22 December 2009

Read Maria Bustillos' review of Avatar. She, maybe, will be able to dissuade you from spending your money on this. I especially second this:

The impression of complete hypocrisy was in no way lessened by the glossy war-porn recruitment commercial for the National Guard, produced in exactly the same style and character, that played before the movie (though with no aliens, I guess, and not, thankfully, in 3D).


Someday I will write an essay explaining why this commercial is disgusting, fascistic, and makes me want to move to Canada NOW. But I am tired.

21 December 2009

If Roger Ebert says regarding the film Avatar: "It is an Event, one of those films you feel you must see to keep up with the conversation," then I shall endeavor to go see it tomorrow.

11 December 2009

A reader of Andrew Sullivan's blog opines:

The photo of the Iranian men wearing green hijabs to honor Majid Tavakoli made me think of the great Middle English epic Sir Gawain and the Green Knight.
During his quest, Gawain broke his promise to share everything he acquired in Sir Bertilak's castle in order to conceal and keep a lady's green girdle, which he was told had the magical power to save his life. For that very human and understandable lapse in chivalry, the Green Knight nicked Gawain's neck slightly with his axe, when he would otherwise have spared him entirely. Ashamed of his partial failure, Gawain wore the girdle as a baldric and told the whole court at Camelot of his shame. Impressed by his bravery and humility, all the Knights of the Round Table decided from that day forth to wear green baldrics in fellowship with Gawain, to honor him.
They are very different stories from very different times and cultures, but the parallels -- a hunted man wearing a woman's garment to escape mortal danger, that fact being held up as a mark of shame, and his peers wearing similar garments (green, even) to turn them into a badge of honor -- are fascinating to me. I wonder if the Gawain story once had some basis in fact, and if the heroes of the Green Revolution will one day be the subject of Persian epic poetry.


I hope so. Maybe the story of Rostam and Sohrab will be bundled with Majid and his Green Companions and sold cheaply whereever Iranians live.

10 December 2009

The average December precipitation for Madison is 1.32 inches. We just got 16 inches of snow (and today's high was around 8 degrees F).

09 December 2009

My advice to the supporters of marriage equality in New Jersey:

All the phone calls in the world won't sway a legislator who is taking money or favors from the Catholic Church. Speak out in public places instead, and throw tomatoes or other soft fruit at those who vote NO.

02 December 2009

The heavy hand of bigotry fell upon the New York State Senate today, as a bill to legalize same-sex marriage was voted down 38-24.

I applaud Senators Adams and Parker for their fervent arguments in favor of the bill. The spirit of Martin Luther King was on them today.

As for Ruben Diaz (the only senator who attempted to explain his 'no' vote), since you love your g--damn Bible so much, let me quote Matthew's gospel (18:19-20).

Again I say unto you, that if two of you shall agree on earth as touching any thing that they shall ask, it shall be done for them of my Father which is in heaven. For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.
I have a mixed reaction to Obama's Afghanistan speech. One thing I am very glad he said was this:

"...these men belonged to al Qaeda, a group of extremists who have distorted and defiled Islam, one of the world's great religions, to justify the slaughter of innocents."

So long have we waited to hear someone in power tell us that suicide bombers are no more representative of Islam than Timothy McVeigh is of Christianity. In the aftermath of the Fort Hood murders, it would have been very easy to avoid this subject. I tremble to think what John McCain would have told the cadets--how many times he would have used the word 'crusade,' for instance--poisoning the chance of any operation's success before it even began.

30 November 2009

Some stereotypes never die, they just flit from minority to minority. This is from Herman Melville's book Benito Cereno:

There is something in the negro which, in a peculiar way, fits him for avocations about one's person. Most negroes are natural valets and hair-dressers; taking to the comb and brush congenially as to the castinets, and flourishing them apparently with almost equal satisfaction. There is, too, a smooth tact about them in this employment, with a marvelous, noiseless, gliding briskness, not ungraceful in its way...

