Monday, June 29, 2009

Simple Living Quotes

Courtesy of
"Things should be made as simple as possible, but not any simpler."
Albert Einstein

"Simplicity is an inward reality that can be seen in an outward lifestyle. We must have both; to neglect either end of this tension is disastrous."
Richard J. Foster

"I can explain it best by something Mahatma Gandhi said to me. We were talking about simple living, and I said that it was easy for me to give up most things but that I had a greedy mind and wanted to keep my many books. He said, 'Then don't give them up. As long as you derive inner help and comfort from anything, you should keep it. If you were to give it up in a mood of self-sacrifice or out of a stern sense of duty, you would continue to want it back, and that unsatisfied want would make trouble for you. Only give up a thing when you want some other condition so much that the thing no longer has any attraction to you, or when it seems to interfere with that which is more greatly desired."
Richard Gregg

Zen Habits: Simple Living Manifesto

Last fall, I was part of a Simple Living Experiment with my UM community at school and really appreciated the experience. I'm looking to get that group relaunched this fall, and have been doing some reading and research in preparation for that. The blog I featured earlier today, Zen Habits, is very helpful overall-- but perhaps the most helpful article I've read thus far on that site is the Simple Living Manifesto: 72 Ideas to Simplify Your Life. It links to other articles on that site and elsewhere that expand on the ideas, and provides some useful food for thought. What does "simple living" mean to you?
Also, the article linked to another simple living blog I'm going to be checking out called "Unclutterer" that seems helpful and interesting. I am looking forward to reading more.

Have you tried Pandora?

In my opinion, Pandora is the greatest thing to come out of the Internet since Facebook launched. It's a free Internet radio station that uses the Music Genome Project to take one artist or song of your choice and select other stylistically similar songs. In other words, it's a radio station that you program yourself! How does it get better than that? Make sure you check it out!

Featured Blog: Zen Habits

For those who are inclined to resist the high-stress world in which we live (either in theory or in practice), Zen Habits is a great blog to keep up with. The author, Leo Babauta, is a writer living in Guam, who shares his experiences with living a simple-- but productive-- life through his blog as well as his books. I've found some of his suggestions very useful, such as "How to Make Gmail Your Ultimate Productivity Center." His lists of ideas range from the practical and hands-on to the idea and philosophy-based, but all are geared toward helping those of us in this high-intensity high-technology always-on-the-go world, detach a bit and focus on the important things. Zen Habits is a TIME Top 100 blog, and it deserves the title for helping the rest of us find peace and productivity in our day-to-day lives...even if we can't all live on Guam.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

What's the Buzz?

Of course, the main media buzz right now is about the death of Michael Jackson. Granted that I enjoyed the man's music (and thought very little of him as a person), I think that that we need to now set that aside. I realize that it spiked cable news ratings (not to mention Internet traffic), but can we please move on? Not to be tasteless, but he is dead, not doing a remake of "Thriller."
The latest gossip that's sweeping the political nation is discussion of the fall of South Carolina's Republican Governor Mark Sanford. Gossip probably isn't the right word, seeing as Governor Sanford's affair with a woman in Argentina has already been confirmed by the governor himself, but it's another major topic of discussion. Just another in a list of "falls" by top GOP leaders, continuing to make the 2012 field look smaller and smaller. Maureen Dowd, in her column for the New York Times, today gave her comparison of the two apparent sides of Governor Sanford's personality-- "Mark" and "Marco." She notes with obvious disgust his attempts to make himself into a "King David" figure, and encourages the GOP to stop being two-faced on issues of morality. From a political perspective, the Detroit Free Press has an article up about who the Republicans have lost and who they have left as potentially viable candidates for, but remember that there is still time left for things to turn around.

Washington to California: Drop Dead

If the saying "As California goes, so goes the nation" has any credence whatsoever, then what kind of a situation does this latest article from Politico indicate? [Hint: It could be "we're screwed."] Here's hoping California can straighten itself out, and that the rest of the country can figure out ways to avoid getting into the same kind of situation on a smaller scale...although it may be too late to hope for that.

With California’s state government deadlocked over a $24 billion hole in its budget, the Golden State is hurtling toward financial apocalypse.

Washington’s response? Deal with it yourselves.

California is the world’s 8th-largest economy, home to one out of every eight Americans and the holder of 55 electoral votes. The state enjoys incredible sway on Capitol Hill — witness Friday’s passage of the climate change bill championed by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) — and it may hold the key to President Barack Obama’s re-election: California’s fiscal pain could imperil the economic recovery of the entire nation.

