent in retail ads, the New York-based company said today in a statement. July revenue was $235.9 million.
The people whose job it is to shape our attitudes about our economy are among those getting slammed the worst by the current - admittedly complex - economy.
I can't help but believe their own tribulations bleed over into their perceptions of the wider world.
I've said for a long time that the economy is like a Napoleon - what the French call a mille-feuille (thousand layer pastry). The layers are loosely connected to other layers, but connections are much more strong within the layer itself.
Just food for thought.
In a hotel watching TV. Hillary's going on stage...
...admit it. You want her to tell her supporters to cut loose, mount a coup and force a vote tomorrow. A little real history at one of these freeze-dried conventions...
Update: You know she's actually giving a stemwinder of a speech...
Go read Michael Totten on the spark that ignited the Georgian war:
Virtually everyone believes Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili foolishly provoked a Russian invasion on August 7, 2008, when he sent troops into the breakaway district of South Ossetia. "The warfare began Aug. 7 when Georgia launched a barrage targeting South Ossetia," the Associated Press reported over the weekend in typical fashion.
Virtually everyone is wrong. Georgia didn't start it on August 7, nor on any other date. The South Ossetian militia started it on August 6 when its fighters fired on Georgian peacekeepers and Georgian villages with weapons banned by the agreement hammered out between the two sides in 1994. At the same time, the Russian military sent its invasion force bearing down on Georgia from the north side of the Caucasus Mountains on the Russian side of the border through the Roki tunnel and into Georgia. This happened before Saakashvili sent additional troops to South Ossetia and allegedly started the war.
This is going to continue to be interesting for some time...
It is unfortunate to see the Obama campaign moving to silence political speech by citizens during an election. Their attempt to get the Justice Department to investigate and prosecute a 501c4 for daring to mention Obama's relationship with Ayers is un-American.
There is blame to go around: though I am personally opposed to Sen. Obama's candidacy, in fairness it is proper to note that Sen. McCain authored a number of the restrictions on American political speech being used by Sen. Obama. We can even go further, and point out the claims by Sen. McCain's campaign manager of outrageous attacks by then-Gov. Bush's campaign, that allegedly slandered him and his adopted daughter in the hope of playing on racist feeling in the electorate. Neither President Bush, who signed the law, nor Sen. McCain, who wrote the law, nor Sen. Obama, who used the law to silence American citizens, none of them should escape our wrath.
On this matter, all Americans -- and all bloggers, regardless of affiliation -- should have a sense of unity. The Founding Fathers wrote the protections of the First Amendment for free speech and the press. They had political speech foremost in their thoughts when they did so. The freedom to speak about elections, candidates, and issues of concern was exactly what they were seeking to protect.
We have come to a time in America when our political class wants desperately to silence American citizens. They want to speak only to each other: let Sen. McCain's campaign say what it wants, but no mere citizen should dare to do so, lest they face criminal prosecution!
Our courts, which are ready to extend "free speech" to nude dancing as a form of "expression," won't recognize and defend the First Amendment right to free political speech that was the Founders' whole purpose.
Whatever your politics, and whomever you support, this behavior is un-American. It is wrong, vile, and an assault on the most basic liberty that the Republic was founded to protect. If an American citizen has something to say about an issue or a candidate, let him say it, and let us all decide the merits in common debate. If citizens must band together to afford the rates for advertisements, and care enough to spend their own coin to voice their opinion, let them do so.
These are not criminals in need of prosecution. These are citizens exercising their right and performing their duty to question and consider according to their own conscience. Whether you think this group is right or wrong on the merits, and without regard to whom you blame most for the affront to our liberty, on this matter surely we can all stand together.
UPDATE: Altered with respect to comments #6, #12, and #15, which challenged the evidentiary basis for McCain's claims of a Bush smear. See below.
Blackfive and NZ Bear at Victorycaucus have pictures up - go check them out. And I'm holding the damn AR15 out "like a Prada purse" because I'm wearing my suit pants - thanks to United Airlines losing my luggage - and didn't want to get gun lube on them. So there.
Play the video of the drive on B5's site it was a hoot.
And, oddly, when NZ sent me the email telling me the post was up, TG and I were watching one of the movies he referenced - Buckaroo Banzai, which she'd never seen.
I've always wanted to be Lord Whorfin. But I do compulsively floss my teeth for days every time I see the film.
I'm going to start doing a running set of posts on interesting Obama / McCain posts from here and yon. Not a lot of commentary, but a link and a snippet. There's a lot of interesting writing going on out there...
Telegraph UK - " Obama won’t lose for being black but for not being American enough "
It is that core of experience - of growing up American - which Obama lacks. His problem is not so much that he is an African-American in the modern political sense of being a black American. It is that he is an African-American in the literal sense of being half African and only half American, who spent much of his boyhood abroad and who borrowed a consciously constructed black American identity from the south side of Chicago.
TAP - " The Democratic Education Divide "
Ultimately it is policy makers -- supported by parents -- who must rise to these challenges and recommit themselves to educational equality. Teachers' unions have a role to play, but they aren't either the villain or the fix-all of education politics. What the unions remain, however, is a key Democratic constituency. Surely, convincing, cajoling, and encouraging are better tactics to win over grass-roots teachers than hectoring them with anti-union rhetoric. After all, if folks like Nancy Ruth White and the generations of teachers following her embrace of the Democrats for Education Reform agenda -- giving up tenure in exchange for higher starting salaries and merit pay tied to student achievement -- the unions will have to get with the program. If they don't, they'll risk becoming irrelevant to their own members.
Andrew Sullivan quoting Robert Caro on LBJ's absence from the convention:
Caro is now at work on the fourth volume of his epic biography, about Johnson’s White House years. "I am writing right now about how he won for black Americans the right to vote. I am turning from what happened forty-three years ago to what I am reading in my daily newspaper...and the thrill that goes up and down my spine when I realize the historical significance of this moment is only equaled by my anger that they are not giving Johnson credit for it."
Joe Klein on an undecided focus group - " Focused "
So this is Obama's task on Thursday: To convince people that he is a man of substance, not empty promises, that he has ideas--despite his lack of experience--about running government in a way that will be more effective. A tall order, I'd say.
Kevin Drum on the Klein article:
I just finished writing a short essay on more-or-less this very topic, so I won't anticipate myself too much here. But the nickel version is this: the goal of this election shouldn't be just to win, it should be to talk a big chunk of the electorate into becoming friendlier toward liberal goals and ideas. Not just friendlier toward change, but friendlier toward specifically liberal change. That means a public that, at least at the margins, is more convinced that we need universal healthcare and that Obama can deliver it; that we need to withdraw from Iraq and reboot our foreign policy; and that some sacrifices are acceptable in the service of a serious energy policy. So far, though, Obama has simply been too cautious about standing up and really hammering home a simple, easily understood case for these and other specifically liberal goals.
Modern journalism at its finest once again.
William Saletan has a (risible) piece up at Slate challenging the Olympic 100m butterfly victory of Michael Phelps.
Sorry, but none of these assurances holds water. The scoreboard doesn't tell you which swimmer arrived, touched, or got his hand on the wall first. It tells you which swimmer, in the milliseconds after touching the wall, applied enough force to trigger an electronic touch pad. As to whether Phelps touched first, there's plenty of unresolved doubt.
The human eye, in real time and basic video replay, suggests Cavic won. But that could be an optical illusion. Cavic takes one big stroke toward the wall, then glides to it with fingers extended. Phelps does the opposite: He shortens his stroke so he can squeeze in one more truncated stroke. He gambles that the speed he gets from the extra launch will make up for the additional time it requires. Cavic leads but closes the distance to the wall slowly; Phelps trails but closes the distance fast. In ultraslow-motion replays, it looks as though Cavic has reached the wall while Phelps is still closing. But these replays break down Cavic's glide to such short increments that you can't really tell whether he has stopped.
I'm kinda speechless here.
Because even media-disconnected me managed to get to see the Sports Illustrated (yeah, not a mainstream magazine that big-time journalists like Saletan might have looked at in doing his research...) spread on the finish?
Remind me again why I'm supposed to take mainstream journalists seriously?
Seriously,. the problem with trivial stories like this one is that it cracks the mantle of credibility that the journalists need - because it's really the only thing they have to sell.
