Sunday, January 30, 2005

"1/4 Life"

I liked this description in The New York Times Arts & Leisure section of the impetus for a forthcoming television series called 1/4 Life:
"This is the crucible of life," Mr. [Marshall] Herkovitz says, leaping in to finish Mr. [Ed] Zwick's thought, something that happens frequently. "Those years between college and 25 or 26 is when people either find the courage to pursue a dream or make certain compromises that affect them for the next 20 years, big decisions about relationships, about careers."

That certainly was true in my life. I will need to write more about my 1/4-life decisions.

Our "Liberal" Press

In his article in today's New York Times, "One More 'Moral Value': Fighting Poverty," John Leland characterizes the National Council of Churches as "an association of liberal denominations that represents more than 100,000 congregations." Liberal? Is there any religious organization more mainstream than the National Council of Churches? Why is Mr. Leland ghettoizing it as "liberal"? Mind you, I don't consider liberal a bad word, but I question this "impartial" reporter's characterization, given the hot-button status that word has achieved thanks to Republican slander. Furthermore, why did the Times's headline writer choose to put the words "moral value" in quotations? Is s/he suggesting that fighting poverty is not a legitimate moral stance? Who are these press liberals? I'd like to meet one.

Saturday, January 29, 2005

Some Very Small Thoughts

This morning, I am feeling an impulse to write, but uninspired on any topic. That's a different feeling than I have had in the past. Most often I have felt I had something to write about, but not the energy to do the work.
Is that progress? Who knows.


Although I just passed the halfway mark in The Egyptologist, I began writing about it in The Escondido Review. Just to get some words out. The most interesting thing, to me, in the novel so far is the revelation of the inscription on the tomb door -- made only after the door has been smashed to bits. There is surely something meaningful in the timing of that revelation.


Anagrams in The Egyptologist: Ralph M. Trilipush, Lars Philip-Thurm (a reviewer of Trilipush's book). Also -- Arthur Phillips and Ralph Trilipush are anagrams. Is Phillips' middle initial "M"? Likely.


Last night, former New Jersey Governer and EPA Administrator Christine Todd Whitman was the guest on The Daily Show. She has a new book out, It's My Party Too, in which she evidently tried to reclaim a spot in the Republican Party for progressives like herself. I couldn't help feeling as I watched her joking with Jon Stewart that her willingness to buck the wingnuts who have taken over the GOP is a bit late. During her tenure as EPA Administrator she made no overt efforts to buck George W. Bush's vicious dismantling of environmental protections.
So while it is nice now to hear her lash out against the James Dobson's who put SpongeBob SquarePants's supposed support for homosexuality ahead of global warming in importance, I feel that it's a case of too little, too late.
She's easily ignorable now.
Still, I probably will try to read her book.

Friday, January 28, 2005

This Is Funny, In a Beavis and Butthead Sort of Way

I like lists, so this attracted me. Some of the items are witty, others just mean.
Check it out:

On Race

If we can't count on our inconsistencies, we can't count on much of anything at all.
That phrase has been rambling through my mind for some time now, and it jumped into relief this morning as I read the invaluable Paul Krugman's column in The New York Times about President Bush "playing the race card" on Social Security.
I tend to agree with Krugman that any attempt to convince African Americans that Social Security privatization would be to their benefit is a cynical ploy. I think Krugman spells out the argument much better than I could.
I also remember that George W. Bush is someone who hung a Confederate flag in his Yale University dorm room as a provocation to his fellow students, and who worked on his father's campaign, in which the image of Willie Horton was used to scare certain white Americans into voting against Michael Dukakis. Furthermore, this is the man who appointed an esteemed black American, Colin Powell, as his first-term Secretary of State and then proceeded to make a mockery of him by undercutting his authority and contradicting his statements at every turn.
So it would be easy to write off Mr. Bush as an unfeeling, unthinking racist and leave it at that.
But then there is his relationship with Condoleeza Rice, who has been described as his "work wife," to consider. By all accounts -- even those rare ones in which I put some stock -- Rice enjoys an extremely close and mutually respectful relationship with the president. I don't much care for Dr. Rice, but I don't think she is a fool, and I don't believe she would tolerate a working relationship with someone who felt she was a fool. After all, she is someone who rose through the ranks of academia to become provost of Stanford University. She hardly needs George W. Bush to validate her achievements.
So, I think that while it's fair to point out that Bush's attempt to manipulate black Americans into supporting his Social Security plan is cynical and racist, it would be wrong to characterize him as simply a racist. There is something more complex going on there, as there is with most of us.
As a white man who is the parent of a bi-racial child, I have learned to deal with these contradictions on an almost daily basis. After all, I grew up in an extremely racist home -- on more than one occasion I remember my mother telling my sister that she would be disinherited if she ever came home with a "colored" boyfriend, but yet this same woman not only accepted my daughter into our family, but dotes on her, considers her her pride and joy.
Part of that is due simply to the passing of time and changes of attitude throughout society.
But a bigger part of it is, I think, the fact that prejudicial feelings -- whether racism, anti-Semitism, sexism or any other -- are easier to justify in the abstract than in the specific and concrete.
Yes, Bush may feel "entitled" to cynically maneuver African Americans in order to win support for his insidious privatization scheme, but he can nevertheless feel a strong personal regard for Condoleeza Rice.
Just as my mother could rail against the "coloreds" who were moving into her neighborhood and tainting our schools in the mid-1960s, and yet fall helplessly in love with her dark-skinned granddaughter.
If we couldn't count on our inconsistencies, we wouldn't be able to count on much of anything at all.

Thursday, January 27, 2005


I found this list on a blog called 500 Miles to Nowhere. It's evidently someone's list of essential authors, although the creator of the blog I found it on had taken it from another blog. I traced it back a few blogs, then lost interest in the search. However, being a list fan, I thought I'd reprint it, then suggest some substitutions. Please feel free to comment back with your own substitutions, should you stumble across my posting here.
First, the list I found:

1. Jane Austen
2. Isaac Asimov
3. Arthur C. Clarke
4. John Steinbeck
5. Ian Flemming
6. Annie Proulx
7. Charles Dickens
8. Albert Camus
9. George Eliot
10. William Shakespeare

Now, my recommendations, expanded to a baker's dozen:

1. Jane Austen
2. Jorge Luis Borges
3. Isaac Bashevis Singer
4. Thomas Hardy
5. Alice Hoffmann
6. Annie Proulx
7. Charles Dickens
8. Victor Hugo
9. George Eliot
10. William Shakespeare
11. Ruth Rendell (aka Barbara Vine)
12. Michel Foucault
13. James Joyce

By the way, here's a web site that I have followed for years and heartily recommend to anyone interested in literature:

It's called The Modern Word or The Libyrinth. it has some of the most interesting stuff I've seen on serious 20th century authors: Joyce, Borges, Pynchon, Marques, etc. Take a look.

Out Of My System

My posts yesterday seem to me to have been particularly sour: An architect I did not admire, a journalistic practice I detest, a book that repulses me. Sorry. I really don't like to vent in here. I strive more to reflect and understand, but I guess sometimes there are things I just have to get out of my system.

Harvard Men

I've lately read a few books by Harvard graduates years younger than myself: Seth Mnookin's Hard News, and now Arthur Phillips's The Egyptologist. Where once I would have been jealous of their achievements, I have gotten to the stage of life where I can salute them and feel a kinship with them.
Harvard shapes all of us who spend time as students there, regardless of what we do afterward. I know that most of my closest friends throughout my life are those I made during my four years in Cambridge. I feel a kinship with them unlike the bond I have with any other friends.
Why? Hard to say.
Maybe it is that during our years at Harvard, we felt that we could be important in the world and to the world -- even as we were daily being humbled by the brilliance of our colleagues. We talked openly about our aspirations in ways that I have rarely done since, even with my wife.
There was the shared accomplishment of having been admitted to the college, coupled with an atmosphere that was all about aspirations.
Not to mention that we were at that formative stage of adulthood where most of us were trying to figure out where we belonged, thrown together in a living situation largely devoid of supervision by "responsible" adults, making choices at 17 or 18 that today stagger me when I think back.
For several years after I was graduated, I was reluctant to tell people where I had gone to university. "In Boston," I'd mutter, until pressed to acknowledge that my alma mater was indeed the venerated Harvard. I was embarrassed by the reactions, and embarrassed that I had not achieved more by the ripe old age of 23 or 24.
It was only after I had moved to Florida and met peers who were genuinely curious about my background and history that I started to become comfortable talking about my education. Today, more than 30 years after I entered university, I look back very fondly on those years and happily discuss them with any who ask.
It took me time to grow into my Harvard education, to become comfortable with the man it had helped to shape and with the ways in which it had opened my eyes to experience.
Yes, I have in many ways lived a cautious life -- I've always had a salaried job, with a steady paycheck and the usual benefits -- but I have changed careers and explored my options within those boundaries in ways I might not have done without the eye-opening experience of four years in Cambridge.

