Wednesday, December 31, 2008

'Keep Them Coming Till I Say Not To'

By Arnold Schnabel
It's New Year's Eve, it seems we've made it,
If only barely, through another year;
The terror, if not gone, has abated
Into a dull and grey persistent fear.
My mother’s sound asleep by eleven,
So I go to the VFW,
Shove to the bar of this drunkard's heaven,
And say, "Pat, if you please, I'll trouble you
For a Schmidt's, backed with an Old Forester,
And keep them coming till I say not to,
Or until you throw me out; whatever;
Do what your conscience says that you've got to."
I take that first sacred drink of cold beer:
"Happy new (let’s hope it’s not our last) year."

A tip of the Hatlo to Dan Leo

Best Cartoon of 2008

Pat Oliphant/Universal Press Syndicate

It's Time For A 28th Amendment . . .

. . . to the Constitution that would strip the power of filling Senate vacancies from governors and give that job to the voters, where it belongs.

In Which I Butter My Blogroll

I am the rare blogger who actually pays some attention to his blogroll. This has less to do with Type A tendencies than an ongoing wonderment at how many really good blogs are out there.

And then there are the tiresome blogs, which is why I made a deal out of showing Glenn Reynolds the door not too long ago and would do the same with his love bunny, Ann Althouse, except that she would yell at me.

Long story short, I have added a bunch of new blogs to my blogroll courtesy of Jon Swift's marvelous Best Blog Posts of 2008 roundup, as well as a few from a best blog thread at ye olde Booman Tribune.

Beautiful Photograph du Jour

By Joachim Eskildsen

Quotes From Around Yon Blogosphere

It's the end of an era. We know that 2008, much like 1932 or 1980, marks a dividing line for the American economy and society. But what lies on the other side is hazy at best. The great lesson of the past year is how little we understand and can control the economy. This ignorance has bred today's insecurity, which in turn is now a governing reality of the crisis.

Go back to the onset of the crisis in mid-2007. Who then thought that the federal government would rescue Citigroup or the insurance giant AIG; or that the Federal Reserve, striving to prevent a financial collapse, would pump out more than $1 trillion in new credit; or that Congress would allocate $700 billion to the Treasury for the same purpose; or that General Motors would flirt with bankruptcy?

In 2008, much conventional wisdom crashed.


Now that I've mastered the ability to set the alarm clock on my cell phone, I can face 2009 with head held high.
-- ME
The crystal ball in Times Square won’t be the only one dropped in 2008, as the GOP once again saw their rosy predictions defied by the will of the people. As 2008 draws to a close, we’ll be bidding a not-so-fond adieu to several Republican assclowns in both Congress and the White House. No doubt, on January 20th, Washington, DC street sweepers will be cleaning Pennsylvania Avenue of discarded shoes that were riotously flung to salute the end of our third Bush term (hereafter referred to as the Third Reich) that ended not with a bang but a wingtip.

2008 was like herpes, very hard to get rid of. 2009 will be worse, trust me, as Bernie Madoff used to tell the suckers. This one, incidentally, is not over. The greatest scam ever perpetrated will go on and on. Madoff was not alone, and if the crooks in the SEC who turned a blind eye to his Ponzi scheme are ever forced to come clean, some pretty big names will hopefully end up in striped suits sewing buttons.

With car sales at a crawl in 2008, and worse numbers projected for 2009, the auto industry is a depressing place. It's worse for the domestic companies, whose leaders should have driven to Washington in the Joads' Dust Bowl truck to plead their poverty case.

Yet the cars themselves are solid, if only people had the cash, credit and confidence to buy them. And while the overnight shift from trucks to cars caught everyone by surprise, the industry has no choice but to dance with the cars that brought them, at least until new faces arrive.

The seven biggest political blunders of 2008:

(7.) Pundits blowing the outcome of the Democratic primary in New Hampshire.
(6.) Eliot Spitzer
(5.) Blagojevich
(4.) Rev. Wright
(3.) The Edwards affair
(2.) Hillary's sniper fire story
(1.) McCain bailing out the financial industry.

Changing Change: 2008 and 1968

Those years are like bookends to our times, when one period of American life ended and another began.

After Democrats held the White House for 28 out of 36 years, the ground shifted in 1968 and, for 28 of the following 40, Republicans took control.

In 1968, Richard Nixon promised to "Bring Us Together" just as, four decades later, Barack Obama offers "Change."

