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28 September 2008

Paul Newman, 1925--2008

I was crushed to read suddenly of the passing of Paul Newman. What a beautiful soul he was. Such a handsome man, a great actor and patron of the arts, a humanitarian and an all-round great example of how to live. I hope they give him a standing ovation in heaven.

17 September 2008

The Onion rips a new one for MoveOn.org

Yes! The Onion has surpassed itself.

And now I feel really good about my decision to cut off all emails from the profoundly annoying MoveOn.org. (No link; I don't want to encourage them.) I had sent them several thoughtful replies about how all these petitions were really terribly unproductive. Finally I just got tired of being simultaneously ignored and inundated with presumptious emails. Apparently I am not the only one. I like Obama's way* of dealing with them.

Perhaps most telling of his recent frustrations, Obama's mail records confirm that, in April 2008, he replied to a MoveOn.org e-mail entitled "10 Things You Need to Know About John McCain" with the message "Shut up."

* Obama didn't really do this; the Onion is fictional and satirical, for those of you not familiar with it.

Prominent left-wingers' views of the financial meltdown

What? We still can't say the word "depression"? How about "recession", can we at least call it that? Are we all Keynesians now?
The Guardian has a nice selection of comments and insights into the global financial crisis, coming out on the same day that Lloyd's TSB is in talks to buy out Halifax-BOS (both major UK banks and the result of earlier mega-mergers, but in more optimistic times.) But rather than being the thoughts of pundits and economists, these views are from philosophers, artists, socialists and peace activists.
Is capitalism done for? Is it even in trouble? Most of the thinkers say no. They are not so positive about the chances of the nemesis known as New Labour, however. Many of them bemoan the undeniable fact that the left does not have an inkling of a reform plan. But still, the analyses are mostly quite spot-on.

Ken Livingstone (former mayor of London) : As a system for the distribution and exchange of goods, you can't beat the market. But the mistake a lot of politicians have made is to think that because the market was good at that, it could be good at everything: it could train workers, create infrastructure, protect the environment, regulate itself. Quite obviously, it can't.
Max Keiser (former broker) : This is not a blip. It's extremely significant. We will see a shift in power away from the US, and towards the developing world - to countries such as Brazil and the Gulf states that have commodities to sell, and to China, where the savings ratio is high. We are going to see a new world order. America as a driver of the global economy is finished.
Shelia Rowbotham (professor of gender and labour history) : The Labour party has always been ambiguous about whether it is trying to make capitalism more efficient, or whether it is trying to soften its harshness. Since the 1970s, the left has been much weakened, as neoliberal ideas became totally ascendent. Under Blair, the idea that the Labour party was committed to any redistribution was pushed to the sidelines. I would like to see a new kind of left - a left that would relate to the present predicament.

Late breaking addendum : Nobel prize-winner Joseph E. Stiglitz has an article on CNN about preventing future financial catastrophes (in the US) through prudent regulation.

Sickening new electoral tactic

If all else fails for the Republicans, they are counting on the tactic of limiting voting by poor and non-white voters. Some bright spark has siezed on the mortgage crisis as a sort of natural selection device to keep people who might want regime change away from the polls. To cut to the chase, some state Republican parties are arming their poll-watchers with list of recently foreclosed properties matched to the electoral rolls, so someone who is, say, dispossessed and evicted from their home in the weeks leading up to the election can be disenfranchised on the basis that they haven't established a new home yet and updated their address. (Some states don't allow you to update your address for quite a long period before election dates, making this tactic so much easier to deploy.) I think the story says it all; there is nothing I can add.

Speaking of truthiness . . .

The Guardian's Michael Tomasky is getting really frustrated trying to be fair and balanced about those nasty Republicans. But seriously, it is hard to find fault with what he says. And it is impossible to fight a clean and principled election against people who make lying both a virtue and an art form. Check his points against the Truth-o-meter and see what he means.

Deborama's WWW Number whatever - the Flip-o-meter

Deborama's Wednesday Website of the Week returns for a one-off engagement.
An online friend who is almost diametrically opposed to me politically (but a decent guy) (I could say the same about my sister except for the guy part, obviously) sent me this link : Politifact.com. It includes the invaluable Flip-o-meter and also the Truth-o-meter. It also includes the Attack files and the special Chain E-mails files, with truthometer readings for each item. I am very impressed! How on earth did we do anything before the internet? (We didn't have chain e-mails influencing elections, true enough.)

Duelling restaurant reviews - and an anniversary

Check it out at Deborama's Kitchen.

02 September 2008

Deborama is loving this election year!

The only bad thing is I'm not there.
Brits and Europeans are still incredibly caught up in the Obama phenomenon. Co-workers ask me anxiously - might he actually win? Could he possibly lose? Is it all about race? (The answers to these questions are more or less the same - how the heck do I know?)
Up until a week ago, we had a lot to work with. The first black candidate of a major party, a front-runner. The Bill and Hilary show, now with added Chelsea. Republicans trying to woo Democrats and a Democrat wowing Europe before he is officially nominated. An acceptance speech that was watched by more viewers than the Oscars to finish off one convention and then an impending hurricane that almost derailed the other one.
And now we have the glorious soap opera that is Governor Palin. California has the governator. Minnesota used to have Jesse the Brain Ventura. But surely only a state as cussed and weird as Alaska could have this force of nature, shooting (both her gun and her mouth), breast-feeding, beauty-contest winning and marathon running her way through history. I sure as hell would never vote for her, but as long as she doesn't accidentally gain the most powerful job in the world, I love this woman!
And, as a follow-up to the life-imitates art thread (Jimmy Smits in a West Wing role prefiguring Senator Obama) has nobody but me noticed the spooky similarities between Sarah Palin and Bree van de Kamp? Or is a subconscious identification of her with the formidable Desperate Housewife what gave legs to the fake pregnancy rumour in the first place? Desperate Housewife runs for Vice President; you can't make this stuff up. She would probably want to change the title to Virtue President.

01 September 2008

50 greatest arts videos on YouTube

Courtesy of the Observer / Guardian. A collection of cinema arts, visual arts documentaries, videos of great classical, jazz and folk performances and dance.

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