The planet has gone around the sun six times since Kiko's House baby-walked onto the scene, and the inexhaustible supply of rich material keeps coming in torrents, making practically every day an adventure in bathos, pathos, mythos and . . . uh, hathos.
Herewith some posts from the past 12 months in which I stuck my neck out. And as events would prove, occasionally got it loped off:
IN WHICH TURDBLOSSOM PLANTS ICE AND THE REPUBLICAN PARTY HARVESTS WIND (December 9) It is tempting to argue that the ongoing cage match between Karl Rove and the men who would deny him a Mitt Romney nomination is a battle for the soul of the Republican Party. Tempting but demonstrably false because the party lost its soul years ago and the man most responsible is Rove himself. Rove, who is a terrific tactician but a lousy strategist, launched the GOP on a course of short-term gains at the expense of long-term viability when he engineered the nomination of the empty vessel known as George W. Bush. LINK.
NOVEMBER 22, 1963: LIVING THE ILLUSION THAT IT COULD NEVER HAPPEN AGAIN (November 22) If you are of a certain age, the events of November 22, 1963 and the following days are deeply seared in your mind, but as yet another anniversary of the assassination of John F. Kennedy comes and goes, those memories do not automatically flood our minds as they did in earlier years. Part of this, of course, is the passage of time, but it also is the fact that with the exception of Ronald Reagan, there has not been a serious attempt to take the life of a president in nearly half a century and most of us live under the comfortable illusion that it could never ever happen again. LINK.
WE HAVE NOT YET ARRIVED AT OBAMA'S POST-RACIAL MOMENT. NOT BY A LONG SHOT (November 14) Anyone hoping that the election of the first African-American president in 2008 would usher in a post-racial era, putting our sordid racial past behind us once and for all, is bound to be bitterly disappointed. I happen to have known better, but it still is jarring when you consider how race is playing such a large role in the comical, ugly and tragic scrum known as the sprint to the 2012 Republican presidential nomination. It wasn't supposed to be this way, but when the Republican Party effectively abandoned its outreach to blacks and extended a beefy hand to Southern whites who once had reliably voted Democratic, the die was cast. LINK.
WHY THE GOP WILL LIKELY PLUCK DEFEAT FROM THE JAWS OF VICTORY IN 2012
(November 3) Shortly after midnight exactly one year from this Sunday the first voters will go to the polls in two tiny New Hampshire towns to vote in a presidential election that will be singularly significant in defining the course of American politics in the years to come. Before the sun sets in Hawaii on November 6, 2012, 130 million or so people will have voted on whether to give Barack Obama a second term or return to the White House -- and possibly the Senate, as well -- to the Republican Party. A year ago, Obama's chances of re-election seemed iffy, but the Republican Party has made four tactical decisions that virtually guarantee Obama will be a two-term president. LINK.
IRAQ WAR FINALLY OVER AS PRESIDENT DECLARES 'MISSION NOT ACCOMPLISHED' (October 21) After eight and a half deeply tragic years highlighted by the deaths of nearly 4,800 U.S. and coalition forces, at least 100,000 Iraqis and millions of people displaced, the Iraq war finally is over. Long story short, the president might as well have declared "Mission Not Accomplished" in bringing to an end the fool's mission fueled by neocon hubris that began with a March 2003 invasion on the dubious grounds that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction and a fledgling nuclear weapons program, and when those turned out to be bogus, the inane assertion that he was directly involved in the planning and execution of the 9/11 attacks. LINK.
THE SILLIEST ARGUMENT OF THE CAMPAIGN SEASON IS WHETHER BARACK OBAMA IS BLACK ENOUGH (October 17) It is a testament to the progress that African-Americans have made that there is a black Democratic president and a black Republican who is contending for the nomination to run against that black president. But it also is a testament to the pettiness of political discourse today and the fact that people of color still are singled out when whites are not that Barack Obama has been criticized for allegedly not being black enough and that criticism has come from blacks as well as whites, including Herman Cain, the black Republican who would like to unseat him. As a guy who is plenty white, all of this Not Black Enough stuff has me confused, so since some of my best friends are . . . well, you know . . . LINK.