Wednesday, January 26, 2005

Philip Johnson

So Philip Johnson has died. What an interesting character: An architect whose work rarely rose above the mediocre, and yet who managed to become one of the most famous practitioners in the world and the first winner of the Pritzker prize.
I have long felt that Johnson's buildings are, for the most part, crudely conceived and executed. I will make an exception for his glass house, which appears in pictures to be quite elegant (I have not seen it in person).
So what was Johnson famous for?
Reducing architectural theory to a matter "style," perhaps. What was conceived in intellectual terms by Walter Gropius, Mies van der Rohe, Le Corbusier and others could be neatly classified as the "International Style," as his famous 1932 exhibition of their work at the Museum of Modern Art was called.
Decades later, the diverse work of Peter Eisenman, Bernard Tschumi, Coop Himmelblau, John Hejduk, Frank Gehry and others was bizarrely grouped together and labeled "Deconstructivism," a nasty portmanteau word that combined notions of literary deconstruction, Russian constructivism, destruction and perhaps others. What it really meant -- as Catherine Ingraham so incisively put it in a review of the exhibition in Inland Architect -- is that all of these architects use a lot of diagonal lines.
If all was exteriors, surfaces, the burden of the architect to think and to act with integrity is removed. That appears to be how Johnson operated. He seems to have had a curious mind, but one that was content to skim the surfaces and regurgitate that superficial understanding in his own designs.
Thus he moved from modernism to postmodernism (in his case, the use of inappropriate historical allusion to decorate contemporary structures) to, in his last works, something that tried to incorporate the non-rectilinear (I won't call it by his term, which I find ridiculous).
I was disturbed recently when I received the Time-Life book of Great Buildings of the World, and found in it more pictures of Johnson's work than that of Wright, Sullivan, Palladio, Wren, Kahn, Le Corbusier or any other architect of note.
I suppose there is no accounting for taste.

Journalists on the Take

Just a few weeks after the "No Child Left Behind"/AQrmstrong Williams payoff scandal, another case of the Bush administration paying off journalists to promote its policies emerges. In today's Salon:
"Washington Post columnist Howard Kurtz has revealed that conservative columnist
Maggie Gallagher wrote columns in support of President Bush's marriage
initiative for publications including the National Review but failed to
mention that she had received $21,500 from the Department of Health and
Human Services to promote the program. "Did I violate journalistic ethics by
not disclosing it? I don't know. You tell me," she told Kurtz, but later
wrote a column apologizing for the ethical lapse.

Maybe we need a new forum for journalists on the take.


Lists, numbers, rankings, and ratings all fascinate me.
I have watched and tallied and compared for as long as I can remember. It doesn't really matter what. The important point is that I can assign a number to an item, and use that number to compare one item to another.
All of that is just prelude. What I really want to talk about here is my dismay at this past Sunday's bestseller list in The New York Times Book Review. I have watched this list for years, and last year became particularly interested in the relative rankings of books by "liberal" authors vs. those by "conservative" ones. Richard Clarke, Thomas Frank, Jon Stewart vs. Ann Coulter, Sean Hannity and those horrible Swift Boat Veterans. I used the best-seller list as a substitute for polls. If Clarke and Frank were winning, I reasoned, so would Kerry (at least in New York City, huh?)
Since the election, the list has not been quite so interesting. I've noted that Shoots, Eats and Leaves has had a surprising (to me) run near the top. I enjoyed seeing the success of Stewart's America (The Book). But this week I was disheartened to see that the top spot on the non-fiction list has gone to a book called Witness, by trial-of-the-year-other-woman Amber Frey.
I haven't read this book, although I skimmed an excerpt in People magazine.
But it disturbed me that a book by a tabloid-level celebrity about her role in a tabloid-level crime would top the list of fact-based works being read in this country. The fact that the top-15 list is framed by a tell-all memoir by Tatum O'Neal is just icing on the cake.
What possible fascination does Amber Frey have. Okay, she was lied to by a now-convicted murdere with whom she was having an affair. So? What is she? A sympathetic character? Someone about whom women of a certain age and class can say, "There but for fortune go I?"
The worst thing about Amber Frey being on the best-seller list is that when I think about it, my opinion of Americans and of women goes down.
There are a lot of books being written these days. Many of them are quite good. Most people I know have less time for reading than they would like. So why are people wasting their time on this tripe?

Tuesday, January 25, 2005

Small Thoughts

Sometimes a news item just gives me a sour feeling. That was the case this morning with the article in The New York Times about the "reverent" send-off given to John Ashcroft as he ended his tenure as Attorney General. It is difficult for me to be anything except disgusted that any respect was shown toward a man who I believe has done as much as anyone in our history to erode civil liberties and respect for the principles of our constitution.
Mr. Ashcroft symbolizes the Bush administration's disregard for our rights to free speech, protest and due process of law. He should have been drummed out of public life, not toasted.


There are degrees of disgusting, and far more serious than Mr. Ashcroft's going-away party was an item about a radio station in New York that featured a song mocking the victims of the Asian tsunami. The sample of lyrics printed were truly, astoundingly shocking. Could anyone really be this unfeeling?
The disk jockey who put together this atrocity, someone named Miss Jones, evidently has agreed -- along with her staff -- to donate a week's salary to tsunami relief. Sorry. It's not enough. The public -- although not the law -- should demand that she never disgrace the airwaves again.
This is one of those cases that tries the souls of civil libertarians. Yes, Miss Jones has the right to air her distasteful words. But the rest of us have the duty to turn a deaf ear to them.


I really couldn't care less about Janet Jackson's nipple being exposed in prime time, but I do care about the sensibilities of my family being offended. It's why I don't allow shows like The Simple Life or Jackass to be aired in my presence. Can't we just exercise enough self-control to turn it off?

Hillary Clinton Reaches Out

Three cheers to Hillary Clinton, who yesterday faced head-on that most divisive of issues, abortion rights, with the suggestion that partisans on both sides could find common ground in the effort to reduce the number of unwanted pregnancies.
Senator Clinton's comments showed thoughtfulness, understanding, maturity, deeply felt principle and humanity, qualities sadly lacking in much of politics these days. She showed that she sympathized with the beliefs of those who would normally oppose her.
Abstinence counseling? Sure, as part of a range of options that should also include sex education and access to birth control. It is possible to be idealistic and realistic at the same time.
She reached out to her political enemies to suggest that they could work for a shared goal. Of course, she was immediately attacked.
That doesn't matter. Hillary Clinton demonstrated in a small way that public life still can be a force for good.

The Oscars

Even though I don't see very many movies anymore -- certainly not in theatres, and even on TV I'm not very well caught up -- I am strangely enthralled by the Oscars. This morning, the nominations were announced. I hadn't paid a lot of attention to that, but when I checked the news this morning and saw that the announcements were coming on, I went out and turned on the TV -- something I have not done at this time of day in quite a long while.
I looked first at CNN Headline News (my default channel, the one that comes on when the set is switched on), then to NBC and finally to E!, where there was a live Oscar special going on, and I saw the nominees on a scroll bar at the bottom of the screen.
I've only seen a few of them -- Don Cheadle, Kate Winslet, Sophie Okonedo -- and yet I was disappointed that Julia Roberts was not nominated for Closer, a movie I have not seen, nor Jim Carrey for Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, which I saw and loved. Why was Before Sunset, another movie I loved, nominated in the adapted screenplay category? What was it adapted from?
Why do I pay so much attention to the Oscars? Why is it that I can recite lists of past winners going back years and years? Why have I watched the ceremony all but a few years of my life (I missed about three years of it when I lived in Europe).
I remember the first Oscars I watched, allowed by my mother to stay up late and see Julie Andrews win for Mary Poppins. That started it.
Is it the cult of celebrity that draws me?
It's certainly not the entertainment quality of the shows themselves. I often miss the Grammy awards, which are a much more entertaining show.
I don't really have an answer, but it may be something worth trying to figure out.

Monday, January 24, 2005

Just Stopping By To Say Hi

Not much time or inspiration today. Started work with a 6 am call to South Africa. Ended it with a spreadsheet 11 hours later. Some days are like this. As the title say, I just wanted to stop by and say hi.

Sunday, January 23, 2005

Maureen Dowd Finally Gets One Right

Maureen Dowd may be my least favorite New York Times columnist. I find her willingness to sacrifice just about any principle for the sake of a clever putdown to be distasteful, at best. But I must admit that I enjoyed her column today, in which she conflated the wingnut controversy over the SpongeBob SquarePants "tolerance" video with the president's harping on the words (although certainly not the sentiments) liberty and freedom in his second inaugural speech.
SpongeBush SquarePresident.
He's only soaking up the water around him.

The Marvelous Mr. Mailer

In, of all places, Parade magazine, Norman Mailer makes a plea this week for the elimination of commercial television. His argument is well-reasoned and supported, as well as passionate. He seeks this change for the protection of our children -- to ensure that they develop the ability to read and learn.
Notice that he is not decrying all television, just the commercial interruptions that, he argues, destroy our children's capacity to concentrate.
I have read two Norman Mailer essays in the past few years that I believe are evidence of his brilliance. One, in The New York Review of Books, provided a brief yet insightful analysis of the "masculine" impulses that led to the invasion of Iraq. The other is this piece, in the least likely of venues for an intellectual.
I have read a fair amount of Mailer's work over the years, although I will admit to major gaps. More than 20 years after I read it, I recall The Executioner's Song as one of the most trenchant literary works I have ever encountered (I'm still not sure what to call this book -- I believe "nonfiction novel" was the label given it at the time). I've read good Mailer, such as The Naked and the Dead, and bad Mailer, such as the unfinishable novel Ancient Evenings. I consider him one of the most underrated writers of the 20th century. His personal combativeness has often seemed to overshadow his writing talent.
I believe he will be well remembered by history, and I think late-career essays such as this one in Parade will contribute to his lasting reputation.

