Sunday, April 27, 2008

More things I learned by reading the newspaper

It turns out that John McCain would be the first person born in the 1930s to become president, which may be more than mere demographic anomaly, according to this New York Times essay. I found the article fascinating because my parents were born in the 1930s -- my father in 1933, my mother in 1936. (The same year as McCain.) They are part of what is known as the silent generation -- almost, in some ways, a lost generation. They have vivid memories of World War II but were too young to have participated. They were too old to enjoy the cultural revolution that rock 'n' roll ushered in, and while they may have been sympathetic to the civil rights and anti-war movements, many didn't participate.

Interestingly, one of my favorite TV shows, "Mad Men", set in 1960, focuses on this generation, and it portrays them -- sometimes to the point of caricature -- as woefully ill-prepared for the social and cultural upheavals that were to come.

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Sunday, April 20, 2008

Mister we could use a man like Jimmy Carter again

Smarter people than I have already weighed in on how ill-advised it would be to suspend the federal gasoline tax, as John McCain has proposed. Let me add my own voice nonetheless: This is a really, really, stupid idea. Our so-called leaders should be telling us to consume less fuel, not giving us license to use more. (Not to mention the loss of funds for road and bridge repair.)

And I'm not letting the Democratic candidates off the hook. They can spar all they want over oil company profits, or who did or didn't vote for the Bush administration energy proposal, but I don't hear either one of them giving the hard truth to the American people: The age of cheap energy is gone, probably for good, and neither technology nor alternative fuels will save us unless we make fundamental changes in the way we live.

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What's the matter with conventional wisdom

Paul Krugman challenges, as he has before, the entire bitter/What's the Matter with Kansas thesis:

It’s true that Americans who attend church regularly are more likely to vote Republican. But contrary to the stereotype, this relationship is weak at low incomes but strong among high-income voters. That is, to the extent that religion helps the G.O.P., it’s not by convincing the working class to vote against its own interests, but by producing supermajorities among the evangelical affluent.

So why have Republicans won so many elections? In his book, “Unequal Democracy,” Mr. Bartels shows that “the shift of the Solid South from Democratic to Republican control in the wake of the civil rights movement” explains all — literally all — of the Republican success story. (link)

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Sunday, April 13, 2008

Context? We don't need no stinkin' context

Bram posts Obama's "bitter" remarks in their entirety. He could have chosen his words better, but it's nowhere near the condescending tripe it's made out to be.

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Saturday, April 12, 2008

Someone needs to take away his copy of "What's the Matter with Kansas?"

Cling to guns? Really?

At issue are comments Obama made privately at a fundraising gathering in San Francisco last Sunday. He explained his troubles winning over working class voters, saying they have become frustrated with economic conditions:

"It's not surprising then they get bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren't like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations."

The comments, posted on the Huffington Post political Web site Friday, set off a storm of criticism from Clinton, Republican nominee-in-waiting John McCain and a number of other GOP officials. (link)

So much for narrowing Clinton's lead in Pennsylvania.

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Friday, April 11, 2008

This parrot is no more

Someone decided to make a list of the top 50 comedy sketches -- quite a bold undertaking. Personally, I prefer the cheese shop sketch (see below) to the dead parrot.

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Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Steely McDrunk

Not only is this guy facing DUI charges, but now everyone knows what he did for a living.


The problem lies not in our stars, but in ourselves

A blogger at the Chronicle of Higher Education says that technology can't save us from our addiction to cheap oil:

Better solar panels, improved insulation, and more miles per gallon are attainable if we want them; the lab wizards can be counted on to provide them.

The real problem is that the energy crisis is mainly in our heads — in our habits and comfort preferences. (link)

That's why it drives me nuts to hear politicians -- including those I support, like Barack Obama -- complain about oil companies' "windfall profits." If we stop driving so damn much (says the Brookline resident who works in Moon), then maybe those gas prices will go down.

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Sunday, April 06, 2008

"Don't look for it, Taylor. You may not like what you find."

The New York Times obituary of Charleton Heston noted that reprised his role of astronaut George Taylor in "Beneath the Planet of the Apes", the sequel to 1968's "Planet of the Apes." Heston, however, appeared on briefly in the second "Apes" film (which, in my opinion, was the worst). The protaganist of the second film, cast for his resemblance to Heston, was James Franciscus.

I don't think anyone would ever call Heston a great actor. Others of his generation had far greater talents. But he never failed to entertain, either as Moses or the guy who discovers that Soylent Green is people. That's what it's all about.

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That's one they might want to let us have

The New York Times has a fascinating article about persistent rumors, during his lifetime and after, that President Warren Harding had African-American ancestry. One can imagine the chuckle African Americans might have at the thought that at a time when racism and segregation reigned supreme in American society -- the articles notes that the Ku Klux Klan enjoyed a revival in the 1920s -- Americans inadvertenly elected a president with black relatives. On the other hand, no one is going to be doing any bragging about Warren Harding, who, as a friend noted, had the good sense to die before the extent of his administration's corruption was revealed.

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Saturday, April 05, 2008

This is your hometown

The New York Times visits the birthplace of yours truly and allows readers to draw thei own conclusions.

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