...is neatly summed up with Slate Editor in Chief's personal opinion piece - "If Obama Loses : Racism is the only reason McCain might beat him."
It's a pretty clear insight into how he thinks.
What with the Bush legacy of reckless war and economic mismanagement, 2008 is a year that favors the generic Democratic candidate over the generic Republican one. Yet Barack Obama, with every natural and structural advantage in the presidential race, is running only neck-and-neck against John McCain, a sub-par Republican nominee with a list of liabilities longer than a Joe Biden monologue. Obama has built a crack political operation, raised record sums, and inspired millions with his eloquence and vision. McCain has struggled with a fractious campaign team, lacks clarity and discipline, and remains a stranger to charisma. Yet at the moment, the two of them appear to be tied. What gives?
If it makes you feel better, you can rationalize Obama's missing 10-point lead on the basis of Clintonite sulkiness, his slowness in responding to attacks, or the concern that Obama may be too handsome, brilliant, and cool to be elected. But let's be honest: If you break the numbers down, the reason Obama isn't ahead right now is that he trails badly among one group, older white voters. He does so for a simple reason: the color of his skin.
Now, obviously - in his universe - we're blessed that Obama has chosen to step forward as the potential leader of the world, and certainly it's true that his handsomeness, brilliance, and cool are gifts that he deigns to allow the rest of us to glimpse - kind of like Brittany allowed the photographers to glimpse her best - or most interesting to Google searches - gifts back during her partying days.
But you know, for the rest of us? We just want to elect some person as our President for four or eight years, and we want to believe that at the end of those years, the country will be a little better off than it is now, and that we'll be able to fend off the challenges we face and not hand them off to our grandkids.
And while it's absolutely true that there is some (I believe small) slice of voters who will let their inner Bull Connors out when the curtains close on the polling booth, I think that they are matched by both the absolute solidarity that Obama will get in the African-American vote and by the very real group of people - kinda like me - who are in no small part favorably disposed to him because of his skin color.
Look Obama doesn't even have the resume of a Jack Kennedy to run on. He made it to this point in no small part because of the African American politics of South Chicago which teed him up as a state legislator and then helped him step forward as a Senator.
So when journalists like Weisberg echo my buddy the Gallery Guy, you have to wonder how those kinds of attitudes bleed out into the quality of work that they produce. I believe that they are professionals, and see themselves as working for organizations less marginal than, say, Mother Jones, and so they make efforts to balance hiring and coverage.
But I also believe that the toxic pall of smug is something our journalistic - and political - worlds would be far better off without.
It looks like an agreement is close between the Iraqi government and the US government on a schedule for ramping down the US military presence in Iraq - a timetable. Many of the antiwar folks who have been pressing for the US government to announce such a timetable have been - to use a charitable term - crowing, including my grudgingly approved candidate, Senator Obama:
"I am glad that the administration has finally shifted to accepting a timetable for the removal of our combat troops from Iraq..."
The difference, of course, is between a timetable that we unilaterally impose regardless of the desires of the Iraqis and the conditions on the ground, and a timetable that is arrived at as a consequence of agreement between our government and the Iraqi one. It seems to me such an obvious thing, and yet no one else seems to be raising it.
From the Las Vegas Sun, here's a nice snapshot of the complex bundle of issues that the war represents in this election:
By 2006, however, as the war continued to rage, the public had lost patience. On Election Day, voters punished Republicans across the country for mismanaging the conflict.
Overjoyed, Democrats believed their time had come to ride the wave. They opened the 2008 campaigns brimming with confidence that the war would propel their candidates into the White House and Congress.
But now, with just 11 weeks remaining in the campaigns, that assumption is being tested.
Interviews with 20 voters this week found the war has evolved into a much more complicated issue than in the past two elections.
Many voters said they think the war was a bad idea, which is consistent with findings of national polls. But with the war no longer front and center in the national consciousness, the interviews suggested the issue is no longer an automatic boost for Democrats.
Instead, the war is at times cutting against stereotype.
Was just part of a junket which culminated in a meeting with the president of Blackwater (yes, that Blackwater...). I'm still digesting a lot of it, and will have more comments. But one thing he said really hit me - that with 300 of his troops (the news story says 250, but his comment was for 300) and 600 elite troops they would pick and mentor from the AU forces, they could shut down the genocide in Darfur.
I didn't ask what he charges for his forces, but imagine that it's $50,000/month/pair of boots. That's $15 million a month - $180 million for the year. Why aren't we having a telethon with Hollywood celebrities raising money for this?
Spencer "Flackerman" (sorry, couldn't resist) just reopened the Beauchamp kerfluffle. He met with Beauchamp and his ex-TNR wife, and - shockingly!! - it was all true and Foer was a wimp for not telling all of us who criticized his stories to pound sand.
Or not, according to Bob Owens and the facts. Ackerman's going to have to do better than this to go back to becoming "Attackerman."
Kerry for VP. No, seriously. This is one of the leading lights of the left political blogs.
Well, it's a great plan, if you want a McGovern-type election...
Russia’s invasion of Georgia has unleashed a refugee crisis all over the country and especially in its capital. Every school here in Tbilisi is jammed with civilians who fled aerial bombardment and shootings by the Russian military—or massacres, looting, and arson by irregular Cossack paramilitary units swarming across the border. Russia has seized and effectively annexed two breakaway Georgian provinces, South Ossetia and Abkhazia. It has also invaded the region of Gori, which unlike them had been under Georgia’s control. Gori is in the center of the country, just an hour’s drive from Tbilisi; 90 percent of its citizens have fled, and the tiny remainder live amid a violent mayhem overseen by Russian occupation forces that, despite Moscow’s claims to the contrary, are not yet withdrawing.
On Monday, I visited one of the schools transformed into refugee housing in the center of Tbilisi and spoke to four women—Lia, Nana, Diana, and Maya—who had fled with their children from a cluster of small villages just outside the city of Gori. “We left the cattle,” Lia said. “We left the house. We left everything and came on foot because to stay there was impossible.” Diana’s account: “They are burning the houses. From most of the houses they are taking everything. They are stealing everything, even such things as toothbrushes and toilets. They are taking the toilets. Imagine. They are taking broken refrigerators.” And Nana: “We are so heartbroken. I don’t know what to say or even think. Our whole lives we were working to save something, and one day we lost everything. Now I have to start everything from the very beginning.”
Seven families were living cheek by jowl inside a single classroom, sleeping on makeshift beds made of desks pushed together. Small children played with donated toys; at times, their infant siblings cried. Everyone looked haggard and beaten down, but food was available and the smell wasn’t bad. They could wash, and the air conditioning worked.
“There was a bomb in the garden and all the apples on the trees fell down,” Lia remembered. “The wall fell down. All the windows were destroyed. And now there is nothing left because of the fire.”
Nortius Maximus sent me this link to a video at Nature magazine, describing a machine from ancient Greece, named after the location in which it was found. Mike Daley's points me to an in-depth conventional text/graphics article at Impearls.
Its exact functions had been a bit puzzling, but modern imaging and X-rays recently came to the rescue. Turns out that it's a sophisticated mechanical clock that had additional functions like keeping track of the Olympic Games and phases of the moon, in addition to its standard operation. The whole thing is truly a mechanical marvel, and when you see the CGI images of the device in operation based on recent imaging techniques, you'll be stunned to imagine something like this coming from ancient Greece 2,000 years ago. But apparently, it did.
The Antikythera Mechanism is a true testament to the power of human ingenuity, and the video is definitely worth watching.
The best line I've read in a while, in a story about a failed coup in
Ivory Coast Equatorial Guinea:
"And even considering that Simon Mann had spent most of his adult life obliterating the fine line between profitable military adventures and hare-brained schemes, this was not a well-planned operation."
(h/t Uncle Jimbo)
I almost forgot, but this showed up in my newsfeed:
Raise your copy of The Cat Ate My Gymsuit. Author Paula Danziger would have been 64 today.
While Gymsuit was her best-known book (and her first), the former teacher wrote 30 other books, including her Amber Brown tales, and was memorable off the page. As the New York Times once noted, Danziger might have become a stand-up comic. And for public appearances, the Times said, ''she decked herself out with rhinestone-trimmed glasses, feather hats and beaded outfits, talked fast and was funny.''