Two Organizations Worth Knowing About

Two organizations we should all be aware of are profiled in todays edition of The New York Times.
Iraq Veterans Against the War provides support for military personnel (including those on active duty) who have taken political stands against the conflict, and calls for immediate withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraqi soil. Their website:
Operation Truth provides non-political support, and a forum for unrestricted opinions, of our miliary. It includes a set of extremely interesting observations, diaries, accounts and commentary pieces by veterans. Their website:
I urge you to visit both sites.
Here's a quote from just one of the testimonials on the Operation Truth site:

Hear it from us, the ones who were on the streets day and night. Hear it
from us, the ones who saw a well organized insurgency. I want the American
people to know that the United States and its allies were not prepared for this
war, or the insurgency that followed. I want the American people to know that
they are sending your sons and daughters to a war ill-prepared, under-manned,
and with equipment that is downright embarrassing for our country's honor and
tradition. I want the American people to know that these soldiers are not
being educated about Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, and that MANY soldiers have PTSD. They either don't know it, don't report it, or they are told that they
flat out don't have it. Finally, I want the American people to know that these
soldiers are very young, and that they are not getting the proper care and
treatment that they deserve. Many of them are returning to combat with PTSD.
Making them unfit for duty.
But of course you will never hear that from anyone in Washington. Just understand that we did our duty, and now we want our government to do theirs. Tell the truth.

Asw this young writer so eloquently states, our government seems to be devoted to keeping information about the Iraq conflict away from us. It has been, of course, widely noted that our miserable excuse for a president, George W. Bush, did not mention Iraq in his vile and ridiculous inauguration address.
It is important to keep in mind the observations and opinions of those who have been there. They deserve our attention and respect.

Tuesday, January 18, 2005

A Missed Day

Yesterday was the first in a few weeks that I missed posting here.
Travel, meetings, dinner with colleagues, etc.
Still, I missed writing.
I think that I have come to depend on this as a private sounding board.

Sunday, January 16, 2005

Why I Became A Blogger

I've been thinking about this for at least a couple of weeks, but haven't written anything down on the subject. Here's some thoughts:

Like most Americans, a year ago I did not know what a blog was. I had begun to read about the phenomenon in the lead-up to the Iowa caucuses and New Hampshire primary, and knew that they were having an impact on Howard Dean's candidacy, but it wasn't until several months later in the campaign that I actually read one.
Now I write four of them, and comment on many others. Not a day goes by when I don't spend at least a few minutes in the "blogosphere."


For a lazy, undisciplined writer like myself, blogs offer several pleasures:
  • A forum for writing about whatever I want, whenever I want, in whatever form I want
  • The freedom not to research, or even to know very much about what I am writing
  • The kick of immediate publication, without interference by an editor
  • The ability to write as much or as little on a subject as I want, without shaping it or "completing" it to anyone else's satisfaction


I have never had the discipline to sustain a journal. I've been blogging now for quite a bit longer -- and with much more frequency -- than I ever was able to do in a hand-written journal. The blog provides the ease of computing, offers unlimited (so far) storage and easy retrieval of everything I write.


I will not tell you what my blogs are called, nor will I direct you to them. Part of the pleasure of blogging is the thrill of putting secret thoughts on display, of setting them out so that they can be discovered, but yet of not announcing them.

If some of my blogs became known as mine, my life would be turned upside down, or at least considerably disrupted. I would have a lot of explaining to do. But in the blogosphere, I can be anyone. In this sense, I think that blogging is a successor to the 1970s phenomenon of CB radios, which allowed many people to assume secret identities on the air waves. (see Jonathan Demme's excellent 1976 comedy Citizens Band for a refresher in this phenomenon).

Evolution All Over Again

This morning, The New York Times runs the statement that the Dover, Pennsylvania school board wants read before the teaching of a biology lesson on evolution. To my surprise, I found that I did not have a lot of argument with the statement.
It acknowledges the controversy over evolution, and I think that awareness is a good thing. I think that too much of the public school curriculum has been dumbed down to avoid controversy, to the detriment of students. This is particularly true in the teaching of American history. I want students to learn about the controversies and political strife in our history: The labor movement, slavery and the Civil War, the protests of the 1960s, and, yes, the battles over church and state.
That's what this statement does, I think. It provides a context in which it is acknowledged that many people disagree with the theory of evolution.
Here's the statement:

The Pennsylvania Academic Standards require students to learn about Darwin's theory of evolution and eventually take a standardized test of which evolution is a part.
Because Darwin's theory is a theory, it continues to be tested as new evidence is discovered. The theory is not a fact. Gaps in the theory exist for which there is no evidence.
A theory is defined as a well-tested explanation that unifies a broad range of observations. Intelligent Design is an explanation of the origin of life that differs from Darwin's view. The reference book "Of Pandas and People" is available for students who might be interested in gaining an understanding of what Intelligent Design actually involves.
With respect to any theory, students are encouraged to keep an open mind. The school leaves the discussion of the origin of life to individual students and their families.
As a standards-driven district, class instruction focuses upon preparing students to achieve proficiency on standards-based assessments.

The statement is being opposed by teachers, some parents and some political organizations, for reasons I understand as well. I would rather this ground be covered in a social studies class than in the science class, but since it is simply a preface to a course on evolutionary theory, I don't think a lot of harm is done to the cause of science.
It's strange of me to take the "conservative" position on an issue like this, but in this case it seems sensible to me to acknowledge the controversy and move on.

Two Surprising Stories

Two headlines on the CNN web site this morning caught my eye.
One told of a journalist released from prison after 44 years, the other of rats becoming valued in land-mine searches.
Where was this journalist, I thought as I clicked to the story. South Africa? Some middle eastern tyranny? Belarus? No, he was from the great state of Louisiana, and his crime was actually a serious one, murder. I had assumed from the headline that he was some sort of political prisoner, but it seems he didn't become an award-winning journalist until after his incarceration.
In the other story, Gambian giant pouched rats are being used like bomb-sniffing dogs in Mozambique to find and defuse long-hidden land mines. The story mentions that in this part of the world, the rats frequently find themselves on the dinner plate.

Saturday, January 15, 2005


As he drove home after his visit with Irene, Jack was troubled by the thought that these had become a routine. A courtesy to an old lady, an hour or two spent sitting with her on the last Thursday afternoon of each month.
Irene had reached that point in life where decline was precipitous -- where if he stayed away for two or three months, she appeared much more fragile and disoriented than she had during the last visit.
Jack had an idea that at some point this decline would stabilize, that she would reach some plateau again, but he wasn't sure. Today, she seemed to have shrunk two or three inches and he noticed that her hair had thinned considerably.


I don't know where this came to me from. The character names are from an Alice Munro story, but the characters themselves and the words are not. Nothing else about them came to me. Just this. Actually, since I changed the man's name from Sam to Jack, not even that.


Jack wasn't sure what Irene's relationship to him should be called. Once she had been his mother-in-law. That was simple enough. But then Alice had died, and it wasn't clear anymore. Especially after he married Zoe, three years later.
I've gone from A to Z, he thought, amused that that had never occurred to him before.
But he had continued to enjoy Irene's salty sense of humor, and had appreciated her down-to-earth advice, especially since he got nothing of the sort from his own mother, who was depression-prone and had never had much common sense.

"That one's a handful," she said. "From the time she was little, she knew how to get her way."
Jack didn't tell her about the suicide threats, the drugs, the drinking, the abortion at 13. No reason to get her upset, he rationalized.


Small Thoughts

It's been a few days since I offered up a set of small thoughts -- bits and pieces of ideas that don't really cohere -- on this blog, but they are coursing through my brain this morning, as I read the final chapters of What's The Matter With Kansas. So here goes:

State Of Siege: One of the ideas that Thomas Frank addresses is the "martyr" mentality of the new right. I think this is a quite valid point, and yet I continue to think he misses some of the links in the development of this. In particular, I don't think he sufficiently explicates the effect of those twin pillars of 1960s progressivism: The Civil Rights movement and opposition to the Vietnam war. Those two social movements are, I believe, inextricably linked to the backlash Mr. Frank describes.
Here's just one example of a causal chain I think he missed: Imagine you are a young man from a factory town who goes into the service believing that you will come home to take a solid, good-paying job in the manufacturing industry. You believe also that you will be honored for your service to the country, as you have been taught in school. When you arrive back home a few years later, you see that more and more jobs have been taken by minorities. You are not honored for your service, but seen alternately as a victim and as a tool of an "evil" establishment. The opportunities for you are fewer than they were when you left. You hear the factory owners grumbling about this, and as well about the way the trade unions are bleeding them dry and turning them unprofitable. You see corrupt union officials being indicted and sent to jail. You see blacks setting the inner cities afire on the evening news. During the next few years, you feel a tighter and tighter economic pinch as the economy worsens, especially after the oil crisis of 1974. It's not hard to see how the resentments form. What the progressive movement has never come to grips with, I don't think, is how to unravel this chain of resentments. We hear about "angry white men" but never how to quell their anger.

The Global Economy: One of the issues on which I split with many progressives is globalization. I believe that we have become a global economy, and that the issues of off-shoring that became hot during the last political campaign need to be dealth with in a more understanding and creative way. After all, I believe there is a link between prosperity and stability, and thus I cannot argue that the improvement to the lives of citizens of India through economic globalization could be a bad thing.

Charlatans and Opportunists: I think Thomas Frank makes some valid points about the "elitists" who hypocritically adopt far-right positions in order to win the support of those whose interests they actually oppose. Grover Norquist, who was a college classmate of mine, is an interesting case in point. Back in our college days, Grover was a committed libertarian, and I believe he truly believed in this philosophy. What I don't believe for a minute is his kinship with the religious right, and in particular with the anti-abortion movement that is so antithetical to libertarianism. Nor, by the way, do I believe that George H.W. Bush felt that kinship to the religious right, which he espoused during his 1988 campaign. George H.W. Bush was, I think, the ultimate political opportunist. I think Kitty Kelley exposed that pretty well in her recent book, The Family. George W. Bush is a little bit tougher to figure out. While I think he is a hypocrite -- the evidence points to a foul-mouthed, snide and cynical, overaged "frat boy" convinced of his own superiority but covering himself in piety -- I also believe that some of his religious convictions are sincere, in a somewhat twisted way. Let's say this: I oppose his policies almost to a one, and I probably need to spend more time trying to understand what goes on in his mind.

