Wednesday, December 17, 2008

#110 Bloggus Un-Redivivus...Until 01/01/09

Sorry ... blogged too soon last post. Will have to take a grievously unwanted vacance from the DM and its Myriads till target-date 1 Januarius 2009. Just too painful to type, especially for a hunt-and-pecker (or so she said) ... like me. The "neuritis/neuralgia" (or whatever the bejeebies it is) has spread to left neck and shoulder blade. A good sign. It's still only a flesh wound. And will continue its progress till either neuro-homeostasis or brain death. One or the other by 1 Januarius 2009.

Meanwhile, in this dead, dark season of "bare ruined choirs, where late the sweet birds sang"--they actually do. The Bard evidently just didn't get up early enough. Despite the execrable early sunset, Winter Solstice is not far off ... and life abounds. I can feel it in my left shoulder at this very moment. Pain is an indisputable sign that you're not dead. And in a grand profusion of life-renewal, I've got TWO of my grandchildren celebrating birthdays this week. Same thing happened two-in-a-week last month. Fecundity in the midst of murkitudity.

Sol Invictus!

Monday, December 1, 2008

#109 Bloggus Redivivus *** Man Is the Measure...

... of all things: of things which are, that they are [like Government], said the Sophist Protagoras, and of things which are not, that they are not [like this Blog for a while].

But first a couple of quotes from William Penn, British-Quaker-Founder of a US state crucial, appropriately, to President-Elect Obama's win on Nov 4. The first is a kind of restatement of the Confucian ideal of the Superior Man (or not) as the measure of good or bad government:

Governments, like clocks, go from the motions men give them, and as governments are made and moved by men, so by them are they ruined too. Wherefore governments rather depend upon men than men upon governments. (1682)

Would that it were not so true. We've seen over the past eight years, though, how the Inferior Man can single-handedly ruin a nation ... well-nigh. Thankfully, there are term limits that we, as individual men (sorry--the only gender voting in those days), established as part of our Democracy based on realistic "negative capability"--checks and balances and all that, too. (In our system the only lifetime tenure of idiots--though Sen's. Thurmond, Helms, and Stevens et alia continue to give it a shot--is sanctioned in Supreme Court appointments. But luckily they are a "committee," and by the very nature of that beast can agree to royally screw the commonwealthian pooch only once or twice in a generation.) So we've got a new man, now (the Confucian Ideal? ... I'm betting on it, you betcha), again by the Consent of the Governed--a principle presaged by that wise old Quaker, William Penn, in almost Libertarian terms:

It is certain that the most natural and human government is that of consent, for that binds freely ... when men hold their liberty by the obedience to rules of their own making. (1693)

"Binds freely"--don't you just love that oxy-you-know-what?! And all of this a century before the Founding Fathers! Well, we have bound ourselves freely to a good man at long last, I believe, and it's getting me misty as I keyboard painfully. William "the" Penn would have voted for Obama ... at least his eponymous state did.

***Yes, Myriad Readers who haven't abandoned it, the Daily Mosteller is back in business ... with a slight time-lag and somewhat diminished capacity. I'll get back to Grant Park (#105) and less derivative efforts as soon as I am more able. It's just a flesh wound.

Monday, November 10, 2008

#108 Jefferson and Confucius and Obama

What higher cardinal virtue than Honesty?--

The whole of government consists in the art of being honest. (Letter to John Adams)

So far so good, for Obama. On the other, blood-stained hand, How many THOUSANDS and thousands of lives have been lost in Iraq because of the outright lies of the Bush/Cheney administration? The new President may want to look into war-crimes prosecution. But for sure keep to your timetable, Barack: you have a mandate from all corners of the earth now.

All is still not at full-functioning capacity at Daily Mosteller headquarters (see #105) ... but soon.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

#107 Obama's Confucian Imperative

Can the President-Elect do it?--

Good government consists in winning the loyalty of the PEOPLE NEARBY and attracting the PEOPLE FAR AWAY. [emphasis mine] (Analects 500 B.C.)

Clever, those Chinese ... but, Oh, how woefully far away we have strayed from that ancient ideal over the last eight years.

For everyone called to the government of nations and empires [that's us], there are nine cardinal directions to be attended to... (Ibid.)

The first and most important cardinal direction, not surprisingly for Confucius, was cardinal virtue:

Cultivating his personal conduct. (Ibid.)

So far, of ALL the potential leaders of this American Empire, Barack Obama has done it best. Kung Fu Tzu would have voted for him.

Friday, November 7, 2008

#106 Don Quixote the Libertarian

Miguel de Cervantes has his demented but idealistic--one might say quixotic--old knight state the bedrock First Principle:

The first thing I would do in my government, I would have nobody to control me. I would be absolute; and who but I: now, he that is absolute can do what he likes, can take his pleasure; he that can take his pleasure, can be content; and he that can be content, has no more to desire; so the matter's over. (DQ, Pt 1, 1605)

"Except for taxes, Senior," the more realistic Sancho Panza might have said.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

#105 Obama and Me--Grant Park Chicago [Bloggus Interruptus]

What a difference in the post-election speeches of the two candidates!?--well ... venue-wise, at least. Because, in fact, they were very much alike. Switch a few words relating to winning or losing, obviously, and each could have read the other one's speech without too much damage to essential content and tone. Both candidates were gracious and deferential...
I'll get back to this before the election turns completely ice-cold, but I can't go on right now. OK, without the drama--I mentioned "crashes of one kind or other" (#99) a week or so ago. Well, I haven't got the computer quite right yet (a.k.a. The Rise of the Machines), but its COO will have to take a semi-break because of yet another crash: a recurring neuritis/neuralgia (remember when this used to be a catch-all pain-condition for aspirin ads?) of the neck-shoulder-right-arm region, initially caused by a wrenching neck injury on the tennis courts two years ago. The SERVE in the sport of tennis is an inherently unnatural act--especially at my age. The problem is not so much in the keyboarding, but in the pausing--the at-rest, compose-hunt-peck sequence. I've got to keep the offending member elevated for extended periods. (What a Whiner!) It's just a "flesh wound," as Monty Python's Black Knight would say, and it's getting better ... and you now know more than you wanted to know about that.

But I hate not keeping up, so for a short while expect a minimum of thought and labor in the quasi-daily posts. Not much original programming. Sundries, notions, nostrums, and some favorite subversive quotations most likely.

Three cheers for President-Elect Obama!--Hip ... Hip ... Hoo!!!

Sunday, November 2, 2008

#104 Sunday Sundries

In no particular order...
  • Dumb and dumber. I didn't think it was possible, but the Mad Hatter's Beauty Queen of Hearts has outdone herself. I mean, this latest really smacks of the topsy-turvy, where-everything-means-what-it-doesn't world of Alice's Wonderland. A couple of weeks ago she was asked about the duties of the Vice President. With an arrogance bred of ignorance she said that the VP was "in charge of the Senate"--seriously ... IN CHARGE, "so that we can really get in there and do some real changin' as to what's wrong with this country [or some such]." Of course she was ruthlessly taken to task on this egregious Constitutional solecism. So what did she do about it? Made it worse last week by exposing even more of her ignorance: The Press was abridging HER First Amendment free-speech rights by attacking her ill-informed opinions. (Face it: despite her obvious political savvy, her six-venue, second-rate college career has left a third-rate brain woefully uneducated.) No need to tell you Myriads that she's got it perfectly ass-backwards. SHE'S the one treading on the First Amendment's guarantee of a Free Press--most especially in a case like this where the government (or its wannnabes) is claiming some sort of immunity from criticism. This is actually dangerous stuff. Stuff that leads to such things as Sedition Acts and Wiretaps. Our Founding Fathers were sooo wise.
  • But grudging kudos to her running mate for his desperation appearance on SatNiteLive. Here was a little of the "old" McCain--not the OLD cranky and crass and craven and cynical political beast he's turned into. He played his former persona expertly: charming, witty, self-assured--even in the midst of self-satire. Too late. I read the book; I admired the man; I've lost all respect.
  • In sharp contrast: How about them Obama volunteers?! Haven't seen such enthusiasm since the Sixties. We've been visited THREE separate times over the past few days by a cross-sectional panoply of poll-workers of all ages and colors and costumes--and I don't mean Halloweeners. Well, it's almost time to take them up on it ... by taking that yellow-brick road down to the Emerald City voting booth ... and electing that Man behind the curtains.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

#103 Barack Obama In the Land of Oz

Whereas McCain's political landscape has shrunk away almost to the Nothingness of the Wicked Witch in Frank L. Baum's story--somebody should have been throwing cold water on the hyper-thermic Republican at every opportunity--Obama's campaign (partisan alert) has seemed only to get BIGGER in the home stretch. Well, he simply has bigger and better ideas. As opposed to really none at all. Because of that, primarily, his team has been able to avoid the petty and petulant (and lately feculent) insignifica that the McCain gang must needs fling at their rivals.

I was cued into the Lewis Carroll story (last post) by way of the persistent drumbeat of the ridiculous but insinuation-freighted "Who is the REAL Barack Obama" over and over. It reminded me immediately of the Caterpillar and the poor shrunkedity-down Alice trying repeatedly to explain herself, in vain. Wait a minute, I thought, McCain is trying to lead us all Down the Rabbit Hole (the book's original title) into a world of cramped and crabbed nonsense, filled with Mad Hatters and Red-Queen divas. And Alice's adventures essentially end underground, out of the light of day, until she wakes up confused and unenlightened, but amused. Whatever fun we can glean from the nightmarish McCain campaign, let it rest in peace, under the ground forever.

