Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Best Christmas Letter Ever

I'd like to share part of my Mom's Christmas letter from 2007. It is the best I've ever read.

"Dear Friends,

I have been sitting here thinking about Christmas and everything it means and it occurs to me that two of the things about this season that I especially enjoy are the Christmas trees and the Christmas cards.

I think my love of the Christmas tree probably stems from my childhood when my parents, for reasons that must have been know only to them, perpetuated the myth that Santa brought the tree on Christmas Eve and set it up then spread all his bounty beneath its beautifully decorated branches. How and why they would wait until my brother, Dick, and I were fast asleep to do all of that work remains a mystery to me, but the dazzling glory of that incredible tree standing amidst a sea of toys on Christmas morning stays with me to this day as a sight equal to none other. Thanks, Mom and Dad! You did well!

Christmas cards are also dear to my heart but for an entirely different reason. I love sending cards because every person on that list has played a special part in Sam's and my lives and each of you is important to us in all sorts of different ways. I like to take my time while writing out your addresses and remember some of the good times that we have shared over the years. It would be fun if I could make a huge mosaic with each of your faces put in a special place. What a wonderful picture that would be and what a great story it would tell! I would make it my Christmas card for all time and what a treasure it would be. Thanks for everything you have done for Sam and me over the years and for being our friends. If we do not see all of you, please know that you are in our hearts particularly during this season."

And with you, Mom and Dad.

Adam West in a Landslide

Adam West was your favorite Batman, garnering 75% of the votes. The only other ones registering on the poll were Michael Keaton and Christian Bale. Val Kilmer got the big zip (although in this author's view, he did a creditable job). George Clooney was not an option; he himself takes full "credit" (blame) for taking down a successful franchise for many years until the new Christian Bale series came along.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Dead Man Talking

NBC aired a great new comedy special this morning--Tim Russert interviewing Mitt Romney on Meet the Press.

This guy has no shot. He makes John Kerry look resolute. Romney just got called out on issue after issue where he has changed. No new real info, but with a full hour with the guy, Russert had time to show extensive clips, read extensively from articles, let Romney respond and follow-up when the response didn't make sense. And boy, they didn't. While it's exasperating to me, I think it must be as, or even more, exasperating for a conservative Republican. Romney's got to hope that everyone's cable was out in Iowa and New Hampshire this morning.

Russert started off on the now infamous religion speech Romney gave and zeroed in on the statement in the speech "Freedom requires religion, just as religion requires freedom." They didn't touch on the second part of that statement, but here was the gist of the interview. Romney: that was in the context of the founders, and what I was doing was paraphrasing John Adams that freedom requires morality. Russert: Can an atheist be moral? Romney: Of course. Russert: So if you were evaluating a Supreme Court or Cabinet appointee who also happened to be an atheist, you would still consider him or her? Romney: Of course, you would evaluate the skills and abilities of the person. Russert: No litmus test. Romney: No. Russert: Then what does the statement in the speech mean that 'Freedom requires religion'? Romney: [Incomprehensible] [Black is black and white is white, and that's it. Doesn't gray exist? Yes, of course. Then how does that square with what you just said about black and white? I've already told you Tim--black is back and white is white, and that's it.]

And then it got worse as they marched through everything else.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Something Nice (For a Change)

What is the nicest compliment you've ever heard, or better yet, the nicest one you've ever received?

The nicest one I've ever heard was something Gil Evans once said to the great Miles Davis. Gil and Miles collaborated on some outstanding studio recordings for Columbia Records in the late 1950s (Sketches of Spain, Porgy and Bess, e.g.). The arrangements were perfect for Miles. Gil loved Miles' playing, especially his sound. In an interview many years later, Gil recounted that he once said to Miles, "Man, I'm glad you were born." Hands down to me, the greatest compliment I've ever heard.