Sarcasm in Print: I remember being taught in high school that sarcasm is a type of humor that doesn't work in print, because it relies heavily on tone of voice and expression. I didn't know at the time whether I bought it, and I still don't know now. I think one of the weakest aspects of What's The Matter With Kansas? is its sometimes mocking tone. I think the people Thomas Frank is writing about are fascinating, and I want to understand their drivers and motives at face value, not through a lens of snideness.

Delusions of Martyrdom

The title phrase for this posting is lifted from Thomas Frank's, What's The Matter With Kansas? My reading of Mr. Frank's book prompted me to start a new blog yesterday, "The Escondido Review," in which I plan to write about books and the arts.
Frank uses this phrase in his discussion of the way that anti-evolutionists have cast themselves as victims of intolerance and bigotry in the ongoing battle against the teachin of evolution in public schools.
Anyone who scans through the postings of recent days on this blog will see that evolutionism vs. creationism has become something of a hot issue for me. Makes sense. I was trained as a biochemist before veering off into several careers that had little or nothing to do with the life sciences.
Anyway ... I do want to say a little something about "intelligent design" because there is a level at which I consider myself a proponent of this idea. I don't think that should be controversial. I believe it is a position that those in the scientific community should be able to support or dispute based on their own beliefs.
I think it should be simple. Because here is all that I think needs to be said on the matter:
While the evidence is overwhelming that life on the Earth developed over hundreds of millions of years through the processes of natural selection and evolution, reasonable people may disagree over how those processes were set in motion and guided.
Many scientists see sufficient evidence in the geological and paleontological record to show that these developments were natural manifestations of the laws of physics and chemistry. Others, wondering at the complexity and diversity of life that has evolved, believe that a guiding intelligence must have had a role in this. Those beliefs are related in the creation stories that are central to many of the world's religions. And it is to the world of religion that they belong. The scientific record must be taught and related on its own merits. That is the nature of science, to develop theory based on observation and experiment. The religious beliefs of humans must also be taught and related on their merits. Each individual will make a decision about whether and how to assimilate these two strains of thought. There is no need to mix the two in the classroom beyond a simple recognition of their existence, and a pledge of mutual respect.
That's it. No threats. No accusations. No delusions of martyrdom. Live and let live, so to speak.

Friday, January 14, 2005

The New Equation

"September 11 + Whatever We Say = Shut Up!"

Another gem from The Daily Show.
Jon Stewart offered this in response to a series of clips of Scott McClellan stating that "September 11 has changed the equation."

Why is it that so few beyond The Daily Show dare to speak of the hypocrisy of the Bushies?
God bless Jon Stewart.

Read Molly Ivins on Social Security "Reform"

Just do it.

Thursday, January 13, 2005

It's Time To Fight: Protect Social Security

This is cut and pasted from the site. If you read this posting, please take a moment to sign the petition:

Subject: Tell Congress to protect Social Security
Dear friend:
George Bush and Republican leaders have made phasing out Social Security through privatization and massive benefit cuts their top priority for 2005. Members of Congress are choosing sides over the next couple of weeks.
We need to make sure they choose correctly now—before a massive election-style campaign by George Bush and the Wall Street interests gets to them including what might be a $100 million TV ad campaign.
MoveOn’s trying to gather 200,000 signatures to present to lawmakers when they return after the inauguration. You can sign the petition now at:
Social Security is a complicated issue, but the basics are really pretty simple:
° Social Security provides monthly benefits to some 44 million Americans who are retired, disabled or the survivor of a deceased parent. It provides most of the income for older Americans--some 64 percent of their support. It has lifted generations of seniors out of poverty.
° Social Security is not in crisis. That is an outright lie perpetrated in order to create the urgency for radical changes. Under conservative forecasts, the long-term challenges in Social Security do not manifest themselves until 2042. Even then Social Security has 70 percent of needed funds. That shortfall is smaller than the amount needed in 1983, the last time we overhauled Social Security. George Bush's Social Security crisis-talk is an effort to create a specter of doom -- just like the weapons of mass destruction claim in Iraq.
° Phasing out Social Security and replacing it with privatized accounts means one thing: massive cuts in monthly benefits for everybody. Social Security privatization requires diverting taxes used to pay current benefits into privatized accounts invested in risky stocks. Without that money Social Security benefits will inevitably be cut -- some proposals even cut benefits of current retirees. These benefit cuts are inevitable, since diverting Social Security money into privatized accounts means less money to pay current and future benefits.
° Every serious privatization proposal raises the Social Security retirement age to 70. That might be fine if you're a Washington special interest lobbyist but it is incredibly unfair to blue-collar Americans with tough, physical jobs, or for African Americans and Latinos with lower life expectancies.
° Privatization means gambling with your retirement security. There is probably an appropriate place for a little stock market risk in retirement planning -- but it isn't Social Security. Privatization exposes your entire retirement portfolio to stock market risks -- and the risk that you'll outlive any of your savings at retirement. You can't outlive your Social Security benefit.
° So who does benefit? Wall Street. Giant financial services firms have been salivating for decades over the prospect of taking over Social Security. Wall Street would make billions of dollars in profit by managing the privatized accounts -- money that would come directly from your benefits.
° Action is urgently needed today. President Bush and Republican leaders in Congress are joining forces with the financial services industry for a major campaign to convince the public there is a major crisis and pressure members of Congress to vote for privatization. Action is needed now before it is too late. Please sign MoveOn’s petition to protect Social Security at the link below.
Thanks for doing this.

Raquel Welch, Scientist

As I wrote this morning about "intelligent design" and creationism, and made mention of the Raquel Welch movie One Million Years B.C., it struck me that for many of us in the age group that currently holds most of the political and corporate power in this country (I'm 48, 10 years younger than our president but I'm actually a college classmate of Grover Norquist, one of his most notorious power brokers), two Raquel Welch movies played a large role in our youths and our world views.
Raquel in that fur bikini in One Million Years B.C. is probably the predominant "sex symbol" image of our youths, but released just a year before this was Fantastic Voyage, in which Raquel and a group of fellow-scientists were shrunk to microscopic size so that they could course through a scientist's circulatory system and perform a medical miracle.
Now what could be better than having Raquel Welch careering through your innards?
There's got to be a fun article in this. I just have to figure it out.
By the way, I wrote earlier today that One Million Years B.C. shares a thesis with the "intelligent design" theorists. I misspoke. It actually shares a thesis with the "young Earth" theorists -- those who believe that humans and dinosaurs co-existed because they believe the Earth is no more than about 6000 years old. Sure, the title of the movie is a problem, but it was probably titled by some Hollywood liberal.
More important is that Ms. Welch and the filmmaking team demonstrated how large mammaries -- whoops, I mean mammals -- could have co-existed with the dinosaurs.
And why fur bikinis are cool.
In looking into this, I have stumbled across the name Kent Hovind, also known as "Dr. Dino," who operates a theme part in Pensacola, FL, dedicated to the idea that humans and dinosaurs roamed the earth together.
Here's some poop on him:
I wonder if he knows about Fred Flintstone?

A Swiped Fact

Here's one I stole off "Blogging Blue," an interesting blog that I link to at left.
It comes from Nicholas Kristof's column in yesterday's Times:

"Here's a wrenching fact: If the U.S. had an infant mortality rate as good as Cuba's, we would save an additional 2,212 American babies a year. "Yes, Cuba's. Babies are less likely to survive in America, with a health care system that we think is the best in the world, than in impoverished and autocratic Cuba. According to the latest C.I.A. World Factbook, Cuba is one of 41 countries that have better infant mortality rates than the U.S. "Even more troubling, the rate in the U.S. has worsened recently. In every year since 1958, America's infant mortality rate improved, or at least held steady. But in 2002, it got worse: 7 babies died for each thousand live births, while that rate was 6.8 deaths the year before.'

Our blue blogger makes an interesting connection between this fact and Bush's supposed goal of a "culture of life." Read it.


An article in The New York Times this morning describes new paleontological findings that early mammals snacked on baby dinosaurs. For some reason, I've read a lot about dinosaurs this week. I won't attempt just now to track down the sources (most likely Salon and/or Slate) but I've read about "intelligent design" theory and the political battle to have it taught in the schools. At least one of the leading figures in this debate has posited that humans and dinosaurs co-existed, just like in the old Raquel Welch movie.
The Times relates that fossil evidence has been found of dog-sized mammals, at least one of which had eaten a baby dinosaur as its "last meal."
Now I can't say exactly why this brought to mind the dinosaur/human co-existence theory, but it did, just as surely as it conjured up a vision of Fred Flintstone eating a brontosaurus burger. I guess it's just that there are fewer leaps here than in a typical round of "Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon."
Oh, wait. Here's another thought. One Million B.C and The Flintstones are creations of Hollywood, the last refuge of the liberal scoundrel. How could it be that this colony of pinkos has produced works that support the view of intelligent design theorists?
My head hurts with the thoughts.

Wednesday, January 12, 2005

Why Do They Demonize Latte?