On the other hand, The Wizard of Oz (think movie version here) is a "horse of a different color," as the wizard himself points out. Recall how wonderfully BIG this story is--the landscapes broadening out scene by scene from windswept Kansas through the stratosphere to endless forests and poppy-fields leading to the Emerald City and ultimately back home to wide-awake reality. Yes, the Obama/Democratic campaign has manifested that arc of expansiveness, figuratively, growing bigger and bigger as McCain's steadily shrunk (for the latter's last NC rally, I hear, 2000 school kids had to bussed-in, just to speak of numbers). Why?--because we're concerned here with the larger, POSITIVE humanitarian issues of peace, economic well-being, non-discrimination (pro-choice, gay rights, etc.), and so on. Compare that to the smallness of negative issues desperately being raised by McCain and company ... just to win.

To belabor the comparison, Obama is the Wizard here, exemplifying those virtues given out as medallions at the end of the story to Dorothy and her companions: intelligence, love, and courage--which they were possessed of, anyway ... as are we all. The McCain cabal has been pandering to the tiny-minded and mean-spirited among us. Obama and friends are appealing to the better angels of our nature. And that should bring us safely home to Auntie Em.

Friday, October 31, 2008

#102 John McCain in Wonderland

I mean the Alice and Lewis Carroll one, spilling over a bit into the Looking Glass, too. As the campaign sputtered out for McCain over the last few weeks, I got to thinking about shrinking--how the whole McCain/Palin mis en scene seemed to be getting smaller and smaller before my very eyes. Shrinking, fading from sight like a grinning Cheshire (Mc)Cat. It doesn't help matters that McCain is a short little man--you get perspective when he's on stage with almost anybody else, including his running mate--who (perhaps as a result of his war injuries, I don't know) comports/contorts his body in a shoulder-hunching, scrunched-up sort of way, as if protecting his privates. (Yes, I think I want you to think of another analogy while we're at it--the infamous Shrinkage! There's always SHRINKAGE when you get out of a pool! scene from Seinfeld when George is caught dripping-naked by Jerry's girlfriend, and constrained to defend the dimensionality of certain naughty bits.) The whole McCain thing has gotten somehow oppressively, chokingly claustrophobic and SMALL.

But the seeming physical shrinkage is only symptomatic of the tiny, petty small-mindedness coming out of the McCain campaign of late. One feels like Alice after quaffing too much of the "Drink Me" potion and finding herself Down the Rabbit Hole and in the twee surreal world of the mercury-tainted Mad Hatter yelling "No room, no room" and pushing his tea-partiers around the table in crazed confusion. (Think back to McCain scuttling about distractedly in the Town Hall debate.) And all the while uttering perfect nonsense, like John McCain. Yes, he's the diminutive and demented Mad Hatter, and Sarah Palin can play the part of either the oblivious Duchess character (with her "deformed" baby [sorry] that she she doesn't know is really a pig), OR the insane Queen of Hearts, whose simplistic "off-with-their-heads" mentality fits Palin's hatchet-"man" role perfectly. Take your pick.

And then there's the Caterpillar, who asks Alice over and over, "Who ARE you?" even as she continues to provide the most transparent information about herself. But it's never enough, like the McCain team's empty insinuations about Obama's somehow sinister back story that he's hiding from us. Or Humpty Dumpty (skipping this once to the later Through the Looking Glass), who famously plays fast and loose with the meaning of words: "When I use a word, it means just what I choose it to mean..." How about the glib and irresponsible bandying about of "socialist" "leftist" "Marxist" "radical" and worse, by the McCain camp? Humpty Dumpty-ish, eh? But we all know who "takes a great fall" in the end.

Alice ends of course with the protagonist waking up from her fun-filled nightmare no better off than she began. That's the point. It all ends in a babble of nonsense, but it was a nightmare nonetheless. Likewise. the McCain/Palin rallies are getting well-nigh frightening of late, what with the red-neck rabble shouting imprecations tantamount to "off-with-his-head" Red-Queen insanity. Not the harmless fun of the Mad Hatter's tea party. We'll all wake up on Tuesday, I hope. How about Obama in the Land of Oz? Later.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

#101 A Political Limerick

Somewhat extended...


"THAT ONE..." with the surname Obama,

Has the gravitas of a Brahma,

The charisma of a Dalai Lama.

(He's also "Barack,"

As he's known by his flock.)

Hero of campaign high drama,

If he should lose ... Oh, Mama.

Nota bene:
This weblog will return to a more semi-regular, quasi-daily schedule soon.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

#100 Sunday Sundries

In no particular order...
  • Personal computer still down, but flu has improved--enough to say a few words commemorating the 100th episode of the Daily Mosteller. As is traditional with such a milestone--e.g. Seinfeld, Bonanza--the WebLog can now be offered for syndication to the major networks or cable companies or, in extremis, to local stations and even public access channels. Goodness knows, I could use the advertising revenue. I would of course have final say over casting. The late, great Paul Newman would have been great as Dr. J.D.--handsome, blue-eyed intelligence and all--but maybe his longtime partner in crime Robert Redford is available. The age is about right, anyway.
  • Speaking of which, my 100 posts have beaten out the mere 70 produced by that venerable old lady from Woy Woy, Australia (my post #27), Olive Riley, who gave up blogging only because she was dead. At 108. I take inspiration from that, and hope to follow exactly in her pioneering footsteps. There is a strange sort of dedication that one develops, I must confess--a dedication that I can't fully understand, but which I will address in a later post about this whole business. Meanwhile, as I pass the hundred mark, blogwise, here's a Thank You to the Myriad Readers who have read and commented (both in and outside the blog). I hope to be back on my game soon.
  • And a Happy Birthday to Granddaughter Ashley on her Eleventh!

Friday, October 24, 2008

#99 Friday Funnies--"Crashes" of One Kind and Another

Yep, the Economy crashed all right, but as either Hamlet or Horatio said, "Misfortunes come not one at a time, but in battalions." Attendant upon, it seems, the attack on our national financial structure by the armies of misfortune are the following major and minor skirmishes of this dark October week of 2008...
  • Computer crashed several days ago. I'm at this very moment keyboarding away in my inimical hunt and peck style (that's what she said) in my neighborhood public library. Wish mine were this state-of-the-art ... but, notwithstanding, this is why I haven't quite kept up with the "daily" part of the Daily Mosteller of late. It's not "due back from the shop" till next week. (I'll give the Myriad Readers a "consumer report" on the Geek Squad.) Meanwhile, expect only a post or two in the interim.
  • My body crashed last week. Intestinal influenza. No doubt due to the FOUL AIR excrescing from the political campaigns and "influencing" my very physical health (original meaning of the word/malady).
  • My watch stopped last Monday, kid you not. Needed a new battery.
  • I've had a bad toothache for a year.
Life does go on, however, minute-by-minute, in the most positive ways...
  • Grandson Marcus will celebrate his 7th birthday tomorrow.
  • President-Elect Barack Obama will move into the White House in February. Biden nearby.
  • Despite the vicissitudes of a random universe, here am I happily hunting and pecking on my 99th post. Who woulda thought...

Monday, October 20, 2008

#98 "Spread the Wealth," John McCain, Your Own Self

I'm tickled. Ha, Ha--you say: in these troubled times? But that's the point. If he weren't so apoplectically serious, I'd swear John McCain wuz jokifyin' ... hilariatin' on us. Can this be the magic slogan to hook and pull the "undecideds" or even the wavering Obamites to his side? "Beware Barack Obama! When he gets into office he's apt to Spread The Wealth around!" Well, order me up a BIG SLICE OF THAT!

Yes, Obama did say something to that effect (with a bunch of taxation rationale and context around it), but did the McCain team really think that the "socialism" tag would send Great Waffling Hoards screaming to his tent? That works about as well these days as the old bugaboo, "socialized medicine"--what with the gub'mint already knee-deep in the healthcare business (Medi-Care-Caid, etc.), and fornicating twixt the sheets with Big Pharm and Big Med and Big Insurance in a tawdry menage a' quatre. Sure, it's a desperation cry in the dark for McCain & Co., but the idiots in charge should have more carefully considered the following ...
  • McCain voted for the infamous BAILOUT, goshdarnit. Everybody knows that--he even cancelled Letterman to do it. And it's a prima facie redistribution of wealth--mainly to the wealthy, in this case. But he even went a further "socialist" mile in proposing the buying up of homeowners' bad mortgages.
  • He should talk. McCain's as rich as Croesus. What he didn't get from his beer-heiress wife, people are thinking, he got from his membership in the Keating 5 Gang, the very ilk that got us in such trouble today. He doesn't even know how many homes he owns.
  • And we wouldn't mind if some of these greedy folk paid a little indemnity on those ill-gotten gains. I'm talking about the outrageous salaries and severance packages (see #82) that these crooked CEO's are getting right and left, for essentially failing at their jobs and bringing this crisis upon us. Let's at least spread THEIR wealth.
  • Doesn't Team McCain rather risibly misread human nature, here, as well? Are we above taking a hand-out? How many turned down this year's tax rebate on some free-market principle or other? None, I would guess, and even fewer would today.
You can think of some more reasons, I'm sure, why the "scare-tactic" of rampant-socialism-at-our-gates just isn't very scary at all to most people right now. A semantic quibble, to be relegated to the economics classroom. Maybe Obama was being a bit demagogic in his little rant about spreading the wealth, but I have no doubt that it fell on receptive ears. Bread and Circuses will work every time.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

