Saturday, January 20, 2007

An entertaining look at life in a row house with George Miller, Dick Durbin, Chuck Schumer, and Bill Delahunt. (It's just like "The Real World," except without the sex,* conflict, and minorities.)

Once, Mr. Miller’s son shot a deer and presented the house with an abundant supply of venison. It remained in the freezer for 12 years, at which point it was deemed to have reached its term limit and was discarded.

"Whatever happened to that venison?" Mr. Schumer wondered.

"I think it just got up and walked away," Mr. Delahunt said.
* - "Hey, speak for yourself, Durbin," said Delahunt.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

I don't dislike the Patriots as strongly as a lot of people do, but I am pretty sick of Bill Belichick, and there's no question that if there were any justice in the world, San Diego would be playing this weekend, and not New England. So given that, I'm planning to root for Indy on Sunday, which has me thinking about the possibility that Peyton Manning might actually win something this year. He's already phenomenally popular, obviously, and probably the best quarterback in the NFL. But Jesus: if he wins a Super Bowl, I think the over/under on Number of Minutes Before He's Crowned the Best Player of Sports in the History of All Sports has to be somewhere around "three."

Which is where my mind was wandering as I read this note about John Elway denying that he has any interest in the Allard seat out in Colorado. That article, plus the Peyton Manning line of thought that I was already on, prompted a bit of an epiphany (hardly an earth-shattering one, I know, but new to me): twenty years from now, Peyton Manning will be an elected official. I'd put money on it. He's funny, he's personable, he's obviously intelligent, and he's already mastered the art of looking silly while participating in water sports. If he ran today, he might win. Add a Super Bowl ring and a few years of pseudo-policy experience (The President's Council on Physical Fitness, for instance), and he's a mortal lock. Ladies and gentlemen, the next Senator from the great state of Indiana... Peyton Manning. Mark my words.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

From Vanity Fair writer Bruce Handy comes this convenient list of the major anniversaries of 2007, each of which is accompanied by a brief note explaining its contemporary significance. My favorite:

50th anniversary of the launching of the first artificial satellite, the Soviet Union’s Sputnik, marking the dawn of the space age and prompting a huge investment in science education in this country (Oct. 4, 1957).

Today’s perspective: Public increasingly disenchanted with NASA because of fears that space shuttle launchings may scare angels or punch holes in heaven.
Valid fears, both of them.

Mitt Romney's macaca moment. Just for future reference.

Two-time Congressional candidate Paul Hackett went a bit Rambo on some young punks recently. Because nothing says "please don't run into my fence with your car" like an M-16.

(Say what you will about Jean Schmidt, but you have to admit that she's never pulled an assault rifle on anyone. One must give credit where credit is due.)

Update: Rambo will not be charged.

Old news by now, but worth mentioning because I haven't done so yet: Rehnquist was a drug addict. And not only was Rehnquist a drug addict, but Rehnquist was a drug addict while on the bench. Explains a lot, doesn't it?

Slate's Jack Shafer makes an amusing point:

On the occasion of President Gerald R. Ford's death, the press applied the word decent to him so often that it stopped sounding like praise and started to sound like an insult.
Ask the average reporter or commentator to pass quick judgment on somebody who just died and as likely as not they'll reach for something that combines lukewarm praise with an appropriate cliché. If it's a New Englander in the casket, they might go with "flinty." For an African-American, especially if they don't want to go on record as agreeing with him, they'll probably pick "articulate." For a Latino, "industrious" or "passionate." When assessing the sons and daughters of that great flyover territory known as the Midwest, the formula suggests pale platitudes about honor, honesty, and being decent, as long as the word means "adequate" and "just enough to meet the purpose."

A heartfelt appreciation of Momofuku Ando, the man behind ramen noodles.

Arthur Schlesinger reflects on the importance of history:

We are the world's dominant military power, and I believe a consciousness of history is a moral necessity for a nation possessed of overweening power. History verifies John F. Kennedy's proposition, stated in the first year of his thousand days: "We must face the fact that the United States is neither omnipotent or omniscient -- that we are only 6 percent of the world's population; that we cannot impose our will upon the other 94 percent of mankind; that we cannot right every wrong or reverse each adversity; and therefore there cannot be an American solution to every world problem."

History is the best antidote to delusions of omnipotence and omniscience. Self-knowledge is the indispensable prelude to self-control, for the nation as well as for the individual, and history should forever remind us of the limits of our passing perspectives. It should strengthen us to resist the pressure to convert momentary impulses into moral absolutes. It should lead us to acknowledge our profound and chastening frailty as human beings -- to a recognition of the fact, so often and so sadly displayed, that the future outwits all our certitudes and that the possibilities of the future are more various than the human intellect is designed to conceive.

Sometimes, when I am particularly depressed, I ascribe our behavior to stupidity -- the stupidity of our leadership, the stupidity of our culture. Three decades ago, we suffered defeat in an unwinnable war against tribalism, the most fanatic of political emotions, fighting against a country about which we knew nothing and in which we had no vital interests. Vietnam was hopeless enough, but to repeat the same arrogant folly 30 years later in Iraq is unforgivable. The Swedish statesman Axel Oxenstierna famously said, "Behold, my son, with how little wisdom the world is governed."