Friday, February 26, 2010

The Wizard of Speed and Time!

Great! No more need be said.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

NPR's Scott Simon Speaks Glowingly of an Amercan Idol

This morning, Saturday, February 13th, NPR has done one of those things that the media regularly does -- provided us with a case for comparison.

One of the US's better known idolaters of war, former Senator Charlie Wilson, died on February 10th. Scott Simon eulogized him very personally on NPR's Weekend Edition Saturday. It was a fawning string of inanities from an NPR host who has worked for years to perfect a breathless, simpering delivery.

Absent from Simon's treatment was anything even remotely resembling the slander attack of David Horowitz on Howard Zinn provided via Allison Keyes.

My suspicion (indeed, certainty) is that a thorough review of politically charged obits would reveal this kind of 'fair and balanced' treatment by NPR and most other so-called news organizations in America. Of course, in the eyes of NPR and Scott Simon, Charlie Wilson was _not_ a politically charged figure. He was adored by Democrats and Republicans alike -- which accounts for all of the political spectrum in NPR's field of vision.

Another illuminating comparison (albeit, not of two obits) is that of Yasser Arafat, who was gently villified (to put it as best I can) on his death and Ariel Sharon, who was lionized when he became comatose though he is every bit -- and far far more -- the war criminal Arafat was. Indeed, Simon himself offered another of his utterly hollow accounts on the occasion of Arafat's death. Simon recounted being held by Palestinian captors briefly. His captors pointedly asked whether Simon was Jewish. (It probably goes without saying that Simon has never noted virulent anti-Arab racism in Israel.) The point is that Simon felt no need to offer mealy-mouthed accolades for Arafat. Moreover, he made 'relevant' an irrelevant detail that had nothing to do with Arafat, but did serve Simon's purpose of demonizing, en masse, the entire Palestinian people -- just as the inclusion of Horowitz's slander served NPR's purpose of diminishing Zinn.

There are a great many critics of Zinn, some conservative, some liberal, some left-wing, who could have added some texture to any recollection, though it is plainly clear that the NPR and general US media standard is to offer near-unalloyed praise -- unless there is a 'need' to take the person down a few notches, or flaws so glaring that they must be at least acknowledged. Thus, in the case of Sharon, the briefest mention is made of Sabra and Shatila. Likewise, in the case of Reagan, the treasonable and impeachable crimes of Iran-Contra are mentioned -- but only in passing.

It is for the American Left that the special case arises, where it is necessary to slander the dead, lest their views be too popular.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

The American Prospect

Below is my response to "Time Is Running Out," Bob Herbert's February 6 essay in The New York Times:

For most Americans, the economy Bob Herbert fears may develop has been an established fact for some time. The Reagan years marked the start of a steady decline in prospects. Younger Americans and many in middle age have little if any expectation of living better than their parents. The servile grovelling of Obama and Congress at the feet of Wall Street and the Health Insurers are really only a reminder that the US has institutionalized oligarchy in every sense but the constitutional one.

Worse, the uninterrupted militarism of the past 60 years is actually escalating under Obama, hard as that may be to believe. At least medicare and social security unambiguously help Americans, if (perhaps) somewhat inefficiently (certainly no more inefficiently than private insurers do). The obscene military budgets have been blown on needless wars evidently calculated to inflame hatred of the US around the world.

Frankly, the lives of people in Germany look pretty good. They have health care, five weeks of vacation for all, and need not fear a life of abject poverty after retirement. They still value science, engineering and art. And they are aware that it is necessary to live with the rest of the people of the Earth -- a fact most Americans flatly deny.

Below, the section of Herbert's essay that I respond to:

Speaking at a conference here on Wednesday, Gov. Ed Rendell of Pennsylvania said that if we don’t act quickly in developing long-term solutions to these and other problems, the United States will be a second-rate economic power by the end of this decade. A failure to act boldly, he said, will result in the U.S. becoming “a cooked goose.”