#97 Sunday Sundries

In no particular order...
  • Sarah Palin on Saturday Night Live. They couldn't even get this one right. The rumor is that she even asked to be on the show. Which took some guts. Twee kudos for that. But, although it's probably too late now to save the flagging ticket, the McCain/Palin people could have collaborated with the SNL people to get the girl to DO SOMETHING on the show last night. She has been, after all, a beauty queen, a sports reporter, a campaigner for high office--she's got proven stage-presence and can read a script and do sound bites--why not get her into the act? She could have scored a few points for self-mockery to off-set the raving banshee persona she's been stuck with for the last few weeks. Instead, she got mocked again, bystandingly. She did well enough in the funny opening bit, being mistaken for her doppelganger Tina Fey by some cast members, but she had only a reactive line or two. In the only other sketch, much later in the show, she was forced to sit and bob her head to an elaborately-costumed, singing/dancing, hip-hop production number lampooning all her well-known deficiencies. Or so it was staged--with this truly lamo set-up: "Would you like to play yourself [or Amy Poehler's words to that effect] in this bit?" ... "No, it's too far over the edge," responds Sarah. Not funny, and most of the satirical lyrics were unintelligible, at least for me. It did nobody no good at all.
  • Here's another thing that does Sarah Palin no good, and it bothers me as a parent and grandparent. It's a matter of personal/historical/family legacy. Of honor. I just couldn't help thinking whenever she was "on" over the last couple of weeks: What are her kids and grandkids to think--if they have an ounce of ethical intelligence--of their mother's low-ball posturing for the sake of mere political gain? Hey, it's on tape. Forever retrievable and regrettable. She's lying half the time now, and her progeny will be able to play back the infamy at will. The McCarthyite, witch-hunting, insinuation-laden "Who is the real Barack Obama?" Or the best/worst example: "Obama thinks this country is so imperfect that he was pallin' around with terrorists [with the cutesy g-droppin']." As an everso evangelical Christianist, shouldn't she know that this is literally bearing-false-witness, ten-commandment-breaking behavior? We know--as any halfway inquisitive offspring would know too--the difference between the accepted meaning of "palling around," and that of sitting on some board with someone. "You did a lot of fear-mongerin' and racial-hatred-panderin' and truth-suckin' in that VP campaign of long ago, didn't you, Grandma?" Uhh...
  • But if the breathtakingly irresponsible act of picking poor Sarah Palin (I really am beginning to feel sorry for her) as his running-mate didn't deep-six John McCain's bid for the Presidency, as I predicted, Colin Powell's endorsement of Barack Obama today surely will. Whoa, here's a fellow-soldier, erstwhile friend, white-house collaborator, former Bush-loving guy slapping John McCain right in the jowls. I don't suspect for a moment that McCain broke down crying for a moment of his years of brutal captivity--he's not that kind of guy--but this thunderstroke event would bring even the stoutest-hearted to tears.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

#96 The Debates--Ave Atque Vale

No, make that a MALEdiction. Curse them, the nasty things. Glad to be rid of them, and may they never return ... EXCEPT as true debates in the classical manner. The Oxford Union model, as I mentioned once before (#83), which pretty much sets the standard for debating teams across the U.S., is what the candidates must irrevocably demand from now (or 2012ish) on. "RESOLVED ... etc. and so on." To restore some dignity, goshdarnit. This last one looked and sounded like a disciplinary hearing in the Principal's office.

They BOTH won it, though, in this respect: there are no more to go. One more losing night for the near-senile, Grumpy Old Man would have lost him more than just the presidency. He may yet go down as the debating successor of poor, confused Gen. Stockdale on the Perot ticket of yore (lampooned unmercifully by the late, great Phil Hartman on SNL). Already McCain is the butt and fodder of much late-night humor. As for Obama? I'm sorry, but his coolity under fire was just getting TOO familiar--read: boring. Yeah, he did win all three, on the issues or off, but diminishing returns were starting to set in, I fear.

But an Ave and Hurrah!--not the last one, thank goodness--for "that one," as McCain notoriously put it. Sen. Barack Obama, I mean. He's hung in there against all kinds of odds (fill in the easy blanks), and some formidable opponents. Hillary Clinton comes to mind. And now it looks like he's got it. Much to my (somewhat belated) satisfaction ... and apparently so for the whole Planet Earth! Readers Digest is just out with a world-wide opinion poll asking nationals from 17 countries their preference between the Presidential contenders--"It's Obama by a landslide ... most striking is the margin of his support." 92% in the Netherlands, for example (among pot-smokers asked: well over 100%). And so it is from Mexico to Indonesia and in between. At last a President we can be proud of on the World Stage, even if I ain't no Dixie Chick.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

#95 The Bailout--pt. 3: "What, Me Worry?"

The Mad Magazine motto worked itself out pretty nicely over the last couple of days, with record gains on the NYSE from the jumping-out-of-windows mark to the coming-in-off-the-ledge levels of moderate loss. It simply WAS to be that way, and hence forward for the next couple of years--no, no ... not soon enough, ye gods forfend, to infect the upcoming election day with any kind of McCain/Palin/Republican resurgency and turn the tide for them--as the Economy stabilizes. As it will, if only because echoing in the back of everybody's mind is the refrain, "the Democrats are coming ... the Democrats are coming." They'll fix IT, just like F.D.R. and Bill Clinton did. It's a 99% placebo effect, I'm convinced. Because nobody really knows for sure how to get a grip on this Protean/Procrustean monster.

Except Alfred E. Newman, and his school (see #92). Print lots of money; lend it to almost anybody. Treas. Sec. Paulson's now even shipping it overseas. And, as I predicted, it's working. (But please don't BUY anything, Henry. Way too far from free-market principles for me. Usury, OK. Outright purchase, no-no. Let the banks use the loan-money to buy back bad assets from themselves, if need be. They need the practice.) Of course this exaggerates 20th C. liberal economics, which was the the other side of my liberal education in the field. Sherill Cleland (see last post) in his Econ 101 class at K-College was the purveyor (indeed actor, in a minute) of the Pump-up-the-economy-when-necessary-with-federal-funds Theory. He had the aid of still-one-of-my-favorite books, Heilbruner's The Worldly Philosophers, still-in-classroom-use in later editions, I'm sure, across the known world. The text, as I recall, took us through the preliminaries and up to classical Adam Smith and Parson Malthus (Darwin's and Aldous Huxley's favorite), then ultimately to Marx and J.M. Keynes and the economic activists. In fact, there seemed to be a kind of Darwinian agenda to the book, as if really all that went on before was leading inevitably to Keynesian Economics (I don't know about later editions, where Friedman and his conservative ilk might come into play). And I was sold, just as I been on the tee-total free-marketers in H.S. Civics.

These were the Kennedy-Johnson years, after all, where the Keynsian J.K. Galbraith held sway at almost cabinet level, and where Dr. Cleland his-very-self was called upon by the that administration to help pump some good-will American money into several Latin American countries on the edge of what we're facing now. (He took a leave of absence as a kind of financial ambassador for several years shortly after I luckily had my class with him, and didn't return until after I graduated.) But that's basically the theory: modulate and moderate and even preempt the ups and downs of the economy with a "liberal" flow of funds from the government treasury.

What the heck: I swing back and forth in a bi-fiduciary kind of way, man. Let the ghosts of Adam Smith and Fred Hayek hover over a REGULATED (some of what's been going on smacks of simple fraud) Free Market most of the time. But when it's in extremis, as it is now, boogie down with a dose of Marx and Galbraith, and let the Monopoly money flow. Alfred E. Newman would approve.

Monday, October 13, 2008

#94 The Bailout Again--Two Views for the Price of One

I'm a Libertarian ... (slap!) ... No, a Liberal ... (slap!) ... Libertarian ... (slap!) ... Liberal ... (slap!) ... OK, I'm her mother AND her sister, Mr. Gittes. Please stop.

At least as regards Political Economy, I've always been a bit schizoid, even polarized. It all started I think with two charismatic academics from opposite sides of the Dismal-Science fence when I was right around college-entrance age. Our teacher for 12th-grade Honors Civics was Mr. Tip-Of-My-Tongue, a rabid anti-communist in bow-tie, pin-stripes, and wing-tips--a very dapper, graying-at-the-temples fellow--with an M.A. Unusual for a high-school teacher at the time, but I'm sure it was in History and not an M.B.A., because otherwise he would have been out earning a living in the real world, and not wasting his ideological fervor on us kids. I guess.

A couple of books, classics, as I was later to learn, stand out for me in that class: Sociologist David Riesman's The Lonely Crowd (with its "tradition-, inner-, and other-directed" business) and Economist Friedrich Hayek's Road to Serfdom. The latter, along with co-conspirator Mr. TOMT, convinced me that any government involvement WHATSOEVER in The Economy would lead us to the salt mines of Siberia. Tax a piece of candy, and pretty soon the State would be telling you What Flavor, and soon be interfering in other areas of your political life, until ultimately getting right in between your bedsheets, and generally violating your moral privacy all-to-hell. Now that I've for sure mis-characterized him sufficiently--it was a rather slippery-slopery argument in retrospect (thus prima facie fallacious), but also classically Adam Smithian premise-wise, whose "invisible hand" laissez-faire-ism had a clean, simplistic appeal to an economically blank-slate senior in high school. Thus you could say that I was a sociologically tradition-directed and economically inner-directed upon graduation. Pretty much.

But that lasted for only a couple of years, until I took Econ 101 at Kalamazoo College from Dr. Sherill Cleland, a rabid Keynesian in bow-tie, pin-stripes, and wing-tips--a very dapper fellow, but too young for graying temples at that time. What is it about bow-ties and Economists?--but they couldn't have been more wildly apart on Economic Theory.

