Index of Posts for October 2008


Still photo of Sir Ben Kingsley as David Kepesh and Penelope Cruz as Consuela Castillo from Isabel Coixet's Elegy.

When you make love to a woman you get revenge for all the things that defeated you in life.
So says David Kepesh, a bit creepy and way self-absorbed older professor who has captivated his former graduate student Consuela Castillo, now that the semester is over and she is fair game.

Kepesh is another aging and angry lecher in a line of semi-autobiographical characters created by Philip Roth, this time in The Dying Animal (2001) a la The Human Stain, from 2000, which we read in our reading group. I much prefer Roth when he gets outside himself, such in another of oaur selections, the dis-utopian 2004 The Plot Against America in which he imagines a parallel U.S. in which the anti-semitic Charles Lindberg had defeated FDR for the presidency in 1940. (All three books from Houghton Mifflin.)

That said, Roger Ebert, finds the movie, not great, but nicely done, and so do I. Andrew O'Hehir, writing for Salon, admires the acting, but doubts the semi-fairy tale transformation of Kepesh at the end and so do I. In contrast, Anohla Dargis, in a review in the New York Times on August 8, 2008, writes
Comparisons between novels and screen adaptations are inevitable, particularly when a film announces its literary pedigree as this one reasonably does. The trick is not to confuse the two or assume that the best adaptation is the most faithful or makes for good cinema.
And yet, Dargis does precisely that, complaining the Kingsley is too virile and not enough of a misogynist.

has strong supporting performances --Patricia Clarkson, as Kepesh's long-term no-strings sexual partner Carolyn, Peter Sarsgaard as his estranged son Kenneth and Dennis Hopper as his best friend George O'Hearn, with a brief appearance of singer and actress Deborah Harry as O'Hearn's wife, Amy. Sarsgarrd, BTW, as one of his first roles, played murder victim Walter Delacroix in Tim Robbin's 1995 film, Dead Man Walking.


Bush's Eleventh Hour Deregulation

Still shot from the film 1984.

R. Jeffrey Smith writes in "A Last Push To Deregulate: White House to Ease Many Rules" for tomorrow's front page of the WaPo:
The White House is working to enact a wide array of federal regulations, many of which would weaken government rules aimed at protecting consumers and the environment, before President Bush leaves office in January.

The new rules would be among the most controversial deregulatory steps of the Bush era and could be difficult for his successor to undo. Some would ease or lift constraints on private industry, including power plants, mines and farms.

Those and other regulations would help clear obstacles to some commercial ocean-fishing activities, ease controls on emissions of pollutants that contribute to global warming, relax drinking-water standards and lift a key restriction on mountaintop coal mining.

Once such rules take effect, they typically can be undone only through a laborious new regulatory proceeding, including lengthy periods of public comment, drafting and mandated reanalysis.
I wish the article had provided an idea of where to find the specifics on the regulations or what I, as a citizen, might do, if anything, if I object to any of these last minute regulations. It did point to the fact that Clinton also issued many last minute regulations, which Bush was able to reverse because they had not yet taken effect and that Bush is trying to avoid such reversals by finishing the regulations earlier.

Diane Rehm had a program on October 28 on last minute regulations (link to the audio files--there's an $18 charge for an emailed transcript.) Her guests were WSJ energy reporter Stephen Power; Executive Director of NYU Law School's Institute for Policy Integrity Michael Livermore (email); and OMB Watch Executive Director Gary Bass.

Power's October 29 WSJ's blog entry, "White House Signals It's Flexible on Deadline for New Rules" emphasizes Livermore's charge that Bush is reversing a previous promise to have regulations in place by November 1, as well as Livermore's October 28 piece in Grist, "Bush administration missed its own memo." Livermore includes links to documents on how the administration has pushed back its promised deadline and to the October 27 post at The Pump Handle ( a blog on public health and the environment), "Bolten’s Memo on Midnight Regs? Ignore it. ? " which broke the story on the deadline reversal and some of them. Livermore is co-author with Richard L. Revesz (email) of Retaking Rationality: How Cost-Benefit Analysis Can Better Protect the Environment and Our Health (Oxford University Press, 2008). See also his report for NYU, The Cost-Benefit Compass, which provides the background to understand how cost benefit analysis can be used to give weight to human as well as business concerns.

The OMB Watch Blog, RegWatch, can help keep you apprised of developments in this area.

January 30, 2007, the NYT's Robert Pear published "Bush Directive Increases Sway on Regulation,"
In an executive order published last week in the Federal Register, Mr. Bush said that each agency must have a regulatory policy office run by a political appointee, to supervise the development of rules and documents providing guidance to regulated industries. The White House will thus have a gatekeeper in each agency to analyze the costs and the benefits of new rules and to make sure the agencies carry out the president’s priorities. This strengthens the hand of the White House in shaping rules that have, in the past, often been generated by civil servants and scientific experts. It suggests that the administration still has ways to exert its power after the takeover of Congress by the Democrats.

More later...


From the Pen of David Levine

"George W. Bush and puppet master Dick Cheney,"2004 by David Levine (website) from a show at the Forum Gallery.

See a slideshow of other portraits at the November Vanity Fair, which also includes an article, Levine in Winter,” by David Margolick, about Levine's work and his disappearance from The New York Review of Books due to macular degeneration. (Hat tip to Elaine Fleck for letting me know about the article.)

An archive of Levine's work at the Review is here.
On Election Day, November 4 Fantagraphics will publish American Presidents, a collection of artist David Levine’s commander-in-chief caricatures with a foreword by Bill Moyers.