THE DARK SIDE OF STEVE JOBS' LEGACY (October 10) I mourn Steve Jobs' passing. He was an extraordinary innovator who also had a wonderful design sensibility that makes the MacBook Pro, among other Apple products, so visually stunning. But as someone who went online for the first time in 1992, I have a vivid memory of my life before them and while they have made my life easier in key respects they have not made it better. As I write this, the brains of the people around us who are addicted to text messaging are slowly but inextricably being rewired. Their ability to focus on the task before them, whether something as mundane as preparing breakfast or something as serious as driving on a busy highway at 65 miles an hour -- is compromised by their compulsion to text. LINK.
HAVE BARACK OBAMA'S POLICIES BECOME SECONDARY TO HIS FORCE OF PERSONALITY? (October 3) I can recall only three presidents in the last 75 years whose force of personality -- charisma and all that -- was so powerful that it was their most effective governing tool. They would be Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Ronald Reagan and, of course, Barack Obama.
This tool, however, can be a double-edged sword. While all three presidents were able to accomplish a great deal, in the cases of FDR (the Great Depression) and Obama (the Great Recession and an obdurate opposition party) under trying circumstances, their personalities masked weaknesses. That was especially true of Reagan, who while talking the talk was a lightweight in several respects, and that is turning out to be the case with Obama. LINK.
THEY'RE FOR LIFE EXCEPT WHEN THEY'RE AGAINST IT: OBSERVATIONS ON TODAY'S GOP (September 27) I am still having a difficult time getting my head around this, but it appears that today's Republican Party is adamantly against abortions for the unborn, adamantly against health care for the newborn if their mother chooses not to have an abortion and lacks insurance, adamantly for letting an adult with serious health issues die if they lack insurance, and adamantly for executing people even under the flimsiest of evidence. Have I got that right? Yes I do, but the question arises as to how the GOP got itself tied in such seemingly contradictory knots. LINK.
BOOK REVIEW: S.C. GWYNN'S MAGISTERIAL 'EMPIRE OF THE SUMMER MOON' (September 21) It was not until the 17th century that the Apaches of New Mexico began to adapt themselves to the horse. It was even later that the Comanches, long disparate and primitive bands of hunter-gatherers, would master the mustang, master the demanding skill of horse breeding, and in doing so master the buffalo. This was one of the great social and military transformations in history, Gwynn writes, and the Comanches become in effect a Native American superpower. LINK.
RANDOM THOUGHTS ON A WRITERLY LIFE (September 14) I have no idea when I found my voice as a writer. I just woke up one day and realized that I had one. That voice is familiar to readers of this blog: Edgy and fairly simple language and sentence and paragraph structure with an occasional 10 dollar word thrown in because, doncha know, sometimes a big or obscure word can make a sentence more interesting and sometimes even lyrical as it rolls through the reader's mind. LINK.
THE DAY THAT EVERYTHING CHANGED (September 11) September 11 is perhaps the third date in American history requiring no year, July 4 and December 7 being the others. It also is the only of the three that I lived through and like virtually everyone touched by the horrific events of that day, found my life changed forever. That is perhaps a rash statement for someone who was 75 miles from Ground Zero on that gloriously sunny morning and was blithely unaware that the earth had moved until I walked into the mountain retreat where I found my love cowering in bed, head between her legs and arms around her ankles, as the man on National Public Radio said something about a second plane crashing into the North Tower of the World Trade Center. LINK.
10 YEARS AFTER 9/11 ATTACKS, THE GREATEST COVER-UP IN AMERICAN HISTORY REMAINS INTACT (September 6) Ten years after the 9/11 catastrophe, the Bush administration cover-up of why the terrorist attacks were carried out despite the White House, CIA and FBI being repeatedly warned of them still holds. Not only has the final word not come out about this malfeasance of enormous and arguably criminal proportions, hardly any word about it has. The mainstream media has been complicitous in ignoring this cover-up and ancillary efforts to hide the truth, which is not to be confused with the rantings of so-called 9/11 Truthers but rather an effort to hide the serial negligence and incompetence that characterized the government response before, during and after the attacks. LINK.
FIVE QUESTIONS THE GOP CAN'T ANSWER (August 16)First, how can you stimulate a moribund economy by spending less? Second, how can you create jobs without providing the stimulus to do so? Third, how can you ask middle-class taxpayers to do their fair share when the wealthiest Americans aren't doing theirs? Fourth, how can you assure future generations that the federal safety net will be reasonably intact when the GOP keeps trying to dismantle it? And fifth, how can America became great again not by uniting but by dividing? LINK.