That last point held true even after she died in July 2004 from complications following a heart attack. Her paid death notice in the Times said, '''Paula Danziger, beloved children's book writer, would like to inform you that she isn't avoiding your calls, she passed away.
My famous cousin was, in fact, a hoot. I would have hated to be her parent or sibling, though, because her wit was sharp and merciless - as I imagine must be true of all good writers.
So heeeey, Paula (as I used to tease her) ... happy birthday.
To complete my bizarre day, I was sent a link to a local TV News story on shooting. A positive story, about the 'Steel Challenge' handgun competition.
The range this is shot at is the range I have been too lazy to go and train at, ISI in Piru, California. A place I need to get my lazy butt out to pretty soon...
I take a break for a moment from work and see that, somehow, Kevin Drum and his commenters are agreeing with John McCain that it might take $5 million to be rich.
Winged pigs just flew past my second-story window, and I'm nervously eyeing the sky for thunder.
I've met Mike Hendrix, I kinda know Mike Hendrix, I like Mike Hendrix, and when Mike Hendrix asks for the blog audience to give him a hand and toss a few bucks his way - I'm in.
You should be as well. You didn't need that fattening lunch today. How about tossing him a $20 instead?
"Always Be Closing" as Mamet tells us. I've voiced my support for Obama for some time, both for strategic reasons - I'd like to get the Democrats engaged in our foreign policy problems, rather than making them a one-party issues ("the GOP war, etc.) - and for personal ones - I believe my values are fundamentally progressive (i.e. I believe that government exists in no small part to counterbalance the powerful and wealthy) and I think Obama better represents those values.
But I'm tetchy. I keep digging into his biography, and finding places where what he says doesn't line up with what he did. That's not striking - welcome to politics - but since he's selling us in no small part his own beliefs rather than his accomplishments, it would be nice to see those beliefs more deeply in the context of his biography.
I've suggested - and will keep suggesting - things he could do to make me more comfortable. Now I guess that makes me a "concern troll", and means that no one on the Democratic side of the house should give a rip what I say.
Then again, maybe not.
Last weekend, we went to the Bay Area, and spent Friday night with college friends and others. The conversation, shockingly, turned to politics.
My friends - graduates of UC Santa Cruz, and residents of Santa Cruz and Silicon Valley - are reliable Democrats (except for one or two!!), people who volunteer for campaigns put bumper stickers on their cars, sometimes hand out leaflets in front of the local grocery store.
Their temperature on this election - tepid. For the women, the animosity over Hillary is not at the top, but simmers somewhere underneath. For the men, a feeling that Obama is a brilliant man, but a distrust - of what, no one could completely say.
Anecdote is not data, to be sure, but I was shocked enough to make it my project for the next week to talk to anyone handy about the election and see what they say.
I was shocked.
Among the strongest Obama supporters, the feeling was best summed up by a liberal retired high school teacher I sat with at lunch today - a woman wearing peace symbol earrings who grimly said "I really don't think he's going to win."
A large number of mainstream Democrats simply confess a disquiet. The Howard Wolfson story - that Hillary would have won Iowa and hence the election if Edwards' affair had come out - has been repeated enough that it got my attention. I can only call it buyer's remorse.
I'm feeling it as well. I'm still a solid vote for Obama, but when I sit down and write checks, somehow I just never bring myself to write one for him.
Why? Why aren't I solidly on his side? If I'm a doubter, why aren't I alone in doubting him?
What's the deal? And what should the Democrats do?
What should Obama do?
I'll have to do my own campaign memo...
I wrote about him almost exactly six months ago.
We just walked out to take some boxes of stuff to Goodwill before we go out to a dinner tonight. My neighbor's daughter was in the driveway, crying. Sam had just passed, at home, in his own bed.
We talked with her, and with her sister and brother who came out to wait for the mortuary van. We stood and talked about him, and when we left, they were laughing about things he'd said and done.
I know it was his time, but damn, I'm sad.
(died on 3rd August,2008 at the age of 90) ...
The life of the Nobel laureate, Alexander Solzhenitsyn, from the day he was born in 1918 until he was deported from the Soviet Union in 1974, epitomizes the brutal oppression visited by the Soviet Union on its citizens. In this model communist society, which serves as a shining example of the successful implementation of the dictatorship of the proletariat to all the others, fundamental freedoms are conspicuously absent and human rights violations the order of the day.
Alexander Isayevich Solzhenitsyn was born on December 11, 1918 at Kislovodsk. Six years later, his father was killed in an accident, and his mother moved with him to Rostov-on-the-Don, where she worked as a typist.
Life was hard in the early days of Stalin's rule, especially for a young widow and her orphaned son. Young Alexander was an outstanding student from primary school and up to Rostov university, where his genius in mathematics and physics won him a scholarship for graduate studies. Throughout those years, Solzhenitsyn remained true to his love for culture in general and literature in particular, and took a correspondence course in literature at the Moscow Institute of Philosophy, Literature and History. He obtained his diploma from the Institute in 1941, one year following his appointment as teacher of mathematics at a secondary school in Rostov.
During those years, he tried to publish his novels and short stories in the literary review, Znamya, but they were all rejected by the editor. When Hitler's invasion of the Soviet Union began, Solzhenitsyn joined the Red Army as an artillery officer on October 18, 1941, and fought at the battles of Kursk and Konigsberg (later Kaliningrad). 176 His heroism earned him several promotions, and by 1945 he was a captain with two decorations for bravery in defense of his country: the Order of the Patriotic War, Class II, and the Order of the Red Star.
In July 1945, he was suddenly arrested by the secret police, the NKVD, and charged with making derogatory remarks about Stalin in private correspondence with a friend and in his personal diary. He was detained without trial in the Lubyanka prison in Moscow pending further investigation of his case by the secret police, then sentenced by a special tribunal of the NKVD to eight years hard labour as a traitor to Leninist socialism and to the socialist society. Solzhenitsyn served his sentence in a number of Soviet prisons, but instead of releasing him when his term was up in 1953, the secret police arbitrarily decided to exile him to Kok Tern in the Dzhambul region of Kazakhstan, where he remained until 1956. During his exile, it was discovered that he had cancer and he was sent to a hospital in Tashkent to undergo treatment.
For more than eleven years of imprisonment and exile, Solzhenitsyn underwent horrible sufferings which he movingly describes in "One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich". The novel is considered a literary masterpiece in its description of the sufferings of hundreds of thousands of detainees in the Soviet Union, although I, personally, share the opinion of the Daily Telegraph's literary critic who considers "My Testimony" by Anatoly Marchenko to be the best account of life in Russian prisons and labour camps since Dostoevsky's "House of the Dead". Solzhenitsyn uses the same setting for his play, "The Tender Foot and the Tramp". His outstanding novel, "Cancer Ward", recounts his experience with exile and his brush with death from cancer. During his years of imprisonment and exile, his family knew nothing about him. Thinking him dead, his wife remarried but went back to him after his release (1956) and his rehabilitation (1957).
In 1956, his case was reviewed by the Military Section of the Supreme Court of the Soviet Union, which issued the following ruling under No. 4N/083/56:
"On February 6, 1956, the Court examined the appeal raised by the Military Prosecutor against the decision passed by the Fifth Tribunal of the NKVD on June 7, 1945, and predicated on paragraphs 10 and 11 of article 58 of the RSFSR Criminal Code, sentencing to eight years imprisonment in correctional labour camps Alexander Isayevich Solzhenitsyn, born in 1918 in the city of Kislovodsk, holder of the highest scientific awards and commander of an artillery unit before his detention who fought in the war against the Fascist German armies and was awarded the Order of the Patriotic War, Class II, and the Order of the Red Star. Having heard the report of comrade Konev and the statement of Colonel Terkov, Assistant Military Prosecutor, the Court rules as follows: the charges against Solzhenitsyn which are that between 1940 and 1945 he committed acts of anti-Soviet propaganda among his friends and took steps aimed at forming an anti-Soviet organization are declared null and void for absence of proof of the alleged crimes...."
