Friday, September 17, 2010

Nobody Asked Me, But...

1) Boy, is my face red! It turns out there was a perfectly prosaic and all-too-human reason for this: the "victim" lied. This episode does not wane my (all-too flagging) faith in God one bit, but it does harm my faith in humanity in two ways. First, there's the woman herself. An incredible story such as this should immediately have made me skeptical and had I heard it first hand, presumably I would have been. Second, the reporters involved. I pointed out yesterday the dearth of good journalism in this day and age, juxtaposed against Edwin Newman's career. Here's a pretty good example. Even the Vancouver, WA police were baffled by her story and took it at face value for weeks. Reporters, who in my experience are usually pretty good at sniffing out something that smells funny, in this case didn't. I relied on their investigations, when I should have known better. I let me willingness to believe in their work ethic along with my willingness to believe that God sometimes throws us a message to overrule my innate skepticism. That was dumb. Shame on me.
Lesson learned. I hope.
TO: Sarah Palin
RE: Republican Leadership
It's probably not a good idea to tease the tiger until it's far behind you in the rear-view mirror. You thought liberals and Democrats were tough. Honey, you ain't seen nothin' yet! Youbetcha!
3) Likely tornado hits New York City: The skies grew dark at 4:30, as dark as they would be around 7:30 this time of year. At first, it looked like we'd duck the worst of the storm. I stared out my office window, realizing I did not have my umbrella, and chanced the train home anyway at 5:30. An hour later, a time I normally would be changed and riding my bike, I was stuck under the East River. The trains were stopped. Debris on the tracks down the line. We limped into a station, and I got out, knowing I was still an hour or so from home (oh, for my bike and the ten minute ride!). The rain had stopped, and the skies were clearing. I muttered to myself the asininity of some idiot littering the subway tracks so badly that a little flooding could cripple a subway line that is not only rated the best in the city, but carries hundreds of thousands of people each night, the number bumped up by the Mets game last evening. I hopped on a local bus. I did not bother turning on the news as I arrived home hours late. This morning, I wake to hear that we had a tornado, possibly. Certainly, the storm was a lot worse than I imagined.
5) The self-referential irony here is staggering.
6) Pakistan is on the verge of exploding in full-out civil war
8) It appears there are actually some things that Obama is passionate about. This is one of them.
9) Someone better develop a koala condom, or at least find a way to keep them from whoredom. Or perhaps they should keep them away from people my age.
10) You might remember Scott Janke, the Florida town manager fired when the town found out that his wife is a porn star. Well...he might win a better job.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Music, when soft voices die

Edwin Newman, the irascible reporter's reporter, has died. I want to mention briefly his career as guardian of the English language before I get to the good stuff. If you have never read his book Strictly Speaking, you must. He is at once witty and angry, and is my role model for this blogging career.
In an age of weak journalism and opinion-sharing that passes as research, one of the last of the great lions of reporting is gone. It's hard to describe what that era was like, when those lions roared and the world stood still. I think, if you wanted to name a contemporary, Greg Palast is about as close as you can get to what those days were like. 
Mr. Newman stood, rumpled and wizened, in front of the camera and told you not what you wanted to know, but what he found out. What you needed to know. And he did it in a spare and unflourished style that gave you the facts up front. He was a reporter in the truest sense of the word, in that he wrote the story as if a print editor would clip it: from the bottom up. 
Newman was unafraid. If he knew a fact that gave depth to a story, he would not hesitate to mention it. He informed, not reported, and we were a better audience for it. 
After all, how many journalists today would dare cut off a President in mid-sentence? In a Presidential debate? Yet he did just that to Ronald Reagan in 1984, when Reagan desperately tried to launch into a polemic in the middle of answering a question.
The most revealing moment, the one that makes Edwin Newman the reporter stand out, was this exchange:

Mr. Newman's most memorable appearance on "Today" came in 1971, when he banished comedian George Jessel from the studio. In a rambling interview, the 73-year-old Jessel likened The Washington Post and New York Times to Pravda, the official Soviet newspaper.

"You are a guest here," a steely Mr. Newman told Jessel. "It is not the kind of thing one tosses off. One does not accuse newspapers of being Communist, which you have just done."

After further strained comments, Jessel said, "I didn't mean it quite that way. . . . I won't say it again."

