On the move

Well, I’m relocating, again. This time, it’s Washington (the D.C., not the ST), so it looks like the next few years will consist of regular commutes between home in Louisville and home in the District.

It interesting being in a capital city again. On first glance, Brussels and Washington have a lot in common. Both are international cities, filled with important government buildings and swarming with foreign embassies. Both have some kind of demonstration every other day (this week, I’ve passed two on the way to work: one union related, the other internationally inspired).

The road systems are both totally insane. Streets head into circles/rond points (French for circles), and change names when you least expect it. (Do bureaucrats even understand the concept of a grid system?)

There are palaces everywhere. (Yes, we do have palaces in America. What do you think The White House is?)

The capitals are the homes of the most powerful people in the world, and the most desperate, usually within blocks of each other.

Both are enclosed within a major highway: the Ring Road in Brussels and the Beltway in Washington.

And best of all they share this trait on their specific continents: everybody in Europe hates Brussels, and everybody in America hates Washington.

Who could ask for anything more?

Turmoil in Egypt

Juan Cole is a history professor at the University of Michigan. His expertise is the Muslim world, and he has been following the situation in Egypt pretty closely.

Here’s his take on Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak’s latest move to quell the people’s uprising.

Gen. Hosni Mubarak’s response to a mass uprising demanding an end to military rule in Egypt?

He appoints the former head of Egyptian military intelligence (Omar Suleiman) his vice president (and therefore likely successor).

He appoints the Air Force Chief of Staff (Ahmad Shafiq) as prime minister.

Can you spell TONE DEAF?

He spells it pretty well. When your country tells you to leave after 30 years, and you say you’re appointing the spies and the military to take over after you’re gone, but you’re not going, that sounds like a green light for things to get a lot crazier.

Here’s an earlier interview with him explaining the dynamics of the Egyptian situation on Democracy Now:

Matinee madness

John Wayne as Rooster Cogburn in True Grit.

Image via Wikipedia

The Oscar nominations were announced this week. I watched the announcement on the Internet. Here’s the link.

Of the 10 best picture nominees, I saw seven (missed “The Kids Are All Right,” “127 Hours” and “Winter’s Bone”). I’ll think about what’s up and give my opinion closer to the awards date.

Anyway, Salon has put together a list of the 10 biggest Oscar rip-offs of all time. I’m surprised they missed one. John Wayne in “True Grit” as 1969’s best actor over Dustin Hoffman or Jon Voight in “Midnight Cowboy.” (Just for the record, this year’s “True Grit” is infinitely better than the original version.)

But I’m sure you have your own Oscar outrages.

When you don’t know what you’re talking about …

Oddly, this struck me as a great post.

From Paul Krugman:

I don’t know anything, have no expertise, haven’t even ever looked at the economic situation. Hence, no posting. If there comes a point when I have something to say, I will.

This is really refreshing, after having gone through the intellectually dishonest comments of Paul Ryan and the semiliterate ravings of Sarah Palin and Michelle Bachmann.

Like our mom’s used to tell us: When you haven’t got anything to say, don’t say it.

Tea Party history 101: the final frontier

This is an alternate crop of an image already ...

Image via Wikipedia

I don’t know what to say anymore. The Republican Party has declared war on history.

This from Talking Points Memo:

Sarah Palin thinks President Barack Obama needs a history lesson on the space race between the U.S. and the former Soviet Union.

“He needs to remember that, uh, what happened back then with the communist U.S.S.R. and their victory in that race to space,” the Fox News contributor said Wednesday night, reacting to Obama’s reference to Sputnik in his State of the Union speech. Palin called the Sputnik name drop one of the “W.T.F.” moments in the speech, a play of the President’s call for “winning the future.”

“Yeah, they won but they also incurred so much debt at the time that it resulted in the inevitable collapse of the Soviet Union,” Palin said.

Where do I begin?

The Soviet Union sent the first metal ball into space, and the first animal, and the first man and the first woman. But when you’re running a race … in this case a space race … sprinting out to an early lead isn’t the smartest thing you can do. Yes, the Soviets had early success (let’s not even bother with the “Lost Cosmonauts” conspiracy theories), but everyone knew what the real goal was:

This wasn’t a 100-yard dash. This was a marathon. So despite our early setbacks, we were inspired. And we took each step methodically. And by the mid to late ’60s, we’d already won the race, but we still were headed to the finish line … like Secretariat at the Belmont Stakes. And in July 1969, this happened:

And when we got there, we didn’t find an already planted red flag with a hammer and sickle. Or any plaque claiming the territory for Mother Russia.

So the Soviets didn’t win the space race. And the space race wasn’t the reason the Soviet Union collapsed. It couldn’t deal with the arms race. Or collapsing oil prices. Or a stagnant central economy. Or setbacks in agriculture. Or official corruption. If you do a Google search on “Why did the Soviet Union collapse,” you’ll find a ton of entries. None of them, pre-Palin insanity, are going to say it collapsed because the country spent too much money on the space race.

