May rambling #2: Leterman, and Vivaldi’s Pond

James Taylor interview by Howard Stern on May 12

Mother Teresa.quote
You might want to bookmark this, because it’s updated regularly: Who Is Running for President (and Who’s Not)? Most recently, it’s former New York governor George Pataki, who’s been out of office since 2006.

Obama To Posthumously Award “Harlem Hellfighter” With Medal Of Honor For Heroism on June 2, 2015. That would be Sgt. Henry Johnson, who I wrote about HERE.

On July 28th, 1917: Between 8,000 and 10,000 African-Americans marched against lynching and anti-black violence in a protest known as The Silent Parade.

“Playing the Race Card”: A Transatlantic Perspective.

The Milwaukee Experiment. How to stop mass incarceration.

The Mystery of Screven County by Ken Screven.

From SSRN: Bruce Bartlett on How Fox News Changed American Media and Political Dynamics.

Does Color Even Exist? “What you see is only what you see.”
Continue reading “May rambling #2: Leterman, and Vivaldi’s Pond”

This week in Obama political scandal

It’s the attempt by the federal government to make legal acts, or marginally illegal acts, literally a federal case.

President Obama is currently embroiled in three situations labeled as political scandal. The IRS scandal is the most problematic in that it involves a highly disliked arm of government that affects almost everyone’s lives. But I agree that the REAL scandal in the IRS issue is that there are lots of political groups on both ends of the political spectrum getting tax-exempt status, when that designation should be limited to more cultural/civic issues. Since the Citizens United ruling by the Supreme Court in 2010, there have been far more organizations of every political stripe trying to influence elections, sometimes illegally. Also, the richer applicants fell under lesser scrutiny, a real class distinction. The President has shown public indignation over this particular issue, but he may be missing the bigger picture.

The notion that the Benghazi story is bigger than Watergate and Iran contra combined suggests that the “silly season” has already begun, Bob Woodward’s assertion notwithstanding. If there are altered documents, it may be Republicans feeding them to the mainstream media. At the end of the day, the real story on the government side will be that the US was ill-prepared for an attack in a hot spot, on a significant day (9/11 in 2012) despite warnings within the Administration, that no help was available to those who died there; that’s the scandal. The “talking points” of who said what, and when? An issue will be made of this, but it seems like usual interagency jockeying, rather than malicious intent to me.

I’m much more concerned by the unethical seizure of phone records of Associated Press journalists in connection to media leaks; it’s not just that First Amendment “freedom of speech” thing; it’s a Fourth Amendment “unreasonable search and seizure” thing, which has the effect of stifling whistleblowers. It’s the attempt to make legal acts, or marginally illegal acts, literally a federal case. One saw this in the Aaron Schwartz case, huge governmental overreach. The story of the octogenarian nun in federal prison for protesting may tick you off as it did me.

The President, as noted, seems to be worked up over one of these issues, but is more defensive about the other two. I would wish he’d get more excited about trampling people’s constitutional rights, but that does not appear to be in the cards. I find his behavior disappointing, to say the least.

Still, when the I word gets thrown around, I agree with this assessment: “it would take about fifty of each of the three to collectively equal Watergate, let alone the impeachment and incarceration we should have had over Iraq.”

A Boston marathon of random thoughts

I made the most unfortunate error of listening to the news all afternoon on Friday, April 19.

* I have been to Boston several times in my life, though not in the past five years. I had an ex whose family lived near there. I loved the mass transit in the region.

* My very good friend Karen used to live in Somerville, which is just north of Cambridge, part of the area where a lot of the activity on Friday took place. Her sister, who I have known for decades, still lives in that section, and I was wondering how much she had directly affected by the shutdown.

* I won $17,600 on JEOPARDY! in Boston in 1998, with friends Karen and Judy, and Judy’s son Max in the audience.

* Some talking head wondered if the bombing in Boston would make Americans more sensitive to the ravages of war that take place in Afghanistan, Syria, and elsewhere. My guess is no.

* A lot of bad info from CNN, who had reported a bomber had been captured on April 17, then awkwardly walked back its own story on-air later that afternoon.

* Amy’s poem Boston Meltdown reminded me why I stopped watching ABC News; it was the cult of personality – “Diane Sawyer’s my friend!” – which rankles me.

* Some news analyst referred to the M.I.T. cop who was shot and killed as the Officer Tippit of this case; I remembered who that was, amazingly. He was the police officer shot and killed by Lee Harvey Oswald after the JFK assassination. That’s rather arcane stuff, but when you’re filling the news cycle 24/7, that’s what you’ll get.

* Tried very hard not to listen to all the speculation about the identity and motivation of the bombers before they were identified, and assiduously avoided other people’s blather on the topic.

* Tegan is quite right that crowdsourcing looking for the bombs and bombers can be a dangerous trap.

* As terrifying and awful as the Marathon bombing was on Monday, April 15, the shootout, manhunt, and capture on April 19 was tenser in that one knew what COULD happen with the remaining suspect. My daughter in particular was tense over the fact that the Watertown neighborhood looked like a war setting.

