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Showing posts from April, 2013

Bush Library is No Joke

I love the headline from the India Times, as it offers a short description of the events surrounding the dedication of the newest presidential library, which brought five living presidents together.  Congress allocates a substantial amount of money for these libraries, but still the majority of the funding comes from private donations, and it seems George W. Bush had no problem coming up with the $500 million state of the art facility at Southern Methodist University.

As with every venture Bush takes on, it is not without controversy.  In 43's case it is over donations, many of which are undisclosed, despite the Donation Reform Act passed this year, that states that any donation over $200 must be disclosed.  But, what can you expect from a man whose entire life seems to be built on lies and deceit.

Yet, everyone did their best to create a warm, fuzzy feeling to the event, including Obama himself who posted on his facebook site a picture of himself making a "V" sign beh…


A couple of films from the late 60s come to mind, If ... and Zabriskie Point.  One was set in an English boarding school and the other in the deserts of California and Arizona.  Both dealt with upper middle class disaffected kids looking to stir up some action, mostly out of boredom, as no core set of beliefs was set in either film.

Interesting that Lindsay Anderson, who directed If..., was a big fan of John Ford, although one would be pretty hard pressed to find any parallels here.  You never quite know whether Mick (impeccably played by Malcolm McDowell) is imagining the whole thing or if it is real.  Ultimately you lose yourself in the action as it shifts from black and white to color, underscored by the repeated use of "Sanctus" from the Missa Luba album by the Kenyan National Choir.

Zabriskie Point is even more surrealistic as Michelangelo Antonioni appears to be having a peyote dream grown out of his vision of misplaced American youth and their urge to rebel against t…

A New Radical Left?

One could argue that the Tsarnaev brothers' act of terror was a form of "blowback," although it is too early to tell. Authorities seem to think this is a singular act of terror, much like the school and mall shootings  we have seen in recent years.  But, apparently neither was a social misfit, and both seemed quite active in their community, leaving those who knew them stunned.

This leads me to wonder if young Dzhokhar may have become radicalized in college, reading about the unremitting War on Terror and the devastating impact it has had on those in Central Asia, where American drone strikes take place with impunity.  His brother, Tamerlan, no doubt came back with some first hand accounts, after his trip to Dagestan in 2011, that probably made his blood boil, as they most likely had family and friends affected by these military sorties.

Of course, nothing excuses the actions taken by the Tsarnaev brothers, but do they represent a new form of radicalism emerging in Amer…

The Tyranny of the Minority

Once again the Republicans have proven they can rule from a minority position by blocking what was a relatively innocuous "gun bill" that only called for better background checks and registration of firearms so that persons couldn't freely sell and trade guns at gun shows or on the Internet, where an increasing number of firearms are sold to avoid detection.

Now it seems the Republicans are circling their wagons against the proposed "bipartisan" immigration bill, as Grassley has already hinted he doesn't see enough "security measures" in the bill, alluding to the violence in Boston.  I guess it doesn't click that these two kids apparently had quite an arsenal to keep the Boston cops at bay for over an hour, resulting in the death of one police officer, with the youngest one able to elude the enormous search party for another day.

If you remember, it was Tom Coburn who threw a wet blanket on the gun bill when he questioned the ability to enfo…

The Great Agnostic

It seems "Fighting Bob" Ingersoll is enjoying a bit of a resurgence.  As  I noted before, I was first drawn to Ingersoll in newspaper clippings that my Great Grandfather had kept.  Apparently he was a great fan of "Fighting Bob."  Seems Susan Jacoby is too, as she has written a short biography on The Great Agnostic, whose favorite target was religion.

Jennifer Michael Hecht noted in her review of the book that Ingersoll was most noted for his quips, which have survived down the years.  Apparently, it was this wry sense of humor that endeared him to so many followers during his time.  He also had his fair share  of detractors, past and present.  I noticed that David Barton took a swipe at Ingersoll in his book on Jefferson.

Jacoby tries to figure out what it was that made "Fighting Bob" an American original, and also why his voice of reason hasn't fared as well as others over time.  Mark Twain is a household name.  Robert Ingersoll is the  kind of guy…

A Sad Day in Boston

The Boston Marathon is a great event, and it so sad to see it marred like this.  The images are frightening, tragically driving home the point that we are never safe.