The "S" word

Cartoon by Mike Keefe, Denver Post, 10/23/08)

Looking for Radio IQ (our local nrp talk station) on am radio on the way into work, ran into Fox and Limbaugh and their meme that Obama is a socialist. (Interestingly skipping that, according to the October 14 Frontline, the Federalist Society members on the Harvard Law Review were pleased with their appointments to the editorial board during his tenure) Then saw this cartoon from Mike Keefe in the Denver Post. Thought you'd enjoy it.


Alaska's Senator Ted Steven Found Guilty on All Seven Counts

Ben Hoffman's July 29, 2008 cartoon. ( email)

Ted Steven's conviction--it's the top meme today. Here's the report from Erika Bolstad and Richard Mauer at McClatchy's Washington Bureau. The Anchorage Daily News, saying that Stevens lost his moral compass, opines:

Ted Stevens may be Alaskan of the Century but he is not our king. His lifetime of good works for Alaska does not entitle him to ignore the law. If Alaskans have any pride, any integrity, any standards of conduct for their public servants, voters will not reward his arrogance on Election Day.

BOTTOM LINE: The man who has done so much good for Alaska did himself in with his bad judgment.

Michael Stern, who most recently served as Special Counsel for the Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence writes in his blog Point of Order: A Discussion of Congressional Legal Issues,
The most difficult issue is what happens if Stevens is convicted and re-elected. While the principle of respecting the decision of the voters would weigh heavily against expulsion, there would also be a countervailing tradition that Members of Congress, when convicted, normally resign their offices. If Stevens were not to follow that tradition, the Committee would have to face a serious question of whether to expel him.


The Economic Divide Widens

Cartoon by Peter Nicholson (email, bio)

This month, the United Nation's Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development released a new report, Growing Unequal? Income Distribution and Poverty in OECD Countries found that
Income inequality increased significantly in the early 2000s in Canada, Germany, Norway and the United States. But incomes in Greece, Mexico and the United Kingdom became more equal.
The AP summary is here.


Fear an dLoathing in PA: The Odd Official Email about Obama

Facebook photo of Bryan Rudnick, whom I guessing is the same fellow who penned a campaign email against Obama. Either that or he shares an interest in rightwing Republicans and Florida politics.

The NYT's Jim Rutenberg reports October 24 that Jewish voters in PA are receiving Rudnick's email sponsored by the Pennsylvania Republican Party’s “Victory 2008” committee falsely alleging that Obama
taught members of Acorn to commit voter registration fraud
It also equates a vote for the Democrat with the
tragic mistake...[of those who ignored the warning signs in the 1930’s and 1940’s.
Standing for Israel by Christians United for Israel’s Executive Director David Brog's with a forward by Pastor John Hagee. The neo-con Republican Jewish Coalition mailed that book out to rabbis in early 2007. Rudnick also ran the unsuccessful campaign of Hal Valeche for Republican nomination for the Florida District 16 Congressional seat.

The Forward provides Rudnick's complete email here:

Dear Fellow Jewish Voter: In the 5,769 years of our people, there has never been a more important time for us to take pro-active measures in order to stop a second Holocaust. Israel faces immeasurable threats from its neighbors, most especially Iran. The global community and the United Nations are strongly influenced by many Muslim nations and have therefore turned their backs to Israel and the Jewish community. We did not write this letter to scare you, but rather, to help you make an informed decision on Tuesday, November 4th, 2008. When voters elect a new President in less about two weeks, it is imperative that the Jewish community elects the one man who understands the challenges facing Israel and the Jewish people—John McCain. John McCain has always been a friend to Israel and the Jewish people and as leaders of the community throughout the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, we want to remind you of the importance of your vote to the future of our Jewish homeland. John McCain has never wavered on the need to keep Jerusalem the capital of a Jewish Israel. He has even vowed to move the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem.

More importantly, John McCain understands that radical members of the Islamic faith from Hamas, Hezbollah, Muslim Brotherhood and other extremist groups seek to do us harm no matter how we try to appease them. He will not cave into the pressures to divide OUR homeland as a result of threats from people whose agenda is deleterious to the fate our people. John McCain is an American hero who has selflessly served the United States since he was 18 years old. America and Israel need John McCain as President of the United States NOW MORE THAN EVER. What do we really know about Barack Obama?

He has served in the Illinois legislature before joining the U.S. Senate in 2006 having sponsored no meaningful legislation in either body.
· Prior to beginning his legislative career, he served as a corporate lawyer and community activist. · During his days of community activism, he taught members of ACORN to commit voter registration fraud. · He associated with a known terrorist, William Ayers, who thought the terrorists didn’t do enough on 9/11. Later, Obama used Ayers’ home o launch his Senate campaign, but referred to Ayers as “just a guy in the neighborhood”. If a known terrorist lived in your neighborhood, would he just be a “guy in your neighborhood” or would you be calling the FBI to have him removed?