But more of this later. Must check on the NYSE, which at this very moment is setting sales records (upwards), and may, in so doing, prove my point while increasing my portfolio ... as if I had one anymore.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

#93 Sunday Sundries

In no particular order...
  • Can the Republican attack ads get more scurrilous and out-of-context deceptive? My favorite: "Obama favors sex-ed for Kindergartners [or some such]--sex before they can even read!" Wow ... Obama must be a pedophile. The earlier the better as far as I'm concerned, but the Kinder-class in question is a lot more innocuous--but absolutely life-and-death important--than these sleaze-spinners would have you believe. It involves "how-to" instruction on avoiding molestation by older folk. Sheer pornography, what?
  • Or, when not dragging the campaign through the mud, will they strain credulity beyond the breaking point? Case in point: Obama and the "liberal Democrats in Congress," according to a McCain-approved TV ad I just witnessed, are responsible for for the rampant DEREGULATION of our financial institutions, thus leading to our our current crisis (cue shot of a Joe Six-Pack out of work). Can you believe it?! The bedrock of Neocon-Republican mis-thinking since they have been in charge is now whipping-boyed on the back of Barack.
  • Or, can McCain/Palin partisan-defenders finally break through the ceiling of ultimate inanity? Not sure, but here's one that's breathtaking: OUTRAGE over the Palin Newsweek cover this week. Was it a scathing Tina-Fey-like satire or ironic New-Yorker-like caricature that stoked their ire? Nope. It's a life-photo of the Governor in extreme and not un-flattering (how could it be otherwise, really) CLOSE-UP. What's the problem? Well, for the rabid Republican women (including the anchor) interviewed in a Fox News program (uh, oh) the magazine's cover reflected extreme radical-liberal left-wing media bias because the photo WAS NOT RETOUCHED or otherwise prettified to their liking. Kid you not. And I guess you could see a blemish or two (haven't seen the hard copy). Regardless ... "For a major publication not to retouch a major celebrity [or some such] is an outrage--why, look at this one of Obama [as she holds up his not-very-flattering cover-shot]--obviously retouched!" Again, wow.
  • But at the same time, the moral-political Zeitgeist moves forward in a nicely Libertarian way, over in the state of Connecticut. The supreme court there has affirmed the right/rite of marriage for same-sex couples. Now only 49 left behind.
  • Global Warming continues right off my back porch. Love it ... Thunor-the-Weather-God help me. Record-high mid-summer temps in Raleigh next week. Great for my chronic S.A.D. Hey, I've got a condition--let the grandkids (all smart) handle the problem. They'll just have to grow up as quickly as possible. All they need to do is stop the Greenland ice-sheet from plopping into the North Atlantic (within 50 years probably), thereby preventing a gazillion cubic miles of fresh-water from disrupting the Thermohaline Circulation and thus blocking the Gulf Stream and thereby plunging us into an irreversible Ice Age culminating in another Snowball Earth. They can do it.

TammyRose could eat no ripe,

J.D. could eat no green;

So betwixt the two of them,

They peeled the platter clean.

Friday, October 10, 2008

#92 Friday Funnies--Economic MADness

What, me worry? Having been trained at the Alfred E. Newman School of Political Economy, I don't got none. Umm, worryses, that is. AENSOPE's admissions policy is strictly limited to folk with a certified G.E.D. diploma, so that when we graduated, after many, many hours of dedicated study, we could be intellectually proud of our B.S. degree in Economics. World economics, I might add. In fact, emblazoned on OUR diploma (which means "folded," I'm told) and on the gravestone of our Founder is this motto: E pluribus pecunia. Mutuam commodo plus. Caveat promissor non illegitimi. Which is a universal cure for every kind of economic ill plaguing the Body Politic. Roughly translated from the Latin (I'm told), it means: "Print up lots of money ... lend it to whosomever ... but make sure the bastards pay you back ... at interest."

Why not? It's all on paper, anyway. About as artificial as the so-called "national debt." We can always fix bad paper with more paper, and it has ALWAYS worked ... eventually. I'm serious.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

#91 The "Town (Without Pity) Hall" Debate

This'll be short, because that's all it's worth. Let's play the "blame game" again: Who-in-the-bloody-Hell came up with the idea for this fright show?! Whoever it was, he/she would have been in danger of their life had they shown up on the set--the pugnacious little time-bomb McCain, pacing murderously throughout, would have beaten Whoever to a pulp right then and there. The incredibly composed Obama might even have jumped in to help.

The first debate had a few sparks, at least ... short of a conflagration. But the faux-format here (about as far from a real town meeting as you can get) dampened down the proceedings from the git-go. Gosh-darn-it, we got two different debates again, like the VP affair, but this time it seemed all but planned that way. Here's what we saw: one-at-a-time questions to the candidates one-at-a-time, separately and randomly, with no follow-up or rebuttal or cross-referencing to speak of--providing the candidates with the luxury of two-minute sound-bites from their already prepared and well-rehearsed speeches that we've all heard before ... too many times now. High drama. And where did they get that zombie-like audience?! I know, having lived in Nashville during my Vanderbilt years--right off the drugged-out avenues of Music Row. Out-of-work "session" back-ups maybe. Well, they might have been Belmont College shills, after all, but I swear if you had shone a strobe-light on the proceedings, the only object in motion would have been the peripatetic Mr. McCain.

Who won? Nobody. Which means Obama did. It occurs to me that after the upcoming third-and-last Presidential debate, I may not even be alive to see another one. OK.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

#90 The Campaign Lately--Words That Haunt

My words, that is. I was hopeful back in mid-August (#48) that I could be everso proud of our candidates for national office, and show those "snooty Chinese" that the American system of government (in such profound contrast to theirs--despite their world-class Olympics) could produce world-class, would-be world-leaders from either party (or even one or two more--though Nader's a bit of a joke this time), and in either the Prez or VP position.

How have those hopes been dashed! I should sound the partisan-alert here, but I won't, because I think that, except for the most blinkered, evangelical Republicans, most everyone would agree that the campaign on both sides is plumbing toilet-flushing depths. But let the "blame-game" begin. (Divigation: I hate that facile term of denial, a smoke-screen glibly invoked by those most often blame-able. E.g: the Katrina aftermath, where the term became au courant--but come on, somebody's got to take responsibility for bad behavior.)

Who "started it"? By my lights, the drain started to clog with McCain's choice of running-mate. The standards for reasoned political debate were thereby axiomatically lowered. Sarah Palin = world-class leader? Ha, of course. But she was not even, as it turns out, a very good mayor of her tiny-toon town, or yet, in her short tenure, an exceptional state-governor. And could her administrative venues be any more on the primitive borderlands of American politics than they are? She can even see Siberia, wink-wink. I had some problems with Biden, but he has more than redeemed himself, in my opinion.

So now it's come down to the guilt-by-association and thinly-veiled race-baiting tactics--"Is he a person that Americans would want to vote for?" ... "Just who is Obama, anyway?" (or some such)--ask the McCain ads. Obviously, Barack HUSSEIN Obama is an unpatriotic, black-radical from the Sixties (the Ayers thing, when Obama was 8 years old!). Well, somebody recklessly let the dogs out. For now the past peccadilloes of Palin and especially McCain become "fair" game. SHE can be linked to the anti-American, secessionist Alaskan Independence Party, and HE to some right-wing, white-supremacist organization of long ago. And they deserve it.

But it's much worse than that for McCain. As I pointed out in my 9/5 post (#65), McCain couldn't very well bring up much more than Republican platitudes about domestic policy in his RNC acceptance speech, especially about the Economy, because it might remind people that he was directly involved in the "Keating 5"/Savings-and-Loan scandals (second only to the one of late) of the early 90s, which cost the taxpayers billions, and for which he and his four congressional co-conspirators got off way-too lightly. Infuriatingly so. It was out-and-out influence-peddling. All of this led to the huge (for its time) unprecedented (for its time) federal BAILOUT of 80 billion or so. Talk about cosmic convergence! McCain will be hoist by his own foul-smelling petard. He was even quoted at the time as saying that no matter how the thing came out, his gravestone would somehow have "Keating 5" etched upon it. How words can haunt.

Monday, October 6, 2008

#89 Joe Biden, I Take It All Back

Let's just forget about my #58 and #59 where I probed your past plagiarism episodes as evidence "tantamount to sociopathy" or some such, and let's just wipe that off the face of a troubled earth ... which I do believe you have a chance of UN-troubling as Vice President. You proved it the other night with heart and mind, especially in stark comparison with what's-her-name.

You might say she played the "parent-card" on you, Joe--kitchen-table "hockey-mom" and regular Mrs. "Joe" Six-Pack--since she couldn't hide her vacuity on the real issues. Your forbearance was admirable, but if only you coulda, but you couldn't, point out that she's really not a very good Mom. I'll shift the sociopathic label over to her, or at least let's agree that her moral conscience is far short of unambiguous. Her first child was born 8 months after her marriage. Her teen-age daughter "has to get married"--as it was put in my day, but make no mistake: Mother Palin admits she's calling the shots. Yet she hypocritically opposes comprehensive sex-ed in public schools, adhering to the totally proven-to-be-ineffective abstinence-only approach. An abortion for Bristol? Not a chance. It would effectively neutralize the ambitious Palin's neo-con, christianist base, and dim her prospects for staying in, or competing for, higher office. But shouldn't she know that the choice between single teenage-parenthood OR forced teenage-marriage is no choice at all? Either one, in most cases, is statistically doomed to poverty and failure. No real compassionate circumspection on the mother's part here.