Rand's Folly

Mr. Paul has been the man about town, recently giving an address at HowardUniversity, apparently aimed at trying to lure young African-American voters into the Republican Party.  Mr. Paul seems to think the major shift in black voting from Republican to Democrat occurred when Franklin Roosevelt ushered in “The Age of Handouts,” even if he says, Republicans had remained loyal to their roots as the Party of Lincoln.  But, it seems the Howard students weren’t buying it.
It’s not like Mr. Paul’s address was really aimed at them anyway.  The Republicans have become very good at staging events where one of their gladiators goes into a “lion’s den” (so to speak) to offer interesting historical interpretations that immediately go viral on the Internet and our lapped up by their constituency.  You might recall, Mr. Romney approached the NAACP with a similar message during his campaign last year.  It didn’t work for Mr. Romney, and it probably won’t work for Mr. Paul either in broadening the bas…

What are they afraid of?

On the surface, it would seem the Old Mackie is back in town, questioning the young guns in his party on their proposed filibuster of the Senate bill to bolster background checks and other measures that would allow state and federal law enforcement agencies to have a better record of the gun trafficking in this country.  As it is, you can buy handguns at gun shows and avoid the five-day waiting period mandated by the Brady Bill.  There are any number of other ways to avoid registration of guns.  Yet, Rand Paul has threatened to launch another filibuster, and has the support of 12 fellow Republican senators, leading Sen. McCain to ask, "what are they afraid of?"

The intent of the bill has the backing of 90% of the American public, according to a Washington Post-ABC News poll, including 74% of NRA members.  McCain was part of a bipartisan Senate committee that forged the bill, after Dianne Feinstein's attempt to introduce a new federal assault weapon ban ground to a halt.…

Good bye, Maggie

The Baroness is the second in the great conservative triumvirate of the 80s to go.  She had been preceded by Reagan in 2004, and is survived by Helmut Kohl (now 83).  Together, they represented the peak of conservative politics in the “free world," ushering in a new era of supply-side economics, which surprisingly did very little to stimulate American or European economies during their reigns, yet undermined the social welfare state in all three countries.  The US saw its worst “misery index” three years into Reagan’s first term with unemployment peaking at 10.3% in 1983.  Thatcherism resulted in 11.3% unemployment in the UK a year later (half way through her tenure) with staggering interest rates and a sharp fall in production to boot.  Unemployment in Germany peaked at 9.4% the same year. Yet, each is remembered as a champion of the unbridled free market and great prosperity.

It was refreshing to see The Guardian present Thatcherism by the numbers, when most other news outlets h…

The Way West

I remember seeing The Searchers as part of a Western film exhibit at the East Wing of the National Gallery many years ago.   This trailer greatly simplifies the theme of the movie, as it is perhaps the greatest Western film ever made, not just because of its stunning cinematography but the sense of cultural ambiguity John Ford creates in his big screen adaptation of Alan Le May's novel from a few years before.

As J. Hoberman points out in his review for the New York Times, Le May's story was based on an 1836 account of a 9-year-old girl, Cynthia Ann Parker, who was abducted by Comanches in an ongoing range war with Texas settlers.  Young Cynthia was forced to watch her parents killed, and was subsequently raised in the Comanche tribe, as personified by "Scar" in the movie.  It was one of John Wayne's few enigmatic roles, a former Southern Civil War soldier bent on revenge for the deaths of his cousins, and seeming to have no sympathy for the grown-up girl, now k…


With the Shroud of Turin once again in the news, I couldn't resist looking into the ongoing Biblical Archeological efforts that have consumed some of the most devout Christians for years.  Ever on the search of proof of the events depicted in the Bible, these sleuths have tried to leave no stone unturned in their efforts to expose everything from Noah's ark to Jesus's tomb.  Sometimes these journeys bring peril with them, as was the case for this filmmaker, but usually these stories fade as quickly as they pop up on the news, as they either turn out to be false leads or simply hoaxes.

I have been reading Rowan William's book on Dostoevsky and faith, and he points out quite early in his narrative that if you are looking for quantifiable "truth," don't look in the Bible.  He noted that Dostoevsky once said that if he was to choose between faith and truth, he would choose faith despite many reading his novels as that of a "Doubting Thomas," or in …

The Not So Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie

Eric Hobsbawm seems to be writing from beyond the grave in what appears to be his last testament, Fractured Times, but I'm sure more unpublished manuscripts will follow.  Hobsbawm proudly went down with a sinking ship in the Soviet Union, refusing to acknowledge the death of Socialism, at least in its grandest form, and remained ever on the attack of the corporate state.  Nick Cohen describes Hobsbawm in his book review for the Guardian as one of those rarest of critics, the Conservative Communist, seemingly able to live comfortably in the British society he wrote so harshly about, even receiving the Order of the Companions of Honour from Queen Elizabeth herself.  As usual, Hobsbawm's scope extends far beyond the British Isles as he once again charts the vicissitudes of the 20th century, including a chapter on "The American Cowboy, an International Myth?"