I go with what the rabbi said.
He seemed to dwell in the crevices of the Capitol Building, like the phantom of some loopy opera. He gravitated to the glare of the spotlight, revving up his dudgeon from zero to 100 in seconds, expressing outrage at all perfidies. He was the House attack pit bull for MSNBC.
“He loves this,” I used to think about Anthony Weiner when he emerged at full decibels for the latest media crisis. He loved the attention. Sometimes I wondered why he wasn’t back in his Congressional office, reading a bill, or something.
I had the same thought in the last few days watching Weiner perform for the cameras. He loves this. He loves the attention, loves explaining the inexplicable of his phone-sex scandal. This is his core. There appears to be nothing behind it.
He has reached the skin-crawling persona of a Jim Cramer, babbling about stocks in sing-song tones, or Rush Limbaugh, making up vile accusations with the assurance of a man on the street corner who thinks he is Napoleon. Anthony Weiner is out of control, in public, and he seems quite likely to force New Yorkers to be tempted to see him as an alternative to a large cluster of Democratic mayoral candidates.
He has persuaded his wife to stand by his side in public view, and by extension he has included her mentor, Hillary Clinton, who cannot profit from these concentric circles of memory.
I don’t think Weiner has enough sense to go away on his own. What we need now is the wisdom of the Polish rabbi, as played by Gene Wilder in the movie The Frisco Kid
At the end of a perilous trip across the continent, the rabbi subdues a vengeful outlaw who has pursued him. The rabbi, weary of violence, turns to the crowd and says (and here you must imagine the lush Wilderish-Yiddish pronunciations):
“Would somebody please show this poor a------ the way out of town.”
* * *
The great Christine Lavin has added a topical Carlos Danger minute to her ever-relevant song, "What Were You Thinking?" http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JZ44uYeRJpE
I’ve been asking that question since Edward Snowden arrived in our lives.
Generally, I’m all for leakers. I mean, I’m a journalist. I like it when people tell me stuff.
When I was living in Kentucky and covering Appalachia back in the early ‘70’s, I was introduced to somebody ensconced in the permanent government in Washington, D.C. the kind of official who often has concerns about whoever is purporting to run the country.
In those simple pre-electronic days, the official would forego the note under the flower pot, the tactic used by Deep Throat. He would ring me on his government phone and fulminate.
“You wouldn’t believe what this gang of thugs is doing,” he would begin. He told me about a couple of Nixonites assigned to dismantle the anti-poverty programs
of the Johnson administration. Then I would drive a few hours into the mountains, where school lunches or medical transportation or legal aid were in jeopardy.
One demolisher in the O.E.O. was named Rumsfeld and the other was named Cheney. I often wonder what became of them.
Now we have gone from the Pentagon Papers to Watergate to Julian Assange and on to Edward Snowden. The first time I heard his name, Jeffrey Toobin was calling him a narcissist
on television. Interesting choice of words from somebody I respect, I thought.
Now I have come to think Toobin was on to something. From reading about Snowden, he has come to remind me of Maxwell the Pig on the Geico commercials, with his youthful self-involvement (“My name is Maxwell and my life is kind of awesome”) who likes to go fast downhill and scream “Wheeee!!!” at the top of his voice.
At the moment, Snowden appears to be residing in a transit zone of the Moscow airport with government laptops. What was his plan? Why did he run?
Should I be angered at learning the U.S. had access to zillions of telephone records? I always figured they did. These days, we all have chips embedded in us. Look at me, voluntarily spewing off. Every time I go over a bridge around New York, E-Z Pass has a record of which borough I was in, and at what time.
In the days after 9/11, I kept reassuring people (maybe myself) that the Bush administration would know how to go after bad guys. Of course, I over-rated the competence of those people, but eventually another administration tracked down Osama. Did they use electronic surveillance? Do you think?
I tend to trust Barack Obama quite a bit, but I can recall some administrations I trusted not at all. I can understand why people worry about a government that collects phone records. Far from any authority or real information, I think govern-ments and newspapers are discrete about some parts of national security, but I also love learning stuff. On a case-by-case basis I cannot help thinking this leaker has done some damage.
That's John Lewis in the raincoat. Now they use lawyers.
John Roberts, he of the supercilious drug-store cowboy smirk, has reassured Americans that this is a different country from the United States of 1965.
In those bad old days we had George Wallace and Ross Barnett and Bull Connor standing in front of universities and bridges and other public places to represent their side.
Now we have Mitch McConnell blinking in the glare and doing that lisping thing he does when he is being evasive and using the new mantra of the latter-day Wallaces: The country is different now. Count on hearing that a lot.
To quote another worthy, Clarence Thomas, now it’s done high-tech.
Now it’s done state-by-state by demanding more identification from the marginal and the mobile. Show us your papers, please. Watching the lines at the last election, gee, always in the poorer neighborhoods, was a throwback to the back of the bus. Now the Supreme Court has voiced its approval, with the chief justice saying “Our country has changed.”