And a stickier issue: should Palin have chosen (we'll assume this one was planned) to have her last child at such a risky age? Or then to go ahead and "have it" anyway even though forewarned that it would be a Down's child? Most people of minimal moral comprehension might have some thoughtful reservations about bringing such a child into the world, given that his life and those around him will be fraught with its brevity and pain. But no, "didnt blink," as she often mindlessly says, even as she winks. Much worse, she uses the child as an anti-abortion, political talking-point.

And let's see about how that dubious motherhood might be extended to the public domain, in which she seeks power. Not only would she impose her dark-age religious bigotry on sex-ed classes, but would ban "un-Christian" books from the library, re-institute (always-fractious) prayer-in-school protocol, pollute science-education with creationism and young-earth beliefs (she's got dinosaurs on the Ark, forgodsake), and generally sabotage the public school system for our children. Theocracy stalks, and one of thy names is Palin.

Finally, she's obviously no Cindy Sheehan. She looks forward to her son's deployment to Iraq with unwholesome glee (reminding me of the war-crazed Mater Volumnia in Shakespeare's Coriolanus, who wants to see her son's corpse, should he die in the Roman cause, and bathe her hands in its blood)--as it provides martyrish support for Bush/McCain's "100-year war," and another political talking-point. If she would so gladly send her first-born into the jaws of death, how many other young men would she sacrifice so as not to "throw up the white flag of surrender," as she so heedlessly puts it? Talk about throwing up ....

No, I'm with you Joe. Of course your positions on the issues were just right, almost by default, because she had none. But you nailed it with that catch in your throat near the end of the debate. Some might say it wasn't genuine. Impossible. Let me tell you why I choked up along with you, as I hope did everybody else. I knew the story before I tuned in. First, Palin pipes up with HER glad/sad routine about Track (cheap-shot alert: she also needs help in the child-naming department) being deployed to Iraq. Then it was your turn a few minutes later, as the "debate" was still focused on the war. No contest. For you had gone through this before. The son who is now to serve in Iraq was many years earlier a critically-injured survivor of the automobile crash that claimed your first wife and daughter. Would he pull through then? Will he pull through now? What an incredible and heart-wrenching convergence of time and event ... overwhelming for most mortal men. So please go ahead and be Vice President of the United States, thank you.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

#88 Sunday Sundries

In no particular order...
  • Good news for fat people and inflexible non-yoga folk: you can see Uranus with your naked eye this month, if you look for it in the right place. Because of its close conjunction with Earth (ha, Ouranos was the son/husband of Gaia = Earth ... very kinky mythology), discovered by Herschel (William, not his namesake telescope), can be found, unaided but better with binoculars, on a clear, dark night, in the Aquarius constellation. OK, so the astronomers would prefer you pronounce it with the accent on the first syllable ... but what's the fun in that?
  • Two versions of parenthood in Thursday's debate: Sarah Palin, self-styled "hockey-mom," making happy-happy political hay out of her son being deployed to Bush/Cheney murder-machine in the Middle East; OR Joe Biden choking-up at coincidentally the same prospect--his lawyer son, survivor of THE traffic accident that killed his mother and sister, will serve as judicial/governmental advisor of some sort in that dangerous land. Take your pick.
  • Polls are way up now for Obama/Biden, BUT 'tis pity, in my mind, that it took the Economy to do it. I'm sorry, but do we always have to look to our pocketbooks to make the right decision about who might inflict themselves on our very lives for the next four to eight years? Isn't it enough that fellow Americans are every single minute of the day DYING in hospital emergency-rooms across the country for want of proper health care, and DYING across the ocean in the Middle East and elsewhere for want of a proper government in this country?
But I always take comfort in another line from Steven Wright: "I got a paper cut from my suicide note today ... it's a start."

Friday, October 3, 2008

#87 Friday Funnies--Palin v. Biden Show

Unfair. FOUL, I say. That we should have to award points for not falling FLAT on one's FACE.

After the Obama-McCain debate, I declared a TIE between the principals (#83), with the winner being the Issues transcending the debate ... ergo: an Obama win. No tie last night, though: (pretzel-logic alert) they each won their own separate debates. They might as well have been on opposite sides of the planet and 24 time zones away from each other ... for all their interaction. Face it: Palin could have appeared on an empty stage one hour before Biden and her verbal adventure would have been the same. No debate, really: "You Washington D.C. people, I don't care what kind of ... you know ... Senator Biden ... questions ... moderator ... I'm gonna speak directly to the American people ... darn right ... nookyuler ... you betcha (wink, wink)." I'm sure most of the Idiocracy were happy that she could manufacture real Words, one after the other, in whatever order. Substance doesn't much matter.

Of course she evaded the questions: she had no answers. Gentleman Senator Biden called her on that but once. But what could he do? Be accused of picking on a self-made ex-beauty-queen with an autistic child and a pregnant teenage daughter? No. He really did have to hold back. Had to defer to the out-positioning (girly-wise) and low-expectation-ing (perfomance-wise) that were framed in everybody's mind (including mine, admittedly) before the debate began ... lest he come off a know-it-all Bully-man.

But he won HIS side of the debate-with-self, too. Decisively. Like Obama, he had all the issues going his way. Except half-a-one: the War. He initially voted for it (and overall he's a bit too interventionist for my Libertarian money), before he was against it. He made up for that, I think, by being ever-so-much now: "We will end this war" (again and again)--please, if only for the sake of Sarah's recently-deployed son, Track Palin, who may at this very moment be DEAD (sorry) ... another innocent victim of the killing-machine that Bush built. And like McCain, she wants to keep it running!? "The Iraqi government will tell us when they want us to leave." Wow.

I couldn't help thinking all through the debate why John McCain couldn't have chosen an even prettier and smarter-by-a-long-shot running-mate with just as much experience ... the real thing => Tina Fey.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

#86 Wednesday Words--Work and Bufonidae

This is Wodnesdaeg, after all, a day that can legitimately be earmarked for a little WISDOM, maybe even some not my own (see #75). For Anglo-Saxon Woden (G. Wotan, O.N. Odin), Beowulf's god, besides being Allfather of everything (the Germanic Yahweh), he was especially revered for his Wisdom, which he attained at a terrible price. To drink from Mimir's Well and thus gain the knowledge of past, present, and future, the god had to sacrifice one of his eyes. (I'm only 80% blind in my Right, darn it.) No wonder, henceforth, that one of his epithets was: Grimm. That ordeal made him, as well, Divine Master of magic, prophecy and poetry. Here are two poems I've chosen (on the occasion of a Special Person) with thoughts on the quotidian world of Work. Enjoy:

by Philip Larkin

Why should I let the toad work
Squat on my life?
Can't I use my wit as a pitchfork
And drive the brute off?

Six days of the week it soils
With its sickening poison
Just for paying a few bills!
That's out of proportion.

Lots of folk live on their wits:
Lecturers, lispers,
Losels, loblolly-men, louts--
They don't end as paupers;

Lots of people live up lanes
With fires in a bucket,
Eat windfalls and tinned sardines--
They seem to like it.

Ah, were I courageous enough
To shout Stuff your pension!
But I know all too well, that's the stuff
That dreams are made on:

For something sufficiently toad-like
Squats in me, too;
Its hunkers are heavy as hard luck,
And cold as snow,

And will never allow me to blarney
My way of getting
The fame and the girl and the money
All at one sitting.

I don't say. one bodies the other
One's spiritual truth;
But I do say it's hard to lose either,
When you have both. (1954)

He was a librarian all his life--to finance his poetry, but also, though not at one sitting, his fame and girl and money. Note: the word "Stuff" in the fifth stanza made this Blogman an English major. I'll come back to that, and the poem, later, but meanwhile here's another view:

Work by Confucius

Choose a job you love, and you will never work a day in your life. (500 B.C.)

Easy for you to say, Kung Fu Tzu. Quite often circumstances leave us little choice in appeasing Larkin's inner Toad. By the bye, the toad/frog has semi-sacred status in China and southeast Asia, only slightly lower than snake and dragon. One never know ....

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

#85 Paul Newman--pt. 2

To continue from last post. Before his real shot at stardom in Somebody Up There..., the actor was picked for his debut in the lush, formula-laden, god-and-sandals epic, The Silver Chalice. (And need I point out: the perfect kind of picture to watch in the exotic, palace-like surroundings of the Avalon Theater.) Most all of these, noted last time, were conflationary clones of Samson and Delilah meets The Robe--lots of action and slave-girl skin with a little sappy romantic "mush" and soppy (for the grown-ups) spirituality, from which us guys disgustedly averted our eyes.

The stars of TSC? NOT Paul Newman or even the wonderful Pier Angeli. No: the painted-pagan witch-goddess Virginia Mayo and the creepy Jack Palance as the sinister Simon Magus. SHE (and her dancing girls--invariably in these movies bare-foot-anklet-and-sequined-bikinis-with-transparent-veil-clad pin-ups) seduced us right down to the inside our pants; then HE scared them off. All this and Natalie Wood, too. I'll admit that the only scene I remember from a half-century ago with absolute clarity is when Christ-rival-manque' Palance, raving madly (and reminding me now of Frederick Forest's great "Blue Duck" character in Lonesome Dove trying to prove that Indians could "fly" by crashing fatally through the second-story jailhouse window), attempts to prove his divinity by jumping from a mile-high tower. Splat. Like the movie's box-office receipts. But great camp, looking back.