Featured Blog: SCOTUSblog

The Supreme Court is perhaps one of the least understood branches of government, but every so often it becomes the center of national attention. This usually happens when the Court is ruling on an especially prominent case...or when a justice needs to be replaced. The latter, of course, has been the story from the past month or so, with President Obama's nomination of Judge Sonia Sotomayor to replace Associate Justice David Souter. When I was looking for information on the judge and her rulings, I turned to SCOTUSblog. SCOTUS is, of course, the abbreviation for Supreme Court of the United States, and that is the focus of this legal/political/judicial blog. The group of lawyers and reporters who put this together write well-researched and up-to-date pieces on the latest news from the nation's highest court, and sometimes from the lower courts as well. Since it's written mainly by lawyers, there is a fair amount of legal jargon involved, but generally speaking the writing is accessible to the average person. For anyone who's interested in the rulings and implications of Supreme Court rulings-- and, I expect, for news and analysis of the Sotomayor hearings that will be starting on July 13-- I highly recommend following and reading the latest from SCOTUSblog.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Fun at the White House

Granted, past presidents have probably had this much fun too. But it's really great for the rest of us to be able to see that the White House can be a fun place as well as a place where serious business takes place. And in recent days nowhere has that been more evident than the videos on the White House website that show President Obama and others at the annual WH Congressional Picnic having fun dunking senior staff, including Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel, Press Secretary Robert Gibbs, and OMB Director Peter Orszag.

The Force

They say that duct tape fixes everything. I always knew that it could work wonders on most things, and frequently made use of it in the past as a stage manager. I even found out at one point that it works on warts, which is quite a strange notion. But it apparently is also a tool for auto repair. A few nights ago at work, I pulled into the parking lot next to an old truck. This truck was badly dented on one side (no, I didn't do it!) and generally in a state of nearly falling apart. But never fear-- duct tape is here! There was actually a long strip of duct tape running from the top of the back left corner of the truck, running down to the bottom of the fender. It looked like it was literally holding the back of the truck in one piece. I guess that's a cheap and easy repair job-- either that, or duct tape strips are going to be the new speed stripes!

"Duct tape is like the Force. It has a light side and a dark side, and it holds the universe together."

Featured Blog: Footprints

On the side of my blog homepage here, I've got a list of my favorite blogs. I realized that the list format doesn't allow me to say much about any of the blogs themselves, so I thought I would start an occasional blog post, talking about each blog and why I enjoy reading them.

The first link I would like to highlight is called Footprints, and it's written by my friend and fellow blogger, Rachel. Rachel is a student like myself, and most of her posts are discussions of the many facets that go into that life. My favorite thing about reading her blog is her perpetual honesty and straightforwardness. She has a unique voice, and a lens on the world that seems geared toward being able to spot the ridiculous as well as the profound-- especially in the people she encounters while working or studying, to whom she often writes "letters". She has a great sense of humor, and might possibly love Canada even more than I do (you can also see that in her other, older blog, which I also link to-- Hey, It's Cold Up Here!). All things told, maybe it's because I'm a student myself, but I really appreciate Rachel's outlook on life as presented on her blog, and it's definitely worth keeping up with.

Recent Reading (Books #7-12)

Since last I updated about my reading list, here are the books I've gotten through:

#7- Through Painted Deserts: Life, God, and Beauty on the Open Road by Donald Miller: Donald Miller is a Christian writer that I've really enjoyed over the past several years. His books are often more like collections of essays and memoirs-- very easy to read. Miller is best known for Blue Like Jazz: Nonreligious Thoughts on Christian Spirituality, but I've also enjoyed Searching for God Knows What and this one, about a road trip he and a friend took from Texas to Oregon one summer. What I like most about Miller is his honesty. He struggled to find what his faith really meant, and he's always straightforward about that, unlike many Christian writers.

#8- The Great Bridge by David McCullough: McCullough is widely acknowledged one of the best American historians out there. I've loved almost everything he's written, especially his Pulitzer Prize-winning biographies of John Adams and Harry Truman. This book, about the building of the Brooklyn Bridge, was also very good-- although the engineering jargon took a while for me to get used to. I most enjoyed the focus on the people involved in the construction of the bridge, like the great engineers John and Washington Roebling, and Washington's wife Emily.

#9- Prom by Laurie Halse Anderson: A teen book about an offbeat teenage girl who is uninterested in the prom, until her prom-obsessed best friend drags her into helping with prom committee after their advisor absconds with most of the money. Fun read.