Back then, Democrats were losing their grip on power after a disastrous war and years of domestic upheaval that were stirring fears about social stability in the face of new ideas about gender, race and conventional morality.

Now the Bush years have discredited the backlash of neo-con politics that brought another miserable military misadventure and the rollback of many hard-won individual rights in the name of keeping us safe from terror.

Once again, American politics are at a turning point and, even in the midst of economic misery, Barack Obama embodies hope for something better than what we have had for a long time.

Adding to the year-end gloom is a congressionally appointed bipartisan commission on terrorism, which releases a troubling report asserting that there is an 80 percent chance that within the next two years, a major U.S. city will be struck, with devastating consequences, by "an 18,000 mile-per-hour tool bag from space."

The point is, if you have any money left, you should spend it soon.

And happy New Year.

Top photograph by Jim Wilson/The New York Times

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

The Only Thing Israel Is Good For Anymore Is Chest Thumping

It is terrifying that Binyamin Netanyahu probably will be the next prime minister of Israel.
It is terrifying because Netanyahu is a man in the Dick Cheney mold, the only difference being that while Cheney likes to start wars, the Likud leader likes to grab land, and the gravest threat to Israel's security is not Palestinians or Iranis, but its own outlaw settlers. (For good measure, Bibi wants to postpone Palestinian statehood indefinitely and bomb Iran.)

It also is terribly sad because while I believe that the chances of a permanent Israeli-Palestinian peace settlement remain slim as the ongoing holiday hostilities remind us, the ascendancy of an Barack Obama-Hillary Clinton foreign policy team provides the best opportunity for that in a long time.

As complicated as the Israeli-Palestinian relationship is, there are two very simple truths about it: Without the withdrawal of Israel from the Occupied Territories there can be no peace. And without peace between these historic foes, there can never be peace in the Middle East.

* * * * *
Among the more bitter ironies of the last eight years, it would be hard to beat the Bush administration when it comes to enemies of Israel.

I state unequivocally that I would sacrifice my life to defend my Jewish brothers and sisters. But once the bloody intransigence of Hamas and Hezbollah are noted, the 60th anniversary of the Israeli state this year was bittersweet because of the Jewish neoconservatives who hijacked the Bush presidency.
In polite company, my German Jewish grandfather would have used the German word zudringlich to describe the likes of Richard Perle and Paul Wolfowitz. That means "meddlesome." In less polite company, he would have used one of his favorite profanities.
Granddaddy would agree with me that these neocons have been the worst thing to happen to Israel in a very long time because their fantasy of creating democratic, which is to say pro-Israel and therefore pro-Western states, in the Middle East was predicated on bellicosity and built on a willful ignorance of Arab and Muslim history.
That has been so abundantly apparent in Iraq, the first state where the neocons meddled. The result has been a slow-motion disaster that has taken many thousands of lives, been a sucking chest wound on the American economy and made Israel less safe, less able to leverage its interests, and the region as a whole less stable even as American troops begin withdrawing from Iraq.
The timing of the Perle-Wolfowitz wet dream, coupled with the ham-handedness of Condoleezza Rice, the most inept secretary of state in decades, could not have been worse for Israel. It brought out its worst elements like Netanyahu, not surprisingly neoconservative in nature, and with friends like the Bush White House, who needed enemies?
* * * * *
The U.S.-Israel relationship desperately needs a drastic overhaul. And while I hope that the new administration has the cojones to shake things up, I'm not optimistic that it will because the Israel lobby is so adept at pushing buttons in Washington, or when that fails screaming anti-Semitism.

The first thing that Obama and Clinton need to do is to make it clear to Netanyahu -- the likely successor to Ehud Olmert in the February elections -- that Israel has to begin rolling back to its 1967 borders.

This will entail removing most of the settlers from the occupied territories, including the West Bank, where the settler population has doubled to over 270,000 since 1995. Bibi will, of course refuse, but that is where the new American team has to draw the line because no Israeli government, let alone one led by a hard head, will have the political will to begin disbanding settlements.

The next thing will be to predicate American aid to Israel and the Palestinians on both entities dialing back the bellicosity. The Hamas rocket attacks that triggered the Israeli offense are unforgivable, but the impression grows that the the calculated overreaction to Hamas is as much an effort to expunge memories of the botched 2006 war against Hezbollah in Lebanon.

