Monday Reads

Good Morning!!

I’m filling in for Dakinikat today, while she wends her way back down to New Orleans after her daughter’s great big Bollywood wedding. It’s another very slow news day today, but I’ve tried to dig up some interesting reads for you anyway.

The U.N. Security Council has condemned Syria’s government for the Houla massacre.

An emergency council meeting in New York on Sunday accused President Bashar al-Assad’s forces of unleashing havoc in the town, calling the bombardment of residential areas “an outrageous use of force” which violated international law.

“The security council condemned in the strongest possible terms the killings, confirmed by United Nations observers, of dozens of men, women and children and the wounding of hundreds more … in attacks that involved a series of government artillery and tank shellings on a residential neighbourhood,” the non-binding statement said.

Russia, which has resisted previous western-led condemnations of its Damascus ally, signed up to the declaration, signalling the extent of revulsion over images of infant corpses lined side by side after Friday’s slaughter, one of the worst incidents in the 14-month conflict.

You probably heard that John McCain, who for mysterious reasons is a permanent fixture on the Sunday talk shows even though he’s wrong about everything, has called Obama’s foreign policy and especially his caution on Syria “feckless.” The Villagers really love that word for some reason….why not just say “irresponsible” or “lazy”? Those are some of the definitions of the word.

On the other hand, outgoing Indiana Senator Richard Lugar, who is a lot more thoughtful than McCain, thinks Obama is right to be cautious on Syria. From TPM:

“I think that he has been very cautions. And I think that he’s cautions because he’s in the process of withdrawing our troops along with NATO from Afghanistan, pivoting our policy toward China and the east, more toward a situation of using robots – the ability to not to have to send in troops. It’s a difficult situation. So when you talk about Syria, and you talk about troops or intervention, the president has been very cautious. I think properly so.”

Also on the Sunday shows, Bob Shieffer asked Romney adviser Ed Gillespie why Mitt won’t appear anywhere except Fox News. Gillespie responded that Romney meet with “some schoolchildren last week.” Shieffer said, “I know schoolchildren are happy to see him.”

Good one, Bob!

On Candy Crowley’s show Rudy Giuliani was supposed to be playing surrogate for Romney and pulled a Cory Booker. Giuliani began by announcing that Romney is “the perfect choice” and then proceeded to “trash” Romney’s Massachusetts record while “explaining” his trashing of Romney back in 2008.

“Well, I mean, there’s a certain amount of personal ego in that — at that point, I was probably comparing his record to my record,” he said about his dings at Romney. “And maybe it was circumstances or whatever, but I had massive reductions in unemployment. He had a reduction in unemployment of about 8,10 percent — I think it was 15 percent. I had a reduction of unemployment of 50 percent. He had a growth of jobs of about 40,000; we had a growth of jobs of about 500,000. So I was comparing what I thought was my far superior record to his otherwise decent record. … That’s all part of campaigning.”

But, he added, Romney is much better than President Barack Obama.

I guess it’s still not quite as bad as the “endorsement” Romney got from Mitch Daniels.

Politico has a somewhat long piece for them on why Republicans are afraid that Romney “lacks the ‘vision thing'” For example:

“At the end of the day, you can’t just be all, you know, anti-Obama,” said former Ohio Secretary of State Ken Blackwell, whose state is key to Romney’s chances. “It has to be, I think, two parts that and one part here’s the antidote, here’s the vision, here’s the path that I would like to lead America down.”

And GOP strategist Mark McKinnon — who advised former two-term Republican president George W. Bush — said it’s time for Romney to outline his agenda.

“It’s important to establish the problem when you are a challenger because you are asking voters to fire the incumbent. So, Romney has to file his grievances,” McKinnon said. “But at some point he has to show that he has a vision of a better way. He can’t just say ‘The future is bleak, follow me.’ Because no one will.”

That sounds a little bit like the “advice” Mitch Daniels gave to Mitt. Sadly, Mitt has no vision for a better way. He just wants to be King so he can order everyone around and fire people when he feels like it.

I’ve been so focused on politics for the past several years that I’ve somewhat lost touch with popular culture. So it came as a shock to me today when reading an article about the Cannes Film Festival that one of the movies being shown there is an adaptation of Jack Kerouac’s On The Road. I knew instantly it would be horrible. Every Kerouac adaptation has been.