#10- The Real History of the American Revolution by Alan Axelrod: My first thought was, "I wonder if the author is related to [Obama senior advisor] David Axelrod?". After that-- which I still don't know the answer to-- I really enjoyed this study of the American Revolution (a period of history I've been fascinated by since elementary school). The author brought up some interesting points about what might really have gotten the colonists into war with their mother country, and did a good job of detailing almost all aspects of the conflict.

#11- Every Boy's Got One by Meg Cabot: One of my comparatively few "beach reads." A fun book, written in journal and email format, about a couple who elopes to Italy, bringing along their respective best friends as witnesses-- best friends who don't exactly hit it least at first.

#12- The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton: I reread this book probably every other year. I don't care if it was written for teenagers. First of all, I spend at least part of my time working with kids and teen books, and second of all this story is one that can resonate with any age. It tells the story of Ponyboy Curtis and his friends, who are "greasers" in the Southwest US. They and the other greasers get into trouble with the "Socs" one night, starting a chain of events that changes the way Ponyboy looks at his world. Absolutely compelling, and a must-read.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Movie Update

So...when last I posted about movies (which was, I am aware, a shamefully long time ago), I had just watched the aptly named Dr. Strangelove. Since then, I have watched a number of old favorites, and a handful of new (to me) films. They are as follows:

#12. That Thing You Do!: My friend Hayley demanded I see this Tom Hanks movie. As in, every time we talked on the phone, she asked me if I'd seen it yet. Finally I gave in, rented it on iTunes, and absolutely loved it. I love Tom Hanks in general, and this film (while not one of his high-quality Oscar-winners) was really fun. Hanks wrote, directed, and co-starred in this movie about a 1960s boy band that made it big with a hit single. I loved this movie-- could watch it again and again, because it's just one of those films that puts you in a good mood.

#13. Dan in Real Life: I saw this Steve Carrell film when it came out in theaters last year, but I have no recollection of it due to a concussion that I was suffering at the time. My friends said I liked it, so I decided it was time that I rent it and see for myself if I really did. Carrell portrays a family columnist who has a hard time with running his family in real life. I found the film somewhat comedic, though less so than most of Carrell's other films, and incredibly heartwarming as Dan learned the inevitable lessons of reality.

#14. Sex and the City: The Movie: A shameless chick flick based on the hit TV show. Great for girls, not so much for guys. I watched it my sister and a (girl) friend, and enjoyed it.

#15. The Parent Trap: An old favorite...a young, cute Lindsay Lohan back before she "went bad." Somewhat sad now due to the recent loss of Natasha Richardson.

#16. How to Lose a Guy in Ten Days: Again, an old favorite chick flick with Kate Hudson and Matthew McConaughey. Fun plot-- girls' magazine How-To columnist is assigned to write an article about how to drive men away; advertising representative makes a bet that he can make any girl fall in love with him-- both in ten days.

#17. When Harry Met Sally: One of the best chick flicks of all time. Billy Crystal and Meg Ryan are great as college peers who become friends over the years then fall in love. Funny and sweet.

#18. Batman (1989): I loved this movie. Michael Keaton plays Batman, and Jack Nicholson plays the Joker. I like getting to see the backstory of how the Joker got to be as he is, which you don't really get to see (conclusively) in The Dark Knight. I love both Batman Begins and The Dark Knight, but I have to say this is up there with them. (Make sure to watch the Nostalgia Critic's side-by-side comparison of the films.)

#19. You've Got Mail: I love Tom Hanks. He's hands-down my favorite actor. And this is absolutely my favorite chick flick of all time. Books...Tom Hanks...Meg Ryan...great soundtrack...good plotline. How could you go wrong?

#20. The Princess Diaries: It's a cute if inaccurate adaptation of the Meg Cabot book. Anne Hathaway is quite good as awkward Mia Thermopolis who, upon a royal surprise from her grandmother, eventually turns into Princess Mia. Call it a guilty pleasure, I enjoy this movie.

#21. Rent: In one word: powerful. Movie version of the hit musical by Jonathan Larson about a group of New Yorkers in the late 1980s, struggling with AIDS and living the bohemian life. Seen it several times, but it's still one of the few movies that has ever made me cry.