Throughout these years, all Solzhenitsyn's attempts to publish his works were met with adamant refusal. However, in November 1962, Khrushchev himself authorized publication of "One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich", Solzhenitsyn's harrowing novel about life in a Siberian labour camp under Stalin, in the context of Khrushchev's destalinisation policy. After Khrushchev's downfall in 1964, Solzhenitsyn again became persona non grata and was the target of violent attacks by official Soviet writers. But by then, which is around the time the literary dissident's movement was born, he had acquired many supporters and admirers. The attacks continued for almost ten years, during which the author was accused of being a traitor to socialism and an agent of American imperialist powers. He was persecuted in his private life and transferred from one place to another. The attacks reached a crescendo when he was awarded the 1970 Nobel Prize for Literature and continued unabated until he left the Soviet Union in 1974.
Those who have followed the case closely affirm that Solzhenitsyn would have been assassinated or locked up in a psychiatric institution like so many others had it not been for the support of the free world and of the European communist parties, particularly those of Italy, France and Spain, and had his case not become a cause celebre at the centre of world public opinion.
Although the case of Solzhenitsyn provoked a great political furor and much international publicity, the history of communist societies is rife with similar, albeit less sensational, cases. The moral to be drawn from the story of Alexander Solzhenitsyn is that in communist societies, where the rule of law is replaced by `revolutionary legitimacy', there is no room for divergent views, which are invariably branded as anti-revolutionary and imperialist. In fact, conformity or otherwise to `revolutionary legitimacy' is determined at the sole discretion of whoever happens to be in power at any given time. The vicissitudes of Solzhenitsyn's fortunes prove just how flexible the concept of revolutionary democracy is:
1- At a first phase, he was a legendary hero who had fought valiantly for the socialist fatherland and had been decorated twice for bravery.
2- At a second phase, he was accused of betraying that same fatherland and sentenced to eleven years hard labour in the Siberian labour camps.
3- A third phase saw an upward turn in his fortunes. He was absolved by the Supreme Court of the crimes for which he had paid with eleven years of his life and nominated for the Lenin Prize in 1963 for "One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich". Solzhenitsyn's rehabilitation did not mean that the climate of tyranny and oppression had changed, but only that his writings served the interests of the new rulers.
*4- * With Khrushchev's fall, a new stage in the decline of Solzhenitsyn's official standing began. Once again he was denounced as an agent, a traitor, an enemy of socialism and a mediocre writer.
What emerges from Solzhenitsyn's life and writings, especially in the period between 1967 and 1974, and from all that has been written about him in the Soviet Union and abroad is that under communist rule, art and literature are tolerated only to the extent that they serve the regime and echo its slogans, regardless of intrinsic value. Since the October Revolution, the Soviet Union has regarded its artists and writers as foot soldiers in its war against the enemy, deploying them to trumpet the victories of the regime and attack its critics. A look at the novels, plays, short stories and literary articles published in the Soviet Union since 1917 will show how the functional role assigned by the political leadership to literature and art has devitalized these traditionally strong forms of expression and rendered them sterile. It is enough to compare the works put out after 1917 by the 'approved' authors, whose names are listed in the Soviet Encyclopaedia, with those of the great pre-revolutionary Russian writers, to realize the extent of the tragedy. That the Soviets regard authors as instruments to be used for the furtherance of the regime's interests is clear from many official statements issued by the Soviet Writers' Union and from numerous articles which have appeared in Pravda. A statement worth quoting here is that delivered on October 5, 1967, by the editor-in-chief of Pravda, M.F. Ziemanin, at the Press House in Leningrad:
"The Western press has recently been full of malicious fabrications, using many of our writers whose works have reached the hands of our enemies. The camp formed by the Western press to defend Tarsis only stopped its activities when Tarsis left for the West, thereby proving that he - Tarsis - was not sound of mind. Nowadays, Solzhenitsyn is at the centre of capitalist propaganda. He too is psychologically unbalanced. He is a schizophrenic, a former prisoner who was subjected to oppression, deservedly or otherwise, and is now seeking revenge against the Soviet government through his literary works. The only topic he seems able to write about is life in the labour camps, it has become a kind of obsession with him.
Solzhenitsyn's works are an attack against the Soviet regime in which he sees nothing but bitterness and cancerous growths. He sees nothing positive in our society.
By virtue of my functions, I have access to unpublished works. One of these was Solzhenitsyn's play, "The Feast of the Victors", which deals with the persecution of those who returned from the front. It is an example of the anti-Soviet literature for which people in the past were imprisoned.
Clearly, we cannot publish his works, that is his one wish that we cannot gratify. However, if he were to write stories that are in keeping with the interest of society, we will publish them. Solzhenitsyn will not want for bread and butter; he is a teacher of physics, let him teach. He likes to make public speeches and to read his works to an audience...he was given the opportunity to do so...He considers himself a literary genius."
This text clearly expresses where literature stands in the country that, in a previous age, gave humanity some of its greatest writers and composers.
Today, any literary work that does not conform strictly to the general line of the state is considered to be anti-Soviet and serving reactionary imperialist forces. The problem is that the general line of the state differs from one ruler to the next - Lenin to Stalin, the transition to Khrushchev, then to Brezhnev and so on and so forth. How can talents grow and develop when they are circumscribed by the party line? How can literature be expected to fulfill its traditional function of educating, enlightening and correcting society in such circumstances? Literature not only holds up the mirror in which society can see itself reflected, but, as the light which seeks out and reveals all that is negative in that society - in the political, economic and social spheres - is a vital tool for democracy, working relentlessly in the interest of society as a whole.
Repression in socialist societies, headed by the Soviet Union, has not only emptied literature of its essence and transformed it into an organ of state, it has created a new model of morality characterized by social apathy and selfishness. Those who think that the Soviet people are all dissidents, whether overt or covert, are mistaken. Apart from a small group, the Soviet people have been shaped by sixty years of a repressive police state into a unique moral mould.
First of all, the ordinary Soviet citizen has a totally unrealistic picture of the outside world, created by the all-powerful communist media which, as we mentioned in our book, "Communism and Religions", is the most dangerous weapon in the hands of the communists, whether before they come to power or after. He believes that workers in the United States, France, West Germany, Canada and Britain live lives of poverty, suffering and humiliation. As the Russian writer Lidiya Chukovskaya puts it, a huge wall has been erected between him and the outside world. A good example of the ability of the Soviet media to shape the minds of Soviet citizens according to the party line and in total disregard of accuracy and truth is given by Hedrick Smith in his book, "The Russians". As the Moscow correspondent of the New York Times in the early seventies, Smith had come to know Andrei Sakharov well.
Known as the father of the Soviet H-bomb, full member of the Soviet Academy of Sciences at the age of thirty-two, Sakharov had donated all his savings, some 140 thousand roubles (representing the proceeds of the huge financial privileges he had received as a member of the elite club of Soviet nuclear scientists, which Sakharov says were paid to him secretly in sealed envelopes), to a government fund for a new cancer research centre.
In 1974, Smith met a prominent Soviet medical scientist. The conversation turned to Sakharov and the scientist, unaware that Smith knew him personally, volunteered the information that Sakharov was mentally unbalanced. When Smith disclosed that he was personally acquainted with Sakharov, the scientist leant over to whisper in his ear: "And how was he when you met him? Is he really mad?"
Sakharov himself had a similar experience while on holiday at a Black Sea resort. He became friendly with a group of Soviet intellectuals, to whom he did not disclose his real identity. For days on end they spoke to him of Andrei Sakharov, the father of the Soviet H-bomb who had become a raving madman. In an interview with the Swedish radio correspondent, Olle Stenholm, Sakharov expressed the situation very well: "I am sceptical about socialism in general. I don't see that socialism offers some kind of new theoretical plan, so to speak, for the better organization of society...We have the same kind of problems - that is, crime and personal alienation - that are to be found in the capitalist world. But our society represents an extreme case with maximum restraint, maximum ideological restrictions, and so forth...Moreover, and very characteristically, we are also the most pretentious - that is, although we are not the best society we pretend that we are much more..."