For 20 years, Obama and his wife attended the church of Rev. Jeremiah Wright who called Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan “one of the greatest minds of the 20th Century.” (National Press Club Speech, 4/28/08) · Farrakhan said Obama is the “hope of the entire world that America will change and be made better.” (Associated Press, 2/25/08) Obama and Iran Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad says: Israel is “a stinking corpse” and should be “wiped off the face of the earth.” (The Jerusalem Post, 5/8/08)

Ahmadinejad says: “The real Holocaust is what is happening in Palestine where the Zionists avail themselves of the fairy tale of Holocaust as blackmail and justification for killing children and women.” (The Jerusalem Post, 5/22/06) Obama says: HAMAS and Hezbollah have “legitimate claims.” (David Brooks, Op-Ed, “Obama Admires Bush,” The New York Times, 5/16/08)

Obama says: “I would” when asked if he would be willing to meet separately, without precondition, with the leaders of Iran, Syria, Venezuela, Cuba and North Korea. (CNN/YouTube Democrat Presidential Candidate Debate, Charleston, SC, 7/23/07)

The World on Obama

The Wall Street Journal said Barack Obama’s foreign policy “could strengthen Mr. Ahmadinejad.” (Jay Solomon, “Obama’s Foreign-Policy Pledge Sparks Criticism from Rivals,” Wall Street Journal, 3/26/08)

“We don’t mind - actually we like Mr. Obama. We hope he will (win) the election…” HAMAS Political Advisor Ahmed Yousef (Mosheh Oinounou, “A Hamas Problem For Obama?” Fox News’ “Cameron’s Corner” Blog, foxnews.com http://app.streamsend.com/c/1659811/6/1mnp7WD/aDmL?redirect_to=http://foxnews.com/?utm_source%3Demail_marketing_system%26utm_medium%3Demail%26utm_content%3D1659811%26utm_campaign%3DBarack%2520Obama%2520is%2520Dangerously%2520Unprepared , 4/16/08) “The four years ahead are far too critical for global security to place the presidency of the United States in the hands of a leader whose campaign is leaving us with more questions than answers.” (Former Israeli Ambassador to the United States Danny Ayalon, Op-Ed, “Who Are You, Barack Obama?” The Jerusalem Post, 1/23/08) o Jesse Jackson said of Barack Obama’s foreign policy, “Jackson believes that, although ‘Zionists who have controlled American policy for decades’ remain strong, they’ll lose a great deal of their clout when Barack Obama enters the White House.” (Amir Taheri, Op-Ed, “The O Jesse Knows,” New York Post, 10/14/08) Do you really think that the Jewish community’s interests could be in line with that of William Ayers, Rev. Jeremiah Wright or Louis Farrakhan? Do you really think that Barack Obama has shown proper judgment by associating with such individuals? Can America, Israel and the Jewish Community really rely on someone as dangerously inexperienced as Barack Obama? NO! Jewish Americans cannot afford to make the wrong decision on Tuesday, November 4th, 2008. Many of our ancestors ignored the warning signs in the 1930s and 1940s and made a tragic mistake. Let’s not make a similar one this year! As leaders of Pennsylvania’s Jewish Community, we strongly URGE you to VOTE for John McCain for President of the United States—a true friend of Israel and the Jewish Community. Thank you.

Sincerely yours,

I. Michael Coslov
Mitchell Morgan
The Honorable Sandra Schultz Newman

Paid for by Republican Federal Committee of PA - Victory 2008


After Rutenberg made several calls for comment, party leaders on October 24
said it had been released without their authorization and that they had fired the strategist who helped draft it, Bryan Rudnick.
Michael Barley, the communications director for the Pennsylvania state Republican Party told him
There were some points that were accurate, there were two that we cannot substantiate, however; as a result of them we’ve let him go....There are points that could have been made and he touched on some of them, but he definitely went a little bit farther than the facts would support.
After a suggestion by Obama spokesman that the Republicans send an email to the list
"debunking thier own lies" Barley told Rutenberg that the party would send a correction.
We apologize and that was definitely not something we authorize.
One of the signers of the letter, attorney and former State Supreme Court Justice Sandra Schultz Newman (email, website), told the reporter earlier on October 24 that she had helped to write the letter. She passed the telephone to Mr. Rudnick who said the e-mail was sent to 75,000 voters in Pennsylvania. he asked that other questions be e-mailed to him, but failed to respond to an email.

Contacted after the interview with Barley, Rudnick claimed to have had approval for the letter from officials at several levels. He said that he was dispatched from Florida where he usually works to Pennsylvania to help with Jewish outreach. Rutenberg reports that he was unable to reach Barley again regarding the refutation by Rudnick.

And in other news, Politico's Lisa Lerer reports "Courts continue to rule against Republicans."


Newman apologized on October 27.

On October 30, a fellow Brandeis alum, in reflecting on the PA email, describes Rudnick's bringing of Charleston Heston to that campus thus:

Ridiculous security procedures had to be enacted to keep students safe and Rudnick, in my opinion, turned this into a political launch pad to ingratiate himself with right wing power brokers.

The security procedures and other “hurdles”–such as booking the right room–were turned by Rudnick as an us vs. the liberal college establishment battle which many eager right winger ate up. This article is one of many examples of the spin Rudnick was putting on this. Then again, it seems from what I read Rudnick was great at baiting people with outrageous comments and the playing the victim and getting PR for it. I’m not saying I agree with the Student Senate over reaction in that or any other case involving Rudnick, but I am saying he’s very experienced in making ourageous comments and the playing the victim (though luckily in the PA case, he can’t play the victim).


Yes, Virginia, there was no 6'4" Black man (and a bit about the C'ville Fall Festival)

Illustration of The Bogeyman from Chapter 1 of the d20 Menace Manual by J.D. Wiker, Eric Cagle and Matthew Sernett (Wizards of the Coast, 2003)

In one of the oddest sidebars to the election, a Pennsylvania McCain campaign worker Ashley Todd, 20, has recanted her story to the Pittsburgh police that she was robbed at an ATM in Bloomfield the night of October 22 and that the suspect began beating her after seeing a John McCain bumper sticker on her car, then cut a backwards letter "B" in her cheek.

