Archive for October, 2008

Index of Posts for October 2008

October 31, 2008


October 31, 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.

Elegy 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

October 30, 2008

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

October 29, 2008

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

October 28, 2008

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

October 27, 2008

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

October 26, 2008

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

October 25, 2008

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, , 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)

October 24, 2008

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

October 23, 2008

Photo by Salah Malkawi for The National