19 November 2009

Hand of Fraud?

And Ireland's Justice Minister wants a rematch. I'm sorry, Ireland, but if we were to insist on playing all games marred by a 'missed handball' again, soccer would not be the world's most popular sport any longer. You lost to the country whose republican institutions, flag, and obsession with linguistic purity you copied wholesale; the least you can do is be graceful.

PS I shudder to think what they would demand if they had lost to England.

18 November 2009

Andrew Sullivan (see this blog's links) wrote today:

This is only the second time in its nearly ten-year history that the Dish has gone silent. The reason now is the same as the reason then. When dealing with a delusional fantasist like Sarah Palin, it takes time to absorb and make sense of the various competing narratives that she tells about her life. There are so many fabrications and delusions in the book, mixed in with facts, that just making sense of it - and comparing it with objective reality as we know it, and the subjective reality she has previously provided - is a bewildering task. She is a deeply disturbed person which makes this work of fiction and fact all the more challenging to read. And the fact that she is now the leader of the Republican party and a potential presidential candidate, makes this process of deconstruction an important civil responsibility. We take this seriously as we always have. We want to be fair to her, and to her family, and to the innocent people she has brought into the spotlight. And we are not reporters. We are merely analysts trying to make sense of evidence already in the public domain, evidence that points in all sorts of directions, only one of which can be true.


Some of Sullivan's readers have criticized him for his 'obsession' with Sarah Palin--I support his work on her, and I can understand his sense of responsibility as a (perhaps lapsed) Republican to investigate her claims. This is the woman, after all, who started the meme about Obama's 'death panels.'

16 November 2009

The Travails of Maine.

According to the lawsuit and local newspaper accounts, some residents opposed the project on grounds that farmworkers’ children overburdened the schools; others predicted it would be a drug haven. The petition, signed by 48 residents, said jobs should be saved for local lobstermen, whose industry is suffering, and not "given out to minorities that may move into these units."


You can make a desert and call it peace, people of Maine. Go ahead, exclude gay families and immigrants (and if you care that much about drug users, a hefty slice of your white population). You can market your lobster to the two percent of America that can afford to eat it, and import massive numbers of robots to take care of your elderly. Surely God will smile upon your commitment to the old ways.

07 November 2009

Bob Dylan's 45-year old song "Times they are a-changing" never gets old. I composed this revision yesterday.

O gather round preachers, saints and the lay
See the closets and walls start to crumble to dust;
Your prejudice, blindness, the old pious ways
Are gasping their last as all folly must;
For the country's youth are raging--
For the times they are a-changing.

Catholics, Mormons, what's with the hate?
The Jesus you follow of that said 'enough'--
To turn back society, too little, too late,
Let each one pledge life to the one he loves,
For the war you are waging is waste;
For the times they are a-changing.

Our republic is grounded in freedom for all;
The state can't enforce the laws of a church.
Our polity flourishes when people stand tall;
It's betrayal to leave our friends in the lurch.
Your Canadian neighbors are saying
For the times they are a-changing.

06 November 2009

I feel I must respond to a review of the film "A Serious Man" found in this week's New Yorker (apparently by David Denby).

I saw this movie a week ago and loved it, as I have loved all the Coen brothers' movies since The Big Lebowski. You have to give props to someone who puts a 20-minute Yiddish-language folktale at the beginning of their movie and try to market it in America. Denby claims the movie is "black, bleak, and belittling....a deadpan farce about middle-class bad taste." Yet the main character's plight (trying to be a mensch, a serious man, against an alternately hostile and indifferent world) is surely universal. Was Hamlet only for the middle class?

Perhaps Denby was traumatized by the wallpaper in the Gopnik household (but it is 1967, what did you expect?), and totally missed the intricate drama unspooling. What other movie in the last decade, the last century, has featured a Jewish family in Minnesota composed of a physics professor, a gay man with an incurable tumor, a wife who initiates divorce, a bitchy daughter, and a nerdy son? Not to mention the three rabbis, each sui generis and Mrs. Simsky the next-door nudist. Maybe you have to live in the Midwest to fully appreciate the story--this is not the Royal Tannenbaums on the prairie.

