Thursday, January 19, 2006

We've lost one of the good guys...

An old friend of mine died yesterday. Jeff Bloomberg was a classmate from my brief (spring semester, 1971) sojourn at Adelphi University. The number of stories I have...

I really can't write through tears, so I'll hand this over to another classmate (and once upon a time apartment-mate) Dave Smukler, who was with him:

"It breaks my heart to tell you that our old friend Jeff Bloomberg passed away yesterday afternoon.

"Jeff was diagnosed with cancer only last Fall, and had been having chemotherapy
treatments. He had tolerated the first few rounds of chemo very well, but last week was very difficult. I spoke to him on Sunday evening, and sores in his mouth and throat made it difficult for him to talk for long. He said he'd call me back the next day, but he wasn't able to. Something went badly wrong on Tuesday, and he was taken to the hospital, and quickly slipped into a coma. His wife Linda called me Wednesday morning, and my wife Ann and I joined her in the hospital. We were with Jeff, along with Linda, Jeff's parents, his brother Norman, and a few other relatives and close friends, when he died at about 2pm.

"It probably won't surprise you to know that Jeff had a positive attitude to the very end. We had a long talk a few weeks ago; he told me about having read Lance Armstrong's book, and how much he identified with Armstrong's "never give up" attitude. In addition to traditional treatments, Jeff aggressively pursued alternative treatments and a strict diet. (Can you picture our old friend on Green Tea and a vegetarian diet...?... he was...) The last time we went out to dinner with Linda and Jeff was at a Vegan restaraunt, and he had fully embraced it.

"Jeff had continued to work until the end, going into the office two days a week, and from home a few days a week. Amazingly, he had actually taken on greater responsibilities at AIG since he was diagnosed, supervising other attorneys for the first time in his career. He and I spoke about the trials and tribulations of supervising people, and as always, he had a sensible and non-judgmental perspective on it."

Godspeed, old friend.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

American Wisdom

In Dr Steven Levitt's latest bestseller "Freakonomics", he mentions the very poor risk assessment people do. Specifically, friends, compare the danger between being killed in an automobile accident or dying in a terrorist attack. Now, guess which problem gets more tax dollars?

Making the point even better is with this post.

Quoth the maven (actually, the maveness)who is entitled to have an opinion:

Conservatives who want to berate me for not appreciating the threat of terrorism, let me take a little, er, pre-emptive action here. Unless you have lost the ten or so people that I bid farewell when the towers collapsed, including my first boyfriend, have watched the smoke rising off the ruins from the roof of your childhood home, have tried frantically to find out if your current boyfriend had been taking training down at the WTC that day, and have numbly tried to convince yourself that the buildings you knew so well were really and truly and forever gone as you turned up for another weary day of work at Ground Zero . . . unless you have done all those things, then please do not lecture me on terrorism. I get it.

Amen, sister. I spent 9/11/01 trying to contact friends who work for DOD. Within a week I'd found that, although I'd dealt with many of the people who died in the Navy Command Center, the victims i knew well enough to say 'hi' to were aboard American 77. I.e., I get it too.

So let me join with Sister Jane. What makes us Americans is our insistence that the government can't do certain forbidden things. Assertions, a la France, that the government won't don't cut it.

Friday, January 13, 2006

Porkbusters to Republicans: smarten up!

We are bloggers with boatloads of opinions, and none of us come close to agreeing with any other one of us all of the time. But we do agree on this: The new leadership in the House of Representatives needs to be thoroughly and transparently free of the taint of the Jack Abramoff scandals, and beyond that, of undue influence of K Street.

We are not naive about lobbying, and we know it can and has in fact advanced crucial issues and has often served to inform rather than simply influence Members.

But we are certain that the public is disgusted with excess and with privilege. We hope the Hastert-Dreier effort leads to sweeping reforms including the end of subsidized travel and other obvious influence operations. Just as importantly, we call for major changes to increase openness, transparency and accountability in Congressional operations and in the appropriations process.

As for the Republican leadership elections, we hope to see more candidates who will support these goals, and we therefore welcome the entry of Congressman John Shadegg to the race for Majority Leader. We hope every Congressman who is committed to ethical and transparent conduct supports a reform agenda and a reform candidate. And we hope all would-be members of the leadership make themselves available to new media to answer questions now and on a regular basis in the future.

Read it all, and see who's signed up, here.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

You don't have to address God in 6th Grade English...

A year ago last Sunday, Epiphany Sunday 2005, I paid a visit to a local evangelical Episcopalian church. The people there are openly loving and caring people who do a lot of good and 'worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness' but would be unlikely to say so. After the service, the Pastor asked me what I thought and I hesitated before answering, "Well, today's music didn't have much to do with Epiphany."

I guess I should point out that music in Anglican services are supposed to reflect the theme for the day's readings. You shouldn't, for example, be singing "Away in a manger" on Good Friday.

I expect the Pastor 'got it' but I also suspect his music minister wouldn't have. And the reason he wouldn't have is because we have -- intentionally -- dumbed down Anglican Worship in the US. Any Episcopalian over the age of 40, for example, can properly use the formal English word "Wherefore" correctly without thinking about it.