Fox News Executive Vice President John Moody, a native of that city, had written yesterday,
this incident could become a watershed event in the 11 days before the election.

If Ms. Todd’s allegations are proven accurate, some voters may revisit their support for Senator Obama, not because they are racists (with due respect to Rep. John Murtha), but because they suddenly feel they do not know enough about the Democratic nominee.

That struck me as an odd denial of racism. Why would an act, even if committed, by a black thug, reveal to folks that they don't know enough about one of the candidates. Moody went on to write,
If the incident turns out to be a hoax, Senator McCain’s quest for the presidency is over, forever linked to race-baiting.
For Pittsburgh, a city that has done so much to shape American history over the centuries, another moment of truth is at hand.
That seems hyperbole which shifts the blame. If McCain is associated with race-baiting, why not for for Sarah Palin's playing to the base (pun intended) with racially tinged innuendos warning that Obama would "pal around with terrorists." And while I'm at it, let me say, that I also dislike the way Palin's and McCain's comments on William Ayers smack of red-baiting.

At least Moody's piece is better than some of the screed from the right, as run down in today's The Atlanta Journal-Constitution post "The aftermath of Ashley Todd’s story" by Jay Bookman (email), a columnist and deputy editorial page editor, specializing in foreign relations, the environment and state and local politics.

In fairness, though, Bookman also should have credited conservative blogger Michelle Malkin, who today has the pleasure of writing, "I told you so." Although Malkin made the divisive comment on October 22 that most fake hate crimes were "perpetrated by liberals," she went on record as saying that the Todd incident "smells awfully weird," acknowledging that
there have been some shameful ...[fake hate crimes] on our side of the aisle as well.
Today, she instructs her readers,
Final lesson: Trust your instincts. Use your brains. Stop jumping every time Drudge hypes something in Armageddon-sized font.
She adds a caveat to those who don't share her political persuasions:
And those of you on the left who are now so interested in debunking despicable hate crimes might show a little more skepticism yourselves next time when similar narratives hit the news pages involving politically correct hoaxers who share your politics.
Skepticism is always good advice. I'd like to see it throughout the political spectrum. And I'll hope that Ms. Malkin holds to the same standard when she is helping to circulate memes which accord with her own point of view.

In other news, I am in Charlottesville this weekend staying at Rob and Sue's to attend the Charlottesville Fall Festival. Featured band is Crowfoot with caller Nils Fredland
Adam Broome (guitar, vocals), Jaige Trudell (fiddle), and Nicholas Williams (flute, accordion). Also staying with Rob and Sue are long time NC dancer Rod Edens, as well as Keith Gillis and Leigh Partington. Below you will find a photo Doug Plummer posted at Flickr of Crowfoot playing at the Scout House in Corcord MA.

UPDATE: On October 28, Anil Dash (email) "What Sarah Palin Is Saying," an insightful take on how language is used.


Jordanian poet Islam Samhan arrested

Photo by Salah Malkawi for The National



Even the Republicans Desert Hatemongering Bachmann

Politico has this to say.


Pew: Growing Doubts About McCain's Judgement

Here's this week's report on the polls from Pew.


Powell Endorses Obama

Here's the transcript from Meet the Press yesterday. Of course Rush et. al. say it's because Powell is Black.


Wendell Berry: Speech Against the State Government (and MTR)

Portrait of Wendell Berry by Robert Shetterly for his project, Americans Who Tell the Truth.

Poet and essayist Wendell Berry was the big draw for a breakfast this morning at the Society of Environmental Journalist's final day of conferencing at the Hotel Roanoke. He chose to read his "Speech Against the State Government" first delivered on February 14, 2008 at the "I Love Mountains" protest in Frankfort, Ky.

Mr. Berry said during the reading that it was okay to reprint it, so I give it to you here in full. Here, too, after you finish reading is Mark Engler's piece from Grist on the occasion of Mr. Berry's seventieth birthday, August 5, 2004.

Speech Against the State Government

In 1996, when Ellen Davis, a scholar of the Bible at Duke Divinity School, was taken to a mountaintop removal site in Kentucky, she remembered Jeremiah:

I have seen the mountains, and here, they are wavering, and all the hills palpitate. I have seen, and here, there is no human being, and all the birds of the heavens have fled. I have seen, and here, the garden-land is now the wasteland . . .

If you take seriously the knowledge that humans are capable of neighborliness and caretaking, are capable of caring well for the earth for the earth’s own sake and for the sake of their neighbors now and yet to come, and if you know that according to our greatest teachers this neighborliness is expected of us, then you will grieve in knowing that we humans are destroying the earth. You will be offended in knowing that we are doing so with governmental approval and with governmental encouragement. If you are at all a normal human, you will find that hard to swallow. You may find it, in fact, a putrid lump that will gag you somewhat before you can get it down.

And yet to Kentucky state government, a wholly owned subsidiary of the coal corporations and of any other corporations that bid high enough, earth destruction is a normal economic enterprise. Earth destruction by strip mining has been an officially accepted practice in the eastern Kentucky coal fields for nearly half a century. In the Knott County Court room on the night of July, 15, 1965, confronting, as he had and would, the already catastrophic damage of strip mining that was going to get worse, Harry Caudill spoke of “the gleeful yahoos who are destroying the world, and the mindless oafs who abet them.”