I used to be fascinated by Kerouac. I was on the Lowell, MA, Kerouac Festival Board for a few years, I’ve done two major research projects on Kerouac’s life and work, one of which I presented at at academic conference. I’ve read everything Kerouac has written, including his letters. I will never see this film, because I don’t want the book ruined for me. Trust me on this, just read the book if you haven’t already, and skip the movie.

The Washington Post has a piece on the Wisconsin recall election which is coming up on June 5: Scott Walker’s fate will have November implications.

Walker made national headlines last year when he eliminated most collective-bargaining rights for public employee unions, triggering huge protests. The fight put friends, neighbors and family members on opposite sides and left the state as polarized as any in the nation. It will culminate in next month’s recall election, only the third for a sitting governor in U.S. history.

The Democrats need to get off their butts and into Wisconsin soon or Walker is going to win. That would be disastrous, and would likely put the state in play for Romney in November. Wisconsin Democrats have been begging for help from the DNC, and it has been slow in coming.

I recently heard an interesting interview on NPR about Lulu DeCarrone, a coffee shop owner who decided to pull the plug on WiFi in her shop. She suddenly realized that her customers were sitting alone at tables for hours just staring at their computers and not talking. No one was having fun anymore and Lulu wasn’t making much money either. Quoting her:

It happened around three or four years ago. One afternoon, I was standing behind the counter and I allowed laptops for a while. And there were four tables, and four people sitting with laptops there. And I remember thinking, “This is like a crypt. I don’t like the feel of it.” Well, two ladies came in a little bit later and they were having such a good time. They were old friends, they haven’t seen each other in a long time and they were laughing and just carrying on. And the people who were sitting on the laptops kept glaring at them. And I made the decision right then and there. I thought I would rather lose my business and sell pencils out of a hat in front of the British Art Museum, than have this atmosphere in my store….

I thought, “Oh my God, maybe no one will come. Maybe I’ll lose it.” And I swear to you, that I was willing to do that. But it worked in reverse. I am the absolute opposite of what Starbucks does, and I’m very happy about it.

It’s become like Mecca for people who are disgusted. I never expected this. This has blown my mind; I never thought that would happen. I get compliments every single day. So I think that’s what it’s given me: Not a big bank account, certainly not driving a fancy car — but it has given me something that’s much harder to get, joy.

I’m no Luddite, but I have to admit, I do get disgusted sometimes the way gadgets have taken over and replaced socializing in public. When I was teaching at a large university, it was rare to see a student who wasn’t either listening to music on headphones, talking on the phone, or texting. They were completely out of touch with whatever was happening in their surroundings in the present moment. And so I also enjoyed this piece at the WaPo on people who ruin things for everyone around them by talking loudly on their cell phones. Here’s a sample:

I love taking the train and typically enjoy the ride. It can be so peaceful, and you don’t have the stress that comes with flying. But if I don’t get a seat in the “quiet car” that Amtrak has designated for those us who want peace, I’m privy to some conversations that should only be conducted in private.

I understand the occasional short conversation to let someone know when to pick you up or that the train is running late, but people are holding long and involved conversations, often about inane stuff. Businessmen are barking orders or, in one case I overheard, holding a conference call. I really don’t want to know your business.

On a recent Amtrak trip, a woman sat next to me and made a call to her friend who, I learned, was afraid she had a sexually transmitted disease. Thankfully, another seat opened up and the woman moved. But I could still hear her describing the test for the disease.

And have you noticed that many people seem to have no compunction about making you wait while they take calls? Why not just call the person back later and talk to the person you’re with?

OK, that’s all I’ve got. What are your recommended links for today?


24 Comments on “Monday Reads”

  1. ecocatwoman says:

    At the risk of being blasphemous, not a Kerouac fan. Read On the Road in HS & all I remember is that I didn’t like it, at all. I have no desire to revisit it. Kerouac, as you probably know, has ties to Orlando, having lived with his mother here for a time. Here are links for some info: http://kerouacproject.org/see-the-kerouac-house/ & http://www.theledger.com/article/20100519/NEWS/100519697?p=1&tc=pg

    While I believe the Wisconsin recall election is crucial, I think Wasserman-Schultz is simply hedging the D’s bets. I believe she & the DNC know how critical this is but don’t want to seem panicked. And the DNC is competing with Koch $$$$$ in Wisconsin.