WTF is she thinking?

Anyone? Anyone? Bueller?

Tea Party history 101: Current events

I’m not going to say anything today about a certain Republican congresswoman from Minnesota whose initials are M.B. and whose name rhymes with the nonsense syllables “Ichelle Achmann.”

But that doesn’t mean there isn’t another Republican to complain about, who also gave a rebuttal after President Obama’s State of the Union address this week.

The Republican in this case is Paul Ryan, a Wisconsin representative. He talked about GOP remedies for the country’s economic ills:  debt, jobs … the works.

I don’t have to do this. Let’s outsource. Here’s Paul Krugman, the Nobel Prize winning economist and columnist for the New York Times.

Where does he begin?

Imagine yourself in Ryan’s position. You’ve been chosen by one of America’s two great political parties to respond to the president of the United States. That’s a fairly awesome responsibility. And you’re going to make some blanket assertions about world events. Wouldn’t you make at least some effort to check whether those assertions are right?

Actually, if your whole public act is based on your supposed knowledge of the importance of fiscal responsibility, wouldn’t you long ago have made sure that you actually know something about the fiscal crises now taking place in Europe?

But no. I suspect that Ryan is honestly unaware that Ireland, far from being a spendthrift, was seen as a fiscal role model before the crisis. And that’s not hyperbole: in 2006 George Osborne, now Britain’s Chancellor of the Exchequer, declared that

Ireland stands as a shining example of the art of the possible in long-term economic policymaking, and that is why I am in Dublin: to listen and to learn.

And I also suspect that Ryan is honestly unaware that the UK has not, in fact, experienced a debt crisis.

How can he be unaware of these things? The only explanation I have is intellectual laziness — why check the facts when you already believe that you have The Truth?

This does explain a lot. When the facts don’t support your position, make up new facts. Who’s going to check them when you do?

Anyone? Anyone?

Ohio is evil

I was born there. I graduated from college there. I can say it’s evil.

Especially because of this:

An Ohio mother of two was sentenced to 10 days in jail and placed on three years probation after sending her kids to a school district in which they did not live. Kelly Williams-Bolar was sentenced by Judge Patricia Cosgrove on Tuesday and will begin serving her sentence immediately.

She’s a poor black single mother, working her way through college. She sent her kids to a school in a predominantly white neighborhood (that’s where her father lives). The state of Ohio has made it a crime to want to send your children to a better school than one that’s located in the projects.

Separate but equal. Isn’t that what this is all about?

Tea Party history 101: Bachmann begins

I finally figured out why Michelle Bachmann has her great grasp on history! She was probably one of the students in this class.

You don’t think so? What about this?

Where do I begin?

It wasn’t the Hoot-Smalley act. It was the Smoot-Hawley Tariff Act, named for Senator Reed Smoot from Utah and Representative Willis Hawley from Oregon. They weren’t Democrats, they were Republicans. The bill had overwhelming GOP support: It passed the Republican led House in by a margin of 264 to 147 (244 GOP congressmen voted in favor) in 1929 and made it through the Senate the next year in a 44-42 vote (39 Republicans in favor). The GOP was the majority party in both Houses in 1929 and 1930. You can’t blame the bill on Franklin Roosevelt because everyone knows Republicans hated him and did everything they could against everything he wanted. Republicans still hate FDR!

And — stop me before my head explodes — FDR WASN’T PRESIDENT when the law passed. Herbert Hoover, a Republican, was president in 1930. Franklin Roosevelt ran against the act in his 1932 presidential campaign. He didn’t become president until 1933! I’ve got to say this since I’m getting dragged into the historical swamp that is Bachmann land: FDR never met any of the founding fathers.

Let this sink in. This woman is seriously considering running for PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES! There are living, breathing people who actually think Palin and Bachmann would be a great ticket for the Republican Party in 2012.

Could she at least watch “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off” and get some of her historical references right?

Anyone? Anyone? Bueller?

State of the Union

Official presidential portrait of Barack Obama...

Image via Wikipedia

President Obama gave his State of the Union speech tonight. Here’s the text.

I listened to it this year. The television was on, but the cutaways bothered me more this year than last, so I just turned my back to the screen.

The applause definitely wasn’t as raucous as in past years. The mixed seating had something to do with that. People restrain themselves when they know they’re sitting next to someone who might disagree with them. They tend to be more obnoxious when they’re with their own pack.

That was good, because Obama did say some things that normally would put one side or the other in a frenzy … let’s get the oil companies … don’t increase domestic spending … the rich need to pay more taxes … get rid of bad teachers … Muslims are Americans … stop frivolous lawsuits … gays in the military=good … no ROTC on campus=bad.

No one yelled out, “You lie!” The opposition was probably surrounding that guy, waiting to pounce.

Took forever for him to say, “The state of the union is strong.” That was almost the penultimate line of the speech. (It now always ends, “God bless you, and God bless the United States of America.”)

Seating will probably go back to normal next year. Then everyone can pretend they’re at a football match in the U.K. and yell at the other side.