The situation described by Sakharov is the natural outcome of the role assigned by the party in the Soviet Union to thought, literature and to the mass media, whose discipline to the party line can be likened to that of military troops in battle to their commander: unthinking obedience. If we compare the role of the Soviet mass media to that of the American. Which were instrumental in bringing about the downfall of the president because of the Watergate scandal, we would immediately see the difference between what the Soviets denigrate as bourgeois democracy' and their brand of revolutionary democracy. Another small example is worth giving here. In the United States, Western democracy has created a new profession in the field of medicine: a representative of the media who is in contact with hospitals and medical centres to track down any cases of malpractice. Any suspicion of malpractice is followed by a thorough investigation and, if confirmed, the media launch a strong campaign with serious consequences for the person or persons responsible, including civil liability. This system is just one of many which have emerged in various fields as positive byproducts of the democratic process and its integration in all aspects of life in Western societies.An interesting comparison here is the account of Soviet medical facilities given by Solzhenitsyn in "Cancer Ward".
Throughout the six hundred pages of the novel, we are given a bitter description of medical services in a state that boasts the best free medical care in the world.
The glaring discrepancy between reality and the image projected by the mass media is not limited to the field of medicine, but is a phenomenon that extends to all aspects of life in the Soviet Union. In fact, it is a natural consequence of the peculiar concept of democracy prevailing in the Soviet Union, where any opinion that does not conform to the official line is regarded as seditious talk by agents in the pay of foreign enemies.
According to Sakharov, Soviet citizens have been brainwashed by the Soviet media into believing that no one on the face of the earth tells the truth for the sake of truth. The world is divided into parties and everyone belongs to one or the other of these parties, to which he gives his full loyalty. This belief, nurtured by the Soviet mass media, has allowed the regime to keep the intelligentsia in line and to immunize most of the Soviet people against what they hear from the Western world. Certainly too, the State's monopoly over the job market helps it maintain its grip on people who are totally dependent on it for their livelihood.
Those who do step out of line pay a heavy price. To cite but a few examples: Daniel and Sinyavsky spent more than five years in prison camps for smuggling out of the Soviet Union literary works that the authorities considered slanderous to the Soviet state; the poetess Natalya Gorpanyevskaya lost her job and was committed to a mental institution because she took part in a demonstration held in Red Square to protest against the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia; the historian Anatoly Petrovesky was dismissed from his job and blacklisted because he signed a statement in support of Daniel and Sinyavsky; the members of Sakharov's immediate family were persecuted simply because of their association with him,and so on and so forth. All this confirms the validity of Harold Lasky's proposition that a people who relinquish their political rights in exchange for promises of economic security will soon discover that they struck a losing bargain, for there is nothing they can do if the promises are not kept.
Jerry Wexler, who coined the term 'rhythm & blues' died yesterday.
I'm commenting on this because he was one of my dad's great friends from his youth - back in New York City in the 1930's where they worked at a 'race music' record store together along with a third buddy, a guy named Ralph Gleason.
Wexler went on to work at Billboard after the war, and along with Ahmet Ertegun, founded Atlantic Records. Gleason went on to found a jazz club with my dad after the war in San Francisco, and then became the music columnist for the SF Chronicle and then cofounded Rolling Stone. My dad went on to become an executive at a construction company, a job he had no love for but did very well at.
The lesson? Do what you love and success will come. I have told this story to my sons about a million times, and now, triggered by Wexler's death, I'm sharing it with you.
So I went to the LA Library last night to sit and listen to a panel discussion on "Los Angeles Without The Los Angeles Times." It was a panel discussion with these panelists:
George Kieffer, of Manatt, Phelps (a politically powerful law firm)
Robin M. Kramer, Mayor Villaragosa's chief deputy
Geneva Overholser, of the USC-Annenberg School of Journalism
Kevin Roderick, of LA Observed (and a former LAT reporter)
Joel Sappell, Special projects Deputy to Supervisor Yaroslavsky, and a former LAT editor and reporter)
Brady Westwater, LA Cowboy blogger
David Lauter, LA Times Editor
Kit Rachlis, moderator, editor of Los Angeles magazine
My first reaction, on seeing this white, well-bred and well-educated group on the dais (even Brady looks like what he is - a smart and successful guy who doesn't give a damn what he looks like or how he dresses - when TG and I met him she asked me if he was homeless) could be a panel from the Yale class of '74 at a reunion.
There was a lengthy and well-mannered discussion (sadly, Brady seems to have been tamed a bit by his rising proximity to real power - he had the most intelligent and pointed things to say, but they were muffled under politeness and the moderator - who should have featured him, instead only occasionally reached out to him) which centered on the given truth that the LA TImes is wonderful, but it's business model is changing because of that pesky Internet and the fickle nature of advertisers. The suggestion was made - repeatedly (by Kramer, echoed by Kieffer, and repeatedly by members of the NPR-loving (more on that later) audience - that "some philanthropists ought to step up and buy the Times as a community resource." I turned to my seatmate and whispered "and then they can rename it 'Pravda'."
Overall, there was some intelligent discussion, but Brady's core points - stop hiring young graduates of good journalism schools and start hiring people with roots in, and knowledge of, the communities that make up Los Angeles - remains the best single point that could be made.
There's more, and if I get a chance, I'll expand on it. But as I walked out, I suggested to TG that if the audiences' desires for the paper were met, they should probably just rename the paper 'The Brentwood Times'
Update: Moderator Kit Rachlis is having his own issues, according to LA Biz Observed (offshoot blog of Kevin Roderick's):
Emmis Communications, which owns Los Angeles magazine, Orange Coast and Texas Monthly, is cutting salaries across the board by 2 percent, another sign of the times in the publishing biz. Also, about 40 jobs from the company’s publishing division are being cut - that's a 4.5 percent workforce reduction. Two folks from LAM were let go (other trims will be through attrition).
...my suggestion is that Zell needs to go down to the beach near his place in Malibu with a whip and demonstrate that tides come in whether billionaires will them not to or not...
Resident whiz evariste fixed the broken free ice-cream machine, and explained the problem (we're having two: malformed comments from spammers seemed to shut down PHP, and akismet keeps going down) in language even I could understand.
Apologies all around...
The RSS excerpt on this incoherent New York Times editorial caught my attention:
Then the F.D.A. should move as quickly as possible to determine the effects of menthol and what should be done to regulate or ban it.
You know, this whole research and factfinding thing is kind of tiresome. We're pretty sure it might be a problem - therefore let's regulate or ban it. Because you can never have enough regulation, and you can never ban enough things to make people truly safe and healthy.
I'm becoming a Libertarian, I swear...the more I read this drivel, the more tempting a subscription to Reason looks.
*...I'll leave the provenance of the quote to the crowd. No fair using Google.
The outburst did not come as a shock to a half-dozen past and current elected leaders, public officials and supporters who said they have become alarmed about what they see as the senator's increasingly erratic behavior over the past few months.
The incidents include inappropriate comments, displays of temper and the need to speak from prepared scripts.
"It's bad news. Clearly, something is wrong," said a longtime supporter, who, along with others interviewed for this story, requested anonymity because of the sensitive nature of the issue.
I hope she's just having a bad spell...and it does appear that my suggestion that this was the product of an elected official's arrogance may have been misplaced.
(...who only occasionally knows what I'm talking about).
Down in the comments on Georgia, I suggested sending in a hospital plane and unarmed troops.
Austin Bay has an interesting piece on his proposed response to a Georgia-type event...and kind of agrees with me (in a more knowledgeable way):
The fictional reply: Insert a Peacekeeping Brigade (PKB). Call it a Peacekeeping Organization (PKO) if you want to give it an extra diplomatic smudge.
A peacekeeping brigade comprises at least two engineer battalions with attached military police, medical, Civil Affairs, signal units and lots of media connectivity. Cameras matter. Add State Department personnel. Add Special Forces with their linguistic talents and a light infantry battalion for local security. Embed non-governmental organizations with the guts to participate and promise support to NGOs who choose to operate on their own but would accept clean water and blankets. Why, Mr. President, you can help the human shields. Aren't they heading for Georgia to stop a super-power invasion? Tell the human shields our peacekeeping outfit will give them MREs and bandaids while they chain themselves to Georgian churches to protect them from Russian bombs.
Insert the PKB in a Russo-Georgia type situation and the emerging democracy gets on-the-ground support. The PKB is not an offensive military force, but an airborne brigade at the end of a long logistical tether isn't either. The PKB serves as a military-diplomatic "transition signal" - Texas Hold'em and the emerging democracy get some of the value of a combat speed bump, while reducing though not eliminating the risks of inserting combat forces.
