Friday, April 29, 2005

Bush's press conference

Much as I would like to harsh on Bush, I thought his performance last night was...not bad. It was good to hear him distance himself from the "Justice Sunday" atrocity of last week, where key Republicans (including alleged presidential candidate Bill Frist, who just plain gives me the creeps) claimed that Democratic opposition to certain Bush judicial nominees is a form of religious persecution. Uh huh. I thought the Republicans were against the whole "victim" culture and special interest group reductiveness [ok, is that a word?] promoted by the Democrats. Guess not when they think THEY'RE the ones being oppressed.

Anyhow, Bush clearly didn't want to associate himself with them, although he didn't condemn them either. But that's hardly to be expected. The question is, will he kowtow to them behind the scenes, while distancing himself in public?

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

new look

So, what do you think of the new format? I think it's easier to read.

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Freedom's just another word?

Bush's chief of staff Andrew Card was featured in a short, light-hearted Q&A in Sunday's Boston Globe magazine (can't find a link). Each Sunday, the Globe interviews a Massachusetts native, revealing non-controversial information like their favorite restaurant in Boston. Card describes his favorite dessert made by the White House chefs, called "chocolate freedom." Gag. Not the dessert, which sounded chocolate-y and tasty, but the stupid name. I hate the way Republicans today, and the Bush Administration particularly, feel the need to insert their patriotic feelings into absolutely everything, no matter how trivial and irrelevant. Chocolate freedom? Freedom fries? Please. What's next, Constitution coasters? Founding Father floor wax? Concepts like freedom are important and meaningful, and when you attach them to trivial things...well, you trivialize them.

And don't get me started on the enforced singing of God Bless America in the 7th inning stretch of every baseball game since September 11th...

Seriously, I think it's a bad idea to make patriotic expressions so commonplace that they become routine. I don't think this helps reinforce patriotism in a meaningful way; it's just one more thoughtless routine.

Thursday, April 21, 2005

The anti-moderns

It's good to see the right wing feeling more free to express its inherent dislike of modern Western culture. Today's National Review has an article about the new Pope; in it, the writer states:

In this regard, the consumerism and relativism of the West can be just as
dangerous as the totalitarianism of the East: It's just as easy to forget about God while dancing to an iPod as while marching in a Hitler Youth rally. There's a difference, to be sure, but hardly anyone would contest the observation that in elite Western society, as in totalitarian Germany, the moral vocabulary has been purged of the idea of sin. And if there's no sense of sin, then there's no need for a Redeemer, or for the Church.


(Hat tip to Andrew Sullivan)

It's such an odd partnership, this Republican Party marriage of right-wing Christian activists and pro-business conservatives. The pro-business side opposes any interference with their right to make money, while the Christian conservatives despise Western consumerist (read: capitalist) culture.

Anyway, I like that Republicans are emboldened now to make these retro views more widely known, as there is a similar undercurrent to anti-globalization leftists that I find unsettling. I've been hearing about this new movie called Mondovino, which purports to expose the wine industry's capitulation to the forces of homogenization (read: global capitalism). There is probably a good point here, at least as it refers to the art and business of wine-making, but it's clear that the director is motivated by a general horror at big business and the spread of big business across the globe. This is a view held by certain leftists, who are convinced that the world's masses are being oppressed by the increasing availability of cheap goods. And, not say, pleased that their standard of living is improving. This view strikes me as unpleasantly condescending. If the "barking mad brigade" (as my English fiance deftly called them) of right-wing theocons make it clear that they too hate modern capitalist culture, maybe it'll take away this viewpoint's populist cache that some leftists find so attractive.

Sunday, April 17, 2005

A long weekend in Boston

In less than 24 hours the temperature in Boston has gone from "brr, where is spring?" to "everyone outside!" It's a long weekend here, as Monday is Patriot's Day -- and coincidentally also the day of the Boston marathon. Today is one of those warm, sunny spring days when everything in the world seems just fine. It's still early in the season here -- while the daffodils and dogwoods are blooming, most of the trees and shrubs are still struggling to break out of their winter browns. As I was walking back from the laundromat, along the park area that runs along the corridor behind my street, everyone was out: Little kids on bikes, one boy in a well-worn Garciaparra t-shirt; new parents pushing strollers; people walking their dogs -- golden retrievers, pugs, scotties, just about any dog breed you can think of can be found in this part of the city. This is what spring looks like around here. It may not be as spectacular yet as my old hometown but it's still pretty great. Time to check out the roofdeck and see how the plants survived the winter.