05 November 2009

It is a significant source of comfort to me that the people who are trying to take away my civil rights can't construct a sentence to save their own lives. A New York Post-reading homophobe writes:

"Homesexuality is wrong no matter where it is. Way to go Cabbie. Tired of free loving liberals who shove their immoral conducts down our throats as if this should be the norm. Well it's not."

"Homesexuality"?? So you want people to take their fucking outside at all times? Please clarify, BlackSheep.

04 November 2009

It looks like Virginia has a new governor.

I know it's so rude to cite his doctoral thesis from 20 years ago--I mean, how dare we dig up these documents from a politician's past and use them against him? But I think we might want to know the deepest thoughts of a man who will be governing the state right across the Potomac from our nation's capital.

Consider:


  1. The undermining of respect for parental authority in favor of state direction or individual autonomy, and the contemporaneous purging of religious influence in the public schools has impaired the development of healthy family members....

  2. ....the view of marriage as an indissoluble lifelong commitment had been abandoned. In its wake is the perverted notion of liberty that each individual should be able to live out his sexual life in any way he chooses without interference from the state.

  3. [Republicans should] fight any attempts to redefine family by allowing special rights for homosexuals or single-parent unwed mothers.



Finally, this gets first prize in historical kookiness:
"Within this very century, history will record in Russia, Germany, China, Algeria, and other nations, the efforts of rulers to carry the vision of Hobbes, Rousseau, and Marx to fruition: the destruction of the family institution."

Damn that godless family-hating Hobbes...

The thesis is well worth a read-through, not least for the glowing references to Newt Gingrich (who knows so much about lifelong marriage commitments).

02 November 2009

A Journey to Barnes and Noble.

Being a flaming liberal, my chain bookstore of choice is Borders. There, among Asian students, Jewish mothers, and scruffy men with nose piercings, I sip lattes and browse the history and science fiction (and often the travel guides). Today I decided to go to the other place, the huge, concrete-surrounded Barnes and Noble on Madison's West Side.

The bookstore adjoins a plus-size clothing boutique, whose clients I am sure look for books and XXL clothing in the same shopping trip. This branch has a children's corner, walls gaily painted with non-copyrighted cartoon characters. I saw nobody in that area save a janitor scrubbing away at part of the wall.

I entered the store with the intention of looking for Wired magazine. My attention wandered to the fiction shelves, very neatly alphabetized (to its credit). I came to the Z's of fiction and saw some interesting mythology books, and nearly bought a Robert Graves. Then the history shelves beckoned. At least I thought those were history shelves, but coming closer the signs became legible: "Politics," "Christian Spirituality," [a sprawling section], "Gay and Lesbian," [only five feet wide]. Presently I was accosted by a display stand full of Mike Huckabee's latest book, the Huckster's face offensively beaming at me. Now it was only a matter of minutes before I had to leave. I did look for Wired among the magazines (let's see: The Gun, Hunt and Fish, Southern Living, High School Basketball Report....nope, nothing about technology post-1970).

27 October 2009

Is Ben Bernanke a "Brave Thinker"?

The Atlantic Monthly thinks so. The magazine with a "longtime commitment to challenging the conventional wisdom" chose Bernanke as one of 27 such living luminaries. After all, "his radical interventions may have saved the day" for the American economy! We'll never know for sure, of course, since "the particulars of the Fed’s interventions remain lamentably shielded from oversight."
Edmund White has hit the nail on the head re. gay marriage:

In the past, when gays were very flamboyant as drag queens or as leather queens or whatever, that just amused people. And most of the people that come and watch the gay Halloween parade, where all those excesses are on display, those are straight families, and they think it's funny. But what people don't think is so funny is when two middle-aged lawyers who are married to each other move in next door to you and your wife and they have adopted a Korean girl and they want to send her to school with your children and they want to socialize with you and share a drink over the backyard fence. That creeps people out, especially Christians.