"I agree that you won't say it again," Mr. Newman replied. "Thank you very much, Mr. Jessel."

"I just want to say one thing before I leave," Jessel added.

"Please don't," Mr. Newman said, as he broke for a commercial three minutes early.

When he came back on the air, Mr. Newman said television had a responsibility to uphold "certain standards of conduct."

"It didn't seem to me we have any obligation to allow people to come on to traduce the reputations of anyone they want," he said, "to abuse people they don't like."

Would Matt Lauer ever say that? Or Charlie Gibson? Or Katie Couric? Imagine Sarah Palin being subjected to Edwin Newman's withering interview. Or Ann Coulter. Or Rush Limbaugh. Or...
Perhaps in honor of Mr. Newman, for one week, they should do just that.
Edwin Newman was 91 when he died of pneumonia on August 13 in Oxford (naturally!), England. His survivors include his wife of 66 years, the former Rigel Grell and his daughter, Nancy Drucker. He'd want those facts included in this piece.
And if I've made any grammatic or usage errors, Mr. Newman, it's only because I want you to have something to keep you busy while you're in Heaven.    

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Teabagger Cannibalism

If I was truly a saintly compassionate Christian, I would feel pity for Karl Rove. After all shortly after Bush was inaugurated, he boasted that he was creating a permanent Republican majority, a nation that would revere the GOP and disdain Democrats and in particular, liberals.
Well, not only was he wrong about that, he can't even keep his own party under control. Last night, several key Republican primaries went to Teabaggers. Lsast night, Sarah Palin's wing of the Republican party showed its teeth, and Sarah Palin laid claim to the mantle of the Pat Robertson fringe. A solid minority of motivated voters got out and voted.
In Delaware, the Senate race will now be between a nutcase and a Democrat. In New York, this backdrop will provide a stage for the governor's race. Across the northeast, this same scenario played out over and over again.
You might ask why. Well, here's the answer:
Consider the liberal northeast. Incumbent Republicans-- almost to a man-- are RINOs, according to the barbarian hordes of Teabaggers. They have to be, if they want to court moderate voters in the liberal, intellegentsic northeast. You can't win in any of these state in this corner of the country without them.
But here's the thing: the Republican party has left moderates behind in droves. It's gotten so bad that moderates like Christine Todd Whitman and Amo Houghton have had to pony up PAC money to try to get a seat at the leadership table. So basically, a Teabagger win in any of these states is less an endorsement of their craziness and more a disinterest on the part of the rank and file voters.
They simply don't care. Democrats reign supreme in this section, precisely because moderates look at the south and the west and realize the only way to keep this country from sliding into the Dark Ages is to vote Democratic and put some brakes on the sled. They aren't enthusiastic about moderate Republicans, because they're going to get beaten at the polls anyway. The only Republican senator around these parts is Scott Brown, who won Ted Kennedy's seat in a special election that was more lost by the Democrat who assumed she'd be handed the job than won by Brown, who had Teabagger support until he screwed them in the butt oby voting with Obama on a few key items.
Karl Rove is understandably upset by this, but me, I enjoy the schadenfreude. As with Frankenstein's monster, you can't control rage and fear in the confines of a party, so when you create rage and fear, you better be prepared to be the first victim of the blowback. Kudos, Karl! You may have handed the Democrats another eight years of hegemony on a silver platter!
The key for Democrats this season will be to unleash the GOTV operation. Against a moderate Republican, there would be a distinct difficulty in attracting moderates. Against a Teabagger, they'll practically beg the Democrats to vote for them. 
But be warned: As Martha Moxley can tell you, it's not a slam dunk. You do have to give some reason to vote, and ignoring the concerns of both the base AND the independents will blow up in your faces. You'd better do something and you'd better do it right and you have six weeks to do it.    