There's more, as well as a really good analysis of the problem we face...
I did a podcast interview with Skewz editor Vipul Vyas this morning; it was a little unfocused, but a fun conversation. It'll be up in a day or so and I'll link to it here.
But I wanted to take a second and point you at their site - it's one of a new breed of interesting news aggregators that potentially go a step beyond Digg or reddit by allowing useful user annotation of the stories that get promoted. I'll comment more on these new critters as well as on my podcast when it comes up.
Not at John Edwards, who's just a fallible person, but at the press who effectively acted as his beards during his affair.
Take a look at this picture, shot by Robert Scoble from the Washington Post today:
Take a look at the body language of Edwards and Hunter, sitting next to him as the reporters question him (Hamsher calls it "holding court").
Who are the two reporters sitting and talking to them? Either they are the most clueless and disinterested men on the planet - and thus unqualified to be reporters - or they were in the tank for Edwards and covering up his behavior - and thus unqualified to be reporters. Someone help me figure out who they are so I can publicly shame them.
Like I said, I'm uninterested in paying for crap media. How in the Wide World of Sports could a thinking reporter have sat there, looking at the two of them, and not gone "hmmmm..." and done a little digging or maybe asked a question or two?
Found myself directed to Alexandr Solzhenitsyn's "A World Split Apart" speech the other day, in the wake of his recent death. While I would point out that the "spiritual training" he referred to had the flip side of many training failures, and that spiritual development must be freely chosen in order to be meaningful, his late 1970s speech remains thought provoking to this day.
Here's a time line of his life. For those who don't know him, Solzhenitsyn was the writer of the Gulag Archipelago trilogy, which chronicled the horrors of the Soviet Union's concentration camps. The Left has always hated him for that, and expended a great deal of effort to characterize him as a liar while the Soviet Union still stood. Those efforts were, in fact, a large part of the reason I became disillusioned with the Left at a very young age. I could not stand with the promoters of, and liars on behalf of, concentration camps.. and of course, the opening of Soviet archives would later show that authors like Solzhenitsyn and Robert Conquest had in fact been telling and documenting the truth.
At a state Senate hearing on California's efforts to cut emissions and shadowbox global warming, an African-American Sacramento preacher was pushing for participation in this process by minority spokespeople - because they will have the most trouble bearing the higher energy costs associated with going green.
He got an earful from Democratic Sen. Pat Wiggins, D-Santa Rosa...
She's since apologized, shockingly...
You read about people who have cancer, feel fine, and then get the news. The day before they got the news, they were still ill, they just didn't know it. They might have had twinges, or some concerns. But until the test results came in, they thought they were fine. I feel similarly about Georgia - it's the lab result that reminds us that we face a strong, ruthless, imperialistic power in Russia that fully intends to get its place at the superpower table back, by any means necessary.
I read a lot of the commentary over the weekend, and a lot of it makes the question of 'cause' deeper and murkier than ever. It's likely that Georgia overreached; it's equally likely that Russia would have acted sooner or later regardless. The question is whether Russia intends to eat Georgia in one bite now, or just weaken it enough that the Georgian leadership reconsiders the value of a close relationship with the US.
One of the negative consequences of our balancing act on Iran is the fact that we're dependent on the Russians and Chinese to help keep the situation there metastable - meaning that our freedom of action is severely limited elsewhere.
Sorry for the silence - we had another family road trip this weekend to fetch Littlest Guy from camp.
Here he is, looking all James Dean in front of his Stanford (boo!) dorm...
Afterward, we went over to Berkeley (yay!) for some high-end-dining.
We had a German Frankfurter, and it was just as good as I remembered it from 30 years ago. The libertarian literature was something I didn't remember, tho...
All in all, a great trip. Good visits with friends, great time with TG and the boys (Middle Guy came along).
...catching up on work and blogging will resume shortly.
I'm sorry for stealing Gerard Vanderleun's oft-used title for this, but I really can't think of any other name for the opportunity the Ceiling Cat has placed in my lap today.
See, I was reading Jeff Jarvis' feed, as I usually, do, and he was commenting favorably on the New Jersey Star Ledger's video newsroom; he mentioned that there had been some dialog with a blogger, which I thought might be amusing, and so I clicked over and watched it.
The video is embedded below. Go to 5:55 to see the part I'm discussing...
|Ledger Live - 08-06-08|
See, today, I've been following another story about journalism, but couldn't think of an angle to make it an interesting blog post until I watched the video.
That means these people Mosk alleged had been somehow forced to make campaign contributions to McCain through a third-party bundler NEVER DONATED MONEY TO MCCAIN. The very lede of Mosk's front-page story, included in my previous post linked above, was wrong. What's going on with the Washington Post? How could they have blown this one so badly? And where did the March 12 contribution date come from?
Update: I just remembered Mosk was the same reporter who tried to rustle up a McCain land-swap scandal on shaky facts earlier this year. I wrote about it HERE.
That's one of the two national newspapers of record. Let's go back to the video, OK?
"We have been under the mistaken idea that journalism is about getting out into the world, covering school boards, murder trials, digging through government documents. But we hear from a prominent New Jersey blogger that the future of the American newsroom will be people at home, in their pajamas, blogging. Perhaps, say, we can tell you what we had for breakfast, I don't really know. But we thought that trying to be at the cutting edge in these difficult times that for a little levity we would perhaps remind people that there are real journalists who get out in the world and get you your news."
Now Carol Ann Campbell may be a better reporter than she is hairstylist - although as someone who's made legislation happen in my spare time, I'll suggest they've set a low bar for her by using that as the measure of quality for her journalism.
And props - as Jarvis has offered - to the Star-Ledger for doing this exercise at all. Now Jeff has issues with their reactions as journalists to the new business reality:
But what struck me listening to them is that they are not prepared for that independent life. I was looking at this from the perspective of being both a former newspaperman who did find a new life in the academe and elsewhere and from the perspective of now being a journalism educator. It is vital that we prepare journalists for this new and independent life or we will lose their journalism. Preparation, to me, means both training - it’s a great thing that Ledger print people are making video in the Rosenblum Method - and setting up an infrastructure to help them create sustainable journalistic enterprises if at all possible. The first factor is why I'm trying to establish a continuing education program for professionals at CUNY. The second is why I'm holding a summit for new business models for news there. That’s my perspective.
But it's more than that. The issue isn't just that Americans don't want to pay for traditional journalism - it's that they don't want to pay for crap traditional journalism, and there is enough crap in the line that the whole pipe is tainted. Rathergate, Gropegate, now Donorgate - look, I'm happy to pay for quality information. Mike Bloomberg made a few billion dollars selling it. But I'll be damned - and most Americans will be damned too - if we'll pay for junk when better junk is available for free.
This isn't (just) about transparent agendas. You can be a good journalist and have an agenda, I'm sure. It's just that the present generation of journalists seems incapable of following the basic dicta of their craft in favor of transparent posturing. And to be blunt, we bloggers are just as good at posturing and twice as entertaining.
So how about it journalists? Why not - just for grins - try doing real journalism (the stuff you're claiming to sell us). And why not, editors, have some public consequences - OK stocks might be excessive, but firing and some front-page apologies might not be a bad idea. Eventually you might learn to self-correct.
Until then we'll be sitting here in our pajamas correcting you.
If McCain wins, it will be because Americans deserve him, just as we have deserved Bush Junior. If Obama wins, he will be a glorified janitor for the endless piles of shit the GOP left in its wake. Just as Bill Clinton was for Reagan and Bush Senior.
Our complacency will be our downfall, and I no longer care. Let Rush Limbaugh and ExxonMobil have America - it's becoming a crumbling shithole anyway.
And on that happy note, we end the blog.
Jeralyn at Talkleft sympathizes:
All a Democrat can do is hope November comes quickly and our candidate wins, so we can get on with the business of fixing health care, ending the parade of right-wing ideologues as nominees for federal judgeships, preserve the independence of our Supreme Court, get out of one war (hopefully without getting back into another) and, fingers crossed, start to empty our prisons of non-violent offenders.
But for having those goals, and being excited that the convention is taking place in Denver, I might stop blogging about the election too. I'm not where Skimble is yet, but I certainly understand his thinking.
