Jan 272009

I’m still puzzling over Obama’s outburst at Eric Cantor. Robert Kuttner tried to pass it off as a jocular remark, but Kuttner didn’t quote the part where Obama said, “I will trump you on that.” Nor did anyone tell us that after Obama tried his joke, he followed it up with, “Seriously…” and a discussion of why he disagreed with Cantor.

Besides, Obama isn’t much known for his sense of humor (although he has cracked an occasional self-deprecating joke — like the one about picking a dog for the White House). But if this is an example, he’s probably better off being known as a humorless politician.

I’m wondering — was this a breakfast meeting where he had his encounter with Cantor? Did Cantor somehow get between Obama and his waffle?

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Jan 262009

I posted this over at Real Clear Politics, in response to an article by Robert Kuttner titled, “It’s Show Time for Obama“:

That’s a jocular comment when Obama says, “I won?” The leader of the free world can offer no better argument than the iron fist? It doesn’t make him come across like the kind of person who wants to heal divisions. In his inaugural address he said, “we have chosen … unity of purpose over conflict and discord.” Maybe his type of unity is achieved by shutting down dissent, which is what he seemed to be doing wrt Cantor.

Mar 032008

I found this while surfing YouTube, looking for Russian video with English subtitles. It does seem to be useful at my stage in learning the language — I understand some words and phrases, but I wouldn’t understand much of what is going on without the subtitles. And it gives some great shots of people and places, including those in villages in Belarus. The narrator gives us a wry look at President Lukaschenko and the political situation in Belarus. It’s entertaining but deadly serious.

I suppose this is the direction in which Putin is taking Russia, and in which we’re following at a long, long distance. Things like McCain-Feingold and extremely high rates of congressional incumbency are only baby steps in that direction, but that IS the direction.

Feb 062008

From a news story in the Washington Post about the primary election results:

[Hillary Clinton] also presented herself as a candidate who “won’t let anyone Swift-boat this country’s future.”

What is that supposed to mean? She’s going to crack down on people who exercise their 1st Amendment rights to criticize politicians? She’s not going to allow dissent or criticism of her health care plans?

When I see things like that, the description of my life in the “About” section of this blog seems unfunnier than ever.

Oct 032007

I had seen a few references to Hillary Clinton’s laugh/cackle, but I regret to admit that I wasn’t paying enough attention to join in the Hillary-Bashing. It’s not like me to miss out on an opportunity.

But I see from Dick Morris’s Column that there was more to it than the laugh.

But every once in a while, there’s a rare moment of clarity. That happened last year when Wallace interviewed the former president. At the end of the interview, Bill lost it. Suddenly the veneer was off, exposing the enraged, snarling, lunging Bill accusing Wallace of “do[ing] his nice little right wing hit job” when he forced Clinton to address his inability to capture or kill bin Laden.

Not a pretty sight.

And Wallace did it again in his recent interview of Hillary. Asked about the extreme partisan politics espoused by her and her husband, the real Hillary challenged Wallace. “Well, Chris, if you’d walked even a day in our shoes over the last 15 years I’m sure you’d understand.”

Oh, yeah? And what is that supposed to mean? Lots of people on all sides of political issues have come in for heavy criticism and opposition. Is she saying criticism of the Clintons is what explains her extreme partisanship? If so, how come it’s only the Clintons who have that kind of reaction to it?

Well, at least she didn’t deny that she was an extreme partisan.

(I don’t think this comment was as revealing of the real Hillary as the one in 1993, “I can’t be responsible for every undercapitalized business.”)

Sep 302007

When I first saw this Yahoo news article, I figured there had to be more to the story:

A Spencer, N.Y., student was sent home from school last week for wearing a T-shirt that denounces homophobia.

Heathyre Farnham, 16, said she was not trying to be inflammatory by wearing the shirt that says, “Gay? Fine By Me.”

Contrary to what the lead sentence says, there’s nothing in that message about homophobia. (What would have been really interesting would have been a T-shirt that said, “Gay? Fine By Me. Homophobic? Fine By Me.”)

It turns out there are news articles with additional information, though it seems most of the information comes from one side of the conflict. The school doesn’t want to talk to the news media about it, which I suppose is reasonable. These types of stories can get spun one way or another so easily, as any parent or teacher who has had to referee a squabble can tell you.

But it’s interesting that all of a sudden, out of the blue, religion is dragged into it. Here it is, a non sequitur from another version:

Beeman [the kid’s mother] noted that religious issues had proven disruptive the previous school year, with students saying that their lessons at school contradicted their religious training.

Said Beeman, “There’re six churches in the area,” and added that the locale “tends to revolve around this religious hub.”

Added Beeman, “It tends to infiltrate into the school. Last year classes would be interrupted by period-long debates, that ’they shouldn’t be teaching this.’”

Said Beeman, “We’re very tolerant of people’s beliefs, but we don’t want them shoved down our throats and that tends to be what happens.”

Note the word “infiltrate.” It took me a while to realize why that bothered me. But now I remember. Back in the 50s, it was a word often used by people complaining about communists “infiltrating” schools and Hollywood. I know the folks using that word back then meant it was a bad thing. Sounds like this Beeman thinks it’s a bad thing, too.

Others might thing think it healthy that people with diverse beliefs can have their say and debate issues.

Here’s what one academic had to say about the subject of debates in the classroom. It’s something that’s posted in the library in the department where I work. You can find it in various places on the web, too.

It is important that students bring a certain ragamuffin, barefoot irreverence to their studies; they are not here to worship what is known, but to question it. — Jacob Bronowski

Sounds like that’s what’s happening at that school, in more ways than one. It’s too bad the news reporters didn’t do a little more questioning of their own, though, such as asking Beeman how she defines “shoved down our throats.”