#22. Across the Universe: I gotta admit, Across the Universe really wasn't much my cup of tea as a least this first time that I've watched it. Don't get me wrong, the music is phenomenal, I found the characters interesting, and and it's very artistic and spends a lot of time on depicting the struggles of the 1960s. But I have issues with movies that spend too much time on artistry and not enough on developing a plot. Still, I have to admit, it was well made.

#23. The Man With One Red Shoe: Again, I love Tom Hanks. This is one of his older, seemingly lesser-known ones that I picked up on a whim at Blockbuster. Hanks plays a concert violinist who is mixed up in a battle between two CIA bosses, both out to get the other. As he is entirely oblivious and falls in love with one of the spies tailing him, the bosses wreak havoc on his life. Not one of Hanks's best movies, but still, of course, enjoyable.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

It's a bad day to be a celebrity.

Today we bid farewell to "Charlie's Angels" actress Farrah Fawcett and (as best as we can tell so far, based on multiple news reports) singer Michael Jackson. The world will miss their respective acting and musical contributions to entertainment. Despite Jackson's many...indiscretions later in life, he did give a lot to American musical culture.
In memory of Michael Jackson, I present my favorite of his music videos, "Smooth Criminal." Very slick presentation, great dancing, good music. Enjoy this flashback, but ignore the weird moments in the middle where everybody's kind of shrieking and convulsing...

Now Tweeting

Actually I've been on Twitter for a while, but I've added an RSS feed of my updates to this page. Now whoever looks at this blog can see the latest from my Twitter account-- as usual, mainly political and news updates and musings, with a mixture of personal-interest stuff. I enjoy Twitter; it's an interesting phenomenon and great for quick hits and sharing news quickly. However, I still sometimes find it frustrating to only have 140 characters in which to share said news! Guess that's when I need to come over here and write about it in a longer form.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Don't Stop Believing- Glee (cover)

I know, I know...I've posted a version of "Don't Stop Believing" by Glee before. But this one is a cover of the song, done by two guys-- one who plays all the instruments, and one who sings all the parts. It really is something cool to watch, I promise!

Saturday, June 20, 2009

The View from 20

I hit the two-decade mark this past week. For the next ten years, I get to write a "2" in front of my age instead of a "1". Decade birthdays have always been the ones we mark with the biggest celebration in my family; for my tenth birthday, we had a massive ancient-Egyptian-themed blowout party, to which we invited about 20 people and had almost the entire neighborhood show up. I decided not to try to outdo that birthday this year, and had a small movie night with lots of food and friends-- and movies exclusively from the year 1989. They made quite a few good movies that year, including:
  • Batman, with Michael Keaton and Jack Nicholson
  • Dead Poets Society, with Robin Williams
  • Say Anything, with John Cusack and Ione Skye
  • Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, with Harrison Ford and Sean Connery
  • When Harry Met Sally, with Billy Crystal and Meg Ryan
  • Driving Miss Daisy, with Morgan Freeman
It seemed to me strikingly fitting to have a movie night for my 20th birthday, but that didn't become apparent until the day of the party. That day-- my birthday-- one of my favorite professors passed away from Stage IV kidney cancer. This professor had taught me in a film class I took called "American Society on Stage and Screen," so it was his memory that I kept in my heart during the movie-watching. Incidentally, as that was in my head and my birthday was all around me, my friend Kaitlyn came to celebrate with me, along with her five-month-old son. All of a sudden, I felt surrounded-- indeed, a bit overwhelmed-- by the circle of life in its entirety...and very appreciative of what I was able to have around me that day. Because really, what more could a 20-year-old need on her birthday but family, friends, food, and films?

Hold My Heart- Tenth Avenue North

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Op-Ed Round-Up (and What's Happening in Iran?)