In some ways, yes, it has. There were the two victories for gay rights on Wednesday. And when I turn on the television, I find prophetic voices like Melissa Harris-Perry and Joy Reid on MSNBC and two of the finest members of the House, Elijah Cummings of Maryland and John Lewis of Georgia
Lewis said the Tuesday decision was a “dagger” in the heart of a movement. He has the right to speak of violence
, after being beaten nearly to death on March 7, 1965, on the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama. The struggle has been like a flame, leaving John Lewis strong and pure, a living testimony to better selves. He looked stricken the other night. The police beat him in 1965. Now in this different country, it’s done by lawyers and election officials, state by state.
Let me see if I have this right.
The people wearing jackets with FBI and ATF on them, the ones who supplemented the admirable Boston and Massachusetts officers, are part of top-heavy federal government?
The brainy public officials, current or retired, who went on television, glowing with expertise and assurance, are a drain on our tax dollars?
The men and women driving off into the Boston night, to the sounds of applause and cheers from the crowds lining the roads, are the ones who are going to come and take guns away from the so-called good guys?
The 50 states could all put up web sites like the FBI's, with its photos of the two suspects?
Ever since last Sunday night, I have been thinking how cool it was that Barbra Streisand sang “The Way We Were”
in tribute to Marvin Hamlisch. She had not sung at the Oscars in 36 years but showed up with immense energy for her friend.
* * *
Having covered one conclave and a few papal trips, I’d like to express my admiration for the way Pope Benedict XVI resigned. I am sure he was giving an intentional signal that the human part of his organization is not working so well. He showed the world that six centuries of tradition did not have to continue – a good reminder in our lives, public and private. .
* * *
I never thought I’d see the day when the Yankees would not spend money to improve their team. With Curtis Granderson out for a few months, The Boss would be trying to buy an all-star level outfielder, no matter the cost. He was insatiable. I’m not a Yankee fan, but I got used to his zeal for perfection. His sons want to cut the payroll. They must not be making money in their theme park in the Bronx.
As a huge fan of The New Yorker, I was interested when a saw a long piece by the estimable Ryan Lizza
with a photo of Rep. Eric Cantor, but the current article is mostly about the mechanics of ominous politics and economics. I wanted to find out how somebody so low in personality could possibly get elected to public office, but the article gave no clue. What produced this sour and inarticulate human being? The only thing I learned was that he gets along with his mother-in-law, apparently a liberal Democrat. That’s nice, but in his public appearances, lurking behind the shoulder blades of John Boehner, there is no trace of a mensch.
In the News, 2013
In the News, 1973
I’ve seen worse on New Year’s Day – death in the snow one year, hearing of death in the Caribbean two years later.
The fiscal-cliff frolics are a passing diversion. The schmendricks of Congress will eventually be shamed into pretending to be rational adults for a while.
It’s all made-for-television fare, like the musty pageant of Kathy Griffin trying to de-pants poor Anderson Cooper on CNN. Are they not ashamed? Well, Boehner and McConnell don’t seem ashamed. Why should a network?
But I’ve seen worse days.
New Year’s Day of 1971 started with my being marooned in a mountaintop motel in Harlan after a snowfall. I had rushed to the coal-mine explosion in Hyden on the night of Dec. 30th, and spent the next day unable to drive because of the snow.
Now in the early hours of a new year, I tried to learn how thirty-eight miners had met their doom in an explosion. I went to the first funeral the next day, a rush job for the shot man of that crew.
It took people a while to figure out he had been using outdoor explosives, with a live spark, underground. Mixed with rising methane gas, it blew the mine to kingdom come.
Happy new year.
Two years later, we had moved from Kentucky back home to Long Island. The temperature was close to 60 on New Year’s morning and I went running in my shorts. When I got home I discovered Roberto Clemente had died the night before when his plane dove into the sea off San Juan, while ferrying goods to earthquake-stricken Nicaragua. That striking man with Harry Belafonte looks and the best right-field arm in baseball was gone.
The next day my photographer friend Luis Requeña told me how people were staging impromptu memorials in the barrio.
Clemente vive aún.
Forty years ago I was mourning a hero. Today, what do we have? Schmendricks in the House. Happy new year.
Did these signs exist? The point is, there are always newcomers
As the holder of an Irish passport (as well as my American passport), I think I can safely ask just exactly what Bill O’Reilly is trying to say.
O’Reilly tried to wax profound last week after President Obama was re-elected with help from African-American and Hispanic votes. (One perky guest on MSNBC suggested a new motto for the Republican party: “Hello, Brown People.”)
On Election night, O’Reilly said
: “It’s a changing country, the demographics are changing. It’s not a traditional America anymore, and there are 50 percent of the voting public who want stuff. They want things. And who is going to give them things? President Obama.”
O’Reilly added, “The white establishment is now the minority.”