Newman had no such competition in his sophomore effort two years later. Though Steve McQueen debuted in it uncredited, and Sal Mineo had a small part, the movie-rendering of Rocky Graziano's autobiography was all Paul's, if you discount the beguiling Pier Angeli, matched up with him again by popular demand, no doubt. (Mandatory cosmic-convergence-trivia-diversion: James Dean originally picked for the part of Rocky Barbella...killed famously in car crash...replaced by method-actor-Dean-Brando-type = NEWMAN...Pier Angeli's ex-fiance' Dean the "only man I ever loved"...shortly before her suicide in 1971, age 40.) The plot? Think Rocky Balboa (ring-scenes and make-up, too), Stallone's rip-off of every fight-film ever made, and over and over again at that.

But for chacterization, look to the angst-ridden, failure-prone boxers in DeNiro's Raging Bull, or in the prototype, Brando's On the Waterfront (1954). The latter's blockbuster success, I'm sure, is what gave Newman his coattail-effect second chance by the studios. And unlike the one in TSC, his performance here was memorable for me, maybe because at thirteen I could understand the mature--face it: testosterone-centric-- themes that I couldn't quite "get" in OTW two years earlier. It's as if Newman explicated Brando for me. The actor could have in fact played Brando for the rest of his career, and been quite successful at it. But even here in SUTLM he brings that quintessential Newman touch, the Sly Rogue, the Mischievious Rebel, to the part of the not-quite-punch-drunk-yet boxer. Aided by the script (and the real-life story), the actor uses that intelligent blue-eyed glint to lend verisimilitude to the preposterous roller-coaster narrative. While getting beaten up most of the time, Rocky is really putting the con on the gangs, and then the gangsters and the boxing establishment, until his ultimate triumph. (It's interesting that in real life too, Graziano had a fairly successful post-pugilist career as a comic actor. I remember him as Marta Raye's quondam fiance' on her 50s TV variety show.)

It all came together (including his incredible, forever-marriage to his co-star, Joanne Woodward) for the actor two years later in The Long Hot Summer (his character's name explains it all--Ben Quick--even though I hated the movie about as much as I did that other Southern Gothic yuck-fest, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, though Newman's acting stood out like a "Brick" in that one. [Apologies to ghosts of Faulkner and Tennessee Williams])--and EXPLODED in The Hustler (1961), his defining role. And this may be unfair to him, but I think he played variations on "Fast Eddie" Felson for the remainder of his least in his better performances (fill in the blanks, starting with Butch Cassidy). He even had to repeat the role in Color of Money to win the Oscar! So what? No actor has been more watchable, if indeed predictable. And did I mention he was also a pretty good human being? No need to. The enduring "shelf-life" of his filmic achievements may be exceeded only by his "Newman's Own" products and the good works they've spawned. Pace.

Monday, September 29, 2008

#84 Monday Mourning----Paul Newman

Yes, I'm back in the Avalon Theater again [When will he stop?!]. Because... that's where I saw the great Paul Newman's first two films--The Silver Chalice (1954), and Somebody Up There Likes Me (1956)--each of which, in wildly divergent ways, played a role in making him a star. I believe.

But first, I got to know the actor on TV, before and around the time of his movie debut. When he appeared on The Avalon's wide screen as Basil the chalice-maker, I recognized him from starring roles (I don't think he never had a bit part) in several of MY favorite mystery/horror shows of TV's early and mid-fifties: Tales of Tomorrow, The Web, and Suspense. But my parents, culture-grubbers that they were, made me sit through some of those "Golden-Age-of-Television" (mostly they weren't) live-action-drama shows like Playhouse 90 and US Steel Hour. Of course I'm glad they did, because that's where I saw Newman sharpening his acting chops (I presume he was, because I wasn't THAT discerning a viewer then--just people and faces). He was co-lead in Bang the Drum Slowly (later the movie with Moriarty and DeNiro), and played one of his two Billy the Kids: first in the TV Philco Playhouse "Death of..." and later in Arthur Penn's quirky directorial debut "The Left-Handed Gun" (1958--saw this one only recently), where he was truly arriving at his lovable-rebel persona. (Not a very good film, though, and did you know--I can't resist--that some of Penn's literally "sinister" symbolism is compromised now that it's been lately proved that Billy wasn't left-handed after all?--his famous gun-toting photo was reversed in processing.)

He wasn't quite there yet with a "Paul Newman" role in his motion-picture debut, The Silver Chalice. I took my quarter to the Avalon to see yet another wall-to-wall biblical epic (this was the era of The Robe, Quo Vadis, Demetrious and the Gladiators, David and Bathsheba [Susan Hayward randily indeed in her "bath"], Samson and Delilah, Ten Commandments, Ben Hur, etc.--saw 'em all and more) because...they were there, and because, besides Westerns, they were the action-movies cum skin-flicks of their day, much to the delectation of us peri-adolescent boys. This particular matinee was TSC, and I fell in love... not with Paul Newman, but with his co-star Pier Angeli (I was already in love with Natalie Wood, who played one of her usual juvenile roles in this picture), who to my mooney delight would co-star with him again two years later in SUTLM, which was to make him an A-list actor. She was great in TSC; he wasn't--or so I'm told. I wasn't paying that much attention (hey, I was 11), except that he seemed to fill the role assigned to him OK. But in fact, I have learned, Newman himself took out full-page ads the very day after its release to apologize for his performance in the motion picture! Public-spirited already, he was. I guess he learned what kind of role best suited him--certainly NOT the fraught, effete, and dreamy-eyed artiste he played in TSC. Rather, he chooses at least one-half of his future film-persona in his very next role as the boxer "Rocky" Barbella (Stallone plagiarized) in SUTLM: that of the irrepressible REBEL. I was a more sophisticated viewer of 13, and this time he sure did capture my attention, my lust for Pier Angeli notwithstanding. More to come.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

#83 Saturday Matinee--the Debate

Well, it came off, after all. It wasn't very good show-biz though, what with Jim Lehrer's attempts at stage direction: nagging shrilly throughout "Can you address that directly to Mr. Obama?"..."Could you turn to face him on that one?"..."Would you please (I'm trying to) mix it up a little bit here?" Mawkish and undignified. That's one of manifold reasons NOT to watch the live proceedings--sufficient to check excerpts and reviews. (Or best, DVR the thing.) But someone insisted, so I was exposed to all the raggedy edges of what is not, nor ever has been, a debate in the classical sense at all. Did you hear anything like "RESOLVED: A timetable for troop-withdrawal would end in disaster" followed by point-by-point argument (and then rebuttal on the other side: "No it wouldn't and here's why")? Or, RESOLVED: cutting taxes and spending would rescue the economy...and then rebuttal and so on? No. In fact you heard literally a bunch of these from the moderator: "What do you think about that, Senator?" and "What's your response to that?"...back and forth and back again. This inevitably led to to the garbled interruptions and over-talking that loses the audience and the POINT AT ISSUE as well...and fatally. Finally, in Oxford Union tradition perhaps, the audience should have walked their vote, yay or nay, through opposite exits to be counted. The networks did a little bit of this in studio with a gaggle of "Undecideds" after the fact, but....

As to winner and/or loser--the ISSUES won, and they were on Obama's side. I'm trying to be non-partisan as I can here, and I'll prove it by declaring the debate a terms of, I don't know, call it emotional/empathetic dynamics. McCain succeeded in keeping Obama off-guard with his cranky-old-scold demeanor and feisty, schoolmarm-to-upstart-pupil approach, but he lost points for smug sarcasm. Even when on the listening end: watch him do the smirk-and-giggle shtick on split-screen shots. Al Gore lost a couple of his debates with Bush eight long years ago with the "sighing and eye-rolling" routine (can you blame him?--he was debating an idiot), which is equally off-putting for an audience. On the other hand, in the face of that, Obama scored mightily by just being COOL--that will be remembered over and above what was actually being said. At the same time, he lost some points by just being cool, and not getting on the old man HEATEDLY once or twice more than he did (which was really not-at-all to speak of). For example, how about repeating the following 12 or 15 times molto forte: "Listen to me, dammit--Surge-Schmurge...we shouldn't have been in this damn war that you John McCain voted for in the first damn place!!"? Profanity deleted, of course, but insinuated.

No matter. The issues won for Obama. The winning was in the broaching. "OK," says the moderator, "were gonna open up with the ECONOMY." Swish...from the 3-point line off-stage for Obama. "Now we're gonna shift over to THE WAR IN IRAQ." Swish...3 more points. And so on. It was a little disappointing that Obama didn't deliver the "slam-dunk" last night, but with the abysmal Bush/Cheney legacy to shoot against...he can't lose.

Friday, September 26, 2008

#82 The Bailout--the "Dismal Science" Gets Dismaler

No...I don't like it none.

First of all, as a Progressive Libertarian (or Libertarian Democrat or Left Libertarian or Quasi-Anarcho-Syndicalist maybe--I'll define some of this stuff sooner or later, I promise, dismally boring though it may be)--I'm enough on the Liberal side of the aisle (universal health-care, yes) to be all in favor of REGULATING financial institutions down to a fare-thee-well. This is simply a form of licencing, of policing entities that could pose a DANGER (fraud) to the public welfare--well within the parameters of governmental authority that we pay our taxes for. But OWNERSHIP? Nah...a little too Marxianish for me. Totally different color horse. Further, the bailout is touted as just a LOAN of sorts, wherefrom a profit might even be made "down the road." But really, we're BUYING--mortgages, notes, other assets and debits--which are subject to market vagaries like everything else. A pig in a poke.