The primary topic of discussion: the Iranian elections, which I have been woefully deficient in covering. Bottom line: Pres. Ahmadinejad won with ~63% of the vote over Prime Minister Mousavi...but under somewhat dubious circumstances that have sparked violent protests over the past several days. With seven dead, to date, as a result of the violence, the Iranian Council tied to the Supreme Leader has agreed to a limited recount of certain balloting boxes. Mr. Mousavi and his supporters have publicly said that they do not have much faith in the "independent" findings of the investigating panel. (Meanwhile, analysts speculate about the stability of Iran's Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Khameini, and President Ahmadinejad meets with Russian President Medvedev at a summit of rising economic powers.)
  • David Ignatius advises President Obama to carry on the message he conveyed in his Cairo speech-- to encourage a democratic system in Iran, but to respect the results that the people ultimately choose. The worst thing the US could do is seem to be meddling as it would undermine Mousavi and the reformers.
  • Jeffrey Gedmin of Radio Free Europe in Prague encourages Obama to urge the current Iranian government to open their election to international observers and a free media, especially if Ahmadinejad is so confident of his victory. Note- no one really seems to know what the people of Iran really want politically, so it's entirely possible that Ahmadinejad won...but it seems that people really want their voice to be heard, unobstructed by charges of electoral corruption.
  • Richard Cohen writes of the prevalence of anti-Semitism in modern Middle Eastern culture, despite how much it surprises people in the US when it appears, as it did at the US Holocaust Museum. Incidentally, this is relevant because it may well have played into the Iranian people's vote in this latest contested election.
  • Ken Ballen and Patrick Doherty point out that President Ahmadinejad may well have won the election in Iran, although it's difficult to know because of the challenges of electoral polling in that closed-off nation.
  • Roger Cohen writes a moving account of "Iran's Day of Anguish," and a subsequent article on the protests that have become commonplace in an "Iran on a Razor's Edge."
  • On a separate, but related topic, Thomas L. Friedman writes of Election Day in Lebanon-- an election so far not marred by problems like Iran has seen...and in which the people largely spoke in favor of independence from Syrian and Iranian influence.
  • On a separate topic, but just as interesting column: Frank Rich writes of "The Obama Haters' Silent Enablers"-- how the latest hate violence (against abortion provider Dr. George Tiller and the US Holocaust Memorial Museum) is just an outward manifestation of a lot of hatred that many people feel-- and that many conservatives (especially news outlets like FOX) are not-so-subtly enabling.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Nuevo California--

--Or, why it's great to live in a "blue" state.
This is an awesome political (joke) email. Apparently it was circulated during the last election.


Dear Red States,

We've decided we're leaving. We intend to form our own country, and we're taking the other Blue States with us. In case you don't own a map, that includes Hawaii, Oregon, Washington, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan, Illinois and all the Northeast. We believe this split will be beneficial to the nation, and especially to the people of the new country of New California.

To sum up briefly:

We get stem cell research and the best beaches. You get Texas, Oklahoma and all the slave states.

We get Elliot Spitzer. You get Ken Lay.

We get the Statue of Liberty. You get Dollywood.

We get Intel and Microsoft. You get WorldCom.

We get Harvard. You get Ole' Miss.

We get 85 percent of America's venture capital and entrepreneurs. You get Alabama.

We get two-thirds of the tax revenue, you get to make the red states pay their fair share.

Since our aggregate divorce rate is 22 percent lower than the Christian Coalition's, we get
a bunch of happy families. You get a bunch ofd single moms.

Please be aware that Nuevo California will be pro-choice and anti-war, and we're going
to want all our citizens back from Iraq at once. If you need people to fight, ask your evangelicals. They have kids they're apparently willing to send to their deaths for no purpose, and they don't care if you don't show pictures of their children's caskets coming home. We do wish you success in Iraq, and hope that the WMDs turn up eventually, but we're not willing to spend our resources in Bush's Quagmire.

With the Blue States in hand, we will have firm control of 80 percent of the country's fresh water, more than 90 percent of the pineapple and lettuce, 92 percent of the nation's fresh fruit, 95 percent of America's quality wines (you can serve French wines at state dinners) 90 percent of all cheese, 90 percent of the high tech industry, most of the U.S. low-sulfur coal, all living redwoods, sequoias and condors, all the Ivy and Seven Sister schools, plus Harvard, Yale, Stanford, Cal Tech and MIT.

With the Red States, on the other hand, you will have to cope with 88 percent of all obese Americans (and their projected health care costs), 92 percent of all U.S. mosquitoes, nearly 100 percent of the tornadoes, 90 percent of the hurricanes, 99 percent of all Southern Baptists, virtually 100 percent of all televangelists, Rush Limbaugh, and Bob Jones University.

We get Hollywood and Yosemite, thank you.

Additionally, 38 percent of those in the Red states believe Jonah was actually swallowed by a whale, 62 percent believe life is sacred unless we're discussing the death penalty, abortion providers, homosexuals, Muslims, or gun laws, 44 percent say that evolution is only a theory, 53 percent that Saddam was involved in 9/11 and 61 percent of you crazy bastards actually believe you are people with higher morals than us lefties.

By the way, we're taking the good pot, too. You can have that dirt weed they grow in Mexico.

Peace Out,
The Blue States

Thursday, June 11, 2009

I am my Facebook quiz results.