    I think Loki (The Avengers) summed up the direction America & the world is heading toward with this statement:”Freedom is life’s great lie. Once you accept that, in your heart, you will know peace.” Seriously, I cannot wait to see this movie again. Our problem now, we have no superheroes to rescue us

    Check out this short video from Food & Water Watch about the latest farm bill: http://www.treehugger.com/health/the-biggest-farm-bill-loser-cartoon-explains-corrupt-food-system.html

    Thanks, bb, for filling in with another great roundup.

    • bostonboomer says:

      I had read some Kerouac when I was younger, but when I went back to college in Lowell I had the opportunity to get to know a number of people who remembered Jack.

      One of the first courses I took was on politics and ethnicity. I did an oral history project on the influence of Kerouac’s French Canadian ethnicity on his writing. I found this especially fascinating because in the process I learned about my own French Canadian heritage.

      Disliking Kerouac’s writing is hardly “blasphemous.” It’s not even unusual. Even most people who enjoy his books know nothing about his life or his motivations.

      I probably felt a connection to him also because of my alcoholism. It wasn’t until I had been sober for a long time that I learned that many French people like me (and Jack) have the same genetic inability to process alcohol as Native Americans.

      I still find it heartbreaking that Jack drank himself to death (in Florida). It was really a long, slow suicide. I wish he had been able to get sober like I did. But in 1969, less was known about recovery.

      • dakinikat says:

        I went on a Kerouac bender in my freshmen year at university. I read all his books.

        Great set of reads and thanks to you for filling in for me. The entire weekend was exhausting and overwhelming. It was also a learning experience. For example, i am the one that had on cream and gold with some crimson trim. I walked the groom down the aisle.

      • bostonboomer says:

        Glad you made it back in one piece!

  2. Pat Johnson says:

    Cellphones allow you to be “plugged in” at all times allowing the “mundane” to rule forever.

    Here in my neighborhood people are walking their dogs, pushing baby carriages, and jogging along all the while with a phone pressed to their heads talking about who knows what.

    I have stood in line at banks and checkouts while others talk to an unseen voice about their periods, in laws, prescriptions, and what to have for supper. It’s more than annoying.

    The “best one” so far was at a wedding when the best man was proposing a toast to the bride and groom and the groom stepped aside to answer his phone! Who the hell was he talking to that wasn’t there and why was it that important to “take the call” at that moment?

    A friend said she was at the graveside service watching someone test during the internment.

    As they blather away at things once considered “private”, they shoot you the dirty looks at those “listening in”.

    I am old enough to remember when having a longer phone cord attached to the wall phone was a “cool invention” since you could carry the receiver some distance away from others for some degree of privacy.

    Though on its own it is a great invention for a lot of reasons it has become a substitute for blocking out your surroundings and an excuse to avoid real communication.

    Just look at the crowd when the cameras pan the seats at a ballgame. Paying such a huge amount of money for a seat at the event, they then are shown either yakking away or texting while the game itself plays out right in front of them.

    Just another sign of the times. We apparently have the “need” to be anywhere else than where we are at the given moment.

    • bostonboomer says:

      I’ve even been disturbed by people talking on their cellphones at the library!! I like having my phone available for emergencies, but I can’t imagine wanting to talk or text during movies or baseball games.

    • There was this Sprint or Verizon commercial with a family walking through what looked like a Museum of Natural History. They were all looking down at their phones while walking by the exhibits. I hated that damn commercial. Then you have that text language that is taking over everything. The other day I was reading the instructions on a frozen dinner and it used text language, i.e. b4 you put into microwave. Makes me sick!

    • dakinikat says:

      What’s the difference between a disruptive cell phone conversation and a disruptive conversation between live people? There’s rudeness in all kinds of things. Cell phone conversations shouldn’t be any different than two people talking if done with consideration.

      • bostonboomer says:

        I think one of the problems the article pointed out is that it’s embarrassing when you’re forced to listen to one side of a very personal conversation. Usually people don’t talk in detail about their surgeries in a supermarket line. The writer also complained about being ignored by dinner companions as they answered phone calls.

        I don’t normally mind if people are talking on the phone as long as they aren’t yelling. When they do it in a movie or the public library, I have problems with it.

        She also talked about being in a movie and having someone wearing bluetooth headphone with a bright blinking light in a dark theater. If you’re going to talk on the phone or listen to music, just don’t go to a movie at the same time is my thought.