It seems to me that the most widely despised companies operating in the United States right now must be Volvo and Starbucks. Liberals, those much-maligned, elitist beasts, evidently spend their (our) days driving vehicles manufactured by the one and drinking lattes popularized by the other. When we're not sipping Chardonnay, but it is harder to tie that to a brand, and anyway it sounds more French and everyone knows that all things French are evil.
I have to ask: What are the sins of Volvo and Starbucks that cause them to be so demonized?
Volvo, so far as I know, is a Swedish automaker whose vehicles are known for their solidity and reliability. Is there something wrong with that? Or with people who would choose a car based on those qualities? I am admittedly about as far from a "car guy" as imaginable, but I have never known anyone to think of a Volvo as a particularly stylish or luxurious vehicle. Relatively expensive, maybe. Foreign, definitely.
Starbucks, standing in contrast, is an icon of trendiness, one of the most successful U.S. corporations of the past decade. This company has pulled off what I think is a rather amazing feat: Convincing coffee-drinkers to pay roughly 10 times more than they had been a few years ago for some flavored hot water. I will agree that the flavor in Starbucks's hot water is better than that in most; I enjoy a Starbucks coffee as much as the next liberal. But this is a story of capitalism at its most pure. Right-wingers around the country if not the globe should be singing the praises of the little company that could.
So we have two very different companies and sets of products here: One, sturdy, reliable and lackluster; the other, trendy and flashy. And yet both are associated with those of a particular political bent, and their products and consumers ridiculed in the same breath.
Thomas Frank, in What's The Matter With Kansas? focuses on the social chasm between not only liberals but old-fashioned capitalist-conservatives and the new, lower-class conservatives who dominate American politics in this era. His book is about the ways in which this group has been convinced to vote for candidates whose politics are antithetical to working-class economic interests.
And I suppose it is to these people that ridicule of a solid, sensible foreign-made car and a $4 cup of coffee makes sense. But again, they have missed the point. They are voting for candidates who want to privatize Social Security and turn everyone into an investor. Few stocks should be more attractive to this new investor class than Starbucks.
And because this same group tends to oppose abortion, the teaching of birth control in school and other measures that would help to lower the population, one would think that just a little analysis would lead them to support environmentalist positions. In that case, wouldn't they prefer the Volvo over what seems to be the car type of choice these days: Gigantic, fume-spewing Sports Utility Vehicles? But here we get into another class clash, which probably needs a whole separate analysis.
Suffice it to say for now that I feel sorry for Volvo and Starbucks. They are being unfairly associated with an elite that they had no part in creating.

Tuesday, January 11, 2005

Charles Graner

In Vietnam, we had Lt. William Calley.
In Iraq, we have an analogue in Specialist Charles Graner.
The names will live in infamy for those of us who believe that part of "fighting the good fight" is holding ourselves to standards higher than those of our enemies.
In testimony today, a Syrian prisoner told of how Graner forced him to eat pork and drink alcohol, in violation of his religious beliefs, and how Graner and other guards forced another prisoner to eat out of a toilet.
Those were only the worst offenses charged. Graner also jumped on the prisoner's wounded leg, and hit it with a stick, the prisoner said. He also said Graner was present when a different soldier urinated on him.
Are the accusations true? Hard to say. I wasn't there.
Do they ring true? Unfortunately, yes, because of the photographic documentation Graner and his fellow guards created.
Graner may have just built his own prison with these photographs.

Unlikely Fans

A fascinating little item in The New York Times this morning: Evidently, Michael Moore and Mel Gibson, directors of the two most polarizing films of 2004, are fans of each other's work. After the People's Choice Awards on Sunday, at which Moore's Fahrenheit 9/11 was voted Best Movie and Gibson's The Passion of the Christ was named Best Drama, the two were interviewed and offered each other some pretty strong praise. Moore said he is a practicing Catholic and appreciated Gibson's vision, and Gibson -- much more surprisingly, from my perspective -- offered strong criticism of the Iraq war in addition to praise of Moore's talents.
Now, why am I more surprised at Gibson's comments? It betrays my own prejudices, I know. And this from someone who has delayed seeing Passion because I suspect I will be sickened by the violence.
Still, I'm glad that these two have found something to admire in each other's artistry. I wish for more of the same. I really am someone who believes there should be common ground between Democrats and Republicans, and that our government policies should be based on that common ground, rather than through tyrannical rule by the party in power (I almost said "majority" party, but I also truly believe we are a country split almost exactly down the partisan middle at this point, as little sense as that makes to me).

Values and Resentment

I'm currently catching up on election season reading with "What's The Matter With Kansas?," Thomas Frank's interesting analysis of the Republican party's success in capturing the votes of people whose interests are actually antithetical to the Republican agenda.
Frank focuses on the "values" issues that got so much attention after the recent election. I'm only getting into the book, so I don't want to anticipate his arguments, but I wonder whether "values" are not intimately tied to the "angry white male" phenomenon that was written about extensively after previous elections. I probably should defer writing more on this subject until I have gotten the whole gist of Frank's argument, but I wanted to log this thought while it was on my mind.
That's what blogs are for, right?

Three Questions

The news stories yesterday and today about the CBS News internal investigation of last fall's "Rathergate" scandal do not, in my view, make it clear that there really are three different questions in play, only one of which may have been answered by the report released yesterday.
The three questions are:
1) Was George W. Bush derelict in his performance as a National Guardsman?
2) Were the documents aired by CBS News -- which purportedly exposed Bush's dereliction of duty -- authentic?
3) Did CBS News properly vet these documents before airing its story on 60 Minutes?
The first of these questions was raised by CBS in its initial 60 Minutes report on Mr. Bush's service record, in which documents were produced which appear to show that Mr. Bush was given preferential and unfair treatment, at least in having misbehavior covered up by superiors who were keenly aware of his family's political connections.
The second question is that raised by the "blogosphere" in reaction to the CBS report. While I strongly disagree with the politics of the bloggers who raised this question, I will more than happily concede that it is an appropriate and, in fact, extremely important question.
The CBS internal investigation provides at least a partial answer to the third of these questions and says that, no, the documents were not properly questioned and vetted for authenticity. However, it makes clear that there still is no answer to the second, and more important question of whether these documents are authentic. And that means that the documents have no bearing on the still-unanswered first question regarding the President's service record.
And yet, I am willing to bet that the right-wing media will conflate the three, as it has been doing since the original air date of September 8, to claim that the first and more important of these questions has now been "laid to rest". The public should not stand for this misinterpretation, but I am unfortunately more than willing to bet that a large majority will happily do so -- just as they bought the misleading "weapons of mass destruction" rationale for the Iraq war, and just as they may, most distressingly of all, buy the fabricated "crisis" in Social Security that the Bush administration has put forward as justification for its move to "privatize" that system.

Monday, January 10, 2005

Strange Happenings

I don't think anything quite like this has come over me before. Just before 5:00 this afternoon, as I was laying on the floor of my study reading a story by Alice Munro, an idea for a story came to me. I got up, went to the computer and ended up writing a good portion of the story -- opening, compelling event, and end -- in one sitting. There's still plenty more to do, but I feel like I have written something that has shape, passion and truth.
That last is what is strangest for me in my writing. This story makes sense in terms of the writing I have been doing in my various blogs over the past couple of months. It expresses thoughts and feelings and desires I have had.

The Kindness of Strangers

One of the pleasures I am finding in blogging is that on occasion I can correspond with a stranger, either someone who has posted a comment to my blog, or someone to whose blog I have posted.
Either way, it's nice to share a message with someone who has a similar interest, or who can add perspective to a comment.
Today I heard from a guy named Chris, whose blog I stumbled across. He is writing a history of his efforts to diet and I sent him a few words of encouragement. I also added his blog to my list at the left, so if you are reading this, please take a moment to visit the HealthyEating blog and cheer him on.
So far I have not been flamed (or whatever the current blogger term for a nasty comment is), despite some of the unpopular political opinions I have espoused. I actually hope posting nasty comments to blogs is something that is not done frequently. It would be nice to find some area of life where there is a modicum of etiquette.
However, I suspect I have just been fortunate so far. There are so many blogs out there, I have just not attracted any vermin yet.

Amazing Grace

Amazing Grace, how sweet the taste
That saved a wrench for me.
I once was in the lost and found,
Was blind but found my key.

OK. There they are. The words have been circling in my head for 3-4 days, since I heard them on a Malcolm In The Middle episode in which the family joins a church to take advantage of free day care. Reese, who has undergone a religious conversion as a result of taking part in a church youth group, sings "Amazing Grace" while flying in a chair kept aloft by a bunch of white helium balloons. As usual, Reese's behavior is a highlight of the episode. Earlier in the episode, while the smiling teens around him sing the praises of abstinence, he asks if he can't just get a form signed so he can get out of the class.
I love Malcolm, as I've said before.
Some of the best comedy on TV.

Secret Prisoners

Tom Teepen, in this morning's North County Times, writes about the likelihood that the United States is now holding prisoners without charge, indefinitely, on the chance that they may be terrorists.
Why don't more Americans understand and become outraged that by doing this we violate all of the principles on which our country was founded?
Is our security worth this?
Frankly, no.

Sunday, January 09, 2005

Today's Small Thoughts

A forgotten bit of history I picked up in an article in this morning's New York Times Book Review. Not only France, but Britain, went to war against the slaves who rose up and took control of Haiti in the first years of the 19th century. Britain, which controlled the Caribbean slave trade (despite the fact that slavery had been outlawed within England itself) actually sent more soldiers to Haiti than it did to fight the American revolution, and buried 60% of those soldiers in Haiti.
Napoleon's forces fared no better.
The black army of Haiti defeated the world's two greatest empires, in the name of freedom.
Amazing and inspiring.


