With rumors of a new Mel Gibson project about the Vikings (note to Mel: CGI means Ernest Borgnine needn't be alive for an homage cameo!), Kenneth Branagh's Marvel Comics-based Thor film slated for 2011 release, and Robert Ferguson's The Hammer and the Cross: A New History of the Vikings going out of stock on Amazon only two months after it was published, it might be safe assuming Viking mania is right around the corner. And that means, here come the great names: Björn Ironside, Ragnar Lodbrok, Sweyn Forkbeard, Harald Hardrada, Bagsecg, Snorri Sturluson, "Hallfred the Troublesome Poet,... Ivar the Boneless and Eyvind the Plagiarist." (Getty Images.)
I like the whiskey’s strength to be in its punch, not in its peat so to speak. The Templeton Rye was smooth, warming and substantial in every way. It stuck to your ribs. It made me want to fight a bear and pour him a glass after we’d gone a few rounds. You know, just to show him it was only a little good-natured roughhousing.
I saw a great ad for Templeton spread out along a wall in the concourse at the airport in Des Moines. I was interested.
Lost Angeles sums up his review: "consider me a new loyalist. Put me on the payroll." Alas, Templeton currently is available only in Iowa and Illinois, but that will change if Lost's review is any indication of this rye's quality.
Today, President Obama and Vice-President Biden announce an $8 billion grant in stimulus funds for a high-speed rail system in Florida. The US is behind on light rail developement compared to France (watch a recent high-speed test of the world's fastest train (570 km/hr); image of same at right), Japan, Germany, and several other nations. (Obama and Biden will also tour an airplane maintenance center that has been used for aid flights to Haiti.)
Some other travel and transportation tidbits for January 28 in the last 200 years -- hat-tip to Wikipedia.
1896 – Walter Arnold of East Peckham, Kent became the first person to be convicted of speeding. He was fined 1 shilling plus costs for speeding at 8 mph (13 km/h), thus exceeding the contemporary speed limit of 2 mph (3.2 km/h). (Image at right: Henry Ford on the 1896 Ford Motor Carriage Sv.)
with over 2,000 books of poetry produced in a year (including the small and smaller presses), the evaluation of what's worth reading is falling more and more to the reader/buyer.
But is it really so difficult for a reader to decide, and rather quickly, what's worth reading? I don't think so. In fact, I think most readers of poetry can tell from the opening lines of a book if it's a book they want to read more of, just as most of us make a decision about seeing a movie from its trailer. As with a movie trailer, a lot can be seen in a small space. To test my theory, I'll use the opening lines of four books, all written from the same aesthetic (an I-based narrative) so as not to confuse ideas about an aesthetic with those of writing ability. Imagine that you must decide whether or not the whole book is worth reading based on their opening lines
An international fund amounting to hundreds of millions of dollars will be established this week in a bid to buy off Taliban leaders in Afghanistan.
An outline for the strategy, which will be principally funded by the US, Japan and Britain, was reported to have been drafted at a meeting in Abu Dhabi two weeks ago of top-level diplomats from 20 countries.
The announcement of the establishment of the Peace and Reintegration Trust Fund, which will seek to "split the Taliban"....
For the past seven years, David Guttenfelder has witnessed and documented the changing landscape of Afghanistan. Although mostly embedded with coalition troops, he has also covered the presidential elections, bodybuilders in Kabul, the state of Afghan prisons and daily life in the country. Guttenfelder is the chief Asia photographer for The Associated Press and over the past seven years has offered the general public a close-up, intimate look at the lives of troops fighting in the mountains and remote regions of Afghanistan.
I have complained that President Obama too much ceded leadership to Congress relative to health care reform, which--of course--never ought to have been thought of or stated as such (The Health Care [or Insurance] Affordability and Deficit Reduction Act. Hello?! Affordability!) Recently, someone took exception to my complaint: "how else would you gain health care reform? The last time a president provided health care reform legislation to Congress, the results were bad."
Inadvertently, the complainant proves my point. The Clinton Administration provided legislation, which is not necessarily and certainly not the totality of leading, and the President didn't lead the effort: the First Lady of the United States did for all intents and purposes--someone without legislative or executive experience--she became its face. Now, its face has been a succession of Congress members: Baucus, Snowe, Reid, Pelosi, et al.
I stand by my assessment. President Obama may have failed to view his role in the health care battle in light of the realities of American history, our government's structure, and how big initiatives are won: through Presidential leadership, which is a multi-faceted thing, to be sure. Major nationwide initiatives have been and almost by definition need to be led from the Executive--which is responsible to all voters nationally--as opposed to the Legislative that is comprised of members responsible only to district or statewide voters. Westward settlement, the National Parks Service, Social Security, the war effort in the 1940s, winning the space race, and America's overarching Cold War policy were all led in large part or completely by Presidents. Health care reform is a similarly ambitious nationally-significant enterprise as President Obama and most progressives describe it. Conversely, as it's described by most Republicans health care reform is a Congress-led thing: something incremental.