And let's not forget, as most commentators have, that Israel has blockaded Gaza for the past year, which is an act of war plain and simple.

The next several days will follow an all-too-familiar pattern of pointless finger pointing and messages sent but not received: Arab states will pile on Israel. Washington and a few other Western governments (certainly many fewer than in the past) will rush to Israel's defense. The price of oil will spike. The radical Palestinian leadership will bury their dead but determinedly not learn from the errors of their ways while their people sink deeper into hopelessness.

And the Israelis, who long ago squandered their moral superiority by building settlements while oppressing the Palestinian people, will revel over their big dicked but small-minded chest thumping.

Cartoon du Jour

Jeff Danziger/New York Times News Syndicate

Beautiful Photograph du Jour

(Central Park, New York, 1992)

By Bruce Davidson/Magnum Photos

Quotes From Around Yon Blogosphere

For a decade, Russian academic Igor Panarin has been predicting the U.S. will fall apart in 2010. For most of that time, he admits, few took his argument -- that an economic and moral collapse will trigger a civil war and the eventual breakup of the U.S. -- very seriously. Now he's found an eager audience: Russian state media.

. . . Prof. Panarin, 50 years old, is not a fringe figure. A former KGB analyst, he is dean of the Russian Foreign Ministry's academy for future diplomats. He is invited to Kremlin receptions, lectures students, publishes books, and appears in the media as an expert on U.S.-Russia relations.

But it's his bleak forecast for the U.S. that is music to the ears of the Kremlin, which in recent years has blamed Washington for everything from instability in the Middle East to the global financial crisis. Mr. Panarin's views also fit neatly with the Kremlin's narrative that Russia is returning to its rightful place on the world stage after the weakness of the 1990s.

The major news networks are effectively closing down their Baghdad bureaus. Never mind that there are still some 130,000 US troops in Iraq, they say they can't afford the manpower. Of course they can't. They sent all their reporters to stalk Obama in Hawaii.

The constant harping on the need for "experience" in politics, by which proponents seem to mean years and years and years on a vertical ascent, moving from dogcatcher to city council to county commissioner to state legislator to -- you get the picture -- has always irritated me, especially this year. Barack Obama brought to the Presidential race a terrific education and luminous intellect, a gift for clear and inspiring expression and a remarkable diversity of experience, encompassing community organizing, teaching at a prestigious law school and brief stints in the state legislature and US Senate. Yet because he hadn't served 20 years moving steadily up the ladder, he was routinely mocked and dismissed as "inexperienced," "unqualified" and "not ready" for the White House.

. . . Caroline Kennedy is a lot like Barack Obama -- she was educated at two of the world's top universities, she has written two excellent books, she has spearheaded a fund-raising campaign to improve public education in her city. What she doesn't know about the nuts and bolts of the process, her staff of legislative professionals will be able to teach her. She's eminently capable of representing New Yorkers and offers a real-world example of what lots of aspiring legislators like to proclaim about themselves: she's not a career politician!

Teenagers who pledge to remain virgins until marriage are just as likely to have premarital sex as those who do not promise abstinence and are significantly less likely to use condoms and other forms of birth control when they do.

For some reason, publishers have not been bidding up any proposals for Bush nostalgia, even those of the relatively popular First Lady.

"One question that seems to be weighing on prospective editors," the New Yorker reports, "is whether a book by Mrs. Bush will provide a candid account of her feelings, and perhaps counter the popular view of her as an opinion-free robot."

Candid? What world are these publishing people living in? White House memoirs deal in self-justification, rewriting history and sometimes revenge (pace Nancy Reagan), but candor is never on the menu.

I am all for conservatives coming over from the dark side. But the leadership of the movement that turned our politics into a cesspool simply can't be taken seriously as arbiters of proper civility now that they are out of fashion. It "demeans" the whole idea.

As Republicans debate the future of the party, it’s worth noting that some in the party are already trying to rewrite the past. . . . For years, Republicans have had selective retention with regard to what Reagan espoused. They have embraced the small-government aspect of his philosophy at the expense of the smart-government part. And for years, they have gotten by with a message that promised tax relief and little else. But after the mismanagement of Iraq, the ineptitude of the Katrina response and the failures at Walter Reed, the chickens have come home to roost.