Someone recently told me, "I'm glad I'm your friend." Period. End of statement. Nothing further. Said with sincerity. Maybe not quite as profound as Gil's statement, but I ain't complaining. That's about as good as it can get in my book.

Be interested to hear from you on this one.


Saturday, December 8, 2007

The surge, Iraq & Iran

A couple of really great articles in the NY Times this last Wednesday that I wanted to write about. One article discussed the reduction of violence in Iraq, and cited three reasons for it: Sunni rebels who had decided to fight jihadists rather than American troops; Shiite leader Moktada al-Sadr having declared a cease-fire for his forces for six months (they are three months into it); and more American troops. But none of the underlying political issues have been addressed (forget about resolved). And, the article notes, none of those patterns are realistically sustainable: the Sunni rebels took their action on the promise of government jobs, which have not materialized because there has been no Sunni/Shiite integration or reconciliation; if Sunni forces get restless because of lack of integration into Iraqi society and and having no meaningful voice in governance, they'll hit the Shiites, and then al-Sadr and like Shiite forces will react in kind (hard and violent); and American troop levels are just not sustainable, regardless of who is setting American policy, Democrat or Republican, and extending tours of duties and abusing the National Guard can't continue over the long haul.

So while Iraq may look a lot better on the surface for several months (maybe through the election-ugh), it is still a mess. Plus, when I hear the surge is working, I think what people are saying is that the violence is down. Putting aside that the surge is one of several factors, rather than the sole factor, causing the decreased violence, wasn't the point of the surge to get violence down, and then to foster an atmosphere where political reconciliation could occur? That still has not happened, has it? So I take issue with any assertion that the surge is "working" for all those reasons.

This was reported on the same day that the National Intelligence Estimate showed Iran did not have a secret program to get nukes going, and Mr. Bush still insisted his Iran policy was exactly right. I think there are a lot of people who do what Mr. Bush does, but he takes it to a new level--that is, you have a conclusion, or ultimate worldview, or whatever, and, whatever the facts are, it has to support your worldview, because, heaven knows, you could not be wrong. Rather than taking the view that you are going to take a sober look at the facts, and let the facts take you wherever they lead, no matter how painful it might be to you to realize you may not have been right after all. There are myriad examples of course, but I think back to the massive tax cuts at the beginning of the Bush administration: first, they rationale was that the economy was booming and we had a massive surplus, so we should have a tax cut. Then, as the economy was going down and the surplus was evaporating, we had to have the cuts to stimulate the economy and reverse the situation. Either way, the conclusion was the same: we needed those tax cuts!

Friday, December 7, 2007

Did you notice...?

I just noticed today that the three leading Republican candidates are:

1. A patrician, stilted, flip-flopping former governor of Massachusetts
2. A surging former governor of Arkansas
3. A pro-gay, anti-gun, pro-choice former mayor of New York City

Isn't that supposed to be the Democrats? (Not that any of these guys looks remotely like a Democrat.) Last time we had a surging former governor of Arkansas in the news, he got impeached for it.

Also, the fact that Romney felt he had to give that speech that he really is a Christian disheartens me. All of our candidates (on either/any side) must fit such a narrow set of criteria.

No fair that my son's blog is better than mine.

Monday, December 3, 2007

Football Strangeness

It is strange to have basically all of the Rams home games blacked out. Not that I was watching the games (at least not sitting down to take them in). But it is like there is a pro football season taking place in private this year. Very odd.

And it is strange to have both Mizzou and Illinois heading into bowl season as good, ranked teams. Too bad that Mizzou couldn't pull off the win against Oklahoma, but it was a fun week having them ranked #1. Who would have guessed that the first game of the season between the Illini and the Tigers was matching two pretty darn good teams on the national level--you could have guessed Mizzou, but the Illini?

(Check out the dialog my sis and I are having on her blog (linked at the sidebar). Hopefully I am not putting my standing invitation to Xmas and Thanksgiving at serious risk!)