In noting the shift in America, O’Reilly seemed to be harking back to some golden era in America when the Cabots and the Lodges sat around the Boston Common and sang Kumbaya with the Flynns and, dare I say it, the O’Reillys.
Was there ever a time in America when we were all just one happy family? After the settlers took the country away from the native Americans, that is. There were always newcomers to the land and the voting booths. They were noticeable by their clothes and their accents, if not their color.
It isn’t quite clear to me whether some of my Irish ancestors (on my maternal grandmother’s side) ever ran into help-wanted signs that said NINA – No Irish Need Apply. Did those signs actually exist
in large numbers in the 19th Century, as some people claim? In a way, it doesn’t matter. There are always newcomers, always outsiders. And it’s funny how new people want things, like work and housing and education and a chance to vote, without public officials in Ohio and Florida making it tough for them.
O’Reilly seemed downright lachrymose when confronting the new reality – that voters of color now tilt the majority and helped re-elect a candidate who, despite being Kenyan and Muslim and, worst of all, an introvert, just might be the smartest person in the political room. The country keeps changing. Always did.
Thank you; merci beaucoup
On Sunday our son spotted a utility truck near his home.
It was from New Brunswick, the one in Canada.
That night, his electricity was restored.
Think of it: workers from a country with socialized medicine turned on the lights in the woods of Long Island.
I am tired of stumbling around in the dark.
I am also tired of the campaign, which amounts to the same thing.
Earlier in the year I was reassuring my wife that I met that guy during the Olympics, and he could run the country if he had to.
She knew better, long before his 47-per-cent remark and the Jeep-to-China lie.
Now I read that Democrats would work better with a Republican president than vice versa.
I also read blather about Obama being such a terrible person because he is an introvert. Something going on inside. Awful. .
It’s a race. Workers from Canada vs. returns from 50 states.
Maybe on Wednesday this will all be over.
In this long and ugly campaign, I am getting tired of the suggestion that President Obama should imitate Lyndon Baines Johnson.
By that theory, Obama should have long ago grabbed his opponents and saboteurs by some vulnerable part of their anatomy and squeezed until they cooperated.
This thoughtful and active president has been catching hell for four years for the crime of PWB – Presiding While Black. We all know that race is the subtext for this campaign. Obama has had to deal with congressional leaders with the smirks of southern sheriffs and South African apartheid enforcers back in the bad old days.
Just the other day, when that great American Colin Powell endorsed Obama, John Sununu made the despicable suggestion
that Powell was only doing it for racial reasons. (Piers Morgan, an outsider currently working in American television, did not know the territory well enough to push Sununu on this.)
Obama would only have made it worse by morphing into LBJ. Lately I’ve been talking to veterans who watched their companions die in Vietnam, and when they lived long enough to read memoirs and histories they discovered Johnson and his pals had known the war was not working.
Yes, give credit to Johnson for pushing through civil-rights and anti-poverty legislation, for muscling the southern tier, his own constituency. He was also a bully who could not face his grotesque mistake.
Obama did fine in his second and third debates against a candidate who swerves all over the place
, as Colin Powell said. Reason and record -- and dignity -- will win out.
Think this guy would be any worse than the jokers they are using? (see below) Photo courtesy of Wahoo Gazette
The National Football League knew it was in trouble when David Letterman mocked the officiating fiasco Tuesday night. A very bedraggled Alan Kalter trudged across the stage wearing a don’t-mess-with-me scowl and striped referee gear. He just had a bleeping day, he said.
Then there was a Top Ten List cataloging the mistakes by the ringers, with sports maven ace writer Bill Scheft from the wings explaining the N.F.L. misery.
Now we read in Judy Battista’s excellent front-page piece
in the Times that new, intransigent owners are responsible for the hard stance.
If I read between the lines, some of these new people want to solve the ills of the world right here and now – by stiffing the help.
They are willing to dilute the product for a ridiculously miniscule piece of the action – what the Times says is $3.2 million extra, out of the $9 billion in annual revenue of the N.F.L. In other words, the owners are saying, it’s not the money, it’s the principle.
They could downsize the limos at the Super Bowl and afford real refs by next Sunday.
We haven’t seen such haughtiness toward the working class since…since…since Mitt Romney talked straight from his avaricious little heart to his rich friends in that now-infamous tape.
Mitt can’t worry about poor people; the N.F.L. owners can’t worry about fans. They all have their agendas.
If I read the tea leaves correctly, some new owners are trying to make their points against a society they just joined. In that, they remind me of the 40 or 50 new tea-party types who came to Congress in 2011, with no intention of actually belonging to it. They slept in their offices and rushed home as soon as they could, scorning the institution and, in effect, the country.
By ignoring the expertise of the referees, the nouveau hard-line owners have jeopardized the product they recently bought into. They have their own tapes proliferating – the botched calls, the yowling fans, the twittering players, and the laughter on the late-night shows -- contempt, rocketing around the world.
This league is already in trouble because generations of ignored brain damage are catching up with it. Now the owners are showing us who’s boss.