WHEN DID AMERICA BECOME ROME? (June 27) When did America become Rome? That is, when did it forswear faith in its leaders and morality for greed and decadence? The comparison, of course, is somewhat previous as well as a time-worn cliche, but it works well enough for the purposes of trying to figure out why we are going to hell in a handbasket, abandoning our elderly and poor, imprisoning millions of citizens for the most trivial of offenses, suffocating the middle class, being trammeled by a powerful corporatocracy, as well as government by paralysis. LINK.
ARCTIC NOIR: WHY SCANDINAVIAN MURDER MYSTERIES ARE HOT -- AND DESERVEDLY SO (June 13)
What the great Swedish murder mysteries have in common with classic murder mysteries is that they are deeply and grippingly psychological, pitting the fiendish murderer against the dogged investigator. But compared to a fuddy duddy like Doyle's Sherlock Holmes or a hard-boiled period piece like Hammett's Sam Spade, Larsson's eccentric Lisbeth Salander has a steel-trap mind, a penchant for getting back at her enemies, and is positively hip with her arsenal of Mac Books, electronic eavesdropping devices and computer hacking skills. LINK.
MARY WOLLSTONECRAFT: AN APPRECIATION (June 1) It is a challenge to write about Mary Wollstonecraft, an 18th century English writer and women's rights advocate whose life is overshadowed by her famous daughter, Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin Shelley, the author of Frankenstein, among other works. The challenge is twofold: While Wollstonecraft would seem to be a founding feminist, she would not have considered herself such. And while this genius of a woman had great powers of observation, she could be extraordinarily dumb about her relationships with men. LINK.
ISRAEL'S FUTURE: OBAMA IS ON THE RIGHT SIDE OF HISTORY. NETANYAHU IS NOT (May 23) Benjamin Netanyahu may eventually figure out that Barack Obama is not George Bush, who never seemed to grasp that Israel's survival depended on the U.S. and not the other way around. But Netanyahu may be a little too shrewd for his own good. Obama will not back down, as did Bush when faced with Israeli wrath, and I expect that the president will end up playing the prime minister as he has played other foes. This is a man who will not be Israel's stooge. LINK.
THE OSAMA BIN LADEN PHOTO CONTROVERSY (May 9) Nature abhors a vacuum and so does the news media when it comes to big stories and controversy. There was bound to be a controversy of some sort over the brilliantly planned and executed Navy SEAL raid on Osama bin Laden's palatial pad in Pakistan, and it has centered on whether to release photographs of the slain Al Qaeda leader and the White House's decision to not do so. As a citizen, I understand the rationale for withholding the photos. But as a former newspaper editor who had to decide on several occasions on whether to run an especially graphic photo I have been ambivalent. LINK.
BOOK REVIEW: MANNING MARABLE'S 'MALCOLM X: A LIFE OF REINVENTION (April 25) Marable has written a long overdue corrective to Alex Haley's Autobiography of Malcolm X, which is rife with factual errors and propounds the notion that he was a bad black man who redeemed himself. As Marable shows with scholarly insight, that leitmotif is not necessarily incorrect, but it is just one part of who Malcolm was, although his capacity at reinvention was rather amazing. This book does not reject Haley's view of Malcom entering the civil rights mainstream so much as make the case that Malcolm's travels and experiences led him to the embrace a kind of humanism. LINK.
THREE YEARS ON: WHY THE SARAH PALIN BIRTH HOAX STORY HASN'T & SHOULDN'T GO AWAY (April 18) Rumors, innuendo and inconclusive photographs do not a true story make, but the fact of the matter is that three years after the birth of Trig Paxson Van Palin, there is no proof that Sarah Palin is his biological mother. Even though the mainstream media has been notably uncurious, this controversial story deserves to have legs because the former half-term governor turned author and reality show princess not only has not gone away, but she continues to inject herself into national politics and refuses to shoot down another rumor -- that she will run for president. LINK.
