This short film is the perfect bucolic antidote to the cold, slush, and wind of the last week here in Minneapolis, December 2009. The weather forecast for next week looks to bring more of the same, at least in the first couple days; I’m hoping to squeeze a bike ride into the narrow window of Monday morning, but fear that the roads won’t be clear again until Thursday. Though these cyclists on their solid old bikes with their stiff upper lips would probably not be dissuaded by a little ice.
“There’s a bit of rough weather about; we can take it if we have to.”
I discovered this little film over a year ago, and thought I’d resurface it in the aftermath of St. Patrick’s Day and my ongoing Michael Davitt project: follow Yu Ming, bored Chinese shopkeeper, on his quest to live and work in Ireland. Failte romh go dtí Connemara!
Peggy Noonan hasn’t gone quite so far as Christopher Buckley, who has explicitly endorsed Barack Obama, but she has certainly aimed a withering criticism at the Palin half of the Republican ticket:
You must address America in its entirety, not as a sliver or a series of slivers but as a full and whole entity, a great nation trying to hold together. When you don’t, when you play only to your little piece, you contribute to its fracturing.
In the end the Palin candidacy is a symptom and expression of a new vulgarization in American politics. It’s no good, not for conservatism and not for the country. And yes, it is a mark against John McCain, against his judgment and idealism.
Noonan is one of my favorite conservative writers–What I Saw at the Revolution is one of the most insightful inside-the-Oval-Office books I’ve read–and it’s interesting to see that the “smart set” on the Right (Noonan, Buckley, Will) is not enamored of McCain’s vice presidential pick.
Speaking of vulgar: the National Republican Congressional Committee has pulled its funding from Michele Bachmann’s ads in Minnesota’s 6th District, following her “anti-American” statements on Hardball. Perhaps this is a sign that neo-McCarthyism is no longer acceptable.
I don’t live in the 6th District, so I don’t get to vote against Michele Bachmann. But I do live in the 5th, where two years ago I got to vote for Keith Ellison, the first Muslim member of Congress. This morning, Rep. Ellison was in line ahead of me at the Blue Moon cafe; I like seeing my representatives in the neighborhood, and this sighting just put a little sparkle in the day.
Former Governor Arne Carlson has endorsed Barack Obama. More evidence that the civil, moderate wing of the GOP has defected from the mean and vicious Right.
I’m also troubled by, not what Senator McCain says, but what members of the party say, and it is permitted to be said. Such things as ‘Well you know that Mr. Obama is a Muslim.’ Well the correct answer is ‘He is not a Muslim, he’s a Christian, he’s always been a Christian.’ But the really right answer is ‘What if he is? Is there something wrong with being a Muslim in this country?’ The answer is ‘No. That’s not America.’ Is there something wrong with some 7-year old Muslim-American kid believing that he or she can be president? Yet I have heard senior members of my own party drop the suggestion he’s a Muslim and he might be associated with terrorists. This is not the way we should be doing it in America.
I’m also following Michele Bachmann, Minnesota’s 6th District Representative, on Twitter; she’s not following me back, but I’m OK with that. While it’s possible that “a trap was laid” by Chris Matthews’ “anti-American views” question, as Bachmann contends, her responses in that trap were revelatory of a particularly nasty trend on the Right: when you’ve run out of ideas, expel your opponent from the fold. Bachmann has been the queen of wedge issues, using division rather than unification to build her electoral wins. That her opponent, Elwyn Tinklenberg, has nearly closed the gap on campaign contributions suggests, I hope, that the era of victory-through-division is over.
Obama has in him—I think, despite his sometimes airy-fairy “We are the people we have been waiting for” silly rhetoric—the potential to be a good, perhaps even great leader. He is, it seems clear enough, what the historical moment seems to be calling for.
I’m not the only one to notice: according to Joseph Tecce, “Barack Obama had 67 blinks per minute during the Sept. 26 debate while McCain has 112 bpm.” In the past, Tecce has predicted electoral outcomes based on blinks and other eye behaviors (more blinks = poorer showing at the polls), but this time, McCain is a statistical outlier: he had a rate of 114 bpm during the primaries.
The election of Obama—a man of mixed ethnicity, at once comfortable in the world and utterly representative of twenty-first-century America—would, at a stroke, reverse our country’s image abroad and refresh its spirit at home. His ascendance to the Presidency would be a symbolic culmination of the civil- and voting-rights acts of the nineteen-sixties and the century-long struggles for equality that preceded them. It could not help but say something encouraging, even exhilarating, about the country, about its dedication to tolerance and inclusiveness, about its fidelity, after all, to the values it proclaims in its textbooks.
Robert Jordan for President? Both Obama and McCain take inspiration from the stoic hero of Hemingway’s For Whom the Bell Tolls. In the NPR In Character broadcast, Robert Stone and Gail Sinclair discuss the lessons of Jordan’s “stoicism, grace under pressure and toughness.”
It sounds like the plot of one of his novels of deception and moral ambiguity, but it’s not; an article in the Czech magazine Respekt by Adam Hradilek claims that Milan Kundera reported a former Czech airman and Western agent to the secret police in 1950. Kundera denies the allegation, and it certainly does seem odd that if it were true the secret police wouldn’t have used the event against him when he became a major dissident voice in the 1970s. But Hradilek makes a strong case backed up by documents from the local police. The tragedy of totalitarianism is the compromises it forced so many people into (as revealed not long ago in the case of Gunther Grass’s complicity in the other European totalitarian nightmare of the last century).
Speaking of nightmares: let’s hope this one never comes true.
As Kitty Eisele reports on NPR, some “new” photographs of Lincoln’s second inaugural address have emerged; they were there all along, but misfiled at the Library of Congress in a Ulysses Grant folder. The pictures show Lincoln delivering what may be his best speech, and also the African-American troops in Union uniforms who marched from the White House to the Capitol that damp day.