Though why should Christians be creeped out by same-sex commitments?

20 October 2009

James Bowman writes regarding the repeal of Don't Ask Don't Tell:


In fact, we do not know and we cannot know what our armed forces would be like under such conditions....In Britain, the change came about in response to an order from the European Court of Human Rights, whose decrees have the force of law. For this reason, it would not be in the interest of any officer who valued his career prospects to remark upon any problems that the presence of gay soldiers, sailors, or airmen might be causing in their armed forces. Nor has the performance of the British Army in Iraq or the Royal Navy in the Persian Gulf been such as to render all suspicion of damage to morale, good order, and discipline ridiculous.


Way to call our British allies pussies, Bowman. And I suppose the examples of Canada and Australia (who have allowed openly gay servicemembers for 16 years) don't count because, well, they've been "feminized" by playing too much rugby or something.

16 October 2009

Yesterday's Balloon Boy odyssey was the fourth nail in the coffin of cable TV. White child number 7,340,323 goes missing ("missing" defined as whatever his parents say); law enforcement spends hours searching, with accompanying footage of a ridiculous-looking tin foil balloon on CNN; Wolf Blitzer elicits a confession of fraud from the unharmed boy, seems to reject the possibility of foul play, and starts milking this udder for all its saccharine potential.

Anyone who gets their news from diverse sources knows that a boy was beaten to death not a month ago in Chicago, outside a high school, and that there are thousands of malnourished and homeless children in this country. Will mainstream TV ever spend a small fraction of their 24/7 coverage on these things? Of course not. When a cute fair-skinned child is said to be in danger (by his reality-TV whore father, of all people).....

13 October 2009

A Memo to the President:

This past weekend, you told the Human Rights Campaign you were "committed to ending Don't Ask Don't Tell." I'm sure you are aware that Rep. Ellen Tauscher introduced a bill doing just that in Congress in March of this year. It now has 176 bipartisan cosponsors.

I appreciate your respect for the legislative process, but it has become all too clear that the Senate will not touch this issue with a hundred-foot pole. Every day, our tax money is being spent on the persecution and discharge of servicemembers who happen to have the wrong sexual orientation. This policy is pernicious and stupid, and I cannot see how you hope to win the war in Afghanistan without scrapping it.

If you cannot bring yourself to sign an executive order suspending the enforcement of Don't Ask Don't Tell before March 1st, 2010, I will regretfully decline to vote for you again.

Skye Winspur

05 October 2009

Fitness diary:
I ran a mile in 13 minutes 20 seconds today.
I was reading Edward Hyde's History of the Rebellion, written in the middle of the seventeenth century. His AP English teacher might not have liked this sentence very much:

It was very true that, after many great and noble actions performed by prince Rupert in the relief of Latham, and the reduction of Bolton, and all other places in that large county, (Manchester only excepted,) in which the rebels lost very many, much blood having been shed in taking places by assault which were too obstinately defended, the prince had marched out of Lancashire with so good reputation, and had given his orders so effectually to Goring, who lay in Lincolnshire with that body of horse that belonged to the marquis of Newcastle's army, that they happily joined the prince, and marched together towards York with that expedition that the enemy was so surprised that they found it necessary to raise the siege in confusion enough, and, leaving one whole side of the town free, drew to the other side in great disorder and consternation; there being irreconcilable differences and jealousies between the officers, and indeed between the nations: the English resolving to join no more with the Scots, and they on the other side, as weary of their company and discipline; so that the prince had done his work, and if he had sat still the other great army would have mouldered to nothing, and been exposed to any advantage his highness woud take of them.

02 October 2009

Today would be Mahatma Gandhi's 140th birthday. A sample of his handwriting:

29 September 2009

The latest from Rush Limbaugh:

"Turning to the Washington Post today, Fareed Zakaria. He's also an editor at Newsweek, and I think he still has his own CNN show, but they have so small an audience that I don't know if anybody ever sees it."