If that is true, than (to put together my favorite results that I think are most accurate) I am:

-Dr. Gamble (favorite high school history teacher)
-Linus (from Peanuts)
the Chief of Staff (White House Cabinet Position)
-President Bartlet (from The West Wing)
-supposed to be living in South Dakota
-a very old soul

So, let's see...that leaves me as a chief of staff who becomes president who retires to become a high school history teacher (or maybe history teacher first who becomes chief of staff who becomes president), in South Dakota, while carrying around a blanket and being very wise. Got it? That makes one of us. Although, I gotta admit, that would not be a bad future to have. Actually it'd be kind of awesome. Too bad it's unlikely to happen. I could be a history teacher, yes, and I could theoretically become WH Chief of Staff...but there's a tiny constitutional obstacle to me becoming president (see Article II, Section 1). Ah well...haha.

Oh, Facebook...the website that is currently connecting the world, age fake-you're-13 and up, giving us the means to define ourselves and confirming those relationships which we knew to be true. You know it's not official until it's Facebook official.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Gordon Lightfoot: Canadian Railroad Trilogy

This is seriously excellent [and quintessentially Canadian] music. Bob Dylan lists Gordon Lightfoot as an influence...and this song is Lightfoot's "magnum opus" as my mom put it.

And here's the same song, performed for Gordon Lightfoot by the 2004 Canadian Idol top six contestants:

Monday, June 08, 2009

Random Babbling

At the start of the summer, I mentally committed myself to adding certain "disciplines" of a sort to my life on a daily or almost daily basis. Continuing the daily journaling I started back before Lent; reading; walking; blogging. It's been good in that these certain commitments add a routine to most of my days, gives me something to do on a regular and around the various appointments and hanging out with friends. Seeing various doctors and physical therapists has definitely become a regular part of my summer routine as I respond to several months of sinus problems and knee pain. I'm already facing surgery for the former; my gut tells me I'm probably headed for surgery to correct the latter problem as well. Between the two, once they get done, I'm probably "grounded" for the remainder of the summer from work or travel, for the most part. Blah...unappealing thought, even though I do like being around home. And I will get a lot of reading done, that's for sure...maybe even see all the movies on my summer list. By the way, I really enjoyed the pilot episode of the new show "Glee," which the video below is taken from. I watched it on Hulu (one of my top greatest Internet developments to date) and am looking forward to watching the show when it returns to TV this fall.

Sunday, June 07, 2009

Saturday, June 06, 2009

Quick News Highlights

Here's some articles from what I've been reading the past few days...
On President Obama's speech in Cairo:
On other stuff:
  • As we all knew would likely be true (at least, those of us who have been reading about her), Sotomayor's speeches have been laced with her views on ethnicity and gender.
  • A charter school is opening up near New York that is going to be testing the value of hiring genuinely, demonstrably good teachers for a whopping $125,000 per year.
  • Today is the 65-year anniversary of D-Day, the day that started the "invasion" that liberated France from Nazi control during World War II. President Obama marked the occasion with a speech from the cemetery overlooking Omaha Beach in Normandy, France-- a beach where many Americans died during the landing.
  • Generally speaking, 2009 is an off-year for elections. However, the gubernatorial races in New Jersey and Virginia will be held this year. The WaPo makes the case that these races can be harbingers of things to come politically nationwide.
  • The next big domestic priority on President Obama's plate (aside from getting Judge Sotomayor confirmed) is pushing health care reform through Congress. Although he had planned to leave details to Congress, NYT now reports that he is working towards a much greater role than that-- complete with town hall meetings and speeches.
  • How much alike are Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas and nominee Judge Sonia Sotomayor? NYT explores-- and it seems that in terms of background, they are quite similar, but in terms of ideology, they couldn't be more different.

Thursday, June 04, 2009

My Favorite Column

Each year, at the end of the year, I look forward to reading Joe Klein's opinion piece in TIME magazine entitled "The Teddy Awards." I was thinking about it today, speculating on who, so far this year, might merit one...and came up with few people besides the president, who has already won it twice. In case you're unaware, Klein's "Teddy Awards" are based on people who exemplify this quote from Theodore Roosevelt:
It is not the critic who counts: not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly, who errs and comes up short again and again ... who spends himself in a worthy cause; who, at the best, knows, in the end, the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least he fails while daring greatly.
Unfortunately I could only find the "Teddy Award" columns from the past three years online, but here's hoping I'll happen across more. Anyway, here are the columns from 2008, from 2007, and from 2006. Who could win this year (to date)?