Tuesday, September 14, 2010


It's stunning and sad that the United States still deems it appropriate to kill someone in the name of justice.
Here's a case that I think many people who generally oppose the death penalty might make an exception for. A woman hires two men to kill her husband and stepson to clear the way for a romance with one of the men, and cash in a $250,000 life insurance policy. She showed little remorse, even trying to cash the policy as well as her late husband's paycheck just hours after the crime.
I, however, would still oppose the death sentence. Nothing can be gained from revenge killings, and if the goal of American society is to limit the role of government intrusion in our lives, as both social and economic libertarians would insist, then it seems to me that willfully killing a living human ought to be at the top of the list of things that a government cannot do, no matter how egregious that person may have behaved.
There is nothing, save a few bucks, that killing someone would solve that a life in prison without parole would not duplicate. Since rehabilitation is off the table, spending the rest of her life behind bars would be a more practical solution if teaching her a lesson is the goal. If the goal is to prevent her and others from killing, then certainly a life spent behind bars would serve as a constant reminder that "this could be you". Too, there's a bizarre and twisted honor in facing death and going without crying out. That badge of courage would be rather more difficult when it comes to facing yet another day behind bars. Resolve breaks, sanity withers away, and all you're left with is the hulking mass of a former human being.
In other words, it would actually be crueler, if revenge is the true motive, and I suspect we all know it is. If cruelty is the intent, how much crueler can it get than the taunts to an elderly prisoner? 
But there is one benefit keeping this woman alive for the rest of her natural born life could indisuptably provide: research.
Whenever some crazy story like this, or some other crime that makes little sense to us, pops up, we all marvel in wonder at what could drive someone over the edge like this: "He seemed so normal. She was such a good mother/wife/friend."
Somewhere, that thread was broken. We ought to take the opportunity to understand how, and to try to come up with some way to deter this crime and others in the future.
You want deterrent? How about prevention? That seems to make a lot more sense to me than the collective sigh we let out when the last wisps of life exit the dying killer.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Thermal Introversion

I am an introvert.
That may seem a bit odd coming from someone who blogs regularly, who performs on stage in various capacities, and who is among the most emotionally honest people you'll know.
But I am. I've known this much all along: I prefer to take my time, to ponder stakes, to meditate on things, to let them impact me and then to disgest the effects and repercussions. I usually need to do this alone. There are times when the company of people is not just irritating, it's downright repulsive, because it distracts me from things I deem more important.
In American society, this makes me an outcast of a sort, but I take heart (and you should too, if you're an introvert and reading this): I am not alone, ironically.
I'm not claiming some aggrieved status or oppression. The nature of American society is to reward the huckster, the squeaky wheel and the brassy extravert. A perusal of American history shows that the introvert usually takes a back seat to the outgoing, glad-handing "self-assured" extravert. That's just the nature of the beast we've created. Whether he or she is a phony or not is pointless. The fact is, that person is going to absorb the lion's share of the attention in any large group of people. Why else do you think Lady Gaga could get away with wearing a meat dress?
Finally, tho, comes an article that justifies me. My life is not about passivity. It's about reflection. My life is not somehow diminished because I don't jump into the first available vacuum. My life is enhanced because I spend my days watching the world and making the connections that social interactions create. If I act, it's because I understand a situation and can influence. If I speak, it's because I feel I have an unique knowledge or perspective that can benefit someone. 
It's why I blog, in fact. I blog, not to spite my introversion, but because of it. 
I act to spite my introversion, but that's a different story. That's about communication to a wider audience. When I blog, I feel like I'm holding a conversation with you, the individual reader. This is a point that I can focus on. It's not distracting to me and I know I have some large share of your attention. Some might say it's controlling, but dialogue is why I welcome comments on my pieces.
In a burst of irony, I get embarrassed when someone compliments my work, say my photography. I put it out there as an expression of my inner life and while I enjoy the feedback, positive and negative, I lose sight of the fact that it's still something very personal of mine, that it comes from deep inside me, and reflects emotional content that perhaps at this point in my life, I regret a little having shared.
In a few weeks, I suspect someone will refer back to this piece and I'll have a twinge of guilt over having bothered their day with my indulgence.
In another bit of irony, I'm happiest when I'm not looking for happiness as we define it: to be rich, to have a nice house, to have good friends and plenty of them, to advance ourselves in society. I may have accidentally stumbled onto many of those things, but they don't make me happy. But put me on my bicycle at 4:30 in the morning, and to see something like this will make me happy, something few people bothered to get up that early to see.
Of course, I'm also liberal, which makes my intellect formidable...I need to ponder why I'm a liberal, when liberalism is clearly extraversion.