Thursday, November 13, 2008

Things I'm wondering about that don't merit a full blog post

Detail from a panel from Diego Rivera's mural in the National Palace, Mexico City. Image taken by the Mrs. Click to enlarge. That baby's gaze (note its eye color) held my attention for some minutes as we stood in front of this section.

If I had my druthers, this would appear as the cover image on my book-to-be.

Tell me if this is weird: I don't have anything in particular to post on, but the urge to write something so as to clear my head a little is strong. So, apologies in advance for what follows:

*This story on Morning Edition yesterday in which a researcher claims that there are about 61 trees on the planet for each person. It flashed in my mind: I really need to start claiming my trees, then, lest they get bulldozed into a landfill or turned into coffee tables. But then I wondered if my trees should all be in one place, like Riverside Park (the park across the river from where I live)? Or could they be scattered about--like that giant live oak that shaded my sandbox at my father's parents' house back in Texas, that willow along the Little Arkansas that's bent over in such a way that when I see it I think of Lumiere in Disney's Beauty and the Beast, etc.? And what happens if more than one person wants to claim a tree as his/hers (I bet lots of folks would want to claim the General Sherman or Methuselah. I thought for a while that such famous trees could be held in common by all of us, but that might then reduce the number of trees allotted to each of us by one or two . . . don't I have Things to Do?

*The navel-gazing/self-immolation going on among Republicans and conservatives generally in the wake of the election. Some of it, admittedly, is kinda perversely diverting to watch; some of it is just plain nasty and self-serving, as Randall eloquently pointed out in a recent post) (a lot of the Sarah Palin stuff is both simultaneously: the rhetorical equivalent of a car wreck); but part of it is (or should be) genuinely important for progressives and independents to watch. While the GOP was in power, its chief priority (as is true of any political entity that has power) was how to remain in power. That's fine, as far as it goes. But if a central tenet of your party is that Government is the problem and should therefore be smaller, if government ends up becoming the enemy as a result of such thinking rather less attention is going to be given over to how to make that smaller government work smarter, more efficiently--how to make it better serve the people, in other words. Result: stuff like post-Katrina, rampant sycophantism traded for competence, the conceiving of the Vice-Presidency as a law unto itself, and a presidential candidate essentially not allowed to make his own selection for vice-president if he wanted to retain the support of the very party that nominated him (how else to describe what happened with John McCain?). Might there be a true splitting of conservatives along that fault line known as Sarah Palin resulting from the rhetorical sp(l)itting going on now? Anyway, I genuinely hope that at least one intellectually-substantive conservative party emerges from all this: such a party will keep Democrats from becoming lazy and complacent.

*A fair amount of hand-wringing among progressives over Obama's choices for, of all things, transition committees (note the adjective) leads me to this conclusion yet again: Obama's behavior simply does not conform to the rhythms of the 24-hour news cycle (which has a rather ADHD-like quality to it, does it not?). His thing is the long view (which, I submit, the Bush administration--and we--would have benefited from immensely had it adopted that perspective). This has been true from the early primaries on to the present. What's weird, though, is that even though most people, with the benefit of hindsight, see the wisdom of that approach during the campaign, they revert to their thinking during the primaries and hang on and pick apart and agonize over every rumor: "Too closely affiliated with the Clintons (or (worse) Carter)--is this change we can believe in??????" To whom I say, Um, these are transition committees. Which Democrats were last in the White House? The Roosevelt committee folks have the unfortunate disadvantage of being dead and thus rather hard to consult, much less appoint. A basic argument of Obama-as-candidate was that, never mind actual policies, the Bush administration failed miserably at, you know, meeting what should be government's minimum requirement of competence. I'm sure Obama will disappoint me and other supporters in some way on down the road. But given what this nation has experienced during the past eight years, I'm positively thrilled that we have a chief executive-elect who exudes competence--in large measure evidenced by his keen interest in surrounding himself with competent people.

It's interesting: Democrats are worried Obama might fail at the level of policy particulars--at, relatively speaking, the esoterica of an administration; Republicans are more worried that he will succeed at the level of governance--something much more essential. It's effective governance, after all, that facilitates the implementation of policy. Hence their recent argument that this is still a center-right country, that the vote was in essence an anti-Bush vote.

*The crows are beginning to come to town. Winter is near at hand.

*UPDATE: Lest I forget yet again . . . Jim (he of the long-dormant New York Minute where, long-time visitors may remember, I regularly tried to send people) has resurfaced with a new blog, This Analog Life. He's teaching at a school in a small town in Andalucia in Spain. The man can still write.


Anne Vis said...

I really enjoy your blog! :-) Keep up the good work!

Jim Sligh said...


I'm almost out of minutes in my locutorio here, which is a kind of candy shop/liquor store/internet café common in Jaén, but I just wanted say that it's good to hear from you too. In the meantime, before I write something better & more thoughtful here: I'm enjoying what you've been writing recently, particularly because of the kind of (at least linguistic, & imperial)) intersection, and I'm glad you thought of me.