Reading List: Thursday 6/4

Another significant day in the news, starting around 7:10am EDT...

Old News (6/3)

Oops, missed posting my reading list for yesterday, even though I had all the articles I wanted to post open on my browser. Here's some ones to note:

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Reading List: Tuesday 6/2

Here's a few highlights from today's news reading:

NYT: Obama Meets Bartlet

I just found something online that completely made my day. Back during the campaign, after the Democratic and Republican conventions, NYT columnist Maureen Dowd called West Wing creator Aaron Sorkin, who conjured up a conversation between candidate Obama and Jed Bartlet, the greatest president the U.S. never had. Read it-- especially people who like the show-- it's great.

Seeking a President Who Gives Goose Bumps? So’s Obama.

Now that he’s finally fired up on the soup-line economy, Barack Obama knows he can’t fade out again. He was eager to talk privately to a Democratic ex-president who could offer more fatherly wisdom — not to mention a surreptitious smoke — and less fraternal rivalry. I called the “West Wing” creator Aaron Sorkin (yes, truly) to get a read-out of the meeting. This is his account:

BARACK OBAMA knocks on the front door of a 300-year-old New Hampshire farmhouse while his Secret Service detail waits in the driveway. The door opens and OBAMA is standing face to face with former President JED BARTLET.

BARTLET Senator.

OBAMA Mr. President.

BARTLET You seem startled.

OBAMA I didn’t expect you to answer the door yourself.

BARTLET I didn’t expect you to be getting beat by John McCain and a LancĂ´me rep who thinks “The Flintstones” was based on a true story, so let’s call it even.

OBAMA Yes, sir.

BARTLET Come on in.

BARTLET leads OBAMA into his study.

BARTLET That was a hell of a convention.

OBAMA Thank you, I was proud of it.

BARTLET I meant the Republicans. The Us versus Them-a-thon. As a Democrat I was surprised to learn that I don’t like small towns, God, people with jobs or America. I’ve been a little out of touch but is there a mandate that the vice president be skilled at field dressing a moose —

OBAMA Look —

BARTLET — and selling Air Force Two on eBay?

OBAMA Joke all you want, Mr. President, but it worked.

BARTLET Imagine my surprise. What can I do for you, kid?

OBAMA I’m interested in your advice.

BARTLET I can’t give it to you.

OBAMA Why not?

BARTLET I’m supporting McCain.


BARTLET He’s promised to eradicate evil and that was always on my “to do” list.


BARTLET And he’s surrounded himself, I think, with the best possible team to get us out of an economic crisis. Why, Sarah Palin just said Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac had “gotten too big and too expensive to the taxpayers.” Can you spot the error in that statement?

OBAMA Yes, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac aren’t funded by taxpayers.

BARTLET Well, at least they are now. Kind of reminds you of the time Bush said that Social Security wasn’t a government program. He was only off by a little — Social Security is the largest government program.

OBAMA I appreciate your sense of humor, sir, but I really could use your advice.

BARTLET Well, it seems to me your problem is a lot like the problem I had twice.

OBAMA Which was?

BARTLET A huge number of Americans thought I thought I was superior to them.



OBAMA I mean, how did you overcome that?

BARTLET I won’t lie to you, being fictional was a big advantage.

OBAMA What do you mean?

BARTLET I’m a fictional president. You’re dreaming right now, Senator.

OBAMA I’m asleep?

BARTLET Yes, and you’re losing a ton of white women.

OBAMA Yes, sir.

BARTLET I mean tons.

OBAMA I understand.

BARTLET I didn’t even think there were that many white women.

OBAMA I see the numbers, sir. What do they want from me?

BARTLET I’ve been married to a white woman for 40 years and I still don’t know what she wants from me.

OBAMA How did you do it?

BARTLET Well, I say I’m sorry a lot.

OBAMA I don’t mean your marriage, sir. I mean how did you get America on your side?

BARTLET There again, I didn’t have to be president of America, I just had to be president of the people who watched “The West Wing.”

OBAMA That would make it easier.

BARTLET You’d do very well on NBC. Thursday nights in the old “ER” time slot with “30 Rock” as your lead-in, you’d get seven, seven-five in the demo with a 20, 22 share — you’d be selling $450,000 minutes.

OBAMA What the hell does that mean?

BARTLET TV talk. I thought you’d be interested.

