15 February 2006

Aaron Burr Kills Alexander Hamilton; Dick Cheney Shoots Harry Whittington

I love it when American history comes alive. And the shooting of Harry Whittington, an Austin lawyer, by his ‘good friend,’ and Vice-President Dick Cheney recalls to me the duel between Alexander Hamilton and Aaron Burr which forever changed the course, nay, even the very nature of America. Reading The New York Times draws me to the papers of the early 19th century, when apparently, the news was also slow to be made public.

Ah, who really cares. The Vice-president of the United States shot a man last Sunday on a hunting expedition. That is, the Vice-president missed the quail and hit his friend. With a rifle. A weapon. Of mass destruction. Who cares? Better to obsess and spend millions and millions of precious dollars on the relatively harmless sexual peccadilloes of Bill Clinton who once lied about getting a blow job.

That is, while American soldiers fight and die in Iraq, while Americans die from lack of health care, while the American economy deteriorates regularly, while new images of abuse at Abu Ghraib materialize, while Iran and North Korea develop nuclear weapons and we remain without a clue on how to responsibly act, while the United States government plots to overthrow a government elected (Hamas) while democracy is on the march, while the trade deficit grows dangerously large as miners die as a result of neglect and lack of oversight, while the homeless from the tragedy in New Orleans run out of options, while the cost of the Iraq War requires cuts in spending for education and health care, the Vice-president went quail hunting and shot his friend. With a gun. With a weapon of mass destruction.

And where was the President? Riding his bicycle?

May I suggest that our leaders should be working overtime! Even on weekends. After all, there are many households where people hold two down two jobs. At least Cheney and Bush are obliged to one employment. But they ought to consider overtime. Even without pay.


Oh please, this is just too absurd. Impeach all of these irresponsible, stupid men. Give me my country back.

The sadness is that this is another blip on a radar screen, but everyone is asleep, or waiting distractedly for someone’s privates to become public.

09 February 2006

Never underestimate their venality

I read in The New York Times yesterday (8 February, 2006) that the Democrats are concerned that they may have missed opportunities to take advantage of ‘certain vulnerabilities’ the Republican Party suffers as a result of the disastrous foreign and national policies they have practiced over the past five years. For example: the duplicities which have been fabricated, advanced, and maintained to begin and perpetuate the abominable war in Iraq; the rapid erosion of our civil liberties—our very freedoms upon which the country rests—promoted by the would-be King and his jesters who would be his court; the unconscionable and ultimately tragic (a contradiction in real terms but real in human terms) irresponsible response to the disaster in New Orleans; the ethical scandals that have haunted the administration since its inaugural moments; the disastrous economic policies which have reward the least needy while punishing those with greatest need; the appointment of incompetent cronies to positions which require sophisticated and complex responses to sensitive conditions; and the creation of a Supreme Court which threatens to shift the crucial balance of powers in our government toward monarchic rule. Today more than ever in American history, the United States seems run by a pack of ignorant, blood-thirsty, and greedy aristocratic power-mongers who are so brazen (and crude) as to volubly advertise their lack of ethics. And now the government submits a budget proposal which increases the military expenditures, continues the War in Iraq with consequent expenses, and cuts those programs which support those least able to support themselves, cuts the programs which supports the educational possibilities of many Americans, and reduces health benefits to those with no other possibility for care. This is a social program which borrows its motives and policies from the National Socialists in pre-war Germany.

ARE THE DEMOCRATS CRAZY? It is clear that save for a few very brave congress members (Russ Feingold comes to mind, as does Ted Kennedy and Barbara Boxer) the Democrats have behaved as cowardly lions in the Emerald Forest of the Wicked Witch of the West. “I’m afraid of my own shadow,” the lion cries, but the Democrats have no substance to cast a shadow. I am made physically ill when I consider the incredible silence and lack of indignation practiced by the Democrats. I am appalled.

And then, to top it all off, some absurd man—THE HEAD OF THE REPUBLICAN NATIONAL PARTY—ridicules Hillary Clinton for being ‘angry.’ He says gleefully (!) that Hillary is totally out of touch with the American public, and that her far-left stance renders her completely irrelevant. “What chutzpah,” my grandmother would say! “He’s such a goniff!” It’s what I said, as well. But not in those words.

Do you recall that Baruch Spinoza turned down a tenure track position because to assume it would have compromised his freedom of thought? Do you know that Henry David Thoreau resigned his position as a school teacher because he was required as a disciplinary measure to whip his students?

02 February 2006

Not there yet, but I'm getting there

Today, I rose early, 5:30 a.m. and read from Ralph Richardson’s intellectual biography of Henry David Thoreau. I have been obsessed with Thoreau for more than thirty years now, and though I have not studied him in the more recent past, I am ready to return to this love during my sabbatical. Thoreau says that that only that morning dawns to which we are awake—and I mean during this sabbatical to be awake. Except, of course, when I have a nap. In the early morning dark and quiet, I made myself coffee and turned on the fire place—via remote control! Then I sat down in the comfy chair to read.

I mean (somehow) to make some connection between Thoreau and another new passion—Baruch Spinoza. Arrived today in the mail (via Barnes & Noble, God love them) and UPS, two new books on the latter and Thoreau’s Cape Cod. Richardson says that one thing that Cape Cod is about is salvation. Personally, I am very much concerned with salvation; so was Baruch, and so it satisfies me to learn that HDT, too, gave much thought to the idea. And all of us have a sense that it occurs here and now.

Made muffins for the children’s breakfast. It is so rewarding to put this meal on the table in the morning. And this morning, each liked the fare. This is an unusual confluence—not because they don’t like my cooking, but because they don’t usually arrive to the table in the morning prepared to like me enough for the compliment.

After breakfast I returned to the reading (after checking my email to see if anybody anywhere was giving me money. You see, I was raised on the TV program The Millionaire, and I cannot answer the doorbell, or go to the mailbox, or open my email without looking for a missive from John Beresford Tipton).

Then, at 9:00 a.m., I ran for the first time in weeks with Gary, my dear friend and running partner. He has been in Europe—specifically Amsterdam, where lived Spinoza until he was excommunicated by the Jewish community. Gary visited for me the Jewish Museum and returned with a wonderful poster of a wood but depicting the two Jewish synagogues in 17th century Amsterdam—the Sephardic and the Ashkenazic congregations. The poster is beautiful, the thought incommensurable. The framing is valued at the price of Gary’s entire three week trip.

Studied a bit of a paper to which I must make response in mid-February. Thought of some interesting perspectives I might take. I am looking forward to assuming the role of senior scholar. I feel like a senior (even get into certain movies at senior citizen rates), though I am forever skeptical of my position as scholar.

Visited for a short while with Jill, a colleague at the University to which I do not go at present.

Then, the children arrive. “Dad, would you help me with my homework?” “Dad, can I talk on the phone?” “Dad, what’s for dinner?” The formal ending of my day and the beginning of the evening. I love the moment. I feel actually useful.

I’m on sabbatical, but I’m not yet there. But I’m moving closer.