      • northwestrain says:

        Cell phone insanity — the worst area where nearly everyone was texting or talking on the cell phone was in the Las Vegas metro area — the southern part of the state and parts of next door Arizona. Based on observations during my snowbird adventures.

        I think that cell phone use is really a dividing line between rural and urban areas. Cell phone service is mostly missing or very spotty in rural areas. Land lines are extremely vital in rural areas — because there is zero bar cell phone service in vast areas of the US.

        In high density cell phone use areas I observed intense cell phone use — in the Las Vegas Metro area I observed kids walking with their heads down using two cell phones. Strange.

        In one store NV/AZ border with 20 customers spread out through a rather large craft type store — every single person was talking on a cell phone. Every single person!! I was getting a head ache from all the one sided chatter. Yes I did walk through the store, count the customers and note that they were holding a cell phone to their ear and talking. Some poor dears put the cells on speaker phones so everyone can hear both sides of the conversation.

        Since I live in a rural area — our phone sort of works — the phone will ring but no connection is possible. So I know who called. All of the cell phone competition is for the urban/suburban areas with little or no coverage for a huge part of the US.

        Want to know where some of the text messages go? Evidently a lot of people don’t input the correct phone numbers — because last night I discovered my phone was loaded with dozens and dozens of mis-sent text messages. Some of these messages were very personal. I deleted dozens and dozens of telemarketer messages. Next time I tidy up the phone I’ll just do a “delete all”.

        Interesting research — people are supposedly more honest when texting than when talking. I think that article was at Wired.com.

        An elderly couple died in rural upstate NY — no cell phone coverage. Their car somehow got off the road — and no one saw or heard them. Who or what should be responsible for rural cell phone coverage — or should only urban areas and along Interstate highways have cell phone service?

        Road side assistance is a cell phone service on ATT — but it is useless in rural areas.I have a story to tell about getting stuck in a wash (sandy dry riverbed) on the Navajo reservation. It took hours to dig the car out and get back on the dirt road. No traffic at all on this road. No cell phone service on most of the vast rural Indian reservations — also little or no Internet service.

        There really are two Americas — rural and urban.

  3. Delphyne says:

    After reading about Lulu DeCarrone, I remembered this cartoon that I saw yesterday:

  4. RalphB says:

    Great post! Hard to tell what’s really going on in Wisconsin with all the butt covering.

    More on Wisconsin

    • bostonboomer says:

      What I’d like to see is a lot of Democrats going to Wisconsin for the next week and campaigning against Walker. It would have helped if they had nominated a Democrat who was pro-union, but it’s still worth it to get rid of Walker. I’d like to see Bill Clinton go up there and campaign.

      The last I heard, the DNC had donated around $1.6 million. They should send in people to help get out the vote also.

      • Pat Johnson says:

        It might also be refreshing to see President Indifferent make a “surprise” trip to Wisconsin by showing the embattled “see folks, this is what we are up against and we must fight back!”

        But then again, it is hot and muggy here in Western MA today so my brain may be turning to mush.

      • bostonboomer says:

        Yeah, that would be nice, and I almost suggested it; but I don’t think he’d have the guts to take a stand–it would mean supporting unions, don’tcha know. And then what if Walker still won? It would be Obama’s fault.

      • RalphB says:

        I’ve heard there are over 100 OFA offices in WI working this race. Let’s face it, the Dems are going to be at a disadvantage money wise and this is gonna be a test of whether the unions and OFA can turn out the vote against a media deluge. Races all over the country may look a lot like this one.

    • DC/national Dems hedging as always.

  5. ecocatwoman says:

    We are only 87 cents away from Newter’s target cost for gallon of gas, here in Orlando. Is anyone still blaming the prez for high gas prices or applauding his lowering of them (not that anyone but Wall Street & speculators has control over prices)? Just asking if anyone has seen/heard gas prices being bantered around.

  6. ecocatwoman says:

    Memorial Day post from Alternet: http://www.alternet.org/story/155618/how_memorial_day_glosses_over_the_real_horrors_of_war/?page=1 A good jumping off point to discuss war, soldiers – survivors & the dead plus just who is dying for America.

  7. Seriously says:

    Great post! Giuliani is too funny, “That’s all part of campaigning.” Remember when he was campaigning for Romney and the guy offered Romney a free cannoli? Romney completely blew him off sayine he was too busy to bother and Giuliani had to save the situation by fawning over the man’s cannoli. You know you’ve got a problem when Giuliani of all people looks like a personable populist in comparison.