Unions do not change economic growth, or at least there's little convincing evidence that they do. The countries with the world's highest growth rates -- the Nordic economies -- also have some of the world's highest rates of unionization. Denmark, Sweden, and Finland all approach 80 percent. Rather, unions change the distribution of economic growth. They direct more of it to the middle class and less of it to the executive class. The past few years have been an economy driven by the executive class. The question is whether that's what we want the next expansion to look like, also.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Freddie Hubbard (1938-2008)

Sympathy For Sherry, But Zip For Sarah

While I have never visited Sarah Palin's hometown of Wasilla, having merely flown over it coming into Anchorage from Tokyo a couple of times, in a way I have. This is because Wasilla is like other dreary towns that I am familiar with where many people are broke or bored and seek out drugs to help ease the pain.

For that Sherry Johnston, Palin's presumed future sister-in-law and dealer in a powerful heroin-like drug called Oxycontin, should be understood if not necessarily excused. Palin herself, who was spared the embarrassment of Johnston being busted during the presidential campaign because state troopers held off apprehending her until after the election, deserves no such sympathy.

While the child expected any day as the result of the bump and grind between Palin'a daughter Bristol and Johnston's son Levi had no say in who his parents and grandparents would be, Grandmother Sarah was afforded a great opportunity to bring the positive aspects about small-town America to the national stage while educating us about their needs.

Instead, Palin yammered on endlessly with a studied superficiality about "real" Americans as opposed to uppity urban elites like a certain black couple from Chicago. Johnston and other Wasilla residents are indeed very real. They also are members of an enormous and growing underclass whoses problems Palin and her Republican Party don't have the time of day for.

To the extent the story of the delayed bust has gotten attention, the focus inevitably has been on, as one blogger opined, whether it was "to preserve any chance McCain/Palin had of winning Alaska and other Republican states? Or was it just to avoid embarrassment to McCain/Palin?"

It probably wasn't. But conspiracy tripping is a splendid opportunity to miss the larger story: Had the Republicans won the election, Bristol's son would have been in the unusual position of having one grandmother in the White House and the other in prison. Talk about a teaching moment!

Israel: Soft Bigotry Of Low Expectations

The predictable and small-brained Marty Peretz on the Israeli-Palestinian attackathon:
Message: do not fuck with the Jews.
Matthew Yglesias responds better than I could, because I would use four-letter words:
"I think that’s exactly right, and also incredibly idiotic. To people who feel besieged and impotent to resolve the political paralysis afflicting their country, something like sending the message 'do not fuck with the Jews' must feel incredibly cathartic. But you have to ask yourself which Palestinian having lived through decades of Israeli occupation and all sorts of different ups-and-downs of Israeli policy and all manner of retaliatory strikes and cease-fires is really unaware that Israel doesn’t like being fucked with? The psychology of catastrophe is that one wants (a) to improve the situation, and (b) to lash out at a bad guy.

"Under the circumstances, the temptation to decide that you can best accomplish (a) by doing (b) is overwhelming and so you respond to 9/11 by invading Iraq. But already the number of Israelis killed by Hamas rockets has increased (from a baseline of zero) since the retaliatory attack that was supposed to prevent such killings."

Photograph by Adel Hana/The Associated Press

Cartoon du Jour

Gary Markstein/Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

Oh-Oh-Oh Joe Flacco!

Rookie phenom Joe Flacco completed 17 of 23 passes for 297 yards to lead the Ravens into the playoffs.

Photograph by Lloyd Fox/Baltimore Sun

The Tide Runs Out On Tom Cruise

Am I the only one who thinks that the last great movie Tom Cruise made was Risky Business way back in 1983? Nope.

Beautiful Photograph du Jour

By Anna Hill

Quotes From Around Yon Blogosphere

Hoping for less sweets in school-lunch programs and perhaps even an organic vegetable garden on the White House lawn, food activists realize that, for the most part, a President can push the cause of good eating by example.

While Bill Clinton scarfed Big Macs, Obama has been his polar opposite. "He's remarkably careful," says a campaign caterer. "He doesn’t like sweets that much but fish, fish, fish, some chicken and things with spice," like chicken pizette with fontina cheese, grilled onion and sweet and hot peppers.
Every time a new medium arises, a new group of avatars arises with it, assuring us of the wondrous effects it will produce for our democracy. . . . Now we're hearing the same thing about the blogosphere.