No, nobody except millions of intelligent people who can handle a brown man explaining the world to them.

"And [Reagan] was despised for that by the left and the Democrat Party said, "Whoa! You can't talk like that. That's only going to be destabilize the situation." But he was right. No compromise with bullies. No compromise with liars. No compromise with thugs."

And the Republican Party said, "We gots the best grammar than you." Seriously, though, Reagan was happy to funnel money and arms to Saddam Hussein, and Pinochet, and Pakistan's generals (the list might go on).

25 September 2009

Kudos to Benoit Denizet-Lewis for a new article on gay teenagers.


“Teachers would never let students say, ‘That’s so black,’ ” says Eileen Ross from the Outlet Program in Mountain View, “but I’ve had teachers look at me like I’m crazy when I suggest that they should say something to a student who says ‘that’s so gay.’ They’ll say, ‘If I have to stop what I’m doing every time a student says that, I won’t have any time to teach!’ ”


Don't you think teaching respect for all people is a more important lesson than middle school science or social studies?

21 September 2009

I have just finished the wonderful, luxuriant book Red Earth and Pouring Rain by Vikram Chandra. Even its imperfections seem charming.

This, at least for now, is my favorite paragraph:

Today the television cameras came, and also the death threats. We have been warned by several organizations that the story-telling must stop. The groups on the very far right--of several religions--object to the 'careless use of religious symbology, and the ceaseless insults to the sensitivities of the devout.' The far-left partes object to the 'sensationalization and falsification of history, and the pernicious Western influences on our young.' Everyone objects to the sex, except the audience.

27 August 2009

The Atlantic Monthly Business headlines today are the best I've seen in any 'business' section, ever.

--Why are Medicare Recipients Against Government Healthcare?
--Has the Great Depression Taught California Nothing?
--What Would the Deficit Look Like Without Bush?

25 August 2009

The Economist has an obituary of Gayatri Devi, Maharani of Jaipur. Very interesting, if a little fawning. Apparently while in prison for "currency offences" she
softened the blow by pouring French perfume into the open sewer in her cell. As it ran through the building, Asia's largest prison and one of its worst, other prisoners gathered to inhale the wafting vapours, the true scent of royalty.


It must have smelled terrible.

17 August 2009

Yesterday I picked some compelling scenarios from Slate's End of America project. Well, not so compelling to the digirati: two of my favorites, "Pax Indica" and "Declining Military Standards", were ranked among the least popular.

14 July 2009

A beautiful currency design proposed by Kyle Thompson is today's object of adoration.

08 July 2009

Damn you, Square Enix.

I've gotten about a fifth of the way through your greatest RPG of all time, Chrono Trigger, on the DS, and now I'm stuck because I can't press the A button fast enough.

If there's one thing you should have fixed from the SNES version, it's this idiocy. I don't mind having cute drinking contests which test your thumb speed, as long as they are totally peripheral to the plot.

Be assured that I won't buy your upcoming game, Nostalgia, if I hear anything about one of these mandatory button-pressing tortures.

28 June 2009

Congratulations, cable TV, you totally dropped the ball on the revolution unfolding in Iran. While the Islamic Republic teeters you wallow in nostalgia for a recently deceased 50-year-old entertainer. I would like to point out that said entertainer lived 8 years beyond the male life expectancy in Afghanistan (a country where we have tens of thousands of troops, but perhaps you forgot).

22 June 2009

--Take a look at this Missouri highway, and try not to vomit.

15 June 2009

Dowlat-eh Koodeta, Estefa, Estefa!
For a translation, go here.

My prayers are with the disenfranchised citizens of Iran today. I have seen many images on the web that convince me Iran is a dynamic society bursting with the frustration of millions. Imagine that Mitt Romney was the chief cleric of the United States, declared McCain the winner of last year's election, and ordered all Obama's campaign staffers thrown in jail: then you'll have some idea what is happening there.