Forty-three years later, bad has come to worse, and worse has come to worst, the gleeful yahoos still reign supreme in the coal fields, and the mindless oafs who abet them still hold dominion in Frankfort. This is not because money talks, as Sen. Mitch McConnell seems to think. It is because money votes, and money buys people who vote. It is because might, with enough money, does not have to worry about right. It is because, in the magnetic field of money, the flags and crosses on certain political lapels turn into price tags.

I must hurry to say that I am not talking about all Kentucky politicians. There has always been in this capitol a “saving remnant” of women and men who are not for sale. It is because of those people that we, the powerless, have never yielded to despair, but have continued to come here with the hope that at last this government will see the truth and do its duty.

Over the last forty years, with other powerless people, I have been here many times. We have come, moneyless into the magnetic field of money, trying to stop the mindless destruction of the land and people of our state. We have made our protests and our arguments, presented our facts, appeared before committees, spoken to those willing to speak to us. And virtually always we have failed. The destruction has continued. Nothing has changed.

Newly reminded of our political nonentity, we have gone home to await another chance to try again. Meanwhile the destruction has gone on. When I return from one of these tours of the capitol, if the Kentucky River is raised and running, I can see the land of our mountain counties flowing past my house. And I know that that river, vital to the future of our state and its economy, is seriously impaired at its headwaters and degraded in all its length by pollutants, and that the most powerful among us simply do not care.

What are we to do? Well, to begin with, there is no “we” that I can confidently speak for. I have been speaking for myself so far, and I will continue to do so.

Human nature, which I fully share, tells me that in the face of great violence it is easy to think of retaliatory violence. I reject that entirely. I do not believe in violence as in any sense a solution to any problem. I am willing also to take the further step into Scripture and say that we should love our enemies – or at least act toward them as if we love them.

The next temptation is to do as our enemies do, to say, “If they do it, so must we.” And I have in fact spent some time on the argument, which can be logically made, that Kentucky conservationists ought to start a fund drive and apply for grants in order to buy our fair share of state government. I reject that also. Even a good cause cannot justify dirty politics.

But thinking of that argument, I convinced myself of a proposition that is more difficult: If current governmental practice affords no apparent recourse but to become as corrupt as your opponents, you have got to become more radical.

Kentucky conservationists are not the first people to have to confront their own helplessness before an alien government. Others have done so, and you know some of their names. Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King are two of them; there have been many others. Their solution to the problem of powerlessness is to make of powerlessness a power. The name of this solution is non-violent resistance or insistence, including civil disobedience. If your government will not rise to the level of common decency, if it will not deal fairly, if it will not protect the land and the people, if it will not fully and openly debate the issues, then you have to get in the government’s way. You have to forbid it to ignore you. You have to provide it with two new choices: either it must grant you the consideration that it rightfully owes you, or it must expose itself openly as a government not representative of the people but owned by the privileged few.

And here yet another temptation asserts itself. Why not wait until our cause becomes vivid and urgent enough, and our side numerous enough, to vote our opponents out of office? Why not be patient?

My own answer is that while we are being patient, more mountains, forests, and streams, more people’s homes and lives, will be destroyed in the Appalachian coal fields. Are 400,000 acres of devastated land, and 1,200 miles of obliterated streams not enough? This needs to be stopped. It does not need to be “regulated.” As both federal and state governments have amply shown, you cannot regulate an abomination. You have got to stop it.

Speaking for myself still, I will say that I don’t like the idea of resorting to non-violent obstruction, and I don’t feel very brave about it. It involves more time and trouble than I want to donate; the penalties can be unpleasant, and they can be much worse than that. Furthermore, as I am now out of patience with useless protesting and lobbying, I have no interest in useless civil disobedience. You are not going to catch me making a merely symbolic gesture. But I began my opposition to strip mining on that July night in the Knott County court room in 1965. I have been patient for forty-three years. And there are now enough of us who are concerned – there are enough of us here today – to require our government either to accept its responsibility or, publicly, and to its everlasting disgrace, refuse to do so. Surely the members of this government who represent coal corporations will be impressed by the tenfold increase in our numbers from February 14, 2007. Surely they will notice, more to their dismay, that many of this increase are young people.

If this General Assembly and this Administration give notice as usual that they are blind by policy to the ongoing destruction of the land and the people they are sworn to protect – and if you, my friends, all other recourse having failed, are ready to stand in the way of this destruction until it is stopped – then I too am ready.


Virgina Literary Awards

Acccording to tomorrow's uncredited story in the Richmond Times Dispatch, which I'm guessing may be a press release reprint, Shenandoah editor R.T. Smith, who received the Library of Virginia 2002 poetry award for Messenger is again the recipient of the poetry prize for Outlaw Style: Poems which the of judges hailed as offering

a brooding understanding of both the riches and horrors of Southern culture.
He won out over other poetry finalists Blessings and Inclemencies by Constance Merritt and Littlefoot: A Poem by Charles Wright.

Wesley C. Hogan, assistant professor of history and co-director of the Institute for the Study of Race Relations at Virginia State University, won the non-fiction award for Many Minds, One Heart: SNCC's Dream for a New America which

explores how the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee broke open the caste system in the South and offers new insights into the internal dynamics of SNCC as well as the larger civil-rights and black-power movements.

The judges felt that ...[she] reminds us of the ongoing quest for democracy while highlighting its complexity and fragility and thatHogan's voluminous research and graceful style engaged the reader from beginning to end.