THE REPUBLICAN HEART OF DARKNESS (April 13) It has been over two years since Republicans last "governed," and that term should be used advisedly since the leadership styles of George Bush and Dick Cheney would hardly be recognizable to most of their executive branch forebears: A toxic combination of demagoguery, hubris and obfuscation that stole a march on FDR's most famous words: "We have nothing to fear but fear itself." Fear, in fact, has been the Republican Party's greatest weapon, but now the screw has turned and fear has become the Republican Party's enemy as it attempts to build on its House majority in the run-up to the 2012 elections. LINK.
HAS THE TEA PARTY ALREADY PEAKED? (March 30) As with any upstart political movement, the spontaneous nature of the Tea Party is ebbing, its values are becoming co-opted, its candidates wreak havoc on non-Tea Party candidates down-ticket, and it is giving establishment Republicans fits because of its purity tests and social extremism. While Tea Partiers won the GOP some congressional seats and a statehouse or two in 2010, it will only hasten the party's slouch toward national irrelevance in the long run. LINK.
WHY THE AMERICAN DREAM IS DEAD (March 28) It is convenient to invent an imaginary past when every home had a white picket fence in the front, a vegetable garden in the back and a shiny sedan at the curb, but there was an American Dream and it survived two world wars, a nearly decade-long depression and the threat of nuclear annihilation. Sadly -- and for me bitterly -- the American Dream is not merely on vacation because of a return to difficult economic times. It is dead. And while it is fashionable to blame feckless politicians and greed mongers for its demise, we all share responsibility as we take ever less responsible for our country, as well as ourselves. LINK.
THE MYTH OF NAMAZU & OTHER THOUGHTS ON THE NUCLEAR CATASTROPHE IN JAPAN (March 16) The Japanese spirit is strong. A core tenet of Shintoism is that nature is infinitely more powerful than humankind and that humans exists with the permission of the gods. The Japanese will rebuild, recover and perhaps embrace new myths, but I for one wonder as to whether a military adventurism that led their leaders to conquer much of Asia and ended in nuclear disaster was a forewarning of a second nuclear disaster because of another kind of greed. LINK.
THE CALCULUS OF WARFARE: HAVE MEDEVAC HELICOPTERS BECOME VALID TARGETS? (February 24) Unlike past wars and given that virtually every GI who is carried aboard a chopper in Afghanistan alive stays alive, might not these units be considered weapons in their own right? The producer of a compelling new documentary notes that there is only a certain amount that the public is prepared to lose in terms of human life, something that was borne out in Iraq as casualties rose and support eroded. But modern battlefield medicine has become so advanced that it is able to maintain morale at home because it keeps the kill numbers down in such a way that a war like Afghanistan becomes more sustainable. LINK.
OH THAT SILVIO 'BUNGA BUNGA' BERLUSCONI (February 21) The Italian people kind of remind me of the French without the fries. In awe of the past and pissing all over the present. But when it comes to prime ministers, the Italians have the French beat by a parsec. The latest guy to run Italy (and there have been governments since World War II) is a chucklehead by the name of Silvio Berlusconi, who actually has been on his third victory lap, but the current scandal involving him is so typically Italian that it could have been directed by Fellini. (Think City of Women). LINK.
BAMBOOZLEMENTS AKIMBO AS THE CURTAIN GOES UP ON THE GOP"S POLITICAL THEATER (January 18) The big engines of the Republican Party's mid-term Bamboozlement Express were a promise to cut $100 billion from the federal budget this year and repeal health-care reform. The promises were, of course, as empty as the party's Pledge for American and both deader than door nails even before newly minted Speaker John Boehner gavelled the House into session. If the budget-reduction promise was good political theater, the health-care reform offensive is worthy of a group Grammy. This is because . . . um, reality will once again rear its pug-ugly head. LINK.
WELCOME TO THE YEAR THAT THE SOUTH WILL RISE AGAIN. AND AGAIN AND AGAIN (January 3) There will be no bigger nor more regrettable anniversary in 2011 than the 150th anniversary of the onset of the American Civil War, a conflict that rended a still young nation into two parts and took a horrific 620,000 lives before Confederate General Robert E. Lee surrendered to Ulysses S. Grant, his Union counterpart, four years later. The great difference between the Civil War and every other war in American history is that it is still being fought, in this case by a rag bag of organizations like the League of the South that are made up of Lost Causers, delusionists who many generations on remain so willfully wrong about the roll that slavery played in the destruction of their precious South. LINK.