Friday, June 15, 2012

Mexico, on the Pacific Side

Last night in rainy London I saw new friends from Mexico visiting here for work.  I want to go back, next time to the Yucatan, and then again to the Pacific where I was last month.  I'll be writing more about that trip soon.  Meanwhile...

The Paris Review, at the beginning, and now

For years I've been reluctant to wade in and address some tendentious and shoddy commentary about the beginnings of The Paris Review, a magazine where I worked for many years.  All of it fairly silly stuff.

For now I'll just say I wish the magazine, or someone at Wikipedia, would address the TPR wiki entry.  It rather absurdly repeats the unsupported allegation from the "Underground Literary Alliance," made in 2004, that the magazine was "exercising influence" over the London Review of Books.  Where to begin?  Well, the ULA when they made that claim seemed to mean me.  It is true I live in London, and that my brain waves are very strong, but I hadn't been in touch with the London Review of Books since I arranged, from New York, an exchange of ads in the late 1990s, and that's extent of my engagement with the LRB... though come to think of it I wouldn't mind writing for it. 

I'd asked people at TPR to address this, but so far no soap.  Are they enjoying the prank aspect of all this, or is making such a change too difficult to do?

In any case they're doing a great job putting out the mag... or the paper as they've taken to calling it.

Syria's Collateral Damage

... that would be Lebanon.  It took the Lebanese fifteen years and many deaths to get Syria out and to have their country to themselves again.  Now the violence in Syria, a place on the brink of civil war, where a number of massacres have already occurred, threatens to spill back into their country.

David Ignatius, who began his journalistic career in Beirut and is now visiting, gives this assessment:

For a generation, Lebanese lived the nightmare of sectarian civil war. Now they are watching a similar vortex gather velocity in neighboring Syria, and many fear that Lebanon will be sucked into a conflict that nearly everyone dreads.Already, the Syrian strife is starting to bleed into Lebanon. The Akkar region in the northeast has become a transit point for medical and other relief supplies — and the Syrian opposition hopes to use it as a staging ground for operations across the border in Homs, which has become the fulcrum of the battle to topple Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

Read the who thing HERE.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Democrats, Wake Up!

Oh the wails from Waukesha...

Last night Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker’s campaign dealt a decisive blow to our party’s attempt to reverse, through a recall vote, the results of the 2010 election.  Governor Walker had won the 2010 election by a significant margin, and he'd proceeded to do what he’d promised during that campaign--to end collective bargaining rights for the bloated sector of public employees, and to enact fiscal reform in a state whose budget was pushing it into insolvency.  Yet Wisconsin Democrats fought for an election to recall him from office.  Walker defeated last night’s recall attempt not, as suggested by CNN, by a “narrow” margin, but by a wide and decisive one of 11%.  What's more, the lieutenant governor, also facing a recall election, was re-confirmed.  And then Republican candidates won the four State Senate seats up for election.  This in Wisconsin, traditionally a Democratic stronghold.

The results of the Wisconsin vote have been bitter for many, but it is a taste of what the Democratic party will receive come November unless the party’s leaders, and its rank and file, and President Obama’s political aides reform the party’s platform and discourse.

I urge them to do so now, starting here:

Stop treating our own who speak uncomfortable truths, truths that can save the party, as heretics. (Cory Booker is, in fact, righteous, heroic and right.)

Stop bashing productive businessmen, small or large.  Our country’s financial health depends on what they do.

Stop bashing bankers who act honestly and responsibly.  There are still a few and small businesses and large businesses depend upon them.

Propose REAL reform of Wall Street: if financial risk becomes socialized, profits must not be privatized.

Renounce the Occupy Wall Street movement.  It is not in any way, as has been argued by the NYT and others, like the Arab Spring, and the suggestion that it is is an insult to the brave Arab youth who stood up last year and this against murderous dictators.  The OWS movements have been a blight on the cities that hosted them; they became a rabble of unwashed and unemployed who in a number of instances committed rapes and other felonies.

In foreign affairs, stop treating our enemies better than our friends.

In domestic politics, stop treating our political adversaries like our enemies by demonizing them.  Stop criminalizing policy differences.

On Green Energy, be real.  Until it is “sustainable” (one of our own buzzwords) ours will be a carbon based economy.

On greenhouse gases, CO2 is not a “pollutant” but a part of the cycle of life.  Forests and plants need it.  When a cow sighs, a tree smiles.

Pass the Keystone legislation.  We now know what Dick Cheney was doing when he secretly huddled with oil men in 2000; he was plotting the long-term energy independence of America through the shale oil and gas revolution.  We should be thankful to him for that.  There is no longer a need to fund our enemies by buying it from any of those bad people who sit on top of it in Iran, Venezuela, or (since we’re still not sure about them) Russia.

(Addendum: we didn’t go to war with Saddam Hussein for oil.  If we wanted his oil we could have bought it from him.)

Stop pretending that the last decade’s conflicts, and matters of international and domestic security, are simple.  They involve a series of tragic choices, none of them attractive, but this is what our time has brought to us.

On counter-terrorism, stop blabbing about secret operations, and stop bragging about successful ones.  Take a cue from those we all know to be the actual heroes, the ones who put their lives on the line, and continue to do good work quietly.  

Embrace our returning warriors, help them find jobs and cherished places in society.  (Hint: the returning young leaders of our armed forces are set to become a formidable generation of political candidates.)

Stop baiting the “birthers.”  Our president, who was of course born in Hawaii, once as a young man opportunistically allowed his literary agent and publisher to market him as a Kenyan writer.  Everyone get over this.

Stop with the undertones of anti-Mormon bigotry.

Stop enacting regulations that force Catholic organizations to act against their beliefs.

We have coddled and even pandered to fringe elements who should be beyond the pale.  I mean Alinksy-ites and 9/11 Truthers.  We all know who Saul Alinsky was (and you do too John Cassidy of the New Yorker).  He was a Stalinist communist organizer who did his apprenticeship in the 1930s studying the rackets of Al Capone’s machine in Chicago.  His beliefs and methods do not belong within the Democratic Party of the United States.  As for those who believe the US government had anything to do with the planning or execution of the 9/11 plot, let them discuss such in a cafe east of Suez, but in any case we were wrong to tolerate them under the umbrella of our party.

As for those in the media loyal to the Democratic party, and that is most of you, you have done Democratic politicians no favor by reinforcing their delusions that they can hold the positions they do, act in the ways they do, and still be popular outside New York, DC and California.  Your readers and viewers are not fooled, and it has not made them love our politicians, or you.

Who and what, then, is the Democratic party?  It is the party of the great middle class (yes, there still is one), of working men and women, of people with compassion for the vulnerable, and for those starting out.  It’s the party that believes wealth, especially inherited or corporate wealth, should not play an undue role in elections. It’s the party that tries to makes sure everyone gets the same fair start.  It’s the party that works toward creating a nation where each of us, citizen or immigrant, candidate or accused, will be judged by what they have done, and on the content of their character.

Last night a bell was sounded, and there is now a long, challenging race to November.  Despite the Republicans' resounding defeat of our candidates in a solid blue state, there is still hope.  Democrats, wake up!