The other finalists for the nonfiction prize were Barbara Kingsolver with Steven L. Hopp and Camille Kingsolver for Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life and Peter Wallenstein for Cradle of America: Four Centuries of Virginia History. Honnorable mention went to What This Cruel War Was Over: Soldiers, Slavery, and the Civil War by Chandra Manning.

For the first time since the inception of the Library of Virginia Literary two awards for fiction to creative wrting professors. George Mason University's Helon Habila for Measuring Time and Old Dominion Universaity's Janet Peery for What the Thunder Said, are winners for the best work of fiction. The judges felt that the literary styles of both, though different, were

equally impressive and equally worthy of the award. "Measuring Time" plays with our conceptions of history, showing it as something lived and told rather than documented. In "What the Thunder Said," the language and structure of the novel appear effortless, the judges said, the narrative voice is authentic and evocative of the Depression during the Dust Bowl years and Peery's prose is beautifully lyrical.

This year's other fiction finalist was The Rope Walk by Carrie Brown, who won the category in 2005 for Confinement and in 2001 for The Hatbox Baby.
. . .

The winner of the People's Choice Award in the fiction category is Puss'n Cahoots by Rita Mae Brown and in the nonfiction category, Unruly Americans by Woody Holton. The finalists for these awards are selected by a panel of independent Virginia booksellers and librarians from the list of books nominated for the Library's Literary Awards and winners are decided by readers voting online and in libraries.

David Wojahn, who teaches at Virginia Commonwealth University and directs its creative writing program, received the Weinstein Poetry Prize. His first book, "Icehouse Lights," won the prestigious Yale Series of Younger Poets prize. He is the author of six collections of poetry. The Weinstein Prize winner is selected separately from the Library of Virginia's Literary Awards by a special board of curators.

Pamela Duncan Edwards was honored for "The Old House," winner of the second annual Whitney and Scott Cardozo Award for Children's Literature.

Rita Dove is the recipient of the 2008 Library of Virginia Lifetime Achievement Award. A former Poet Laureate of the United States and Consultant in Poetry at the Library of Congress, Dove is the youngest person -- and the first African-American -- to receive this highest official honor in American letters. She held the position for two years. In 2004, then-Gov. Mark R. Warner appointed her Poet Laureate of the Commonwealth of Virginia, a two-year position. Dove is Commonwealth Professor of Poetry at the University of Virginia.


Republicans sue Brunner. Again.

Illustration for "Block the Vote" in Rolling Stone.

Mark Niquette (email) of the Columbus Dispatch reports that the Ohio Secretary of State is under seige by Republicans in this battle ground state. Meanwhile, today Rolling Stone published a new piece on voter theft by Robert Kennedy Jr. and Greg Palast, "Block the Vote," which I submitted today (despite its October 3o byline) to NewsTrust with a successful solicitation for reviews.

Meanwhile, Lyle Denniston (email) over at SCOTUSblog reports today in " Court blocks Ohio voter match order, that the Supreme Court denied the Ohio Republican Party's attempt to uphold a federal judge’s order
that would have required Ohio election officials to set up new procedures to verify voter registration across the state in the weeks before the Nov. 4 balloting. The unsigned (”Per Curiam”) order is here. The order blunts an effort by the Ohio Republican Party to gain access to registration data that would enable it to challenge voters’ eligibility at polling places.

The state GOP had complained that the Ohio Secretary of State had violated her duty, under federal election procedures law, to share with county election boards the lists of voters whose names in a voter registration database do not match data in the state’s drivers’ license files. The GOP argued that the secretary of state had put a stop to required efforts to pass along the non-matching data so that local election officials could deal with it. Lack of matches could be the basis for challenges to individual voters.

The Supreme Court said it was not expressing any opinion on whether the state official had violated any duty under federal law. But, it said, it was not persuaded that the federal law gives a private party — like the state GOP — a right to go to court to enforce those provisions in the Help America Vote Act.

For further details, see his post of October 16, "Ohio seeks to block voter challenge ruling."


Psychologists and torture

Photo illustration by Chris Mueller, Vanity Fair's deputy art director, for Phillipe Sands's May 2008 piece, "The Green Light." From left: Undersecretary of Defense Douglas J. Feith, then vice-presidential counsel David S. Addington, then White House counsel Alberto Gonzales, President George W. Bush, and Vice President Dick Cheney, who worked to change the U.S. policy on torture. Mueller has another piece, "The Gaza Bombshell, which you can view here.

I wrote on September 19 about the APA passing its resolution forbidding its members from participating in unlawful detention settings where the human rights of detainees are violatedure, such as Gitmo and elsewhere. After the organization initially seemed to be in delay mode, resulting in further protest, the APA president Alan E. Kazdin sent a letter October 2, to Mr. Bush outlining the resolution. October 10, Democracy Now featured an interview with psychologist Dan Aalbers, member of the the Coalition for an Ethical Psychology.

I had written June 17, 2008 about Senate hearings on the psychology of toruture and how Katherine Eban had broken the story in her special report in Vanity Fair July 17, 2007, “Rorschach and Awe.”

Phillipe Sands, a London international lawyer and professor's piece, "The Green Light," illustrated above, lays out detailed, extensive interviews, arguing high-level Bush administration lawyers broke their code of ethics and may be subject to criminal prosecution as were those tried at Nuremburg.

While he sometimes jumps to conclusions connecting the dots, he traces the lawyers' advice and their bosses' ’reactions, including a November 2002 “action memo” from Jim Haynes, general counsel of Defense Department, recommending “blanket approval” to 15 out of 18 proposed techniques of aggressive interrogation which Rumsfeld approved on December 2, adding “I stand for 8–10 hours a day. Why is standing limited to 4 hours?