The current prayer book, contrariwise, seems entirely too frothy... "Yay, God!"

My objections are mostly stylistic, or I thougth they were. Ponder with me now the following from Virginia Postrel, Economics columnist for the New York Times and writer extraordinaire in an essay she calls the "Pap-ist Threat:

Some years ago, an editor asked me how he could give his children an appreciation for the English language. He wanted them to write well. Since he's an evangelical Christian, I told him he should teach them Psalms from the King James translation of the Bible. My mother did that with me as a child, and it gave me an early sense of metaphor and rhythm. It taught me to appreciate, and understand, complex, beautiful English.

My friend didn't like my suggestion. After all, nobody reads the KJV anymore. Forget poetry (not to mention sensitivity to the underlying Hebrew), today's suburban Christianity is all about accessibility. It's been dumbed down.
You may read it all here

Friday, January 06, 2006

The incomparable Peggy Noonan

The Steamroller
The road to big government reaches a dead end at Jack Abramoff.
We can only hope
Thursday, January 5, 2006 12:01 a.m.

The problem with government is that it is run by people, and people are flawed. They are not virtue machines. We are all of us, even the best of us, vulnerable to the call of the low: to greed, conceit, insensitivity, ruthlessness, the desire to show you're in control, in charge, in command.

A point that needs to be made and remade forever and ever, amen. "We mean well and do ill and ask that our ill-doing be forgiven because we are well-meaning."


This is essentially why conservatives of my generation and earlier generations don't like big government. They don't even like government. We know we have to have one, that it is necessary, that it can and must do good, that it has real responsibilities that must be met. Madison again, in Federalist 51: "If men were angels, no government would be necessary. If angels were to govern men, neither external nor internal controls on government would be necessary. In framing a government which is to be administered by men over men, the great difficulty lies in this: you must first enable the government to control the governed; and in the next place, oblige it to control itself."

These are wise words.

But conservatives are not supposed to like big government. It's not our job. We're supposed to like freedom and the rights of the individual. (Individuals aren't virtue machines either, but they're less powerful than governments and so generally less damaging.) We're supposed to be on the side of the grass the steamroller flattens.

Are you listening, neocons? Members of the Bush/Dole/Nixon/Dewey part of the Republican party. I'd hoped you'd gone home after 1996, but it's still not too late.


What followed was the trauma of the end of the Clinton years, the 2000 election, the Bush administration, and the historic rise in the antisteamroller party of a new operating assumption: that the steamroller will always be with us. And that if it is destined to become always and every year bigger, heavier and more powerful, then you might as well relax and learn how to run it, how to drive it and direct it. Make friends with the steamroller. Run it to your own ends and not the other team's.

This was understandable, especially after 9/11. Defense is expensive; technology has its own demands; the stakes are high.

And yet. All other parts of the government grew. The size and force of it grew in ways that were not at all necessary or crucial.

And we have a *republican* VPOTUS saying deficits don't matter.

Read it all. Read what Noonan has to say every week!

Sunday, January 01, 2006

VP titles it "Get a Wife"

Virginia Postrel every now and again writes something that causes them who profess and call themselves feminists to wax wroth. If I can find it online, I'll post her essay pointing out the wage gap between men and women's wages can be closed by encouraging educated women to marry uneducated men. Here's another gee-I-wish-I-could-write-like-this moment courtesy of the aforementioned Virginia Postrel who (I hope) considers her blog type-c procrastination, quoting a chap named Paul Graham:
"There are three variants of procrastination, depending on what you do instead of working on something: you could work on (a) nothing, (b) something less important, or (c) something more important. That last type, I'd argue, is good procrastination.
VP then contrasts with the latest essay from David Brooks:
Graham's point cuts against the zeitgeist. In today's NYT, David Brooks argues that, at least for those not blessed with a Y chromosome, errands are what matters most. His paean to domesticity as the highest and best use of women's time, and maybe even men's, does not conclude with an announcement that he's quitting the Times and PBS to spend more time with driving the kids around. (For those who hate Times Select, the column is on p. 8 of Week in Review.)

Taken together, these arguments address several old questions: Why, as Sir Francis Bacon asked, is it that the most important contributors to human progress have often been childless? Why did the rise of the 18th-century city, with its coffeehouses and abundance of servants, promote science, philosophy, and literature? And, of course, why have relatively few women made enduring contributions to fields that require single-minded devotion?

Quite simply: Somebody's got to do the errands of life. You can either do them yourself, hire someone to do them, or get a wife. Historically, the last has been the most common option.

Let me be clear: I do not believe there is One Best Way to live. I do not believe that the gracious life created by attending to small chores (including, but not only, those necessary to raise children) is inferior to one devoted to more focused pursuits. What I believe, and what you'll almost never see suggested by an establishment pundit, is that different people are suited to different sorts of lives and that both strategies have their downsides and their risks. (I wrote about one aspect of this topic--the politicization of parenthood--here.)

My New Year's resolution: Fewer errands, less sleep (I sleep a lot), more reading, more writing. Still to be determined: Is blogging an errand? For me at least, I suspect so. But perhaps I can find a way to manage it.

Read it all.