Freedom from Blog

Don't call it a comeback . . . .

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

How Does It Feel To Be a Problem?*

Lots of attention today to the column on the establishment conservative blog Newsmax calling for a military coup to solve the "Obama problem." What I haven't heard anyone mention is the rather interesting language in that phrase. Seems reminiscent of the "Jewish problem" and the "Negro problem," does it not?

* props to W.E.B.D.

P.S. Where is #3? No posts in a month? WTF?

Monday, September 14, 2009

Bay Update

Couldn't let #3 have the only cute pics of the summer. Here's sweet daughter #2, pictured in her favorite pose. She loves that tummy time, flipping over every chance she gets. Also, gotta love the natural faux-hawk (can I say that?), which she's had from the start.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Fly on the Wall

Polls suggest that Obama's speech may have changed a few minds on health care. I had a student in class offer interesting anecdotal support for that shift. She answers phones in the local office of one of our US Senators (GOP) and said that the day after Obama's speech there was a seismic change in the calls they were getting. Many self-identified Republicans, some of whom were calling to alter their opinions from earlier days, voiced strong support for the Dem plans. And several Republican callers expressed outrage over Joe Wilson's heckling.

You never know if something like that will last. People tend to drift back to their default loyalties once memory of a dramatic event or speech fades from their minds. And partisan narratives, like Joe Wilson as truth-telling "hero," can take on their own lives. Still, an encouraging tidbit.

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Threading the Pin?

Don't win a lot of bets underestimating Obama's ability to deliver a big speech. Still, I'm thinking that tonight may be the night he finally comes up short. So I'm taking the "under" expectations bet. This is not all his fault. I just think he may have to thread a needle that cannot be threaded. No matter which way he goes--and I'm thinking he'll go a little soft on the public option--he's going to piss a lot of people off. And that's mostly what the media wants to report anyway. Think about MoDo's NYT column today, which repeats the bizarre theme that Obama has been AWOL from the health care debate for a month and hasn't spoken up against GOP looniness. Excuse me? But that's the point. There is no eye in this needle.

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Summer Reading

So in the last month of summer (another summer gone!) I managed to slog through two long but very worthwhile books.

First was Tim Weiner's Legacy of Ashes, a history of the Central Intelligence Agency from its founding through the creation of a new Director of National Intelligence (to replace DCI) in 2007. Weiner, who was the NYT's intelligence beat writer for 20 years, makes pretty clear that the CIA was a colossal failure--it was never able to generate useful intelligence about the USSR (its primary mission for most of its history); rarely warned the president of impending events (e.g., in 1998 President Clinton probably read about the Indian nuclear test in the newspaper before CIA gave him a heads-up); and there's the whole 9/11 thing.

One unusual facet of the book is that Weiner is unusually sympathetic to the folks who worked at CIA during his time covering them. So he's harsh on early CIA folks (e.g., Allen Dulles), but kinder to folks like George Tenet (or Bob Gates). That's not to say that he's positive re: Tenet, but just that he seems more sympathetic, because he knew the guy. So the tone of the book changes some time in the 1980s. Even though the CIA never got anything right, Weiner worries when experienced types leave the Agency in droves at the end of the Cold War. But if they never got anything right, what value their experience?

Definitely worth the read. I learned a lot. One thing, the book will remind you how insular and incestuous DC really is. In 1976, the DCI went to Plains, GA, to brief Jimmy Carter on intelligence. That DCI? George Herbert Walker Bush.

Next up, and even more worth reading (i.e., YOU MUST READ THIS BOOK) is Rick Pearlstein's Nixonland. If were still teaching American Government courses, I would teach this. It might not be freshman level, though.

Pearlstein documents, in loving detail, how RMN was able to exploit American polarization over the 1960s into power; how the American consensus unraveled--in large part because ambitious pols, and not just Nixon (I'm looking at you, George Wallace) were willing to do it to acheive power. I'm not sure how things could have turned out otherwise. But Nixonland provides an excellent roadmap to how we got where we are now.