OBAMA I’m not. They pivoted off the argument that I was inexperienced to the criticism that I’m — wait for it — the Messiah, who, by the way, was a community organizer. When I speak I try to lead with inspiration and aptitude. How is that a liability?

BARTLET Because the idea of American exceptionalism doesn’t extend to Americans being exceptional. If you excelled academically and are able to casually use 690 SAT words then you might as well have the press shoot video of you giving the finger to the Statue of Liberty while the Dixie Chicks sing the University of the Taliban fight song. The people who want English to be the official language of the United States are uncomfortable with their leaders being fluent in it.

OBAMA You’re saying race doesn’t have anything to do with it?

BARTLET I wouldn’t go that far. Brains made me look arrogant but they make you look uppity. Plus, if you had a black daughter —

OBAMA I have two.

BARTLET — who was 17 and pregnant and unmarried and the father was a teenager hoping to launch a rap career with “Thug Life” inked across his chest, you’d come in fifth behind Bob Barr, Ralph Nader and a ficus.

OBAMA You’re not cheering me up.

BARTLET Is that what you came here for?

OBAMA No, but it wouldn’t kill you.

BARTLET Have you tried doing a two-hour special or a really good Christmas show?


BARTLET Hang on. Home run. Right here. Is there any chance you could get Michelle pregnant before the fall sweeps?

OBAMA The problem is we can’t appear angry. Bush called us the angry left. Did you see anyone in Denver who was angry?

BARTLET Well ... let me think. ...We went to war against the wrong country, Osama bin Laden just celebrated his seventh anniversary of not being caught either dead or alive, my family’s less safe than it was eight years ago, we’ve lost trillions of dollars, millions of jobs, thousands of lives and we lost an entire city due to bad weather. So, you know ... I’m a little angry.

OBAMA What would you do?

BARTLET GET ANGRIER! Call them liars, because that’s what they are. Sarah Palin didn’t say “thanks but no thanks” to the Bridge to Nowhere. She just said “Thanks.” You were raised by a single mother on food stamps — where does a guy with eight houses who was legacied into Annapolis get off calling you an elitist? And by the way, if you do nothing else, take that word back. Elite is a good word, it means well above average. I’d ask them what their problem is with excellence. While you’re at it, I want the word “patriot” back. McCain can say that the transcendent issue of our time is the spread of Islamic fanaticism or he can choose a running mate who doesn’t know the Bush doctrine from the Monroe Doctrine, but he can’t do both at the same time and call it patriotic. They have to lie — the truth isn’t their friend right now. Get angry. Mock them mercilessly; they’ve earned it. McCain decried agents of intolerance, then chose a running mate who had to ask if she was allowed to ban books from a public library. It’s not bad enough she thinks the planet Earth was created in six days 6,000 years ago complete with a man, a woman and a talking snake, she wants schools to teach the rest of our kids to deny geology, anthropology, archaeology and common sense too? It’s not bad enough she’s forcing her own daughter into a loveless marriage to a teenage hood, she wants the rest of us to guide our daughters in that direction too? It’s not enough that a woman shouldn’t have the right to choose, it should be the law of the land that she has to carry and deliver her rapist’s baby too? I don’t know whether or not Governor Palin has the tenacity of a pit bull, but I know for sure she’s got the qualifications of one. And you’re worried about seeming angry? You could eat their lunch, make them cry and tell their mamas about it and God himself would call it restrained. There are times when you are simply required to be impolite. There are times when condescension is called for!

OBAMA Good to get that off your chest?

BARTLET Am I keeping you from something?

OBAMA Well, it’s not as if I didn’t know all of that and it took you like 20 minutes to say.

BARTLET I know, I have a problem, but admitting it is the first step.

OBAMA What’s the second step?

BARTLET I don’t care.

OBAMA So what about hope? Chuck it for outrage and put-downs?

BARTLET No. You’re elite, you can do both. Four weeks ago you had the best week of your campaign, followed — granted, inexplicably — by the worst week of your campaign. And you’re still in a statistical dead heat. You’re a 47-year-old black man with a foreign-sounding name who went to Harvard and thinks devotion to your country and lapel pins aren’t the same thing and you’re in a statistical tie with a war hero and a Cinemax heroine. To these aged eyes, Senator, that’s what progress looks like. You guys got four debates. Get out of my house and go back to work.

OBAMA Wait, what is it you always used to say? When you hit a bump on the show and your people were down and frustrated? You’d give them a pep talk and then you’d always end it with something. What was it ...?

BARTLET “Break’s over.”