Monday, March 22, 2010

Things to Watch and Read, March 22 edition

I'm still hiding out in my secret lair with a book manuscript, but a few things of interest crossed my desk over past few days.

Tea Party Bigots at the Capitol: The freedom-loving "Tea Party" folks who showed up at the U.S. Capitol to protest the health care bill reportedly shouted the "n" word at black civil rights hero John Lewis (D-Ga.), spit on Emanuel Cleaver (D-Mo.), and screamed "faggot" at Barney Frank (D-Mass.)

"I heard people saying things that I have not heard since March 15, 1960 when I was marching to try and get off the back of the bus," James Clyburn (D-S.C.) told the Huffington Post. Later that day, someone threw a brick through the window of Rep. Louise Slaughter's district office in Pine View, New York.

What's next: tarring, feathering, and burning down houses? That'll keep health care affordable.

The Hungarian "race": The Hungarian-American lobby sent out a press release with instructions for their constituency on how to declare themselves racially Hungarian on the U.S. 2010 Census, apparently believing the write-in campaign will increase leverage on lawmakers.

I'm not sure that Hungarian-Americans share a common policy position on events in their ancestral home: someone whose family fled the Nazi takeover may have different feelings about, say, the rise of a far-right party with its own jackbooted militia, than someone who fled the Soviet invasion in '56. But what if ancestral memory really does trump independent thought? To hedge my bets, maybe I'll declare my race to be "Anglo-Franco-Irish-Dane-Scot" and give the politicians something to puzzle over in the next redistricting effort.

Timbuktu Claims the Blues: My Monitor colleague, Scott Baldauf, has an interesting piece on how Timbuktu, Mali, the famous terminal of trans-Sahara caravan trade, asserts itself as the birthplace of the blues, preempting the American South.

Editor who Needs An Editor: For those in Maine wondering what's wrong with the former newspaper of record, the Portland Press Herald, here's another clue. Owner/editor Richard Connor -- whose possessions also include the Morning Sentinel and Kennebec Journal -- appears to have no idea how to research and write something as simple as a personal opinion piece.

His contribution on health care in yesterday's Morning Sentinel is a case in point: a rambling and unfocused piece that features an uninterrupted 500-word block of quotes from a Gorham innkeeper to make the rather obvious point that insurance premiums vary by state. The innkeeper has some theories as to how to improve the situation, but rather than examine their merits, Connor veers off into some fuzzy ruminations about his companies' health care costs (replete with undigested statistics) before arriving at a perfect non-argument: what's done is done, so "it’s time for all of us to get on with our lives."

This is why directors shouldn't act in their own movies: there's nobody around who can tell them when when they're making an ass of themselves.

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