Friday, April 15, 2005

Yeah, I'm kinda sick of it too

Over at Salon.com, King Kaufman writes about the latest Yankees-Red Sox series -- as all sports reporters and columnists are contractually obligated to do -- and declares he's "just about Yankee-Red Soxed out." Hmm, yeah, I was thinking the same thing last night, while watching the umpteenth at-bat of chinless-wonder Jorge Posada. I wonder when was the last time these two teams played 6 out of their first 9 games against each other? It's getting to be a bit much, even for me, and I milked the Red Sox "greatest comeback ever" and World Series victory for all it was worth in the off-season -- just ask my fiance.

You might have to pay to read the Kaufman column, but it's well worth it. He's funny, and brings a slightly skewed perspective to sports that's appropriate for a left-of-center publication like Salon. But, unlike, say, NPR's Bill Littlefield, he actually enjoys the "big four" American sports and doesn't feel the need to pander to his liberal audience by pretending to like soccer. Ok, actually, soccer's great, but wussy sports writers like Bill Littlefield will not help soccer in this country, as they only confirm the mainstream public's suspicion that soccer is for elitist suburban liberals who dislike sports like American football that embrace humanity's innate violent impulses.

There they go again

Can we get through a Red Sox-Yankees series without there being some sort of altercation? Or having a team member ejected?

Thursday, April 14, 2005

Some good news out of Iraq

A story on NPR yesterday revealed some good signs coming out of Iraq, but it's the sort of story that won't make big headlines. Not because the media are conspiring to give only bad news, but just because negative events -- like today's car bombing -- are inherently more dramatic and, therefore, headline-grabbing. Both types of stories deserve attention.

NPR reported that some Sunnis in Iraq are regretting that they didn't participate in the January elections in an effort to show their disapproval of the American-organized process. The story featured quotes from two Sunni man saying, we should have voted in the election, we'll be sure to vote in the next one.

Think about that.

I couldn't help a quick laugh when I heard it because it's so deceptively simple, but is really a huge step forward. When you think of all the negative predictions from people who oppose Bush's policy in Iraq -- it'll never work, the country is splitting apart, they'll never accept a Western-style democracy, and so on. And here, in such a short time, you now have Iraqis saying, I want to have some influence in my country...I had better vote. And that is what democracy is all about, really. It's not about good government -- there's no guarantee that good people will run for office or, if they do, that they'll be elected. It's not about having a government that does what you want -- some groups will always be dissatisfied. Democracy happens when people who want to have an effect on their country don't say, I'd better grab a gun, or I'd better snitch on my neighbor to the secret police, or I'd better bribe the right person, or I'd better keep quiet. It's when they say, I want to have some say in my country, so I'd better...vote, organize, protest, write a letter, contribute to a campaign, whatever.

There are still many more difficult months and years ahead, certainly, and we certainly don't know that the effort to re-plant democracy in Iraq will work. But that was a pretty amazing story, and one that is just as newsworthy as the bad news.

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

They did it

Yesterday, a friend left me a message asking if I knew why four fighter jets were streaking across the sky over Boston. He asked if there was something apocalyptic happening that he should know about. I informed him that, yes, there was: the Boston Red Sox were launching the new season at Fenway as the World Series champions*. (Maybe the four fighter jets instead of the four horsemen?)

Yes, yesterday was Opening Day at Fenway, apparently an unofficial holiday around here. So, my fiance and I took the afternoon off (he was a bit less enthusiastic about this than I was) to watch the world series ceremonies and the game against the Yankees (at a bar, unfortunately, not at Fenway). It was great to see now ex-Red Sox like Derek Lowe and Dave Roberts show up, and get the huge applause they deserved. The game was great too, with Tim Wakefield yet again stymie-ing the Yankees line-up, and securing a 8-1 victory for the Sox. Wakefield is much more of a Yankee killer than Pedro Martinez ever was, for some reason.

It's tough to complain about a day when the Red Sox receive their world series rings and beat the Yankees soundly...but I'll give it a try. I wish the unfurling of all the World Series banners over the years, leading up to the new one, had been a bit less portentous; playing the music used for the opening of 2001: A Space Odyssey seemed a bit silly. It's not like they just defeated communism or something. To me, the celebration was really for the fans, last year's team, and all the past Red Sox teams that never won.


* Note the phrase "World Series" champions, not world champions, as, last time I checked, "the world" consists of more than the United States and two Canadian cities.