As he prepares to step down as DNC chair in January, giving way to Obama's handpicked successor, [Howard] Dean has cemented his legacy as a prophetic, if underappreciated, visionary in the party. When pundits saw the country hopelessly divided between red and blue -- with the blue part of the map restricted to the West Coast, the Northeast and an increasingly embattled Midwest -- Dean argued that the party had to compete everywhere. After the epic meltdown of his presidential campaign, punctuated by the endlessly looped "Dean scream" after the Iowa caucus, Dean took one of the most thankless jobs in Washington and turned it into a laboratory for one of the most exciting experiments in modern Democratic Party history. He radically devolved power away from Washington by cultivating a new generation of state political organizers and lending support (and money) to long-forgotten local parties, bucking the Beltway establishment and enabling grassroots activists. He rehabilitated his party, and his image, in the process. Dean's fifty-state strategy, as it came to be known, "fertilized the landscape" for Obama's fifty-state campaign, Brazile says. If his strategy is extended during the Obama administration, we’ll find out what a true fifty-state party looks like.

The White House explained President Bush's Christmas Eve pardon withdrawal for Isaac Toussie as a simple matter of directing "the Pardon Attorney not to execute and deliver a Grant of Clemency." But a review of the relevant case law shows that the president may have just committed a major Constitutional foul.

I suppose the real question is will there ever be agreement among everybody on just what is satire and what is racism?

The answer is not as long as liberals see playing the race card as the political advantage it is.

The latest blow up involves a Rush Limbaugh parody that first surfaced on his show during the campaign. "Barack the Magic Negro," an edgy satire of Obama’s celebrity and popularity with white voters that was written by Paul Shanklin and played numerous times on Rush’s show.

A year on, and despite the consensus media narrative that blames the Taliban, who ordered Benazie Bhutto's death is still a mystery and no-one in Pakistan's corridors of power seems much interested in solving it. (Not even her husband.)

It'd be nice to erase the Bush years from history, but even if we could do that we'd find that the seeds of disaster were germinated in the Clinton years and planted during the late 20th-Century. That history is beyond the scope of this essay, but it's important to remember that Bush may have driven us off course but we were headed down the wrong road to begin with.

. . . Yet, respect and love for this country doesn't mean loving it for right or wrong. It means a dedication to the proposition that wrongs can be righted, eventually, by following the principles of our system. That is why Glenn Beck's kind of patriotism seems like the opposite of love. His love is the love of the besotted. It's all surface-level and fantasy. One day Glenn Beck will wake up and discover that his princess is a pumpkin or his prince is a frog. But, that too, will be a fantasy because pumpkins and frogs are worthy of love, warts and all.


Saturday, December 27, 2008

Another Year Shot To Hell: The Best Of The Worst Of The Year Past From Kiko's House

Talk about a year made in blogging heaven! Never in my long scriberly career have I had so much at my fingertips to sound self important about, and practically every day has been an adventure in bathos, pathos, mythos and . . . uh, hathos. It invariably surprises me when a fellow blogger says there is nothing to write about; my problem throughout 2008 has been what not to write about.
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:

(January 2) A year ago today, back when a surge was something that you didn't want to fry your computer, extraordinary rendition was a stirring playing of Beethoven's 9th Symphony, people thought FISA was the federal agency that protected their bank deposits and a Huckabee was a . . . something or other, I posed a couple of questions:

Can we survive two more years of a Bush presidency?

Have we become a nation of sheep? LINK.

IN WHICH WE COMPARE 1968 & 2008:

(February 18) Having been eligible for the draft and an all-expenses-paid trip to Vietnam since I was 18, 1968 was the year that I turned 21 and finally was old enough to drink and vote, which I did in that order and with great enthusiasm.

I had a front-row seat for this year of great change, but nowhere were those changes manifested so powerfuly than in the presidential race. This presidential election year also is shaping up to be one of potentially great change, which begs the question: Were the changes of 1968 more important than the changes of 2008 could be? LINK.

(February 23) Harvey and Harriet Cedars are not just the breadwinners in a typical conservative Christian Republican family. They're hard working middle-class folks who have been going through some very difficult times but were confident that their president, his government and the Supreme Court that he has molded over the last seven years were on their side, which is to say God's side. This has been good enough for the Cedars because they knew that God was on their side -- their God anyway.

Then things got all crazy. LINK.


(March 12) I caught the Kerouac bug so bad that I read virtually everything he wrote. The good news from this literary experience is that I can confirm that Kerouac is deserving of the mantle of trailblazing Beat Generation writer. The bad news is that I was to read only two more Kerouac books that gripped me as On the Road had, and most of the rest of what he wrote is second rate or worse. LINK.


