Saturday, July 18, 2009

Meanderings: On Elitism

So the hubster and I are watching O'Reilly being hosted by Laura Ingraham when there is a Special News Bulletin, the kind they have when an airplane goes down or Jacko bites the big one. This time, however, the interruption is due to the death, hardly surprising, of a 92 year old Walter Cronkite. Fox now launches into long and lauditory coverage.

Only the press thinks that the death of one of their own merits the kind of coverage given to, say, assasinated presidents. As for me, I remember my Cuban-American father who absolutely loathed the man, saw him as emblematic of the reason we lost in Vietnam. This much is sure: at some point during those years, the objective stance of the reporter began to shift. The results are all too obvious today. But that's old news. So just before hubby, cursing, changed the channel to Modern Marvels or some such, I caught an interesting tidbit: Cronkite only did two years of college. What?

Coming at the end of a week of Sotomayor hearings when we were supposed to prostrate ourselves before the altars of Princeton and Yale Law, which in and of itself echoed the required response to Obama's academic pedigree, it seemed paradoxical. The question is natural. Would Cronkite have stood a chance at a journalism career today without that journalism degree, or some variety of previously established celebrity?

The answer leads to all sorts of ruminations. There is at present on the airwaves a near veneration of the Ivy degree. The extension of this academic worship is that no one without that particular variant of sheepskin is to be taken seriously, a view that might be true if there were enough seats and scholarships for the truly deserving in these institutions.

Each year, these bastions of higher learning turn down thousands of valedictorians who do not need to perfect their English and who can actually write a serious, meaty thesis, and who might not be near Olympic swimmers with B averages, or serious ballerinas. They are, however, no less intellectually gifted than those invited into the inner sanctum.

So while I take nothing away from Sotomayor, or Obama for that matter- both have ably demonstrated their intellectual gifts- they were lucky. For those who are born into families without connections, this is about the only way to gain entree into elite circles. That the possession of a degree from Harvard or Yale or Princeton, etc. is the only indicator of a superior intellect, I reject. The pervasiveness of the belief itself is yet another example of the ossification of our society.

Think of a past in which you could start out sweeping in the newsroom and work your way up, or you could finish your novel and dash it off to a publisher who would actually read it, or better yet start off as a haberdasher and rise to the presidency. Do these scenarios seem likely in the present? How would Abe Lincoln fare?

Thursday, July 16, 2009

What is That Smell?

We're all familiar with the army of operatives that swarmed Alaska when Palin was first nominated. We witnessed the savaging of Joe the Plumber last summer. The latest victim was to be Frank Ricci, one of the plaintiffs in the New Haven firefighter case. Not that Ricci could add that much, but his sheer presence, along with that of his fully uniformed fellow firefighters, is itself a rebuke, legal ruling made flesh.

Now let's ratchet up the analysis a notch. Not to be one of the lone gunmen, those flaky conspiracy theorists on the X Files, recent developments in the news do seem rather- how shall we say- interesting. Pelosi says she was not briefed about waterboarding. She further intimates the CIA lies all the time. The CIA says she was and they don't. Former Vice President Dick Cheney goes on a media offensive criticising Obamian policy and gains traction. Then last week, Pelosi proxies raise a hue and cry over a now defunct, never-made-it-out-of-the-starting-gate program, about which they were never briefed. Then accusations are made that it was Cheney who directed the CIA not to inform congress. Two foes at one blow? Call me crazy, but it all smells of payback to me. Of course, the program in question which was classified and discussed in a closed meeting has been front page stuff for days. Gotta love it.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

A Must Read: Palin as President?

I don't know how I dropped this one yesterday. David Harsanyi does a masterful job visualizing the objections to a Palin presidency. Watch for the twist at the end.

Monday, July 13, 2009

A Literary Reminder

Remember "The Hangman" by Ogden Nash? Read the excerpt (complete text here); feel the vibrations.

Into our town the hangman came,

smelling of gold and blood and flame.
He paced our bricks with a different air,
and built his frame on the courthouse square.

The scaffold stood by the courthouse side,
only as wide as the door was wide
with a frame as tall, or a little more,
than the capping sill of the courthouse door.

And we wondered whenever we had the time,
Who the criminal? What the crime?
The hangman judged with the yellow twist
of knotted hemp in his busy fist.

And innocent though we were with dread,
we passed those eyes of buckshot lead.
Till one cried, "Hangman, who is he,
for whom you raised the gallows-tree?"

Then a twinkle grew in his buckshot eye
and he gave a riddle instead of reply.
"He who serves me best," said he
"Shall earn the rope on the gallows-tree."

And he stepped down and laid his hand
on a man who came from another land.
And we breathed again, for anothers grief
at the hangmans hand, was our relief.

And the gallows frame on the courthouse lawn
by tomorrow's sun would be struck and gone.
So we gave him way and no one spoke
out of respect for his hangmans cloak.

The next day's sun looked mildly down
on roof and street in our quiet town;
and stark and black in the morning air
the gallows-tree on the courthouse square.

And the hangman stood at his usual stand
with the yellow hemp in his busy hand.
With his buckshot eye and his jaw like a pike,
and his air so knowing and business-like.

And we cried, "Hangman, have you not done,
yesterday with the alien one?"
Then we fell silent and stood amazed.
"Oh, not for him was the gallows raised."

Late Edition

Better Late.... Thank you, Republicans for lambasting our dearly elected leader for labeling events in Honduras a coup, thereby aligning himself on the side not of angels but of Chavez, Ortega, Castro(2), et al. Secondly, designating the Honduran military action, undertaken under orders from the Honduran Supreme Court to the approbation of the Honduran legislature, as such obscures the illegal actions of the former Honduran President which brought about the crisis in the first place. Read it at Breitbart.

Lagging Indicators. Christian Solidarity Worldwide has mildly denounced the sentencing of Cuban Pastor Omar Gude Perez to six years imprisonment. The CSW sees the conviction as a result of his leadership position in a Christian movement, and not on either the original human trafficking charges, nor the "counterrevolutionary conduct and attitudes" on which he was convicted. Meanwhile, Pastors (Posers?) for peace continues their traveling show on the way to Cuba to support the same government that sentenced Gude Perez. Read about it.

Equine Arrears. According to Newsweek- which I predict will have to fold if it keeps printing this tripe- against President Obama's wishes, Ag Holder absolutely must investigate the Bush atrocities. (Psst. Wanna buy a bridge?) Coming as it does in the middle of a dismal news cycle and skidding approval ratings, the timing smells.

Arrested Development. Floored yesterday at this one. There is talk of banning tobacco in the military, even in combat situations. Yessirree, you can get blown to smithereens for your country, but don't light up. Kinda gives the lie to fighting for freedom. Ludicrous.

Left Behind. It's that time of year again. The ubiquitous summer reading lists. Here's the NRO version, ponderous in the main. I can confess that few of these titles will find their way into my beachbag. Of course, none of Oprah's are going to be in there either.