* I made the most unfortunate error of listening to the news all afternoon on Friday, April 19. Tried listening to NBC but it kept reloading on my computer. Listened to four hours of CNN, expecting the door-to-door search would surely glean the suspect. No go. Then CNN timed out on my computer. Paying attention gave me a terrible headache.

* Yet then listened to CBS News when the announcement that the suspect was not captured but that the lockdown was over (wha!), but had gone to dinner when the capture of the alleged second bomber took place.

*Still, there were two interesting threads in the interviews of the suspects’ families. Their uncle in Maryland, who called the young men “punks,” wore the ethnic badge of shame, that their alleged actions brought shame to the Chechen people, that was very much like all of South Korea seemed to feel after it was revealed that the Virginia Tech shooter was from there. I’d forgotten that the VT massacre (32 dead, 17 wounded) was this time of the month (April 16, 2007).

* The mother and father, back in the former USSR, and the aunt in Canada, conversely, seemed to think the younger son was incapable of such heinous actions. The aunt, who is a lawyer, was particularly fond of the theory that her nephews were framed. One CNN reporter suggested the mother was “deluded”; a mother not believing her son was a killer seems understandable. The classmates of the younger suspect, who survived the shootouts, expressed great surprise as well.

* Even before this, I had pretty much decided that I wasn’t a big fan of large crowds such as New Orleans at Mardi Gras and Times Square on New Year’s Eve.

* Must admit this made me laugh.

* Mark Evanier tweeted: “America’s currently debating whether a guy who can’t talk should have been informed that he has the right to remain silent.” Of course, the issue isn’t just about one hated individual, but whether a naturalized US citizen can be considered an enemy combatant, and thus not subject to his Miranda rights. It’s good that he’ll be tried in civilian court.

* The family went to see West Side Story at Albany High School Sunday afternoon. It was quite good, especially the young woman playing Anita. I wonder, though, if the decision to have a sign on the front window, which said they would be taking extra precautions as a “result of Boston and other recent events,” was a function of the violence in the musical. Everyone was wanded.

* The lectionary scripture for this past Sunday included the 23rd Psalm. the choir sang The Lord Is My Shepherd from the Rutter Requiem [LISTEN], which I love.

* In the sermon, the pastor noted she had scrapped what she was thinking about in terms of her sermon after Monday afternoon. She noted that times were also difficult when Psalm 23 was written: “Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me.”

* Cheri collected some sporting events videos from this past week appropriate to the topic.

*I happened to have had the eponymous Boston album in my desk at work, even before the events, reason enough to LISTEN to it.
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Allan Arbus, best known for his dozen appearances as the sarcastic psychiatrist Maj. Sidney Freedman on the TV series MASH died at the age of 95. Here are three minutes of Sidney’s best quips. Read what Ken Levine, who wrote for Arbus on MASH, has to say.
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Richie Haven was only 72 when he died on Earth Day. He was forced to become the opening act at the Woodstock concert in 1969 because no one else could get there and ended up playing three hours, covering every song he knew. Here’s a story by Albert Brooks about being the opening act for Richie; NSFW.

December rambling

The 45 Most Powerful Images Of 2012. There are some incredibly inspiring pictures in here, but warning: Some of these may break your heart.

Eddie at Renaissance Geek has melanoma, which he’s having removed tomorrow. For reasons he explains, he’s named his new “friends” (his word) Nigel and Sixtus. Good luck, buddy.

SamuraiFrog writes: “The trailer for Now Is Good promised me only half of what I’m feeling right now, after having watched the film this morning.” Very touching blurring of film review and personal recollection.

On Facebook, I posted A Note to You, Should You Be Thinking of Asking Me to Write For You For Free by John Scalzi, which Jaquandor cited twice this month. It got a LOT of support from creative types.

Batman and the Golden Parachute.

Liberal values.

The last man on the moon was 40 years ago. That was only a 3.5 year period of moon exploration.

Stephen Colbert interviewed Jon Stewart “at the Wellmont Theatre, a fundraiser for the Montclair Film Festival. While the two have discussed their work onstage together before, this was their first lengthy public one-on-one. And despite their 14-year professional relationship, each brought forth stories that surprised both each other and the sold-out audience.”

The power of words.

Pale blue dot (Sagan).

Calendar of meaningful dates.

The 45 Most Powerful Images Of 2012. There are some incredibly inspiring pictures in here, but warning: Some of these may break your heart.

The best (and worst) media errors and corrections of 2012.

Zeitgeist 2012: Year In Review.

Steve Bissette’s Pop Culture Injustices of 2012. Marvel/Disney figures prominently.

Each year around this time, the good folks at Turner Classic Movies release a long, stylish video noting those in the movie business who’ve passed away since January 1.

Arthur@AmeriNZ on Robert Bork, and Dustbury on Fontella Bass, both of whom died this month.