Secondly, Who's getting the money? Not the most deserving, I'm afraid. CEO's and stockholders of these failed institutions are getting paid for failure. As if they haven't already been paid enough! To make the point, let's just look at some of those folks who got us in trouble in the first place, but got out before TSHTF and came up know. Here are some infuriating examples provided by the AP: CEO of Merrill-Lynch, $66M severance package one year before failure and takeover by Bank Of America; CEO of Wachovia, $5M golden parachute; CEO of Citigroup, $16M parting gift. Most recently and outrageously?--biggest-bank-failure-ever WaMu CEO gets bye-bye pay of $18M for three weeks' work! These guys should have been simply FIRED, or maybe just taken around back and fired AT.

That said, it looks like some sort of rescue measure will pass the Congress. long as they're gonna print some more money anyway--print some for me and mine while they're at it.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

#81 Obama/McCain Not-Debate Debate--A Limerick

May the thunder and lightning of your day, O Thunor/Thor, be sorely loosed upon the miscreant John McCain for his craven withdrawal from the first Presidential Debate at Ole Miss. Also this:

Mississippi Yearning

It's the latest in crass McCainery,

No matter his tries at explainery.

(No: Mass Debater;

Yes: Masturbater.)

We know it to be sheer chicanery.


Tuesday, September 23, 2008

#80 Political Economy--Bob Barr

That's the old name (and university degree--my old Dean had one) that blanketed just about everything from before-they-were-named Sociology, Anthropology, International Relations to... yes, money and government. A catch-all with gravitas, which I like.

Anyway, my Second Son said today that he was thinking of voting for the official Libertarian candidate Bob Barr (say his name fast: Do you hear something vaguely Elephantine?) for President. Not so fast. Take an example from the great Norse god Tiu, for whom THIS DAY is named: he fought the dreaded Fenris Wolf to a draw, but lost a hand in the struggle. The lesson should be perfectly clear. Don't pull that lever for Bob Barr. That goes for all you Myriad Readers, even though it would happily syphon votes from McCain/Palin, much to my delight. It's the principle of the thing. He's a neocon Republican through and through...OR at best/worst a faux Libertarian. And I say he brings shame upon us true-bluers.

But first, he's a hypocrite. Congressman Bob Barr was first to call for Clinton's impeachment when Lewinsky-gate became public, decrying the "moral bankruptcy" of the Presidency while (like Newt Gingrich) he was cheating on his second wife with his third. It was OK with Barr for that wife to get an abortion, while at the same time he was fervently pushing anti-choice legislation. Now, here in no particular order are some other very un-Libertarian stances he's taken:

--staunch supporter of "War on Drugs," even to prohibiting medical marijuana use
--voted for war in Iraq
--voted for Bush/Cheney Patriot Act
--led the charge against same-sex marriage, authoring the federal "Defense" of Marriage Act
--sponsored Pentagon ban on practise of Wiccan religion on military bases
--advocates licking whipped-cream off female body-parts (did it at a fund-raiser, early 90s)

I don't care if Barr has repudiated some of these (maybe not the last)--How in the world can you trust him? It doesn't help any that he is a former CIA agent. Is he really a Democratic MOLE infiltrating the Libertarians to draw votes from McCain? Given his chameleon past, I can almost believe it. So he apologizes for all of that--is that his Platform? Come on...the only thing he's been steadfastly Libertarian about is GUNS, and I could take or leave that as being about zero conseqentiality. (When I'm in power I would, for civilians, LICENSE them down to a squirrel-rifle.) He's at bottom a tight-assed Republican in ill-fitting Libertarian costume. The G.O.P booted him out, so he seeks the spotlight anywhere he can, and changes his spots whenever necessary to remain in it. A politician/narcissist. And he reminds me of TV's "little old winemaker" of times past. The only good thing about Bob Barr? (say it again fast)--he hates George W. Bush.

Monday, September 22, 2008

#79 "Wee Folks"...The Movie--pt. 2

Picking up from Saturday's post: Caryn Lazar Amster's heart-touching memoir, The Pied Piper of South Shore: Toys and Tragedy in Chicago has all the elements of a good, even great movie. Character, action, even narrative structure could be taken mostly whole cloth to the screen by a good director and careful casting. Again, I think Mandy/"Manny" Patinkin would be ideal for the lead role, especially given his very personal connection with the story. He's aged appropriately since Inigo Montoya in "Princess Bride" (and since his second-best, in my opinion, award-winning Broadway role in Steven Sondheim's "Sunday in the Park with George" as painter George Seurat, along with another favorite of mine, Bernadette Peters. In fact, I'm putting the Showtime film version on my Netflix queue right now...but I do go on)--and could communicate very effectively the kind, avuncular personality that I imagine the real Manny Lazar must have been.

But Mandy and his costars would need more dialog than is provided in the book, though it's there, albeit in latent form. You can see that in a thematically wonderful scene (truth being always stranger than fiction)--laden with that astounding cosmic convergence that we seem to meet with all the time. Following the "main event" in the opening chapter, as we recall, the author flashes us all the way back to (both) family's roots in Russia; takes us through a kind of mini-chronicle of the trials of the modern-day Jewish Diaspora (a page-turner all the way); and at one point brings us up to the young Manny's first view of The Statue of Liberty in New York Harbor:
After two long weeks, the City of New York approached the Port of New York. As he peered through the ship's rail, eight-year-old Manny Lazarus caught sight of Lady Liberty. Who, he wondered, was this? Was it the statue of some famous military leader? [INTERCUT CLOSE-UP OF PEDESTAL/PLAQUE/POEM/NAME HERE] Not until much later did my father that a New York Jewish woman of privilege, one with the same name as his family, had written a poem about the Statue of Liberty in 1883. "The New Colossus" by Emma Lazarus ["Give me your tired, your poor..."] had been engraved on a plaque at the base of the great lady as if to welcome this newest Lazarus family to their new world. [emphasis and addenda mine]

How's that for built-in dramatic irony?! We are let in (visually in the would-be movie) on the the little secret that the great lady holds, and we already know another tragic one, the murder in Act I, unknown to the happy family on The City of New York. There's a bit more irony to come in a minute, but first: you can see the latent dialog in the scene above. In the movie, Manny would simply ask out loud what he was thinking. Perhaps to his father, or a curmudgeonly perfect stranger...whoever. Now the very next scene in the book could be a real cinematic treat. Here the family is going through the notorious Ellis Island routine, and have come to the business of getting the family surname "correctly" recorded:

The name of each person on the ship's manifest had to be found and transferred to the inspector's record book. In a moment of confusion or power, the inspector changed our family name from Lazarus to Lazar. Dad always said of the experience, "When we came to America, they made us drop the 'US.'"

And more bureaucratic indignities were to follow, of course, but this could have been the unkindest cut--the desecration of the family name, and, inferentially, of the tradition represented by another Lazarus a scene two before. And the the audience is aware, even if the actors are not. That's the definition of dramatic irony. In addition, some trenchant tragi-comic dialog could come out of this scene. Let's make Herr Inspector petty, peremptory, AND stupid (in his capacity he should have, after all, made the connection with Emma Lazarus across the way on Liberty Island)--and the confused verbal exchanges can ensue. For the sparkling screenplay, we'll get David Mamet (Glengarry Glen Ross, State and Main), who--get this--grew up on the South Shore!

Finally, the film adaptation, like the book, would have very satisfying "take-away value," as I like to call it, somewhat simplistically I guess. These are the lessons learned, the themes pondered, after leaving the theater. You've got a bunch of them here. One such strand would be covered in my would-be title, "Wee Folks." (In the tradition maybe of Todd Field's excellent "Little Children" 2006) Figuratively and indeed sociologically speaking, the shooter Thomas Gunn (seventeen for his first murder) and his gangland buddies are wee folks...bad ones--stunted and shrunken beings psychologically: brain-deprived and heart-starved souls in need of the kind of nurturing environment exemplified in the Lazar family, and by extension symbolized in the happy-happy spirit of TOYS. Buying, giving, sharing, cherishing--the whole megilla, if you will. They didn't have any of that, literally or otherwise. And to end on a mundane but topical note: GANGS and their depredations upon a peaceful society pose a clear and present danger TODAY. Take my word for it, right here in Raleigh--seemingly so far away in space and time from the "Toys and Tragedy in Chicago."

Sunday, September 21, 2008

#78 Sunday Sundries

Worst of the Week
  • Has to be the $700 Billion Bailout. Is Bush/Cheney a Socialist? A Pinko-Commie-Symp? My goodness, I guess so. We're now gonna share the wealth with the wealthy. And then get billed later anyway. The neo-con Republican de-regulators are gonna re-regulate--too late. Economics is the so-called "dismal science," and it now seems to be headquartered near the Great Dismal Swamp. Washington should regulate, yes, to guard against FRAUD (this, and FORCE, are the only two things in their varied manifestations that we should pay the Government to protect us from, thank you very much)--otherwise, let the free-market do its job.
  • Neglect of more important issues on the campaign trail--namely WAR in Middle East and the HEALTH CARE crisis. Presidents can't do much about the Economy, anyway, despite their great power since FDR--but even there, with all HIS tinkering, it was really, most agree, WWII that got us out of that really, really big Depression that some of you MRs have heard about. (But don't think THIS war will do like WWII: the former is strictly a "gearing-down" war from its beginning--though lasting now waaay too long--a war of depletion of ready reserves; whereas WWII was a "gearing-up" war, providing huge economic stimulus to an already sick economy. This one is simply draining us dry.) The only sure thing, statistically speaking, is that Democrats in the White House bring on some sort of mystical "era of good feeling" about the Economy after a Republican administration has somehow screwed it up. And then the Economy picks up again. So please Mr. Obama and Mr. McCain (even though YOU, sir, are exactly on the wrong side)--let's get back to debating the issues, these most dire issues, that you can actually do something about.
  • USA lost to Spain in Davis Cup tennis. We were defending champs. It's a great luxury in this life to be able to get a little bit SAD about something utterly inconsequential.
Best of the Week
  • Sarah Palin's approval ratings are dropping. On the other hand, according to a recent Baylor (Baptist) University poll, 55% of Americans believe in Guardian Angels. No, not the Curtis Sliwa variety. Make whatever connections you like.
  • Eldest son's birthday.
  • At least a couple of good things to say this week, compared to last, though still a stretch.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

