American Culture

Nota Bene #15

Appearing weekly, Nota Bene attempts to provide an overview of the week’s news. Meanwhile, in its appendix, we cull trenchant comments to articles and posts, as well as those heard in person or emailed. Nota Bene was founded by Mike Sheehan.

At War in Context, Paul Woodward writes of our Prankster in Chief: “I imagine Bush learned his happy-go-lucky trick some time in his adolescence. . . . He parades his lack of seriousness as though to say, ‘You know I could really excel if I wanted to, but none of this matters to me so I can’t be bothered.’ . . . This is Bush’s exit strategy from the White House.” Staggering to contemplate.

At Britain’s the Independent, the venerable Robert Fisk writes about “The Cult of the Suicide Bomber“: “Suicide bombers in Iraq have killed at least 13,000 men, women and children. . . and wounded a minimum of 16,112 people.” Sounds too big to be a cult — more like a sect, if not a religion.

In the 1994 incident that kicked off the East Coast-West Coast rap war, Tupac Shakur survived being ambushed, beaten and shot outside a New York recording studio. As Chuck Philips reports in a lengthy Los Angeles Times piece, new information supports Tupac’s claim that Sean ‘Diddy’ Combs was complicit.

Meanwhile, up at the San Francisco Chronicle, Stanford medical professor Herbert Abrams writes that the “presidency is too demanding — physically, intellectually, psychologically, and emotionally — to place the burden on the shoulders of a senior citizen.” Especially one like McCain, who’s already exhibiting signs of incipient Reaganism.

President Eisenhower’s warning about the military industrial complex during his farewell address left future generations with the impression that he stood squarely against it. But, as Ira Chernus writes at the Smirking Chimp, Eisenhower wasn’t afraid to deal with the consequences of nuclear war should he choose to wage it. Among other things, he worried about “what would happen to the credit structure of the country and how to print and sell war bonds to finance the next war if Washington were destroyed.” At least he was practical.

Paul Woodward again, this time on Reverend Wright: “For a week we have been seeing the same clips over and over again. . . . why have we not seen more? . . . The most obvious explanation is that so far, for no lack of effort, no one has been able to cull anything else that is particularly damning.” Too bad the Reverend isn’t a Catholic priest because unearthing child abuse to charge him would have been a breeze.

On the same issue, New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof writes: “What’s happening, I think, is that the Obama campaign has led many white Americans to listen in for the first time to some of the black conversation —- and they are thunderstruck.”

Also on Wright, Steve Kornacki of the New York Observer writes: “The authentic conversation that Obama wants . . . . can only take place if we resolve to stop playing gotcha with quotes.” Emphasis, as they say, added.

At Huffington Post, another Brit, Michael Goldfarb, writes that people “on either coast may think they set the nation’s agenda. They don’t. The South does. White southerners’ lingering resentment to being conquered and occupied for the best part of a century is what drives American politics.”

At Asia Times Online, personal favorite William Engdahl writes that Eliot Spitzer “was likely the target of a White House and Wall Street dirty tricks operation to silence one of the most dangerous and vocal critics of their handling of the current financial market crisis. . . . Spitzer had begun making high-profile attacks on the complicity of the Bush administration in covertly arranging bailouts of its Wall Street friends at the expense of ordinary homeowners and citizens.”

Courageous as he was, Spitzer may have also had his compromised side. Sander Hicks’s New York Megaphone weighs in: “Eliot Spitzer’s social connections may be preventing him from investigating 9/11.” Apparently he personally helped World Trade Center lease-holder Larry Silverstein secure an exorbitant insurance settlement for the WTC. Potentially more disturbing than his rampaging id.

Neither are we above milking the “ewww” factor. Republican operative Roger Stone, who sent a letter to the FBI a good four months ago alleging that Spitzer “used the services of high-priced call girls” while in Florida. The worst part? He didn’t take off his calf-length black socks during the sex act.

In London’s Guardian A.C. Grayling, author of “Among the Dead Cities,” an essential World War II treatise on civilian casualties, comments on the concept that a surveillance society is nothing to worry about if you have nothing to hide. He calls this loser’s game “one of the most seductive self-betrayals of liberty one can imagine.”

Yet another Englishman, Rupert Cornwell of Britain’s Independent, writes that our economy “is destroying not only wealth. It is also destroying illusions.”

Meanwhile, in sports, the Boston Celtics’ stunning accomplishment this week has gone relatively unheralded. They danced a Texas three-step, beating the Dallas Mavericks, finalist in last year’s championship playoffs; the San Antoinio Spurs, only the best team in all of professional sports for the last seven or eight years; and the Houston Rockets, ending their 22-game winning streak. In his grave, Red Auerbach just lit up that stogie Bill Russell tucked in his jacket pocket while stooping over his casket.


At Salon, commenter DCLaw1 replied to a post by world-class blogger Glenn Greenwald on the Reverend Wright controversy: “I understand completely that halting sense of skepticism one can get when witnessing something so uncommonly genuine and intelligent in American presidential politics. . . . However, for many, many reasons, I think Obama’s gambit will succeed.

“[It] has resonated very strongly with the (non-right-wing) intelligentsia and the political class. It has people like Chris Matthews swooning. . . . The babblings of approval from (most of) the media elite can be read like a diviner’s casting bones to glimpse into the hearts and minds of the silently sought Superdelegates that hold the power to annoint Obama the nominee.”

2 replies »

  1. re: Prankster In Chief observations.

    When I was at Yale during 3 of the years little boy bush deigned to languish there, this well-described insouciance vis-a-vis Actual Learning was the basic posture of the overwhelming majority of my prep-school-trained peers. He just never outgrew it.

  2. “the basic posture of the overwhelming majority of my prep-school-trained peers”

    Didn’t know that. Thanks, PP.