I don't. I don't begin to understand the toxic thinking behind that kind of position, and all I can do is link it to some deep kind of self-hate. I'm unhappy with a lot of things about America - things which I think we need to fix and patch and shore up so it's an appropriate vessel for our grandchildren. But it's a grand and glorious vessel even so, and the journey so far - and the journey to come - is going to be an adventure worthy of the best in all of us.
OK, look. Someone in the Obama campaign is responsible for celebrity-wrangling - they have to be, it's a modern campaign. If there were any republican celebrities, McCain would have someone, too.
But this is freaking embarrassing. Are you folks tone deaf or just stupid?
We've got George Clooney doing a fundraiser in Switzerland.
Academy award winning actor George Clooney is set to host a fundraiser for Barack Obama in Switzerland next month.
The event, taking place on the evening of September 2 in Geneva, Switzerland will be split into two parts: a reception and a dinner. According to Obama’s National Finance Committee, tickets for the reception where Clooney will speak are going for $1,000, followed by a dinner at the home of NFC member Charles Adams for $10,000 a plate. Space for the dinner is limited to 75 guests.
Look, anyone who can afford to come to that fundraiser could fly to freaking New York to hold it. Except maybe Marc Rich - can't he now that he's pardoned? It's stupid, tone-deaf, and hands cases of ammo to the right-wing bloggers who are hammering home the arigula image - the one that Gallery Guy is probably so fond of.
And as for Gwyneth? We're not sure what it is about you that we're supposed to identify with as being All-American these days. You live abroad (meaning, you're not just there temporarily for a job). You're married to a mopey musician (who was born, raised and currently abides in England). You're raising your kids to be British. You won an Oscar ... for playing a Brit. Forgive us if we're finding it difficult to find the ties between you and baseball, hot dogs, apple pie and Chevrolet. Except, of course, for the fact that you named your kid Apple.
Look, there are lots of competent Hollywood political advisers (it's where campaign staff get put out to pasture - working for movie stars and advising them on their political activities). Some of them have to be more competent than this (the ones that don't work for Barbara Streisand?).
Using celebrity and celebrities is a good tactic - attention getting. But Obama's supporters are hammering him hard on one of his greatest weaknesses - can you stop, please?
Back in March, when Maliki was starting to pressure Al-Sadr militarily, I stated that "I Don't Think Winning Sides In Battle Make Many Offers". Many of the antiwar commentators slammed me pretty strongly.
The leader of one of the most powerful militias in Iraq, Moqtada al-Sadr, is to order his followers to disarm and transform themselves into a purely social and political organisation, according to a new strategy document published yesterday.
Such a shift would mark a significant step forward for US and Iraqi government attempts to pacify Iraq.
Sadr's Mahdi army, committed to forcing US troops out of Iraq, has been behind much of the violence since the 2003 invasion. His forces have maintained a ceasefire since May.
According to the document, a copy of which has been obtained by the Wall Street Journal and whose authenticity has been confirmed by a Mahdi army spokesman, Sheikh Salah al-Obeidi, the militia will concentrate in future on education, provision of social services and religion.
It tells Sadr's followers that "it is not allowed to use arms at all". Posters have been spotted around Baghdad saying the changes will be announced at Friday prayers.
Sadr's shift comes after a crackdown by Iraqi forces on the Mahdi army in its Baghdad stronghold, Sadr City, as well as Amarrah and Basra in the south earlier this year.
...that's the rabidly pro-war Guardian, BTW...
Mountainrunner has a great summary article up on "New Media and Persuasion, Mobilization, and Facilitation" - go read it and see what the grownups are talking about.
From Chris Brogan's blog, about unhappy Google customer Nick Saber:
Suddenly, Nick can’t access his Gmail account, can’t open Google Talk (our office IM app), can’t open Picasa where his family pictures are, can’t use his Google Docs, and oh by the way, he paid for additional storage. So, this is a paying customer with no access to the Google empire.
If he was doing something wrong/illegal/invalid, they might’ve said so (not thinking that he was). If he had been hacked, wouldn’t that be something vaguely apparent? I dunno, but it seems like that’d be the way.
So, what happens now? What does Nick do? He’s sent a bunch of emails. But now what? Locked out of ALL of Google’s apps, the apps that I praise daily, the apps where Julien Smith and I are writing a book. Should we be doing that? I didn’t see a problem until this. What if we’re the next Nick?
...customer service. It's the new sales...
Another step - today the engineer came out and did the site drawings for the 3.1Kw solar system we're leasing for $76/month from Solar City.
He spent about an hour measuring and photographing (I should have taken pictures of him), and I signed off and approved the placement, and we'll have drawings for the permit in about two weeks.
Over at Abu Muqawama, Charlie posts a information bleg from Andy Exum, abu muqawama himself:
Charlie got this email this morning:
Uh, Abu Muqawama wants to send out an RFI to the readership of, uh, AbuMuqawama.
Can one of you link to these two stories about this assassinated Syrian general -- who was allegedly shot from a boat, in the sea -- and ask the readership whether or not shooting someone with a sniper rifle from a f*cking boat (which is, presumably, rocking and unsteady) is or is not the hardest thing in the world. I mean, how feasible is this?
AM (from Beirut)
Here's the Washington Post story:
A Syrian general shot to death at a beach resort over the weekend was a top overseer of his country's weapons shipments to Hezbollah, according to opposition Web sites and Arab and Israeli news media.
The Free Syria Web site of Abdul Halim Khaddam, a former Syrian vice president now living in exile, said a sniper on a yacht shot Suleiman. The Saudi-owned Asharq al-Awsat newspaper said he was struck by four bullets fired from the direction of the sea.
So I turned to my handy panel of experts - members of a private listserv on shooting that I belong to. The members are often military or police, and are far more knowledgeable about shooting and shooting history than I am or than the average mall ninja you'd meet in a gun store or online.
Here's a spectrum of the replies:
It's certainly possible - perhaps even easy. Don't forget that shooting from a small craft is only a problem in an unsteady sea. Anchored off the coast (probably no more than 50-100 yards from the beach or harbor), in a yacht (rather larger than a dinghy or rowing-boat, with a keel, which helps stability), and in a calm sea (and the Mediterranean can be a millpond at times, particularly in the early morning), such a shot would be no problem at all for a competent marksman - and Mossad probably has some of the most "competent marksmen" in the world! There are also stabilized weapon mounts available for use from small craft. I know Israel has them on larger weapons on its patrol craft, and it wouldn't take a genius to miniaturize such a mount for use with a sniper rifle. Israel produces some of the world's best equipment in this line, after all. However, I don't think such a mount would have been necessary in a calm sea.
If you look up what little information is available on army sniper Adelbert "Bert" Waldron, you'll find a passage in Gen. Julian Ewell's on-line book claiming that, with a single shot, Waldron shot a VC sniper out of a tree at 900 meters from a Riverine boat. I remain dubious, but I suppose all kinds of things happen in this crazy world.
Simple, you shoot on the up-roll. ;)
I did a lot of patrols on rivers in RVN, and they are usually flat calm. I can see enough stability to make a precision shot. I would need more details
to pontificate further...
and then the skeptics
Hey, they did it in Shooter and Spartan. So it must be possible, right?
I say no, and I saw Spartan as well.
You can do lot's of things in the movies, like fly wearing just a cape. Shooting from a boat, unless your victim is also in your boat or you're using the Big Mo's 16 inch guns, can't be done.
Or I could be wrong.
So overall, a bunch of highly experienced and trained shooters do think it's possible. Over to you, Andrew...
Just pre-ordered Bing West's new book "The Strongest Tribe" over at Amazon.
The insidpensible Small Wars Journal has a conversation with West here's a sample:
You say General Petraeus didn’t turn the war around. (p 364) The war turned because the Sunni tribes came over to the American side before Petraeus arrived. Petraeus, a fine general, reinforced that success. But did not create it. The war was won from the bottom up due to the tenacity of our soldiers. It’s a dangerous delusion to believe any general can bring quick success. That belief allows the rest of us to feel we don’t have to commit or sacrifice in wartime. It’s up to the generals. That lets us off the hook, so we can vote for a war, and then disown it.
