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The Live Wire, Oct. 20: Debt Dummies, Lolita, George Carlin and EE Cummings

| October 20, 2010

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Why Britain Is More Responsible than the US

Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne and the Chief Secretary to the Treasury Danny Alexander

Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne and the Chief Secretary to the Treasury Danny Alexander.

Britain’s new government is taking getting out of debt seriously. It’s learned from Obama’s mistakes. From the UK Independent: “The most savage public sector spending cuts in 50 years were today outlined by the Chancellor George Osborne. Welfare, the Home Office and local councils took the brunt of the pain as Mr Osborne detailed how he planned to take around £80 billion out of the public sector budget over the next four years. However in a surprise announcement the schools budget will not be cut and will rise in real terms over the next four years. Around one in 12 civil service jobs are expected disappear while even the Queen does not escape the new austerity measures – total Royal Household spending will be reduced by 14 per cent while civil list payments will be frozen. MPs are also expected to lose their right to a final salary pension. Overall government departments which have not been specifically protected will lose, on average, will have budgets reduced by 19 per cent over the next four years.”

Why the GOP Is More Irresponsible than Obama

From The Times: “If there is a single message unifying Republican candidates this year, it is a call to grab hold of the federal checkbook, slam it closed and begin to slash spending. To bolster their case that action is needed, Republicans are citing major legislation over the four years that Democrats have controlled Congress, notably the financial system bailout, the economic stimulus and the new health care law. But while polls show that the Republicans’ message is succeeding politically, Republican candidates and party leaders are offering few specifics about how they would tackle the nation’s $13.7 trillion debt, and budget analysts said the party was glossing over the difficulty of carrying out its ideas, especially when sharp spending cuts could impede an already weak economic recovery. […] The parties share blame for the current fiscal situation, but federal budget statistics show that Republican policies over the last decade, and the cost of the two wars, added far more to the deficit than initiatives approved by the Democratic Congress since 2006, giving voters reason to be skeptical of campaign promises. […] Calculations by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office and other independent fiscal experts show that the $1.1 trillion cost over the next 10 years of the Medicare prescription drug program, which the Republican-controlled Congress adopted in 2003, by itself would add more to the deficit than the combined costs of the bailout, the stimulus and the health care law. […] At the same time, most Republicans are calling for the permanent extension of all Bush-era tax cuts, which would add $700 billion more to the deficit over the next 10 years than President Obama and Democratic leaders have proposed by continuing only some of the lower rates.” The full story.

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Bankrupt Sentinel Has a New Editor


Russell takes over what's left of the Sentinel.

From the Sentinel: “Orlando Sentinel print-news manager Mark Russell was named editor on Tuesday, and he quickly vowed to emphasize watchdog and local journalism in his new role. Russell, 48, who has been with the Sentinel since 2004, will take over the position immediately. He replaces Charlotte Hall, who retired Oct. 1. […] During the past six years, Russell has helped refocus the newsroom to deliver more news using the Internet, which he said he will continue to emphasize. Most recently, Russell also led a team that brought together the Orlando Sentinel and Fort Lauderdale Sun Sentinel, both Tribune Co.-owned papers, to better share content and production work. […] Russell first joined the newspaper in 1987 as a business reporter. He moved to the city desk, then served as an assistant city editor. Russell left The Plain Dealer to join The Boston Globe as assistant metropolitan editor in 1993, a position he held for two years before returning to The Plain Dealer. Russell is president of the board of directors of the Missourian Publishing Association, which oversees the University of Missouri journalism school’s daily newspaper and advises the school’s dean.”

What the Sentinel story doesn’t tell you is that, even more than other newspapers across the country, the Tribune Co.-owned Sentinel has been gutted by staff cuts, especially in the newsroom, to help pay off the Tribune Co.’s massive debt incurred when Sam Zell bought the properties. That the company is not merely bankrupt, but is in hock to what The New York Times called a “bankrupt culture” (Tribune was sold in January 2008 for $8.2 billion. Zell is the controlling shareholder.) And that one of its chief executives, Randy Michaels, a guy who allegedly offers $100 bills to waitresses and asks them to flash their breasts, will be the latest Tribune employee to join the more than 4,200 people there who’ve been fired since 2008. Good luck, Mr. Russell.