04 June 2009

Reid, the majority leader, was awarded Sotomayor's first meeting. So eager was he to praise the nominee that he became tangled in his own cliches. "We have the whole package here," he announced in his office yesterday morning with the smiling Sotomayor seated to his left, her hands folded neatly in her lap. Further, Reid said to her, "you've been an underdog many times in your life but always the top dog."


I think Aristotle was right after all. Members of an oligarchical body (the Senate) will never stop trying to prove they are as vulgar as the masses.

03 June 2009

Alexander Cockburn in the Nation, June 15 issue:

The court's decision on May 26 to uphold the voters' ban
last year on same-sex marriage will ensure that a torrent of money pours
into California as the non-profits and political action committees on both sides
prime their bank balances for the next state initiative. Long-term, it's a shot
in the arm for the tourist industry, too. Half a century down the road, long lines
will be forming in the Castro for visitors to gawk through the window of some
antique store at the wizened last same-sex couple legally married before the
ban kicked in. Of course, it also means month after unendurable month of gays
whining on TV about the horrors of not being able to marry. Ban all marriage,
I say!


It may not happen in your lifetime, Mr. Curmudgeon-Cockburn, but I am confident that in fifty years, there will be many hundreds of young same-sex couples in California with the full force of the law behind their unions.

22 May 2009

200 years ago the forces of the Austrian empire defeated Napoleon at Aspern-Essling. Archduke Charles (pictured here) was in command, and after supervising the destruction of 50,000 French lives, retired from military life.

14 May 2009

New Hampshire is about to become another state to pass a marriage equality bill. This leaves Rhode Island
as the only New England state where same-sex couples cannot marry; an irony which is probably not lost on Providence's openly gay mayor.

08 May 2009

Three days ago I bought a Nintendo DSi, along with two games. One of them is "Final Fantasy III," which is an homage to the SNES game of 15 years ago. It's fun, although I am always slightly appalled at the default character names (e.g. "Luneth," "Refia", "Ingus").

28 April 2009

Chris Hayes wrote recently:

I'm pretty sure the Germans don't have the filibuster, but if they did, they'd have a word for the soul-wrenching misery you feel watching a press conference convened by a handful of preening, self-congratulatory "moderate" senators who have just succeeded in making a bill decidedly worse in deference to some incoherent, abstract notion of "moderateness."


Hear, hear.

24 April 2009

While doing some spring cleaning, I have unearthed some of my diaries from my time at Reed College. I am going to publish the few good bits and consign the rest to oblivion.

Proceeding in chronological order:

September 14, 2002.

Ten dollars bought me three hours of Indian classical music--meaning about 5 cents per minute. Kalakendra
is the group sponsoring, and we were put through an endless raga before the intermission. It was a little Straussian.
The final piece was a classic song for Krishna which was what I had been hoping for and expecting.

October 30.

...today a stiff blast of cold air hit Portland. As long as I stayed out of shadowed areas, it wasn't intolerable. Indeed, coming back from downtown on the bus I could see Mt. Hood, as if it were an inflatable pyramid plopped down somewhere a few miles to the east. (It was a rather sickly gray-brown, barely touched by snowdrifts still!)

November 3.

Nothing happened of import today. I had a true hangover--the headache was minor, but my body felt ten times heavier than normal and it was an extensive effort to get out of bed.

[Reading Voltaire I found this passage: ] ..."most of the boyars slept on planks on which they extended furs or a blanket. These people would have seemed like Spartans if they had been sober."

November 8.

Saw Center Stage's production of True West, by Sam Shepard....I strongly identified with the Austin character--a cautious, diligent writer who craves excitement and adventure.

A poem from November 24.

From barbarous Portland town to golden Danube's stream
Is many miles; one thing alone can mend the seam:

The orchestra--whose sound so gracefully transports
This homesick poet to Vienna's splendid courts.

22 April 2009

Happy St. George's Day! (it's tomorrow)

Read the Archbishop of York's proposal on the subject.