We’re doing well now. So why not pull out, as Senator Obama has proposed? We should pull out most of our forces. General Petraeus has earned our trust. He is best qualified to determine the rate of withdrawal. A fixed timetable is militarily rash. A fixed timetable doesn’t mean Iraq will fall apart. A timetable does tell al Qaeda when we are leaving - and from where. Al Qaeda will concentrate on the weak areas. The weaker Iraqi battalions will pull back, conceding sanctuaries. Al Qaeda, now on the ropes, will not be finished off. We must avoid saying we are leaving because the Iraqis have not done enough. That makes us look like quitters. If you quit, people treat you as a loser. Al Qaeda will be encouraged and the war in Afghanistan will be harder to fight.
...read the whole thing, and order the book.
I was somewhat surprised by the fact that the vote in the US Congress on the annual "August Recess," was so partisan. Only a handful of Republican Representatives voted in favor. Washington, DC in August is a hellhole. It's extremely uncomfortable, and the August recess dates from the days before air conditioning, when it wasn't just uncomfortable to live here, but unbearable. While A/C makes the situation marginally better, it's still a poisonous environment. People succumb to heart attacks just going for a short bike ride.
Moreover, most Congressional staffs are overworked and underpaid, so they look forward to the adjournment to regroup, spend time with family, etc.. But the Democrats have gone on recess, while many Republicans (a half century or so) have chosen to stick around (and "sticking" is the appropriate verb) in order to make a point about drilling for offshore oil to mitigate an economy threatened with an energy related recession. At first CSPAN didn't cover the "refused adjournment," but, I noticed, today (Monday, August 4th) that their cameras are rolling.
Republicans have a lot of issues that they could choose to leverage the November congressional elections, but they're like the Model T color options. You can have any color you want, as long as its black. Or, in other words, you can take any position you want on energy production, as long as it's in favor of offshore drilling. And they're giving up their annual vacation to make the statement, while Democrats idly watch the Capital burn...
Though it may take awhile for the US public to notice what's going on, it will slowly dawn on people that the Democrats have deliberately chosen to twiddle during the hot August hell, while Republicans are showing up. And it may also slowly dawn on people, over the next month or so, that 90% of life is showing up.
So yesterday TG and I went and had dim sum (Empress Pavilion, crowded and excellent as usual) with a colleague and his wife, and then went to a Democratic fundraiser in the afternoon.
And somehow the experience completely summarized the state of the election for me.
My colleague is a young technology worker who drives a Prius and lives in Eagle Rock (the place where the hip people priced out of Silverlake move - which was in turn the place where the hip people who were priced out of Los Feliz moved). Over the holidays, we talked politics and he was a rabid Obama supporter. Today, not so much. He'll vote for him, but it's very tepid support. Why? Well, three things were mentioned: 1) Obama seems to only hold positions of convenience; 2) Obama seems to be a little more full of himself than his real accomplishments warrant; and 3) my friend no longer seems to be certain of exactly who Obama is.
Would he vote for McCain? No - and partly for the same reasons I wouldn't. We need to shake the carpet in Washington, and changing parties seems like a good way to do things. What, exactly, does McCain stand for except the war (where my friend and I disagree on our views of his stance)? Seriously - neither of us could articulate a clear vision of what McCain believes other than no taxes and fighting Islamic radicals. McCain's energy policy is as much a muddle as Obama's (pandering with his gas tax holiday). Will he be crushed if McCain wins? No - just as I won't be.
Could Obama lose his vote? Possibly - possibly easier than he could lose mine. And that's not good.
What my friend is looking for is some clear foundation under Obama's positions, other than "elect me". What I'm looking for is some narrative arc from the master speechmaker that will tie his dazzling constellation of positions into one coherent view of who Obama was and who he has become and why. We'd both like to see the townhall debates that Obama is blowing off happen - because we both believe enough in Obama to think that by revealing more of himself, he'll win over doubtful voters like my friend.
So - if any Obama speechwriters happen to be reading this - your work is cut out for you.
We headed off home to change and then up to a mansion overlooking the Pacific not too far from our much more modest home. Valets took our car, we were served fresh lemonade and excellent wine on a terrace overlooking the sea, and nibbled on good cheese and fruit while we mingled with the crowd and chatted. I ran into an old dear friend from my Venice days, who I was kind of surprised to see here - she's a conservative Republican who supports this one candidate - and we chatted and caught up. While we did two friends of hers joined our circle - a prosperously-dressed couple in their early 60's. He apparently owns an art gallery in West LA and his wife is involved in real estate - pretty archetypical for high-end California Democrats.
We chatted a little bit about the elections, and I mentioned our breakfast that morning and expressed concern that the election was going to be damn close, and that Obama could easily lose. Gallery Guy commented that the only way Obama might lose is because of the stupidity of the typical working class voter.
Years ago, I might have laughed that off, or told a joke about Swing Vote, or ignored it.
Not so much any more. I replied that he was wrong as a matter of fact and morality, that his position was dangerous to the Democratic Party, and that it was personally offensive to hear him belittle people who couldn't afford houses like the one we were standing in. A quick discussion ensued, and he was pretty pissed off by the end of it and stormed away - glaring at me from time to time for the balance of the event.
It's funny how irascible pacifists seem to be, isn't it?
I'm stocking up on popcorn. It's going to wild for the next three months.
Imagine what would happen to a handful of Jewish veterans of the Israel Defense Forces who tried to move from Tel Aviv to an Arab country to open a bistro and bar. In only a few countries could they even get through the airport without being deported or, more likely, arrested. If they were somehow able to finagle a permit from the bureaucracy and operate openly as Israelis in an Arab capital, they wouldn’t last long. Somebody would almost certainly kill them even if the state left them alone.
Kosovo is a Muslim-majority country, but it isn’t Arab. The ethnic Albanians who make up around 90 percent of the population reject out of hand the vicious war-mongering anti-Semitism that still boils in the Middle East. Israelis can open a bistro and bar in Kosovo without someone coming to get them or even harassing them. Shachar Caspi, co-owner of the Odyssea Bistro and the Odyssea Bakery, proves it.
and then there are the ads...here's a brilliant ad in which GOP incumbent (played really well by Kelsey Grammar) comes out for gay marriage, based on a random comment from Costner.
Just had a delightful evening. (Yes, the BBQ at Phillip's is the best in town, in case you were wondering. We went to the new one on Adams and Crenshaw where they kind of sort of have seats in the parking lot.)
We went and saw Swing Vote in a half-empty theater in Culver City.
I'm going to make it my mission to start filling those seats, because I thought it was one of the most delightful and important movies I've seen this year. Yes, I saw and loved Batman and Wall-E - and The Band's Visit.
But I think this movie was made for me, the guy who loves America because a nation full of Bud Johnsons gets to pick the President. And who believes that given the opportunity, most people will do the right thing - as both Presidential candidates, Bud, and a host of other characters in the movie finally do.
Yes, it's Capra-esque and that's a mine that has been well worked since the master laid down his tools. And no, it isn't incisive or brilliantly sharp. But you know, when the form works, it works. And this movie works and sells you on the possibility of goodness. I'm kind of tired of movies that revel in denying goodness and work to crush it wherever it might be found. The movie is a valentine to the America we all can - and should - love, and no one ought to reject a Valentine.
Farouk Jiwa noticed an odd thing when he returned to his native Kenya. Jars of imported honey from Australia and the USA, even though Kenya is known around the world for its wildlife and flora, and has plenty of farmers operating just above subsistence levels.
He thought a bit. What if you could offer microcredit to Kenyan farmers, plus some basic training in beekeeping, at pre-screened sites? Then buy the honey at a guaranteed price. Market it locally and throughout Kenya, and possibly even beyond. Within its first 4 years of operation, it had 27% of the Kenyan honey market.
HCA's Kenyan market share is about 40% now, and the program has expanded to neighboring Tanzania. In a bit of a switch, Kenyan honey with the Honey Care Africa label can now be found at stores in the USA and Europe.
How do you lift people out of poverty? Through social entrepreneurship and approaches like this - Sustainable Local Enterprise Networks, as opposed to projects that mostly enrich a middle group of development "consultants," or funnel money to the Swiss bank accounts of dictators. Stuff that does good, and is sustainable, rather than just selling donor "feel good" while lining others' pockets. Congratulations, Farouk Jiwa.
...to be Iowahawk's kid?