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It’s Hill-Thomas All Over Again

clarence thomas ginny thomas anita hill sex misconduct apologyThis Ginni Thomas, Clarence Thomas’s wife, knows just how to stir up trouble, publicity and mountain-climbing eyebrows. From The Times: “Nearly 20 years after Anita Hill accused Clarence Thomas of sexual harassment during his contentious Supreme Court confirmation hearings, Justice Thomas’s wife has called Ms. Hill, seeking an apology. In a voice mail message left at 7:31 a.m. on Oct. 9, a Saturday, Virginia Thomas asked her husband’s former aide-turned-adversary to make amends. Ms. Hill played the recording, from her voice mail at Brandeis University, for The New York Times. “Good morning Anita Hill, it’s Ginni Thomas,” it said. “I just wanted to reach across the airwaves and the years and ask you to consider something. I would love you to consider an apology sometime and some full explanation of why you did what you did with my husband.” Ms. Thomas went on: “So give it some thought. And certainly pray about this and hope that one day you will help us understand why you did what you did. O.K., have a good day.” Ms. Hill, in an interview, said she had kept the message for nearly a week trying to decide whether the caller really was Ms. Thomas or a prankster. Unsure, she said, she decided to turn it over to the Brandeis campus police with a request to convey it the Federal Bureau of Investigation. “I thought it was certainly inappropriate,” Ms. Hill said. “It came in at 7:30 a.m. on my office phone from somebody I didn’t know, and she is asking for an apology. It was not invited. There was no background for it.” In a statement conveyed through a publicist, Ms. Thomas confirmed leaving the message, which she portrayed as a peacemaking gesture. She did not explain its timing.” […] Ms. Hill said she had a previous but indirect interaction with Ms. Thomas. After Justice Thomas’s book was published, she said, Ms. Thomas told an interviewer that Ms. Hill should apologize. In response, Ms. Hill gave an interview reiterating that she had nothing to apologize for.

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Textbook Confederate Fallacies

black-confederates blackface

The Confederacy in Blackface.

Virginia can’t get enough of finding new ways of re-writing the Confederacy’s defeat. It wasn’t a month ago that the Virginia governor wizened up about “Confederate History Month.” Now his state is peddling new myths, albeit supposedly unaware (and school officials are pledging to deal with the matter, though meekly). From the Post: “A textbook distributed to Virginia fourth-graders says that thousands of African Americans fought for the South during the Civil War — a claim rejected by most historians but often made by groups seeking to play down slavery’s role as a cause of the conflict. The passage appears in “Our Virginia: Past and Present,” which was distributed in the state’s public elementary schools for the first time last month. The author, Joy Masoff, who is not a trained historian but has written several books, said she found the information about black Confederate soldiers primarily through Internet research, which turned up work by members of the Sons of Confederate Veterans. Scholars are nearly unanimous in calling these accounts of black Confederate soldiers a misrepresentation of history. Virginia education officials, after being told by The Washington Post of the issues related to the textbook, said that the vetting of the book was flawed and that they will contact school districts across the state to caution them against teaching the passage.” The full story.

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Lured Into a Trap, Then Tortured for Being Gay

House of torture.

Why bullying is a symptom, not a cause, of a deeper problem. From The Times: “He was told there was a party at a brick house on Osborne Place, a quiet block set on a steep hill in the Bronx. He showed up last Sunday night as instructed, with plenty of cans of malt liquor. What he walked into was not a party at all, but a night of torture — he was sodomized, burned and whipped. All punishment, the police said Friday, for being gay. There were nine attackers, ranging from 16 to 23 years old and calling themselves the Latin King Goonies, the police said. Before setting upon their 30-year-old victim, they had snatched up two teenage boys whom they beat, the police said — until the boys — one of whom was sodomized with a plunger — admitted to having had sex with the man. The attackers forced the man to strip to his underwear and tied him to a chair, the police said. One of the teenage victims was still there, and the “Goonies” ordered him to attack the man. The teenager hit him in the face and burned him with a cigarette on his nipple and penis as the others jeered and shouted gay slurs, the police said. Then the attackers whipped the man with a chain and sodomized him with a small baseball bat. The beatings and robberies went on for hours.” The full story.

