Obama Resigns from Trinity United Church

Saturday, May 31, 2008

Good move here, as suggested on this blog during the height of the Jeremiah Wright drama. This will help dispel the issue in the fall. He has denounced the pastor’s remarks, resigned from the church, and it’s all old news.

This was an absolutely necessary step, and timed well too.


Is Bush Irrelevant? Hmm, Let’s See…

Saturday, May 31, 2008

Old school conservative Pat Buchanan concludes that, yes, Bush is irrelevant. He had to ask?

A man with a 28% approval rating, defecting inner circle, foreign policy failures at every turn, and an economic apocalypse unfolding in slow motion? He is only relevant in that we must hope that he won’t do any more damage. From Buchanan:

“When loyalists defect and seek to profit from that defection, it is usually a sign of a failing presidency. And, indeed, events suggest that history is passing Bush by.”

“America remains the first economic and military power on earth. But after seven years of Bush, we no longer inspire the awe or hopes we once did. We are no longer the world hegemonic power of the neocons’ depiction.”

“Of Bush, it may be said he was a far better politician and candidate than his father, but as a statesman and world leader, he could not carry the old man’s loafers.”

Kind of makes you miss the days when Buckley and Buchanan rode tall in the saddle.

Evolution: A Scientific American Reader

Friday, May 30, 2008

I bought this book while browsing the book section of the gift shop at the Museum of Natural History in New York. My interest in biology, genetics, and evolution is paramount in my intellectual life right now, and has been for a while. I was hoping that the book would give me new information and inspire my thinking on the subject. I wasn’t disappointed.

The book is a compilation of articles from Scientific American magazine related to evolution. It starts with a section on the evolution of the universe, continues with cellular evolution, dinosaurs and pre-hominid life, and then finishes with human evolution. Each section contains several articles worth reading, with the standouts being:

  • The entire section on the evolution of the universe.
  • The articles about primitive cellular evolution and immunology (this is a fascinating subject).
  • Stephen Jay Gould on Punctuated Equilibrium.
  • The articles about early hominid evolution and population dispersal.
  • There are a few misses in there as well, but because the book is loosely organized by discrete topics, without much continuity between them, you can simply skip the articles that don’t interest you. For a primer on evolution, and in particular to learn about the evolution of the universe, the formation of stars, and utterly amazing biology of cells, Evolution: A Scientific American Reader is a great book. I recommend it.

    How Goes the Appeasing, Israel?

    Friday, May 30, 2008

    Ha’aretz, the venerable Israeli newspaper, reports that Israel and Syria have made progress in their talks on the “contentious issues of water, security, borders and normalization of relations.” Having talked with officials from both sides, the story indicates that there is interest from Israel and Syria in advancing to the next stage of direct negotiations.

    Do hysterical American neocons know about this? Israel is appeasing. Someone should stop them before peace breaks out…

    In a related story, Ehud Olmert, who some have speculated initiated the talks with Syria as a wag-the-dog manuever to deflect attention from an ongoing bribery investigation, will be in the U.S. next week to meet with American politicians and address AIPAC. Many believe his tenure as Prime Minister will be over shortly. The Israeli Foreign Minister, Tzipi Livni, is waiting eagerly in the wings.

    Prehistoric Tribe in the Amazon

    Friday, May 30, 2008

    This fascinating photo is published as part of a series by a group called Survival International to support the claim that there are uncontacted tribes living in the Amazon rainforest. If accurate, you’re looking at mankind 10,000 years ago. Apparently, they have had no direct contact with the modern world. Truly astounding. They’re shooting their bow and arrows at the airplane!

    Military Spending Unaudited, Out-of-Control

    Friday, May 30, 2008

    This week Henry Waxman’s Committee on Oversight and Government Reform held a hearing with Mary L. Ugone, Deputy Inspector General for Auditing, U.S. Department of Defense, Office of the Inspector General. The purpose was to examine the newly released report on the Inspector General’s investigation of billions in disbursals in Iraq.

    Little surprise, billions are unaccounted for. BILLIONS! This makes my blood boil. The Pentagon’s budget, according to the New York Times, has doubled since 2000, yet no additional auditors have been added. This is an invitation to thievery; an open checkbook for war profiteers.

    Contrasted with the brave and noble service of our soldiers, this kind of malfeasance is treasonous. Every day there is another story. The Times editorial points out that $320.8 million dollars was paid to 1,000 anonymous workers under the entry Iraqi Salary Payment – $320K per worker. Nobody know who these people are. Another recent story cites the faulty ammunition supplied by a couple of twenty-somethings to the Afghan Army. Still other stories find Halliburton overcharging for services. And so on. Just google this stuff and watch the effluent flow.

    There should be criminal indictments for this, and they should go all the way to the top.

    Rushdie’s The Enchantress of Florence

    Thursday, May 29, 2008

    Marco Roth of n+1, the intriguing hipster literary journal (not to be confused with their hated archrival McSweeneys) whose intellectual perspective, has, according to their website, singlehandedly saved (shame on them), Jonathan Franzen from existential despair, has reviewed Salman Rushdie’s new novel, The Enchantress of Florence.

    He gave it a good review, though he takes Rushdie to task for indulging his ego through his characters.

    The hyper-prolific and much-hated (but not by me, again I haven’t read her) Joyce Carol Oates also reviewed the novel (with lots of quotes) in the New York Review of Books. Funnily enough, she had more or less the same judgment as Roth.

    Both commented on the fantastic unreality of the novel.

    She writes: Though The Enchantress of Florence includes a densely printed five-page bibliography of historical books and articles and is being described as a “historical” novel, readers in expectation of a conventional “historical novel” should be forewarned: this is “history” jubilantly mixed with postmodernist magic realism. The veteran performer-author is too playful and too much the exuberant stylist to incorporate much of deadpan “reality” into his ever-shifting, ever-teasing narrative of the power of enchantment of cultural opposites: “We are their dream…and they are ours.”

    Roth points out: There are pirates, shipwrecks, hidden princesses, lost heirs, and magic mirrors. There are giants, epic battles, and potions that “facilitate one hundred consecutive ejaculations.”

    I don’t know about you, but this sounds pretty good to me.

    I have only read one other (should I be ashamed to point out all the stuff I haven’t read?) Rushdie novel: Midnight’s Children. It was a while ago now, but the book stayed with me and I remember it as one of the best I have ever read; it was a whirling tableau of charm and color and I was deeply engrossed. Rushdie’s ego aside (Who cares unless it ruins the book? And if it does, why don’t they say so explicitly?), I am looking forward to this one. After getting dumped by that hot wife (it couldn’t have ended any other way), I suspect that he’s turned his anguish into art.

    Update July 23: I’ve read the book now and it is almost exactly as described above. Two things:

    It takes a while before you actually become engrossed. There’s a lot of light and flash here and Rushdie can sustain it for a long time without actually creating a meaningful character. Eventually he does, and in the meantime, the light and flash entertains.

    This book is a great beach read. Not too deep, transportive but not ponderous. Recommend it for that purpose. It is not, however, another Midnight’s Children.