Thursday, June 16, 2011

Ho-ly Sh*t, not this again

Alright, so Congressman Anthony Weiner is a'll get no argument from me. However, did [the aptly-named] Weiner really need to end his political career - or at least take a semi-forced sabbatical - because of this affair (no pun intended)? President Clinton got blow jobs in the freaking Oval Office, and was canoodling every woman (seemingly every unattractive woman) he could find loitering around the White House, and he survived an impeachment trial. Weiner was simply sending semi-lewd pictures of himself, which albeit not a very bright thing for a congressman, and especially a congressman hoping for a bid for Mayor of NYC, should do, but it still doesn't seem to be grievous enough to warrant the blow back that its since received.
I know that the liberal blogosphere is giving a lot of play to the story that David Vitter was throwing down dollars for street ladies, and the Republicans still stuck by him, but personally I don't find this to be a very compelling argument. I mean, saying that since one person did something wrong and stuck around means that everybody else can do something wrong and stick around doesn't really hold much water for me. That being said, I think what that situation shows, as opposed to this situation, is that Republicans are willing to compromise a lot more within their own party, and give in on some of their personal issues and crusades for the greater good of the party. Whereas Democrats run for the hills every time something comes along that they could possibly, at some point, in some circumstance be shown to be weak or waffling.
Nancy Pelosi, apparently the new queen of the moral brigade, basically threw Weiner directly under the bus. Of course the whole matter was politics, but I think what Pelosi failed to realize [due to the insular nature of Washington, DC politics] is that people in this country, and especially people in New York's 9th district that Weiner represented, have a very short term memory when it comes to issues like this, but a long term memory when it comes to the overall cohesiveness of the party. This move by Pelosi, and the president's passive support for Weiner's resignation, show's that this party has completely cow-towed to the Fox News/conservative moral majority claims that this country is "center-right".
It's a simple fact, the majority of the people in this country live in cities (75%), and that means that these people have city mentalities. That doesn't mean everyone who lives in cities is open about their sexuality, anti-religious, and basically accepts every doctrine of liberalism, but it does mean that they have more exposure to the nuance of culture, race/ethnicity, economic disparities, and sexuality. Therefore, people who live in cities are typically much more willing to accept a little more when it comes to moral indiscretions that are non-city people, and therefore don't really care that much if their congressman sends pictures of himself naked to some lady he chatted with on the internet.
Sorry for that demographic digression, back to the lecture at hand. What I'm saying here is that while Pelosi - and Obama with her - might think that they're playing it safe by supporting Weiner's ouster/resignation, they're really just hurting themselves in the eyes of party loyalists (who viewed Weiner as a strong young Democrat, with good principles), and giving themselves no benefit in the eyes of those who already dislike congressman Weiner and his politics, even before the pictures of his bare flex showed up on the net.
All in all, I think that this move by Democrats will hurt them in the long run. Not so much because Weiner was such a rising star in the party - although he was - but more because it shows that the leadership in the Democratic Party has no interest in supporting their members, and instead will do whatever it takes to "get things done", instead of LEADING their party and trying to get members to step in line like the Republicans do (why do you think we couldn't pass real, comprehensive health reform? It wasn't the Republicans that were holding the bag, they were just saying 'no' whenever they had the opportunity, but mostly they were ignored).

I apologize for the disjointed nature of this post; it was written over the course of a couple of days, and basically stream of consciousness.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

The Best and Brightest book list - Part II

Here is part II of my favorite book list. I was happy to see that a few people commented, but I have to say that I found it interesting (sir) that one would attack someones personal preference - I'm highly offended. I'm just joking, of course, and to be honest I actually really like that different people's favorites differ so much, and can actually create friendly banter due to the personal nature of each individuals choice.
Sorry for the fluffy intro, that's not usually my style, but I'm feeling a little light today. But whatever, onto the entree.