Fundamentalism vs. Evangelicism. An article in this morning's Times highlights the differences between the two and makes the point that it is Evangelicism, often mislabeled, that is the predominent and growing religious movement in the US and other parts of the world. Fundamentalism -- a literal reading of scripture -- often is accompanied by withdrawal from the world at large. Evangelicism -- an overwhelming rapture of the spirit -- is often accompanied by social engagement and proselytism. Worth remembering.
These distinctions of terminology are, I think, important, as was Jeane Kirkpatrick's widely ridiculed distinction between Authoritarianism and Totalitarianism in the early months of the Reagan administration.


When I was in my early 20s, I had the idea that I would become a writer of short stories. This despite the fact that I had never been, and to this day am not, much of a reader of short stories. Other than Borges, and sometimes Singer. Today I read "Runaway" the first story in Alice Munro's short story collection of the same name. A good story, but I don't know that she really inspires me.
I understand novels. I don't know that I really understand short stories.
But writing a novel seems so intimidating.
I think the essay remains my form. But I'd love to try some of the others.
Actually, I'd love to succeed without really trying. That's the honest truth.

A Promising Organization

Like so much of what I discover, this organization was mentioned in a New York Times article this morning: The Institute for Global Engagement.
Their message of religious tolerance intrigued me so I found their website. I don't know enough about them to recommend them, but I do think they are an organization I will try to learn more about: A Christian, faith-based think tank dedicated to principles of open-mindedness and fairness.
Here's their website if you want to check them out:

Saturday, January 08, 2005

Bette Davis: A Brief Appreciation

Bette Davis has been so often charicatured -- the stacatto speech patterns, the cigarette-holding hand waving round in circles -- that it is sometimes difficult to remember that she was a very fine actress. Fifteen years after her death, it often seems that all that is left is the "camp" reputation fostered by her late-career horror film appearances, led by the horrendous Whatever Happened To Baby Jane?
The quality of Ms. Davis' acting has hit me by surprise a few times in recent years. A year or two ago I watched All About Eve on television and was startled by the quality of her performance. She captured Margo Channing's insecurities and fear of aging superbly.
This morning, I watched The Letter, and while found myself marvelling over her acting, chiefly in the scene in which her lawyer tells her husband about the existence of the incriminating letter. Ms. Davis is silent during this scene, but her changing expressions speak volumes.
The physical feature that Bette Davis is best known for are her eyes -- round and prominent, yet heavy-lidded and infinitely expressive. What is startling in a good Davis performance -- especially when one's memory has been clouded by endless comic impersonations -- is how expressively she uses her eyes. She was a master of her craft and in her best performances was both subtle and intense. Most importantly, she was nothing to laugh at.
She could also be awful, as she was in Whatever Happened To Baby Jane? and its ilk. Here she lived down to the camp reputation, showing off shamelessly, opening herself up to charicature. I remember enjoying Baby Jane as a child, but when I watched it again a few years ago, I was taken aback by how poor it was. Truly ghastly. I mentioned this to a friend, who defended it as a camp classic and, like the superbly funny All About Eve, a touchstone for the gay culture. I must say that I fail to understand why the gay culture would embrace something so truly bad, and couch it in the same terms as something well done like Eve, but that may be a subject for another essay.
In the last few years before her death in 1989, Ms. Davis regained some of the dignity she lost in during her horror movie decade, the '60s. I remember a television movie in which she played the estranged mother of Gena Rowlands. And recently I managed to see her final film, The Whales of August, in which she was joined by Lillian Gish, Ann Sothern and Vincent Price for a terrific curtain call. The movie is not great, but the acting is memorable, especially since we know that it was a last moment in the spotlight for all four of these fine performers.

Have I Learned Something From David Brooks?

Fascinating. I think I have.
He makes the point in his column these days that the Bush administration's efforts to "reform" Social Security by creating the option of investment accounts is really an attempt to create voters who will vote like Republicans (I assume by this he means lower taxes and fewer controls on business) because they are invested in the stock market.
Now, this may be evidence that I am one of the worst-informed people who ever prided himself on observing politics, but I never thought of this in quite this way.
It makes sense, and helps to explain how 51% of the populace could have voted for Mr. Bush two months ago. Since the 1970s, stock market investments have increased enormously. I know I have read many articles that mentioned this. So we may have many more people who believe their own well-being is closely tied to the well-being of both the stock market and large corporations.
For a time in the late 1990s, there was even some evidence that this might be true.
But what has really happened here, possibly, is that because they have some minor amount of stock -- either through direct investment or through the 401K plans that have largely replaced classic pension plans -- they are investors and should worry about big business in preference to worrying directly about issues that affect them: Jobs, the environment, the rule of law.
This is, I know, a vast oversimplification and perhaps a skewed idea in itself, but I'm starting to work out something in my mind: That to some extent Republicans have tried to build their block by making sure that more people share some bit of economic linkage to the rich fat cats who have traditionally been Republicans.
I need to better understand how "values" and religion tie into this, but in my own thinking, this is a bit of a breakthrough.
It is embarrassing to have to thank Mr. Brooks, with whose opinions I disagree almost universally, but today I salute him for opening my eyes.

Skewed Perspective

The letters to the editor of The New York Times this morning make many interesting comments on the topic of the Alberto Gonzalez confirmation hearings. This one, from Diane Runyan Bech of Swarthmore, Pennsylvania, struck me as particularly interesting:

To the Editor:
Let me get this straight. If Alberto R. Gonzalez, President Bush's nominee for attorney general, had paid his nanny under the table, recent history shows that there is no way he could be confirmed.
But Mr. Gonzalez is merely the architect of a White House policy on torture that even Republicans believe has endangered the lives of American troops. Therefore, his confirmation does not appear in doubt.

Well said.
We have become a society so easily distracted by those who would "change the subject" rather than address it, that our politics have become akin to a through-the-looking-glass experience. If only it were an unreality.
In this same set of letters there are a few which attempt to justify Mr. Gonzalez's stances on torture. One uses the same "change the subject" strategy that many teenagers use -- don't pay attention to what I'm doing, pay attention to what so-and-so is doing.
Says Jamie Valeriano of Wexford, Pennsylvania:

A common thread runs through "Don't Torture Yourself (That's His Job)," by Maureen Dowd (column, Jan. 6) and "We Are All Torturers Now," by Mark Danner (Op-Ed, Jan. 6): the popular liberal leitmotif of the awful America appallingly torturing innocent people.
Maybe we should worry a little less about how terrorists are being treated in prison and a little more about what they are doing to us.
Yes, I know that as Americans we should be expected to hold ourselves to higher standards, but this is the war on terror, and these are terrorists. They aren't an organized army; they are violent insurgents who brutally torture American soldiers and civilians for the sole reason that they are Americans.
If a few embarrassing pictures were taken it is hardly grounds for the scathing attacks on Albert R. Gonzalez, John Ashcroft or America in general.

This letter makes me shudder. A few embarrassing pictures? The Rush Limbaugh-esque minimalization of the Abu Ghraib photographs is as appalling as the attempt to shift the focus.
I have often told my own daughter that the only behavior one can truly control is one's own. One can try to set an example to influence the behavior of others, but ultimately (and excuse my grammar here) "you have to live with yourself". (Sorry about changing from third- to second-person there. That last phrase just seemed to read better with a "you" than with a "one."


The New York Times leads today with a story about foreign nationals (non-Iraqi) who have been taken prisoner by US forces in Iraq, and notes prominently that the Bush administration considers such prisoners not to be covered by the terms of the Geneva conventions.
How have we descended to this level?
How is it possible that in this country we have lost our moral compass to the point where we would consider inhumane treatment to be acceptable for any prisoner?
Did September 11 make that much of a difference? And if it did, why is it that the ones it seems to have affected were the most removed from the losses of that day? It's not from New York and Washington that you hear acceptance of torture. It's from Mr. Bush's red states.
I am continually amazed.

Friday, January 07, 2005

A First

Wow. I got -- or at least noticed -- my first comment on one of my blog postings. Cool. Someone is aware that this document exists.
The anonymous poster wrote a comment about my posting on the Christmas card I sent to Linda, an old friend whom I had mistreated as a thoughtless teen, and to whom I have owed an apology for many years. She concurred with my decision not to apologize directly, but to try to renew contact by stating that I always felt Linda was a fine person.
I haven't heard from Linda, but I would like to. I don't know if she has any interest in re-establishing contact with me, and I don't want to in any was harass her. This may be a long-time effort. I don't know that I would want to do more than perhaps send her another card next year if I have not heard from her.
We'll see.

Today's Small Thoughts

Anyone who has stumbled across this blog knows that I am an admirer of Jon Stewart and The Daily Show. One of the reasons is that he actually appears to have read the books written by the authors who appear on his show. I know that back in the days of Jack Paar and David Susskind, this was routinely expected to be true, but I don't know that there is another TV host out there today who actually reads serious books by serious authors before interviewing them.
Thank goodness for Jon Stewart.


I don't think I've ever listed my favorite TV shows on this blog. Of course, you know that The Daily Show is right up there. But let me add Malcolm in the Middle, The Simpsons, and Everybody Loves Raymond. I'm a big sitcom fan. I also enjoy Will and Grace and Arrested Development, although I just had to look up the name of that last one. I don't see it every week.
Even Reba is a pleasure to me.
Among non-sitcom shows, count 24, The O.C., North Shore, Smallville, American Idol, any number of cooking shows on FoodTV.