Neither the politicians nor much of the mainstream media are spelling out the severity of these enormous structural problems or the sense of urgency needed to address them. Living standards are sinking in the United States, and there is no coherent vision or plan for reversing that ominous trend over the long term.

The conference was titled, “The Next American Economy: Transforming Energy and Infrastructure Investment.” It was put together by the Brookings Institution and Lazard, the investment banking advisory firm.

When Governor Rendell addressed the conference on Wednesday, he used words like “stunning” and “unbelievable” to describe what has happened to the nation’s infrastructure. His words echoed the warnings we’ve been hearing for years from the American Society of Civil Engineers, which tells us: “The broken water mains, gridlocked streets, crumbling dams and levees, and delayed flights that come from failing infrastructure have a negative impact on the checkbook and on the quality of life of each and every American.”

The conference was sparked by a sense of dismay over what has happened to the U.S. economy over the past several years and a feeling that constructive ideas about solutions were being smothered by an obsessive focus on the short-term in this society, and by the chronic dysfunction and hyperpartisanship in much of the government.

I was struck by the absence of grousing and finger-pointing at the conference and the emphasis on trying to develop new ways to establish an economy that is not based on financial flimflammery, that enhances America’s competitive position in the world, and that relieves us of the terrible burden of reliance on foreign energy sources.

I was also struck by the pervasive sense that if we don’t get our act together then the glory days of the go-go American economic empire will fade like the triumphs of an aging Hollywood star. One of the participants raised the very real possibility of Americans having to get used to living in an economy “that won’t be number one,” an economy that perhaps is more like Germany’s.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

The Newest Mandarins [in progress]

George Packer, Michael O'Hanlon, David Brooks, Ross Douthat, Kenneth Pollack,....

These are among the Yes-Men in the realm between actual policy-makers and the public. They rarely if ever offer original thinking. They instead practice the art of balancing, positioning, triangulating to ensure their greatest possible acceptability to the mainstream — the received wisdom.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

A Lexicon of Childhood

Here's an ongoing dictionary of the great expressions kids come up with. No particular order, not very long, and depends on whatever they come up with.

nastarola (adj.) generically, mildy nasty.

lasterday (n.) similar to yesterday, but specifically referring to the day of an event. (e.g., "Lasterday, when we went to the zoo, we got cotton candy." Thus, not the immediately preceding day, but the probably recent day when the zoo was last visited.)

the first beginning (n.) As adults, we think of a book beginning on the first page of the story or text, perhaps on the title page. But "the first beginning" is the first page of the book, literally — perhaps a flyleaf or an endpaper.

baby in a bird's nest (n.) A Christmas tree ornament of the infant Jesus in a cradle of straw.

Jesus Crisis (expletive) Corruption of Jesus Christ.

damage (expletive) Corruption of "damn it"

baby Zeus (proper name) Greek American child's answer to "Do you know what Christmas is about?"

"Fix the law." Anything that is broken can be fixed. So in response to "They broke the law," the response might be "Can you fix it?"

chocolate (adj.) Anything that tastes about as good as a thing can taste. Vanilla soy milk is 'chocolate'; Peach smoothie is 'chocolate'.

ganges (n.) Corruption of "gadgets," of the kind that Batman frequently uses.

stupidhead (n.) Means exactly what it sounds like. "Head" can be appended to many derogatory adjectives to produce an unflattering noun.

babyhead (n.) Much the same meaning as "stupidhead". Often said by an older sibling.

na-nana-poo-poo (?) Usually precedes "you can't catch me!" Meaning obscure.

ballgum (n.) Corruption of "gumball".

Elmo Juice (proper name) More generally N juice, where N is the commercial pop-figure used to get kids to buy the product, in this case juice.

Hot tub powers (n.) The special category of superpowers acquired after a first childhood experience of a hot tub.

"If you shoot the moon, it will make fireworks."

Clark Klent (proper name, Tue. April 7, 2009) Alterego or alternative identity of Superman.

The Clue (proper name, Sat. June 13, 2009) Confusion of the name "Riddler" from Batman.

Turning wheel (n.) a doorknob

more to come . . .