A People's History of the United States (Howard Zinn) - This is quite possibly the greatest history book every written, and easily my favorite. Zinn explores history not from the typical standpoint of the "winners", and instead attempts to present an unbiased insight into what actually happened. In the modern world, history has become so tainted by bias and supersaturation, that it's hard to know the reality of what happened yesterday, let alone in times past. From the landing of Columbus and his interaction with the natives, to the modern day, Zinn explores the United States and our many transgressions. This is a must read for anyone interesting in knowing the "real" (or people's) history of the United States. (Another book to check out, in the same vein, is Ronald Takaki's A Different Mirror: A History of Multicultural America.

Blood Meridian (Cormac McCarthy) - It would be hard for me to have a favorite book list without including at least one from Cormac McCarthy. The question is not whether McCarthy would be added to the list, the question is which book to choose. The reason that I would go with Blood Meridian over some of his other books is that I think this book best evinces his style. The characters in this book are incredibly complex, though we barely know their names or histories. The landscape is so stark and barren, and yet serves the story so well, almost as another character. The often chunky dialogue glints with such reality that it's easy to imagine sitting next to a fire listening to these men talk. The subject matter is also an interesting one, and lets the reader delve into an existence that seems so foreign and harsh without passing judgment on the characters or their actions. The characters are who they are, and we accept them for that.

The Power Broker (Robert Caro) - This is the first book I've read by Caro, but I can assure you it will not be my last (Caro is responsible for the three volume political masterpiece, The Years of Lyndon Johnson, which politicians - including our current president - have raved about for years). If you're into Biography's, Caro is a master. This biography of Robert Moses is so lengthy and in-depth, that it's almost surprising Carol is able to fit it into the 1,200+ pages. The book explores the life of Robert Moses both from the perspective of his formative years; essentially looking at how and why he became the hard-nosed many that he was, and also from the perspective of the seemingly infinite power he had on the shaping of New York City and surrounding areas. In learning about Moses, you will learn a lot about the history of New York City, and how the city came to be the way it is today. This book is less of an exploration than (to steal a music term) a character piece, which presents a man whose power led to obstinance, but also his own downfall.

A Moveable Feast (Ernest Hemingway) - The book that made me want to live in Paris as a young man. Hemingway's autobiographical recounting of his time living in Paris with his other "lost generation" compatriots (or more aptly, expatriates) is so full of zest and good cheer, that despite the fact that he and Hadley were struggling financially throughout the book, it was still easy to envy the somewhat monastic existence that he lived as a writer while he was there. The friends of the Hemingway's were all well-known (or would become well-known) literary figures of the first half of the century, and he describes the peculiarities of of all of them throughout the book. The book is also very good at giving a glimpse of what Paris was like in the 1920s; Hem walks the streets of the city and describes the different neighborhoods and their intricacies. This book has less travel and excitement that The Sun Also Rises, but carries the same perspective with more humility.

Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee (Dee Brown) - To describe this book from a common history perspective would be to say that it was about Westward expansion and "manifest destiny". However, both of those concepts are so complex and the words so loaded - pejorative, in fact - that to describe this book as anything but a recollection of genocide would be untrue. The book basically follows the "white man", led by the U.S. Army across the continent, slaughtering and cheating native bands all along the way. The recollection of the U.S. Army signing one bad treaty after another, followed by annihilation if the tribes actually expected the U.S. government to keep their end of the bargain, or decided to fight back. This book is not light-hearted, and it certainly is not uplifting, but should be required reading for anyone who wants to know the reality of what actually happened in the development of the United States.

The Razor's Edge (W. Somerset Maugham) - This book is about a young man who is traumatized by his experiences in WWII, and therefore disappears in search of the meaning of life. I think that for anyone in their teens up to their mid-thirties will find this book incredibly insightful. It's not that it wouldn't be relevant to someone outside of those ages, but I think that the central character's search for meaning and spirituality - in essense, "life" - is much more significant to people who fall between those ages, because that is most often when we in the real world often experience these existential quests. The character reappears throughout the book without warning, and often does so to highlight the banal nature of the life that his friend has chosen, but in doing so also highlights the irrationality of his own existence, and thereby puts into question the true meaning of life; leading one to surmise that the true meaning of life is different to each individual, and the question for meaning should maybe simply be a quest for happiness.

There you have it. That is a highly abridged version of my favorite books lists (in two parts), and has [already] and will change as I continue to devour the literary smorgasbord that is available to me.