Increasingly, documentaries are a passion of mine. It's what I want to watch when I want to watch a movie. This has been a good time for documentaries. Capturing the Friedmans, Spellbound, the series of political documentaries by Robert Greenwald. Oddly, or maybe not oddly, I am increasingly disenchanted with news TV, which used to be something of a passion, at least during last year's presidential campaign. I don't even have the stomach for watching Bush be stupid anymore. And that's saying something, since he is often more comical than a sitcom.

Wherever I Turn, It's Always Today

Bob Herbert weighs in today on Alberto Gonzalez's record of justifying torture, writing in a tone that mixes outrage and sadness.
Paul Krugman gets sarcastic in his description of the "bad novel" he doesn't need to write, peopled with sinister characters that just happen to resemble Bush administration officials and right-wing evildoers like Bill O'Reilly.
After two days of sunshine in Southern California, the rains have come again. We're promised as much rain over this weekend as we normally get in a year. They're having a snowstorm in Las Vegas. The gods are not smiling on us.

Thursday, January 06, 2005

Bob Herbert

I have never praised Bob Herbert of The New York Times in this forum, so I want to do so now.
Mr. Herbert, rather than following "the pack", performs a valuable and, as I see it, lonely service to readers by writing eloquently and forcefully about miscarriages of justice. Whether these are in reference to criminal prosecutions or voter fraud, he highlights cases that have "fallen off the map" in terms of media coverage, and forces us to see that our system is not without its flaws.
I salute Mr. Herbert for his public service.

A Refutation of A "Fact"

Throughout my life, I have heard over and over -- primarily from my mother, the queen of made-up statistics, but from many others as well -- that the United States supports the world with foreign aid, only to be spit on or worse by the ungrateful citizens of the developing world.
Thanks to Nicholas Kristof in yesterday's New York Times for providing some numbers to refute this nasty view:

"Americans give 15 cents per day per person in official development assistance to poor countries. The average American spends four times that on soft drinks daily.
"In 2003, the latest year for which figures are available, we increased such assistance by one-fifth, for President Bush has actually been much better about helping poor countries than President Clinton was. But as a share of our economy, our contribution still left us ranked dead last among 22 top donor countries.
"We gave 15 cents for every $100 of national income to poor countries. Denmark gave 84 cents, the Netherlands gave 80 cents, Belgium gave 60 cents, France gave 41 cents, and Greece gave 21 cents (that was the lowest share, beside our own).
"It is sometimes said that Americans make up for low official aid with private charitable donations. Nope. By OECD calculations, private donations add 6 cents a day to the official U.S. figure -- meaning that we still give only 21 cents a day per person."

Unsavory Ideas

It's a morning dominated so far by unsavory thoughts.
I'm feuding -- at a remove -- with a customer over an agreement we made to speak at a conference that he is now denying ever happened.
The news this morning is full of articles about Alberto Gonzalez, the torture-justifying nominee for Attorney General whose confirmation hearings begin today.
And the TV section of The New York Times contains an article that gives me a new stomach-turning term to deal with: Humiliation Series.
The humiliation series, it seems, is the term for a brand of reality show that relies for its entertainment value on the humiliation of one or more of the participants. The widely lambasted Fox series "Who's Your Daddy?" is evidently a prime exemplar of this trend. The only nice thing about the trend is it appears to be waning. The point of the article is that Fox has fallen into a ratings trench this year due to the failure of several humiliation series.
Thank goodness for small favors.


From humiliation to torture.
The stories and columns about Gonzalez are truly dispiriting in their implication that torture has become policy for the United States. How have we sunk to this level?
I think many Americans simply have not gotten through the denial phase on this issue. I remember listening to my mother last summer conflating the beheadings of Americans in Iraq with the torture at Abu Ghraib. The gist of her comment was something like: "Oh, they're cutting off our heads but we're the ones torturing them?" As if the one negated the other somehow.
Why can't people understand the connection among events that all are part of a coarsening of the American psyche?
That idea is what drew me to the quote from Susan Sontag that I posted on the left of this blog a few days ago. She caught on to this (as, I recall, did Pauline Kael in one of her film commentaries on violence) about 40 years ago and tried to spell it out for us. I can claim childhood as an excuse for not paying attention to her at the time, but it certainly seems undeniable now that Sontag and Kael -- and probably many others -- were right to be warning us so many years ago.

Wednesday, January 05, 2005

Almost Forgot

This is the first day in a few that I almost forgot to post.
I've gotten beyond the insistence that I post every single day -- blew that goal last month -- but I have to say I am finding satisfaction in writing here.
I also know that most of my recent postings have been comments on things I have read, and I have to say that I didn't read anything inspiring this morning. The New York Times was pretty wet, and not a pleasure to sit down with, although I did make an attempt.
And then the morning was cut in half by my doctor appointment.
Good news there -- diabetes under good control.
I need to get back to the gym and to remember to take my fish oil capsules every day. Cholesterol was the only problem area.
I was told I have the blood pressure of a teenager.


Top 10 List.
Some of my favorite movie critics -- David Edelstein, Stephanie Zacharek, Charles Taylor -- are doing a back-and-forth on Slate this week about the films of 2004. There are many, many I have not seen, but there are only a few that stand out in my mind as worthy of comment.
Here goes my list:
  1. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind -- For the amazing depiction of loss. Loss of love, loss of memory, loss of happiness. I've never seen anything quite like it. Charlie Kaufmann and Michel Gondry have made a classic.
  2. Before Sunset -- This has got to be the most romantic movie I have ever seen. More so even than Before Sunrise, although together they are a perfect pair of films. Best moment: Julie Delpy's description of a Nina Simone concert, and her imitation of Simone walking across the stage. Second best moment: Ethan Hawke's expression in the final shot. Two near-perfect performances in a lovely movie.
  3. The documentaries of Robert Greenwald -- Not all of these were released in 2004, but I became aware and saw each of them this year: Unprecedented, Unconstitutional, Uncovered, Outfoxed. Four superb political films documenting the treachery and hubris of the George W. Bush administration. The Sundance Channel on cable aired many of these, and I purchased or rented most from Amazon and my local library. But I have to believe that not enough people saw them, or we would not be in the mess we are in right now.

A few other films were somewhat interesting but not in the class of the above: Garden State, Mean Girls, The Door In The Floor, Fahrenheit 911.

I think that's it. I haven't seen any of the Christmas season movies, although I very much want to see Hotel Rwanda. Possibly Closer and Sideways. Not much else strikes me as interesting. I'll probably watch Ray and Million Dollar Baby when they turn up on cable, but I doubt I'll pay money to see them. Last year, I looked forward to seeing Mystic River, Clint Eastwood's previous movie, and was sorely disappointed when I finally did. Great performances, but plodding and undistinguished otherwise. Despite all the praise for Million Dollar Baby, something tells me it will fall into the same boat.

Worst movies of the year? I found Dodgeball to be surprisingly bad, even for a dumb comedy aimed at teenaged boys. On the other hand, Harold and Kumar Go To White Castle was surprisingly enjoyable for a dumb comedy aimed at teenaged boys. And Seed of Chucky was surprisingly funny for a bad horror movie -- Jennifer Tilly is a very good sport.

Tuesday, January 04, 2005

Small Thoughts for Today

There was a title I thought of but then forgot to use on the previous posting: "Quantifying the Zeitgeist". Might be a good title for a piece about statistical surveys like the one quoted there. How our desire for validation leads to polls and surveys about virtually every subject under the sun. Marketing tactics applied to all of life. All of life as market fodder. There's something there.


Paul Krugman, whom I have lauded in this blog as one of the bright spots in the American news media, hits home again today in his New York Times column, the most recent in an illuminating series on Social Security.
The point that struck me this morning has to do with the "pack mentality" of the press. He points out how the American media have fallen into line to report as fact the Bush administration's fallacious scare tactics on a looming Social Security "crisis."
To quote Mr. Krugman:

"Today let's focus on one piece of those scare tactics: the claim that Social Security faces an imminent crisis.
"That claim is simply false. Yet much of the press has reported the faslehood as a fact. For example, the Washington Post recently described 2018, when benefit payments are projected to exceed payroll tax revenues, as a 'day of reckoning.'
"Here's the truth: by law, Social Security has a budget independent of the rest of the U.S. government. That budget is currently running a surplus, thanks to an increase in the payroll tax two decades ago. As a result, Social Security has a large and growing trust fund."

Mr. Krugman goes on to explain the economic arguments against the so-called "crisis" line that Bush and team have been pushing so hard in order to drum up support for their effort to dismantle one of our key social "safety net" programs.
Why does the press in general simply follow the administration's lead on this? Is it laziness, as Al Franken might surmise? Probably in part. Is it the fact that the media relies on "experts", and the administration is able to haul out supposed experts with all of the necessary bona fides? Probably also true in part.
Thank goodness we have journalists like Paul Krugman who look beyond the official story.


I am amazed that there may be people who will buy Amber Frey's book about her relationship with Scott Peterson. Even though I will admit to being somewhat interested in the Peterson trial -- I did not follow it closely but kept up with the headlines -- I can't imagine devoting the effort it would take to read even a short book by a secondary character in the story. Especially when I still haven't read Nicholas Nickleby.

Wierd burp in the blogospher just now. I pressed CTRL+I to get italics and started an unsuccessful publishing effort instead. Fortunately, I was able to get back to this page.


I have written a few times about work -- about never having found a career I am passionate about, about wanting to retire. Today the thought crossed my mind that maybe I should never be thinking about retiring, but instead about finding productive work that I would like to do until the day that I no longer can. I think I'm heading back to writing -- or reading -- for a living. That thought came to me while I was reading Jane Brody's piece in the Times about expiration dates on food. "What a wonderful career," I thought. "To be able to make money explaining something like this, that many people have wondered about and has been written about probably very little."
My conversation with my boss yesterday on the subject of work was interesting. Seems he's having thoughts about a drastic change as well. Is it just the time of year, the temporary disappointment of knowing we will not get a major bonus this year? Or is there something more serious going on in the way our business is working?