(March 26) Steven Green is the poster boy-man for much of what is wrong about the Iraq war.

This petulant loner was allowed to enlist in the Army and was fast-tracked to the war zone despite a history of drug, alcohol and emotional problems and a petty criminal record.

Green had been in Iraq for only a few weeks when he was found to have "homicidal ideations" by Army psychiatrists. Nevertheless, he was sent back into combat before finally snapping when he corralled some buddies and talked up the idea of raping Abeer Qassim Hamza, a pretty 15-year-old who lived with her family near a checkpoint that Green's unit had been manning without relief for days. LINK.

(April 2) Oops! It happened again – Chelsea Clinton was aksed about the Monica Lewsinky scandal while stumping for her mother.

There is some unanimity among mainstream media pundits and bloggers that such questions should be off limits. Their reasoning, such as it is, is that Chelsea was a teenager at the time, she surely has attained some sense of closure by now, and the whole subject is . . . well, yucky.

I beg to differ – up to a point. LINK.

(May 8) Nick was never the same after Vietnam. He would lapse into deep depressions. He let his teeth go, chain smoked cigarettes and pot and drank way too much booze, fought with his wife and would leave home for days at a time after suffering nightmares about the people that he had killed and seen killed.

I was one of the very few people who knew about Nick's Vietnam experience. It was horrific -- skippering a Navy river boat that patrolled the Mekong River. You know what I'm talking about if you've seen Apocalypse Now. Nick lived Apocalypse Now.

It helped that Nick was diagnosed fairly early on with a condition that has only recently been given a fancy clinical name -- post traumatic stress disorder. LINK.

(May 18) Mason & Dixon is the penultimate book in my long slog to read the complete works of Thomas Pynchon and is of more than usual interest because your Faithful Reviewer plies his trade within a stone's throw of one of the markers placed by the eponomymous pair of 18th century surveyors in determining the demarcation line between Pennsylvania, Maryland, Delaware and West Virginia that would become the symbolic cultural boundary between the North and South.

Like Pynchon's 2007 magnum opus,
Against the Day, Mason & Dixon is complex, wonderfully subversive and laugh-out-loud funny. But also like that book, it is more accessible than his earlier works, notably Gravity's Rainbow, a masterpiece but with prose so dense that you can stand a fork in them. LINK.


(May 25) Writing about Miles Davis is daunting, if not downright intimidating. For one thing, the legendary trumpet player probably has been analyzed more than any musician-composer this side of Beethoven. There is even an entire book on just one of his over 100 albums.

For another thing, a word like "legendary" does not begin to capture the enormous influence that Miles exerted on the genre, the many -- and I mean many -- young musicians he mentored who became stars in their own right, and his vast body of his work and extraordinary improvisational powers. LINK.


(June 12) Like radio waves reaching earth from some cosmic calamity millennia ago, the yarbling of Hillary Clinton sycophants who believe that her candidacy was gang banged into extinction by the mainstream media, right-wing bloggers and Barack Obama acolytes can be faintly heard, although it is so much background noise as Clinton herself and practically everyone else who is determined to take back America link arms and march toward November.

Has it only been five days since Clinton’s extraordinarily gracious concession speech? It seems like light years in this corner of the universe where the political landscape changes by the news cycle, and yet some diehards just can't seem to face up to the reality that the fancy evening gowns they bought so they could dance the night away with Bill and Hill at her inaugural balls will have to be returned. LINK.


(June 16) I felt embarrassed watching the orgy of self-important coverage about Tim Russert on the networks and cable news shows. You would have thought that someone really big like the Pope had died. This is because at heart I remain an old-school journalist who believes that becoming part of a story – which Russert did with proud regularity – is a cardinal sin and that the death, marriage or the winning of an award by one of our own should be duly and briefly noted, but then it is time to get back to work.

The "Meet the Press" host was by all accounts a loving husband, father and son who went about his business joyously, but I am at a loss to understand why that made him so special. LINK.


(July 25) One of the underreported and unappreciated aspects of the Age of Bush is that despite the appearance of unanimity some administration officials, typically careerists and not political appointees, were horrified at the embrace of torture and other extralegal actions and spoke up. They were silenced and in some case were fired, demoted or resigned.