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Calgary Gets a Muslim Mayor

Naheed Nenshi Calgary muslim mayor canada

Naheed Nenshi

We imagine this will be a softball for the idiot fanatics among us who’ll retort that the US has had a Muslim president since 2008. At any rate, let’s not forget how Canada has often been a more inviting, more enlightened country lately. From the Calgary Herald: ” His eyes were rimmed red with exhaustion, but Naheed Nenshi was unfailingly upbeat and on message as he sat in a quiet office in his basement campaign headquarters shortly after his victory speech. […] Nkemdirim, a securities and corporate lawyer, described himself as “shocked.” Across the city and country, people are surprised that Calgary elected a mayor who was polling at less than 10 per cent support four weeks ago. […] On Tuesday, many media outlets — including the Herald — reported that Nenshi is the first Muslim mayor of any major city in Canada, and focused on the surprise many felt that a city looked upon as being one of the most conservative in the country elected a visible minority to its highest municipal office.

“The media talks about it much more than Calgarians talk about it,” Nenshi said. “But there still is an additional responsibility here, which is that I want every kid in Calgary, regardless of their background, to look at tonight and say, ‘I can do anything. And this city will allow me to do anything.’ ” Nenshi’s older sister, Shaheen Nenshi Nathoo, said her family immigrated from Tanzania to Canada when she was just three. Naheed was born in Toronto shortly afterwards, and the Nenshis moved to Calgary one year later and settled in Marlborough. Their father Kurban is an accountant and their mother Noorjah worked as a bookkeeper.” The full story.

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Reading Lolita at Twelve

lolita-nabokovNot enough can ever be written about the single best-written book of 20th century American literature. Nick Antosca in The Paris Review has an original take: “When my dad gave me a stack of his old college paperbacks, I think the education he hoped to foster was aesthetic, not erotic. But one of the books was Lolita, and to a twelve-year-old boy with passable reading comprehension skills, the twelve-year-old girl with the “honey-hued shoulders” and the apple-patterned dress was, above all else, sexy:

“There my beauty lay down on her stomach, showing me, showing the thousand eyes wide open in my eyed blood, her slightly raised shoulder blades, and the bloom along the incurvation of her spine, and the swellings of her tense narrow nates clothed in black, and the seaside of her schoolgirl thighs.” At least Nabokov was teaching me fresh vocabulary. I had to look up nates, of course, but another new word, nymphet, was helpfully defined throughout the book. Suddenly I saw the world through wiser eyes. Who among my seventh-grade classmates, I wondered with a frisson, was such a creature? What girl had that “soul-shattering, insidious charm” that, while invisible to me, made the antennae of certain adult males tremble?” The full essay.

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George Carlin on Religion

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Poem: Your EE Cummings Bit

e.e. cummings such small hands poem somewhere i have never travelled, gladly beyond
any experience,your eyes have their silence:
in your most frail gesture are things which enclose me,
or which i cannot touch because they are too near

your slightest look easily will unclose me
though i have closed myself as fingers,
you open always petal by petal myself as Spring opens
(touching skilfully,mysteriously) her first rose

or if your wish be to close me, i and
my life will shut very beautifully, suddenly,
as when the heart of this flower imagines
the snow carefully everywhere descending;

nothing which we are to perceive in this world equals
the power of your intense fragility: whose texture
compels me with the color of its countries,
rendering death and forever with each breathing

(i do not know what it is about you that closes
and opens; only something in me understands
the voice of your eyes is deeper than all roses)
nobody,not even the rain, has such small hands

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A Few Good Links

1 Response for “The Live Wire, Oct. 20: Debt Dummies, Lolita, George Carlin and EE Cummings”

  1. rickg says:

    All I can say is, I miss George Carlin. May his memory last to the end of times.

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