Remember that as governor, Franklin Roosevelt attempted to bring to New York state the statewide equivalences of the national initiatives that would be the New Deal. Again, those projects did not come from the New York state legislature, but from the state Executive. (Note also that before FDR was governor, Al Smith attempted similar programs at the city-level as Mayor of New York City, and he attempted some of those at the state-level when governor, too.)
President Obama became, it would seem, nearly amnesiac about this simple lesson of American history. He has, it seems to me, engaged in the health care reform battle more like a US Senator than like a President. To be sure, FDR as President had more worthy Congressional allies to work with than the like of Senators Reid and Pelosi. That is all the more reason that the President ought to have been truly leading more in the first place: Congress is not a popular or successful institution. It is broken. Whether it's The White House or the Congress, the right person(s) is not always in place at the right time, and when that's the case, the other branch may need to pick up the slack. The American people do not now and for several years have not wanted Congress to lead on big reform. The approval ratings of Congress have been for several years now and continue to be in the toilet, especially among Independents who were a--perhaps were the--critical segment of candidate Obama's victory on a night in November 2008. So he turns to Congress to lead? Nothing was more likely to piss off Independents.
It will be interesting to see if President Obama prioritizes energizing his base or appealing to Independents or tries to do both. It will be interesting to see if the President now switches over to an effort to highlight his plans on economic growth and job creation. Will he become an incrementalist relative to health care reform? Will financial reform die as the focus switches to job creation.
I think that the simplest reality right now may be that things like health care reform and even cap and trade and desperately needed infrastructure improvement are smart long-term projects likely to pay good benefits later, but many Americans are in distress now, and are impatient. The American people are rghtly focused on "Jobs, jobs, jobs," and so President Obama ought to be also. Of course, he cleary seems to be more aware than are most Americans that failing to reform health care in the US is the single greatest threat to job creaton, to small business, to personal wealth or anything like the economic health the middle class enjoyed in pre-Reagan America.
What I fear is that we'll next find an unconvincingly populist-sounding President Obama flail about looking for exactly what he should do because he's not sure. Frankly, that is better than the alternative as it is currently configured: the Party of Nope, of nihilism, of destruction as an end in and of itself. The President seems oddly reluctant to take on the Republicans, as if the leaders of the Republican Party can be expected to do anything but anti-govern, can be expected to work as partners as opposed to work as the enemy. They will work to undo what they vicerally deem to be The Other in politics and in society at every turn. That is their nature, especially in the post-1994 "Republican Revolution" era. They are nasty; they do nothing to stop intimations of violence from the far right wing, which is becoming, in fact, the GOP main stream. Perhaps many Independents don't like such a conflict-based appraoch. ("Oh, why can't they just work together and get things done?), but they need to realize that Republican bayonets are fixed, their political messaging machines blaring, and there is no Democratic response but weak ones, so actually there isn' conflict, there's merely Republican progress. Conflict would be better. It might actually yield results towards solutions. I don't see how the health care system or any other kind of major problem will be addressed in America and at the same time the tone change unless there is wholesale reform of both parties. Tell me how that is going to happen?
President Obama has an extremely difficult job as President. Leadership is required; but, it is a very, very difficult time to govern in America right now. I just hope he realizes that he can't afford to let leadership pass to Congress.
Job losses, stagnant or reduced wages over the past decade, and the loss of home equity when the housing bubble burst have combined to take a horrendous toll on families who thought they had done all the right things and were living the dream. A great deal of that bleeding is in the suburbs. The study, compiled by the Brookings Metropolitan Policy Program, said, “Suburbs gained more than 2.5 million poor individuals, accounting for almost half of the total increase in the nation’s poor population since 2000.”
.... In 2008...more than 30 percent of the entire U.S. population...fell below 200 percent of the federal poverty line...$21,834 for a family of four.
The question for Democrats is whether there is anything that will wake them up to their obligation to extend a powerful hand to ordinary Americans and help them take the government, including the Supreme Court, back from the big banks, the giant corporations and the myriad other predatory interests that put the value of a dollar high above the value of human beings.
[From] the Center for Labor Market Studies at Northeastern University in Boston: "Labor market conditions for 16-19 and 20-24-year-olds in the city of Chicago in 2009 are the equivalent of a Great Depression-era, especially for young black men.”