It’s not that I don’t care; it’s just too hard. Literacy Privilege: How I Learned to Check Mine Instead of Making Fun of People’s Grammar on the Internet.

Bokeh? In photography, “basically it is when something is in perfect focus and the background is blurred.”

Mike Sterling’s 9 years of blogging.

Many comic book heroes have roots in the Hudson Valley, the area I went to college. Hmm – have you guessed MY secret identity?

How Superman’s Butt Saved Christmas. “Blame SamuraiFrog for this one, folks — he gave me the title! I deny all accountability,” Jaquandor pleaded. “Except for the part where I write the following tale. Which I’m doing stream-of-conscious, right off the top of my head. No editing.”

Based on the trailer for the new Superman movie, I might actually watch Man of Steel. Don’t think I’ve seen a Superman film since Superman II, more than 30 years ago.

ADD on the end of American Elf.

Paraguay Landfill Harmonic Documentary Features Recycled Orchestra.

Ukulele Orchestra of GB – Fly Me off the Handel.

The opening number of Fiddler on the Roof done in Lego.

The first world problems rap.

Theme from the movie To Kill a Mockingbird by Elmer Bernstein. Some yahoo on the Internet suggested that Atticus Finch was a failed lawyer because his client was convicted. Oy.

He who dies with the most toys is still dead.

GOOGLE ALERTS

An extraordinary entrepreneur and executive in the social services industry with over three decades of diverse professional experience in the field, Roger Green has routinely exhibited the passion, vision, dedication, and diligence necessary to be mentioned among the elite. As a result of his phenomenal body of work, Mr. Green has earned inclusion in the distinguished network of leading professionals with Stanford Who’s Who.

W is for Watergate

The key lesson of Watergate seems to have been “it’s not the crime, it’s the coverup.”

 

Five burglars involved with the break-in of the Democratic Party headquarters at the Watergate Hotel on June 17, 1972, were arrested; a couple more, involved in the operation, were also detained. The term used by President Richard Nixon’s Press Secretary, Ron Ziegler, to describe the event was “a third rate burglary attempt.” The seven were tried and convicted, President Richard Nixon was reelected in a landslide, and that was that. Except for the fact that two years later, the President was forced to resign in order to avoid almost certain impeachment.

I could not do justice to the story in such limited space – I recommend this Washington Post retrospective – but I do want to convey how important this story was to me personally, and how it played out provided an optimism about “the process” that I have seldom had since.

The burglars had a relationship with the Committee to Re-Elect the President, which many delighted in calling CREEP. Washington Post reporters Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein uncovered information suggesting knowledge of the break-in and attempts to cover it up, with help of secret informant Deep Throat to fill in the blanks, led deep into the Justice Department, the FBI, the CIA, and the White House. Various men close to the President were forced to resign.

The US Senate had a select committee operate from May 17 to August 7, 1973, and shown in rotation by the three major networks. Riveting story and I watched it as often as possible, as did most of the country, though some soap opera fans were furious; this was better than the made-up stuff.

It got REALLY interesting when White House assistant Alexander Butterfield revealed that there were listening devices in the Oval Office of the President. Special Prosecutor Archibald Cox subpoenaed the tapes, as did the Senate, but Nixon refused to release them, citing executive privilege and ordered Cox to drop his subpoena, which Cox refused. On October 20, 1973, Nixon demanded the resignations of Attorney General Richardson and his deputy William Ruckelshaus for refusing to fire the special prosecutor, finally getting the reluctant Solicitor General Robert Bork to do so; this was referred to as the “Saturday night massacre.” It was pretty much downhill from there, with each new revelation pointing closer to RMN himself.

I remember SO many of the characters in this drama. Chair of the Senate select committee Sam Ervin of North Carolina had a folksy demeanor, yet stayed on task. During the House committee hearings on impeachment, Republican House member William Cohen of Maine’s looked pained as he recognized his President’s failings. Charles Colson was convicted of obstruction of justice; he became involved in prison ministry, and he died only a couple of months ago (Arthur had a take on him).

It reminded me how checks and balances used to work, with even Republicans communicating to a GOP chief executive that an abuse of power had taken place. And it was also a time when a vigorous press was a true fourth estate, holding government accountable, but in turn, holding itself responsible for what is published in return. I do miss those days. Oh, here’s the trailer to the film All The President’s Men, which addresses the latter aspect.

The key lesson of Watergate seems to have been “it’s not the crime, it’s the coverup,” a message politicians seem to have missed over and over. And over and over. One terrible outcome is the attachment of the suffix -gate to almost every subsequent scandal, no matter how trivial. Here’s an undoubtedly incomplete list.
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Legendary reporter Bob Woodward gets defensive about mild accusations that he sexed up his Watergate stories

Woodward and Bernstein: 40 years after Watergate, Nixon was far worse than we thought

Will Robert Redford’s new documentary explain whether Nixon ordered the Watergate break-in?

ABC Wednesday – Round 10