American Culture

Nota Bene #24

Got hot links if you want ’em.

Bet you didn’t know this. . . In a London Guardian article “What really happens when you die?,” Rebecca Atkinson and Sarah Tavner interviews doctors, a pathologist, and mortuary workers on the subject of death. A general practitioner say: “Most people will die in bed, but of the group that don’t, the majority will die sitting on the lavatory. This is because there are some terminal events, such as an enormous heart attack or clot on the lung, where the bodily sensation is as if you want to defecate.” Bet you didn’t want to know that.

Interviewed by Melvyn Bragg at London’s Times, Gore Vidal said that Obama is “our best demagogue since Huey Long or Martin Luther King.” That means he likes him.

In a New York Times article, “Many Florida Jews Express Doubts on Obama,” Jodi Kantor writes about Florida: “This is the most haunted state on the electoral college map for Democrats, the one they lost by hundreds of votes and a Supreme Court decision in 2000, and again in 2004. . . . ‘It’s all going to boil down to a few old Jews in Century Village,’ [said a Florida rabbi] referring to a nearby retirement community.”

In “Israel’s ‘American Problem’,” a blog post at the New York Times, Jeffrey Goldberg writes: “There are some Jews who would be made anxious by Mr. Obama even if he changed his first name to Baruch and had his bar mitzvah on Masada. But after speaking with him it struck me that, by the standards of rhetorical correctness maintained by such groups as the Conference of Presidents and the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, or Aipac, Mr. Obama is actually more pro-Israel than either Ehud Olmert or Ehud Barak.”

In a Forward article titled “Documentary Pulls Back Iron Curtain,” Alexander Zaitchik interviews Laura Bialis about her new documentary, “Refusenik.” It chronicles the 30-year international struggle to free Soviet Jewry. “A.Z.: I was particularly struck by the footage of the African American teenagers holding signs saying ‘Why No Matzoh?’ and ‘Let My People Go,’ referencing Soviet Jewry. L.B.: Yes, it is amazing that the movement came out of the civil rights movement and was supported by leading figures such as Bayard Rustin and Martin Luther King.” Which makes the reservations some Jewish voters have about Obama all the more troubling.

In Israel’s Haaretz, Barak Ravid and Amos Harel report: “Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has proposed in discussions with the speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, Nancy Pelosi, that a naval blockade be imposed on Iran as one of several ways to pressure Iran into stopping its uranium enrichment program.” I’m sure Iran would take that lying down.

In her Los Angeles Times column, “McCain: so wrong, but so what?,” Rosa Brooks writes: “Unsolved mysteries of the universe: Where did matter come from? Why did all those ships vanish in the Bermuda Triangle? . . . And here’s a new one. . . . In poll after poll, about two-thirds of Americans say they oppose the war in Iraq. [Yet] polls also show that more Americans trust presumptive Republican nominee John McCain than either Democratic presidential candidate when it comes to handling the war in Iraq.”

In a Wall Street Journal op-ed titled “Democrats and Our Enemies,” Joe Lieberman takes the Democrats to task for being, essentially, isolationist: “A great Democratic secretary of state, Dean Acheson, once warned ‘no people in history have ever survived, who thought they could protect their freedom by making themselves inoffensive to their enemies.'” That’s the Neocons in a nutshell: Worrying about blowback is for wimps.

In an excerpt at Huffington Post from his book, “The Prosecution of George W. Bush for Murder,” one-time Charles Manson prosecutor and chronicler Vincent Bugliosi writes: “If Bush were impeached, convicted in the Senate, and removed from office, he’d still be a free man, still be able to. . . lead a life of privilege, still belong to his country club and get standing ovations whenever he chose to speak to the Republican faithful. This, for being responsible for over 100,000 horrible deaths? For anyone interested in true justice, impeachment alone would be a joke for what Bush did.”

In “Exposing the Wrong Side of Right” at Huffington Post, John Perkins, the author of “Confessions of an Economic Hit Man.” reports on a conversation he had with a top Nicaraguan official: “‘Your immigration problems,’ she said, ‘are the result of flawed Washington-driven free trade agreements. When you destroy a country’s economy, you must see that its people have no choice but to find work among you, the ones who stole their jobs.'” Have you ever heard a more succinct explanation of the link between globalization and immigration?

In “Parcells needs to lighten up and end rift,” a Miami Herald article about the rift between the Dolphins’ new president and his stellar defensive end, Jason Taylor, who’s been competing on “Dancing with the Stars,” author Greg Cotes writes: “I don’t mind Parcells not talking to the media. I sort of like it, actually. Because if I’ve learned anything in a long career it is that banality, disingenuousness and obfuscation are poor substitutes for silence.” In other words, the access to one of the most important people on the Miami sports scene that he may have just lost was no real access.

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