Looking at my output on this blog, it is obvious I have been in a bit of a writing frenzy so far in 2005. I guess that's healthier than spending the days staring at porn.

Some Numbers

I've run across these numbers -- from a Pew study --twice in the past few days. An example of "pack" statistics, that proliferate in the media? Maybe. But anyway, here they are in an article in the January 3, 2005 edition of The New York Times, in an article ostensibly about the reactions to the Asian tsunami:

"According to a study released yesterday by the Pew Internet and American Life Project, more than eight million Americans have started blogs, and 27 percent of Internet users surveyed said they read blogs -- a 58 percent jump since last February -- and 12 percent of Internet users have posted comments to blogs. Still, 62 percent of Americans say they are not sure what the term 'blog' means."
-- John Schwarts, "Myths Run Wild in Blog Tsunami Debate"

Statistics like this are used to give an air of credibility to a news article. They provide what might be called the, "Oh Really" factor. (I like that: The Oh Really Factor. Name for another blog?) However, they are only minimally relevant to this particular article. There's a point here somewhere. I'm just not sure yet what it is.

Monday, January 03, 2005

Small Thoughts

An essay on writings about "bad behavior" in The New York Times Book Review inspires me to mention a kind of writing I do not admire: The snide, self-aggrandizing humor piece.
This type of writing attempts to show the superiority of the writer's intellect by belittling both the subject and the reader. It seems to me that it is particularly prevalent in "men's" magazines.
I don't often see pieces of this type written by women, possibly because it is an expression of a particular kind of machismo.
Yes, this kind of writing may be funny. It is akin to a certain type of performance comedy -- Dennis Miller comes to mind. I often laugh, but I don't feel better afterwards.
Maybe the degree of skill with which it is done is a compelling factor. Probably so, because if it is well-done, I suspect this type of humor would be lauded, even or perhaps especially by me, as incisive satire.
Example: I feel a lot better about Jon Stewart's humor than I do about recent Dennis Miller, for example. As for Mr. Miller, either he was a lot funnier 20 years ago, or I was more receptive to this type of humor at that stage of my life. Maybe a bit of both.
Maybe the problem is what I mentioned above: That in some cases, the target of this writing appears to be both the subject and the reader, and the overall point seems to be to display the superiority of the writer's intellect. It is the self-aggrandizing aspect to which I object, I suspect.


I will not tell you the URLs of my blogs. Part of the pleasure of blogging -- at least to me -- is the sense of leaving behind something that is exposed just enough that a curiosity seeker or a causal wanderer may stumble upon it and find value.
I know that some blogs are meant to be widely read -- the political blogs that got so much attention last year, for example. But in my perusal of blogs, I come across so many that seem intensely personal that I suspect many more bloggers believe as I do that the blog should be a discovered artifact.


Maybe this is part of my problem: I love reading too much for it to be merely an avocation. It needs to be my vocation. The only job I ever had that demanded reading was my clerking stint at the Washington bureau of The New York Times. If only that had paid enough to be a career position ...


Here's another thing I love about blogging. I can write down thoughts without having to structure them into a complete essay. Whatever comes to mind can be put to words, and published instantly.


OK. I'm into quotes this week (actually, always have been. Just seem to be coming across some good ones this week).

"For every complex question there is a simple answer, and it is wrong."
- H. L. Mencken

Something I Believe

Here is something I believe:
That all honest effort, pursued without causing harm to others, is honorable and deserves reward.
In this, I feel a bit akin to the Shakers -- a religious group about which I watched a documentary this weekend.
I know that I feel better when I have achieved a certain level of "output". So why is it so hard to focus on my job?????

And Now For A Few Words From Susan Sontag

Among a set of excerpts from her writings that ran in Sunday's New York Times, the latter struck me. Maybe I'll put it among my quotes at the left:

"Ours is a culture based on excess, on overproduction; the result is a steady loss of sharpness in our sensory experience. All the conditions of modern life -- its material plentitude, its sheer crowdedness -- conjoin to dull our sensory faculties ... What is important now is to recover our senses. We must learn to see more, to hear more, to feel more."

It's striking to me that she wrote this in 1964, before Star Wars ushered in the era of slam-bang, never-stop-to-take-a-breath cinema, which I tend to blame for a good bit of our sensory overload in the arts (I take this from Pauline Kael, I know).

Working To Live

I wake up this morning uninspired, as usual, about the prospect of working for a living.
This will be another day to "get through."
I wish that I could be as productive in my work today as I was on this blog yesterday.
I didn't write an enormous amount yesterday, but I was pretty much happy with what I wrote.
Why can't I be happy with what I do for my company.
I am so tired of working for The Man.

Sunday, January 02, 2005

It Doesn't Take an Einstein ...

"It's not that I'm so smart. It's just that I stay with problems longer."
-- Albert Einstein

Well, maybe it's not that I'm stupid, but that I don't stay with problems long enough.
There was a period in my life, 14-12 years ago, when I may have been onto something.
The issue was balance -- the balance of work and life.
I was in graduate school, with an infant daughter, a house and all of the usual attendant worries. I was fortunate in that my wife and I had more money at our disposal than many others at that stage of life. But I think my thoughts at the time were common for someone at that stage of life: How do I hold onto what is important, stay centered, and at the same time provide for my family and myself?
I know that today, my work life is largely separate from my personal interests. My job has a number of things going for it: It isn't painfully difficult, it is sometimes actually fun, it allows me to stay at home much of the time, and it provides a very good income. But it is largely disconnected from my interests or those of my family.
How did I end up in a situation like that of my parents and so many others, in which work is "just a job" and not personally fulfilling? Does that even matter?
Am I perhaps better off than most Americans, in that I more or less adhere to the European ideal of "working to live" rather than "living to work"? Or am I somehow missing out on a career that provides a strong degree of personal fulfillment.
Maybe this is an issue that I should come back to, now that I am at a different stage of life.

Another blog?

I may start a new, purpose-driven blog: Reader of the Pack, in which I discuss the pack mentality of the press. That would require more discipline than I've mustered up in a while, but might open some new paths for me.

A Modest Proposal or a Missed Opportunity?

Maybe Frank Rich is on a roll this morning. Or maybe I'm just particularly receptive to his column because it was the first thing I read today.
At any rate, towards the end of his column he mentions one of the key moves of the Franklin D. Roosevelt administration when it entered World War II: Establishing the War Bonds program to pay for the war. As Rich described it War Bonds both helped to fund the military effort and gave stateside civilians the sense that they were participating.
This struck me as a wonderful idea for our times, but then I wondered if it is too late. I remember letting my daughter dial in to pledge $100 to the September 11 fund a few years ago, as we watched that first televised concert after the tragedy. I know that at the time, if there had been a bond program to fund the fight against terrorism, I would have contributed.
But now, after three years of cynical lies from the Bush administration, I would not donate to any cause it was touting. My suspicion would be that the money would be misused.
Is my own cynicism the problem? Or is it the fact that the Bush asministration has been so disingenuous. We may never know.

Breaking Out of Lockstep

To those of us who follow the media, one of the most discouraging facts of life is that so much of daily reporting seems to be a game of "follow the leader". Whether that leader is The New York Times, or the Washington Post, or, increasingly and depressingly, Fox News, we see and hear a story from one source only to find that everyone in the media soon is playing it in the same way, with an indistinguishable perspective, asking the same questions, suggesting the same answers.
And too often the leaders decide to abandon the main point and emphasize a minor issue. We saw that with the Dan Rather/George W. Bush reserve controversy last fall, when the issues about our "war president's" service record being raised by CBS News were completely abandoned -- even, eventually, by CBS News -- in the wake of still unanswered charges of the legitimacy of the documents. The only refreshing bit in that story was that the "leader" was not a major media outlet, but a set of semi-anonymous blogs.
More recently, in the Donald Rumsfeld/military armor story, legitimate questions from a soldier about the U.S. government's failure to protect our troops in Iraq became overshadowed by the question of whether it was appropriate for a reporter to have coached the soldier who asked the question. Lost in this story were a few points that have, thankfully, been raised this morning by Frank Rich in his Sunday column in The New York Times. The first point is one originally made (but drowned out) by a Washington Post reporter, Dana Priest, who evidently wrote that similar questions had been put to Rumsfeld directly by soldiers a year earlier. The second point is that Mr. Rumsfeld's answer, which after a rude putdown alluded to limits of production capability, was an outright lie. Manufacturers of military armor evidently have been telling the Pentagon for months that they could increase production. Mr. Rich reports that one company, ArmorWorks, has said it could increase its production by 100 per cent.
Mr. Rich does a valuable service by re-introducing points like these. His column is widely read. Maybe enough people will learn the truth to begin refocusing the story on the issues that matter. One continuing problem in that regard is that Mr. Rich and Bill O'Reilly of the right-wing Fox News Network, have made a game of demonizing each other, to the extent that any valid points made by one are likely to be drowned out by screaming rhetoric coming from the other.
This is the kind of media noisemaking rightly decried by the infinitely valuable Jon Stewart in his notorious "Crossfire" appearance last fall.
Of course, the content of Mr. Stewart's statements was quickly lost in the media babble over his calling Tucker Carlson a "dick" on air. So how many people really even really got the opportunity to hear and consider Mr. Stewart's points?
I do not rest my case. I will be back to this one as often as I can.