#77 Saturday Matinee--"Wee Folks"... the Movie

Starring Mandy Patinkin as Emanuel "Manny" Lazar. Why not? He wrote the Foreword to the book, and I gave an imaginary GIFT yesterday--why not make up a movie? There is some method to this madness: I believe The Pied Piper of South Shore: Toys and Tragedy in Chicago (2005) by "Mr Wee Folks'" daughter, Caryn Lazar Amster (see earlier posts), is worthy of it. And so do many others, she tells me, who may have read it with more than a nostalgic eye. And I promised her a "review" from my bully blogospherical pulpit, so what better way than to translate a very readable book, by the way, into the medium of film. Maybe not, but here goes anyway, with apologies in advance to the author.
  • The three-part narrative of the memoir--kudos for self-written--lends itself to cinematic treatment. We we're talking about flashbacking the other day: well here, coincidentally, we've got another Before the Devil Knows You're Dead in the making. (Maybe the 83-year-old Sidney Lumet can hang on a little longer to direct!) We begin with the "Big-Heist-Gone-Wrong" event, then all the history that goes before, then the flash-forward to The Trial. (Lumet's 12 Angry Men or The Verdict again.) No need to tamper with this ready-made dramatic structure, thank you.
  • Character and action are of course REAL and thus also ready-made, but far from the Everyday. In fact, they are EXTRAORDINARY. Sufficient to quote from the back cover: When a gang assassin gunned down Manny Lazar, he died in the place he loved best: the Wee Folks toy store he and his wife, Belle, had run for a quarter-century....It is the story of this beloved retailer's death... But it's also a story of two children of immigrants, their American dream, and their richly diverse neighborhood, each falling prey to the brutality of gangs. The shooter's name was Thomas Gunn. Could a filmmaker ask for a larger-than-life cast of characters or a more gut-wrenching, tear-jerking story? Not.
  • Scene-setting would be easy too. The broader views of the people, their daily lives in the neighborhoods, and so on, are clearly and carefully drawn. But the author can also reconstruct the ferocious particulars in almost forensic detail. E.g.--The young man panicked, fired five shots, and tried to rush out of the store. Unfamiliar with its layout, he first ran up an aisle that dead-ended at one of the large plate-glass display windows, covered, as usual, with the nose-prints of wishful children. [Like those of my little sister and me in earlier days] Realizing he was trapped and terrified to launch himself through the thick glass, he frantically sought another way out....Two peach-colored display islands welded together stood between the gunman and the double glass entry doors. The islands stood five feet tall and, being made of steel, could withstand great weight. He attempted to vault over them but lacked the room for a running start [nice detail]. With the superhuman strength of intense fear, he began pulling the welded units apart, the metal slicing through his jacket into the flesh of his arms....merchandise scattering every which way. Mainly Barbies. And meanwhile poor Belle was cowering under the counter not knowing what was happening. Whew...what a skilled director could make out of that! And if it were a Sidney Lumet, he could also easily stage the courtroom-drama aftermath in Act III, right out of the riveting transcript-testimony.
  • All that's needed is dialog for the first two acts. I'll volunteer. It shouldn't be hard. The narrative speaks silent volumes already. Take this scene---No...let me continue with a Part 2 later.
N.B.-- an autographed copy of The Book is available (60 left of first printing) for $19.95 plus $5.00 shipping from: OR toll-free 866-507-4737. Proceeds go to a charitable organization.

Friday, September 19, 2008

#76 Friday Funnies--the "Plinth" [update]

Arrrrr.... But belay that. Nineteen September is "Talk Like a Pirate Day" and, tomorrow the 20th, my eldest son's birthday.

  • The former is celebrated annually by sea-raiding corsairs along the Moroccan coast, I think, and by folks who have, through carefully-deferred dental maintenance over the last ten years, lost a front me. "Shiver me timbers" sounds so much more authentic with the acoustic hint of a whistle. The tooth had become decadent no doubt, like its owner, but it was a stealth attack--piratical if you will--the evidence of marauding Tartar-beings becoming known only after the fact (i.e.= in the palm of my hand). Admittedly: after using said frontal dentation as nature intended in time of pliers. The tooth actually split laterally in half, the front part leaving behind its stumpy counterpart--and forensic clues to the crime. So like a true buccaneer, this Blogman needs to SAVE UP for a "peg-tooth"--a, make that cosmeticappliance of some sort, just to make him more presentable in the marketplace. Or lacking that: a pirate costume and a stuffed parrot.
  • Birthdays are celebrated annually too, I understand. But tomorrow I inaugurate a new tradition in the gift-giving department, which I'll share with my MRs. For their birthday presents, all my sons and whoever else from now on will receive a "thought-gift"--after all, isn't it "not the gift, but the thought that counts"? So let's just take that to its reductio ad absurdum and make the damn thing TOTALLY IMAGINARY. Hey, it'll never wear out. And size and object. So I'll be giving my son a PLINTH--defined as a pedestal-like slab of stone, usually squared, beneath a column or pier; OR, in wood-joinery a flat member at the bottom of an architrave, dado, baseboard, or the like. That should explain it. Love the word. Borrowed from L. plinthus > Gr. plinthos = "stone"--but cognate in the language already (as often happens) from the Indo-European up through Germanic as our more familiar "flint." Rocky, not woody origins. My gift therefore will be a blue-speckledy granite slab 6' x 6' square and 3" high, to be viewed in the mind horizontally with a slight parallax, to get the full effect. Now this can exist purely in space, or it can be imagined in the back yard surrounded by rose bushes and a gaggle of mannequin pis statues--whatever. Such is the infinite UTILITY of the Thought-Gift.
  • Which...I hereby dub generically a plinth, for all time. In honor of its maiden voyage. Thought-gift = Plinth. And you are free to use the term as such, royalty-free, whenever you feel the pinch of hard economic times, or of your own native parsimony. "Sorry, Mildred, I can only afford a Camel-Caravan to Shangri-La this year. Next year a Date with George Clooney or that Breast Augmentation you've always wanted...I promise."
But you know what?--you can give a Plinth to anybody, any time of the year, and all the year around. Make somebody happy with a Plinth today. Failing that, try to come up with a word that rhymes with it. I couldn't. Or just try to pronounce its plural: "plinthes." Takes a pirate, maybe.
Update 9/21: Just thought of a rhyme that a pirate might enjoy: "absinthe"--the Green be quaffed while contemplating a Plinth.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

#75 Wednesday Words--Justice Brandeis and Sarah Palin

Here's a quote that I finally tracked down apropos of the GRAVE DANGER of someone like Sarah Palin ever getting even a little pinky finger involved in the government of our country--a fortiori and forfend the heart-beat-away HEAD OF STATE! Turns out to be from the distinguished jurist Louis D. Brandeis (though it sounds a lot like Marcus Aurelius):
  • Experience should teach us to be most on our guard to protect LIBERTY when the government's purposes are beneficent. Men born to FREEDOM are naturally alert to repel invasion of their LIBERTY by evil-minded rulers. The greatest dangers to LIBERTY lurk in insidious encroachment by men of ZEAL, well-meaning but without understanding. 1928. [emphasis mine]
Make that women of zeal, too, like the G.O.P. V.P. candidate. Instructively, Brandeis happened to be a Jew, whose ethnic ancestry bore the brunt of centuries of Christian discrimination and repression that still goes on. Just check with Mel Gibson. Haven't we had enough of the "God-told-me-to-do-it" mentality of Bush and echoed by Palin in her "task-from-God" speech about the war in Iraq to her cult-like church? I've covered enough of that in earlier posts, but like Bush/Cheney too, she'd like to peddle/meddle her "well-meaning" ZEAL right into our very lives. After all she's an definition a proselytizer/dogmatizer. Even from her scant position of power in Alaska, she has pushed for prayer back in public schools, creationism back in science classes, and for a continuation of "faith-based" abstinence-only sex-ed health classes. Look where that last one got her daughter. And she wanted to BAN "un-Christian" books from the Wasilla public library.

I consider the so-called Christian Right (once repudiated by McCain himself as "agents of intolerance"--how's that for cynical flip-flop) a clear and present danger to our personal and political freedoms. Hell, and I approved that word, the second-place candidate in the G.O.P. primaries for President, Pastor Mike Huckabee, wanted to amend the Constitution to more "conform with God's word." Scary. Theocracy stalks. And no doubt the wannabe VP supports the up-dated FISA (but now she'll have to be in favor of the even more radical Bush/McCain version that was luckily defused in the compromise amendment that--full-disclosure alert--Obama misguidedly voted for. See post 7/18)--which allows unwarranted eavesdropping on American citizens, not just foreigners, using the internet.

With that, we're back to Brandeis, believe it or not. For in his dissenting opinion (excerpt above) to Olmstead v. U.S., he was writing against a 5-4 decision in favor of unwarranted (telephone) wiretapping. (This decision was later overruled by the same Supreme Court, and stayed that way till the FISA update reared its ugly head.) How prophetic was that?