Dr. Abigail Seltzer, a London psychiatrist, who treats trauma victims for the National Health Service and the Medical Foundation for the Care of Victims of Torture, provided that memo, a list of allowable techniques and the interrogation log for Mohammed al-Qahtani, which she had annotated as to " episodes of abusive treatment,…[examples where] the detainee’s rights were respected,…instances of medical involvement,…and 'expressions of distress.'” Her conclusion:
“over the period of 54 days there is enough evidence of distress to indicate that it would be very surprising indeed if it had not reached the threshold of severe mental pain.” The August 1, 2002 memo from the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel by Jay Bybee, now a federal judge, and John Yoo, now at Berkeley, was not "an academic exercise in blue-sky hypothesizing, but rather played a crucial role in giving those at the top the confidence to put pressure on those at the bottom.
UPDATE: October 18, Newsweek posted anOctober 27 article, "The Biscuit Breaker: Psychologist Steven Reisner has embarked on a crusade to get his colleagues out of the business of interrogations, " by Dan Ephron.


The Last 2008 Presidential Debate

Cartoon (10/18/08) by Matt Bors.

As conservative James Joyner of Outside the Beltway said in his analysis this morning, McCain is getting crushed in the polls.

Here's the transcript for the final debate tonight.

And in a bit of intrigue, ABC's Jake Tapper reports that the Obama team accidentally released his "talking points."
This is John McCain’s last chance to turn this race around and somehow convince the American people that his erratic response to this economic crisis doesn’t disqualify him from being president.
Not sure what the surprise is that Obama would be saying this.

And in Ohio, Cleveland's Plain Dealer's Reginald Fields reports that voter registration remains a problem in 2008, as a battle wages between the Republicans and the the Democratic Secretary of State, Jennifer Brunner:

More than 200,000 Ohioans who registered to vote this year for the first time or updated their voting information since Jan. 1 could be affected by the latest court ruling requiring the state to set up a new registration verification system by Friday, Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner said. Brunner said she would comply with the U.S. 6th Circuit Court of Appeals ruling late Tuesday but said she is deeply concerned that the decision is a veiled attempt at disenfranchising voters. The court's 9-6 opinion, written by Judge Jeffrey Sutton, suggested that voters whose driver's license number or Social Security number does not exactly match those found on databases maintained by the Ohio Bureau of Motor Vehicles or Social Security Administration could be required to use provisional ballots instead of conventional ones.


Section 60: Arlington Cemetery

Image from the from the HBO site for its documentary on some of the families that come to visit the graves in Section 60, where soldiers killed in Iraq and Afghanistan are buried.

Jon Alpert and Matthew O'Neill... "embedded" themselves into the fabric of daily life in Section 60, capturing landscapes, families, friends and officials. Over the course of four months in 2007, they filmed on a daily basis, earning the trust of families who shared some of their most personal moments.

On October 10, Democracy Now interviewed Alpert on this his third film in a trilogy of Iraq-related HBO documentaries, which includes Baghdad ER and Alive Day Memories: Home from Iraq.

Also interviewed are Paula Zwillinger, whose son, Lance Corporal Robert Mininger, was killed in Iraq on June 6, 2005 and Patricia Genevie, whose son, Private First Corporal Aaron Genevie, died April 16, 2007, in Baghdad.

A May 18, 2007 photo essay on that section of the cemetary from the Washington Post is here.


Richard Powers: The Echo Maker

Cover of The Echo Maker, Richard Powers's 2006 novel from Farrar Straus Giroux (Now part of Macmillan. You can read his bio on his website. This is our reading group selection for October.

Powers sets this tale against the crane migration on the Platte in Nebraska, which ironically becomes more spectacular, as their habitat shrinks due to human encroachment. He tells the tale of Karin Schluter, reluctantly returning to her hometown to nurse her 27-year-old brother Mark, who suffers from Capgras Syndrome after flipping his truck in a near-fatal accident on a remote road one winter night.

As Mark emerges from a protracted coma, he believes that Karin is really an identical impostor, who shattered by her brother’s refusal to recognize her, contacts a cognitive neurologist Gerald Weber, famous for his case histories of brain disorder. Weber finds his own sense of being undermined and Mark, armed only with a note left by an anonymous witness, attempts to learn what happened the night of his acccident.

Margaret Atwood has an interesting essay in the New York Review of Books, parsing the novel's roots in The Wizard of Oz. There's a 2007 interview with Powers in The Believer.

My take is that although it's a compelling read on interesting material, Powers is too obvious in his efforts to impress you too much with his import. (Maybe it's the curse of being a Macarthur genious. I don't understand why The Echo Maker won the National Book Award in 2006. Compare that with the Man Booker winner for 2006, The Ineritance of Loss (Atlantic monthly Press)by Kiran Desai (New York Times review.) I've read both and there's comparison. Powers was also a finalist for the 2007 Pulitzer, which instead went to Cormac McCarthy for The Road.


Burn After Reading

PhoPhoto of John Malkovich by Macall Polay in Burn After Reading, which I just saw at the Lyric.