When an official whose loyalty to the rule of law ran deeper than their loyalty to the administration tried to fight back, they usually were met by a human chain saw by the name of David Addington. History is filled with people like Addington who believed absolutely that they were doing right for God and Republic but whose actions were so awful that what they saw as patriotism was in fact traitorous.

By that calculus, the foul deeds of Benedict Arnold, Alger Hiss and Aldrich Ames pale in comparison to Addington's actions. LINK.


(August 15) As uncomfortable as the subject may be for people for whom the protection of privacy is more important than the corrosive effects of lying and hypocrisy on politics, the more that I learn about John Edwards' romp with Rielle Hunter, the more Elizabeth Edwards reminds me of Hillary Clinton. Minus the cancer, of course.

Both women worshiped at the altar of political prominence and power, so much so that they overlooked clear evidence of their husbands' violation of their wedding vows. They contributed to their husbands' phony public personas as straight arrows and then circled their own wagons when confronted with the truth. LINK.


(October 28) Charles Cullen is every hospital's nightmare: A deranged nurse who methodically murders patients by giving them hard-to-detect overdoses of medications.

As a result of Cullen cooperating with authorities in a plea bargain that will keep him behind bars for life, hospital procedures were tightened with his input and the New Jersey legislature passed the Nurse Cullen Act.

The act would seem to be a good thing on its face, but it is a safe bet that New Jersey hospitals have killed many more patients than Charles Cullen did as its health-care system has imploded. LINK.

(November 5) I voted yesterday in the most important election of my lifetime after the most dramatic primary and general election campaign of my lifetime. And as I left the polling station and walked out into the chilly morning air, it all fell into place: Barack Obama represents what America once was and can stand for again. As well as this: Obama did not transcend race so much as make the case that he is the best man to lead America out of the wilderness.

If that seems simplistic, it is. Because while the hydra-headed monster of racism may have been bowed in 2008, it has not been beaten. In fact, John McCain, Sarah Palin and their surrogates took demagoguery to new heights in a campaign that never found its groove except when it came to fear mongering. LINK.

(November 10) The tears of joy have dried. The stage in Grant Park has been taken down. The celebrations are history. As the dust settles from Election Day 2008 the biggest message is that the 1960s are now officially over. The Baby Boomers have passed the torch. We are finally moving on. And not a day too soon.

Born in 1947, I am a card-carrying Boomer and very much a product of the 1960s and the dirty little war and enormous social upheaval that decade brought. I am also aware that having been given the wheel a few elections ago, we have blown it bigtime. LINK.

(November 13) I keep going back and forth on whether America's Big three automakers should be bailed out. On the one hand, the collapse of General Motors, Ford and Chrysler would have an immense psychological impact in the depths of a recession, not to mention the loss of as many as 2.9 million jobs, according to one estimate. On the other hand, why reward managers and boards of directors so inept that they couldn't figure out how to remain competitive over the 30 years since the Japanese Invasion began?

General Motors is especially problematic.
The beginning of its downturn from innovative colossus to the maker of boring rental cars can be traced back to 1976 when a peppy little import called the Honda Accord first arrived in the U.S. LINK.


(November 16) In September of this year, the American Psychological Association reversed a longstanding policy by voting to prohibit its members from participating in interrogations or acting in an advisory capacity at Guantánamo Bay and elsewhere after revelations that some psychologists have been involved in so-called intensive interrogation sessions.

In a recent New York Times op-ed piece, Stanley Fish asks a provocative question: Why did psychology, generally considered to be one of the most liberal of disciplines, lag behind its sister professions regarding one of the most troubling consequences of the so-called War on Terror — the Bush administration's approval of the use of torture and enlisting health-care professionals in and out of uniform into helping extract information from terrorists and other so-called enemy combatants? LINK.

(December 13) The Republicans not only didn't learn from the thrashing they received in the November election, they have refused to dial back even a notch or two on the mean spiritedness that repelled so many voters while embracing a position that is even to the right of Dick Cheney.

And so there were Senate Republicans this week in the 11
th hour of a lame-duck session madly waving Old Glory and bloviating about free enterprise as they held a cocked gun to the heads of the American auto industry.

When the smoke had cleared, it was obvious that settling an old score with those blue collar guys and gals who carry union cards was more important to these senators than risking the loss of another three million jobs on top of the the two million that already have gone kaplooey because of the Wall Street over Main Street economic policies they have so slavishly supported. LINK.