Friday, April 08, 2005

Scheduling nightmare

As a friend of mine just noted, it's been a tough week for the rich and famous, scheduling-wise. The pope's funeral, a royal wedding, a royal funeral in Monaco... Not to mention the other slightly less famous people who died this week: prominant lawyers, writers and so forth. What a nightmare for personal schedulers everywhere.

Thursday, April 07, 2005

Jumping on the bandwagon, as usual

I have now read two commentaries, both unsurprisingly written by women, asserting that it's not so terrible that Prince Charles is marrying Camilla Parker-Bowles. Ellen Goodman wrote about this in the Globe last week, and today's Slate has a similar piece by June Thomas. To turn this into a trend, I will add my view on the subject: I find it rather sweet and charming that Charles wants to marry Camilla. It's obvious that he's not marrying her because she's some half-his-age hottie who will make him feel young again (although, to me, much younger trophy wives usually just emphasize how old and wrinkly the male partner is, but I'm not really the sort of person these guys are trying to impress). Clearly, he is marrying her because he loves her, finds her a suitable companion -- and, apparently, because they have great sex.

Of course, as an American, I have no stake in the royal family, and therefore don't much care whether Charles is upholding the royal family's dignity and honor. But frankly, things couldn't go much worse than that first, officially-sanctioned marriage, could they? And as the first marriage came about through a pretty offensive, sexist idea -- that the only appropriate mate for a prince is a nubile virgin -- what's wrong with Charles trying out the new-fangled concept of marrying for love? I think much of the public disapproval stems from another unpleasantly sexist idea: that no man in his right mind would marry a middle-aged woman (admittedly, not a terribly attractive one) if he had the choice. As a woman who fully intends to be middle-aged one day (since, as I understand modern science, we have yet to find any alternative to middle age other than death), I am all for ending this sad idea. So I'm sending my best wishes to the happy couple.

Work vs the Red Sox

My two-day experiment with listening to Red Sox games while at work has been called off . I have NPR (local Boston station WBUR, actually; the best in the country as far as I know!) streaming all day at work, so thought the Red Sox game as background might work as well. But it's easy to have talk shows as background -- you can just listen with half an ear, and stop listening when you get a phone call, have a chat with the boss, whatever. But I kept finding myself putting off making phone calls "just until I find out if the Red Sox can get through this inning without hitting into an effing double play." Not conducive to getting my latest report written -- and banging my head on the keyboard doesn't count.

Tuesday, April 05, 2005

The season has begun...

and the Red Sox are off to a crap-tacular start. Apparently, the "traditionalist" baseball analysts are predicting the Yankees will win this year, while the statheads/Moneyball types think the Red Sox will. Let's hope those eggheads are right!

Friday, April 01, 2005

Democrats on Bush's Middle East policy

I have GOT to stop saying stuff that ends up in the New Republic. Martin Peretz has a piece today calling out Democrats, and Republican "realists," for their refusal to acknowledge that something good might be happening in the Middle East thanks to Bush's foreign policy. He starts by making a comparison I have been fond of using (really, I'm sure one of my friends would be willing to attest to this...), that if Bush cured cancer, liberals would carp that he did so without proper international consultations and in an arrogant, cowboy-like manner. As I posted earlier, I am really really mad at liberals for totally taking a pass on the Administration's mission to make America safer by, heaven forfend, spreading democracy in the terribly undemocratic Middle East. If the "Middle Eastern spring" continues, I think this failure of vision and courage will rank up there with the embarrassing apologist attitude taken by many -- though certainly not all -- American liberals about communism, starting in the 1960s. Of course, American conservatives have their own shameful "we got it all wrong" issues -- most notably their failure to support the civil rights movement of the 1960s. Still, I expect better from my fellow lefties. I am also unconcerned about how wrong the Republican realists might be about Bush, as I hardly expect to be on the same side as Pat Buchanan on just about anything. But I think the American left has dangerously held onto attitudes about the U.S. military and foreign policy that were formed by Vietnam, and which became mainstream Democratic foreign policy in 1968. This attitude holds that it is a given that the U.S. military must be seen as a force for bad, and that U.S. foreign policy must always be interpreted as trampling on the rights of poor, dark-skinned foreigners. The fact that some of these foreigners might actually be really bad people who should not be romanticized as "freedom fighting" insurgents is not worth considering. If it was asinine for Ronald Reagan to refer to the Contras as freedom fighters, as most liberals would assert, it surely must be equally asinine to ascribe such high-minded motives to people who seek to destroy Iraq's attempt to create a democratic government by blowing people up.

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