John Malkovich plays Osbourne Cox, who quits his job at the CIA , rather than be demoted because of his alcoholism. (He tells his collegue, who is breaking the news, "You're a Mormon. Compared to you we all have a drinking problem. ")

As Osbourne sets out to write his memoirs, rather than seek gainful employment, his ice-queen wife, doctor Katie Cox (Tilda Swinton), wants to divorce him. She has already been kanoodling with Treasury agent Harry Pfarrer (George Clooney at his doofiest). At the suggestion of her lawyer, she copies Osbourne's personal and financial files off his computer onto a disc, which finds its way into the hands of workout trainer Chad Feldheimer (Brad Pitt). Feldheimer, a somewhat dim bulb with a savanst's skill with computers, figures out that the disc contains classified government information and along with his fellow trainer Linda Litzke (Frances McDormand), calls up Cox in the middle of the night with blackmail in mind to fund Litzke's plastic surgery. They intend to use the disc to blackmail Osbourne. Litzke wants the money to pay for cosmetic surgery, although her boss, Ted Treffon, (Richard Jenkins of The Visitor and before that the father in Six Feet Under) pines for her and tells her she's just right.

Osbourne, of course, is unreceptive. When blackmail fails, Litzke decides to take the information to the Russian embassy and convoluted Coen brother mayhem ensues. Peter Travers, a critic I usually find spot-on, has a review at Rolling Stone.


Tina Liza Jones ast the Floyd Contra Dance

Photo from the Floyd Music School Gallery.

You can tell that Tina is a dancer, as well as an old-time player. She and her fiddler paced their tunes perfectly. Hope she'll be back at more dances, joining the impressive local bands such as Toss the Possum, House Red, Dot Dot Dash, and, of course, No Strings Attached.


Dennis Lehane: The Given Day

Cover of Dennis Lehane's new novel, The Given Day, out from William Morrow, a Harper Collins imprint. More info is available at his website.

Dennis Lehane seamlessly weaves a wealth of historical research into a compelling read. Writing again about Boston, this time out he forgoes the mystery/thriller genre to write an epic novel about race and class, combining the stories of Luther Laurence, an African American, and Danny Coughlin, son of a Boston police captain during the influenza epidemic and the Boston police strike of 1919, just as Babe Ruth (who makes several cameos) is about to be sold from the Bost Red Sox to the New York Yankees.


Man on Wire

Photo of Philippe Petit, crossing a high wire between the twin towers of the World Trade Center in James Marsh’s documentary from Stephen Holden's April 18, 2008 review of the Tribecca Film Festival.

Saw this at the Lyric tonight, thinking I was going to see Burn After Readeing, but it was well worth it.

Right now, Marsh is filming Nineteen Eighty, based on on British writer David Peace's novel of the same name.


Can Coal Be Clean

Cover from Michael Brune's Coming Clean: Breaking America’s Addiction to Oil and Coal (Sierra Club Boooks/Counterpoint, September 2008.)

Democracy Now for October 7 features a debate between Rainforest Action Network director Michael Brune and Joe Lucas of the industry group, American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity.


Oat Cherry Bread

Flickr photo by Wild Yeast.

Beth's oat/cherry/whole wheat bread
Two loaves: (vegan)

1 c. rolled or whole oats ground to flour
2 cups boiling water
.5 cup + molasses
extra virgin olive oil 2 + T plus more to grease bowl and pans
2 t. salt
one package dry active yeast dissolved in .5 c. warm water
enough w.w. flour to get right texture--maybe 5.5 cups?? (I use King Arthur unless I grind my own--it's the best to my lights)
1 bag dried cherries
*Beth doesn't really measure, just judges by feel

  • pour boiling water over oats, molasses, oil, salt in large bowl. Stir well and let sit for 15 minutes or more until it has cooled to warm
  • dissolve yeast and set aside until the oat mixture has cooled
  • stir in w.w. flour a little at a time until it makes a thick dough, add flour to knead until smooth and elastic and tacky, but pulls away from your hands cleanly
  • coat dough in oil and set back in bowl covered by damp tea towel to rise until doubled
  • punch down
  • cut in half
  • flatten and cover each half with cherries, roll and fold under edges
  • place in two greased bread pans, covered by damp towel set to rise until doubled again
  • preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit
  • bake for 45 minutes
  • turn out of pans and set on rack to cool
You can use any kind of dried fruit and/or candied ginger and nuts. If you want, this recipe will work with cinnamon and raisins, for instance. For non vegans, you can use honey and butter.


New Yorker Festival

You weren't in NYC for the New Yorker Festival, which just wrapped up. No worries. You can read about it at the festival's blog. And here's the schedule. Sigh.


Second City at the Lyric

Photo from The Second City. (From bottom left): Michael O'Brien, Mary Sohn, Megan Hovde Wilkins and Dana Quercioli along with (from top left) Tim Balt and Mark Raterman.

Volunteered at the Lyric last night for this performance. Raterman graduated from Virginia Tech. See the Roanoke Times for coverage.


Derek Walcott

Photo by Eamonn McCabe of one of my favs, Derek Walcott, from a feature in the October 4, 2008 Guardian.


Voter Purges

Illustration via Granite Grok.

The Brennan Center for Justice issued a report September 30, Voter Purges.


National Book Festival

Makes me wish i were in DC. See the Washington Post for coverage of the Festival.


Kill the Messenger: The Hubbub over Gwen Ifill

While the National Review "works the refs" complaining that the host of the VP debate set for tomorrow has, gasp, written a book about politics, McCain told CNN's Juan Carlos Lopez that while the situation concerned him he was sure Ifill would be professional.

So why is he concerned? As Ifill said to Howard Kurtz at the WaPo on September 3,
no one's ever assumed a white reporter can't cover a white candidate.