12 April 2009

A poem for the holiday:

If in that Syrian garden, ages slain,
You sleep, and know not you are dead in vain,
Nor even in dreams behold how dark and bright
Ascends in smoke and fire by day and night
The hate you died to quench and could but fan,
Sleep well and see no morning, son of man.

But if, the grave rent and the stone rolled by,
At the right hand of majesty on high
You sit, and sitting so remember yet
Your tears, your agony and bloody sweat,
Your cross and passion and the life you gave,
Bow hither out of heaven and see and save.


A. E. Housman

10 April 2009

Let me tell you where Wells Fargo's amazing first-quarter profit came from.

They halved my interest rate on savings. It is now 0.0122% per month.

03 April 2009

Consider these lines from Byron's satirical epic Don Juan:

Alas! Could she but fully, truly know
How her great name is now throughout abhorr'd;
How eager all the earth is for the blow
Which shall lay bare her bosom to the sword;
How all the nations deem her their worst foe,
That worse than worst of foes, the once adored
False friend, who held out freedom to mankind,
And now would chain them, to the very mind;--

Would she be proud, or boast herself the free,
Who is but first of slaves? The nations are
In prison,--but the gaoler, what is he?
No less a victim to the bolt and bar.
Is the poor privilege to turn the key
Upon the captive, freedom? He's as far
From the enjoyment of the earth and air
Who watches o'er the chain, as they who wear.

The sentiment is familiar to any American liberal who has lived through the younger-Bush administration. Read further in Byron's poem and you will find a penetrating, withering critique of social and moral failings in the Britain of George IV (a dimwitted voluptuary who succeeded his famously mad father after holding the position of Prince Regent for three decades) . After the battle of Waterloo (1815) and twenty-odd years of war with France, the British people experienced severe economic shocks and new kinds of political upheaval. The rise of steam-powered textile mills put thousands of rural weavers out of a livelihood, and a sustained drop in food prices beggared the farm workers and squires who had immemorially been the backbone of England. Agitators such as William Cobbett railed against a government of fat-cat lords and financiers that remained oblivious to the suffering in the nation. One of Cobbett's primary aims was the abolition of “rotten boroughs,” seats in parliament representing once-important towns, now greatly reduced in size, that were bought and sold serially by aristocratic or nouveau-riche brokers. These seats included Old Sarum (prestigious for its proximity to Stonehenge, but endowed with no permanent inhabitants) and the amusingly named Looe in Cornwall. By contrast, booming cities in Northern England such as Manchester enjoyed no parliamentary representation whatever.

Of course, American democracy today is nothing like this. Every citizen has an equal voice, corruption is minimized, the District of Columbia may be getting statehood this year....

I think it's clear where I'm going with this, and if not, here are some interesting numbers: Did you know that a resident of Wyoming has 70 times as much voting power in the U.S. Senate as a resident of California? This is literally true if you consider the states' respective populations and that line in the Constitution prescribing two senators for every state. (At the time of its writing, the largest state, Virginia, had 19 times as many people as the smallest, Tennessee. We can cut the Founders some slack on the oligarchical stuff. )

14 January 2009

After seeing the movie Behind the Lines, I was compelled to start blogging again. This is a poem by Wilfred Owen,
of which I have changed only one word.

So Abram rose, and clave the wood, and went,
And took the fire with him, and a knife.
And as they sojourned both of them together,
Isaac the first-born spake and said, My Father,
Behold the preparations, fire and iron,
But where the lamb for this burnt-offering?
Then Abram bound the youth with belts and straps,
And builded parapets and trenches there,
And stretch\ed forth the knife to slay his son.
When lo! an angel called him out of heaven,
Saying, Lay not thy hand upon the lad,
Neither do anything to him. Behold,
A ram caught in a thicket by its horns;
Offer the Ram of Pride instead of him.
But the old man would not so, but slew his son. . . .
And half the seed of Israel, one by one.