A busy day, and thus an especially laconic survey of Wednesday’s news-of-note.
With little time to move beyond the New York Times, I offer you only the articles of note from their front page, with last night’s State of the Union obviously dominating coverage. The Times ran a transcript of the speech online with mildly interesting audio commentary attached for those wishing to interface their sensorium more properly with the marvels of technology. And, from the other side, Senator Jim Webb’s response was made available by the Democrats today for perusal, though oddly it was nearly impossible to find by the end of the day, buried beneath several press releases and responses from Chairman Dean, which perhaps attests to rumors that Webb tore up his party speech last night in favor of his own. Maybe he upset the party elite?
Lese majesty or not I think Webb’s rebuttal was quite impressive last night. His rhetoric certainly captured the bold romanticism of Democratic populism at its best, without falling into overly sententious or cloying language. He certainly outdid Bush, though that was mostly predicted. Bush’s speech was underwhelming in both content and form – somewhat stilted and certainly unevenly weighted. His overture to Speaker Pelosi was certainly admirable and he does in my opinion deserve credit for the seeming sincerity of that gesture, but the rest of the speech seemed an entirely weak and disingenuous attempt to appear bipartisan before launching into another public, lengthy defense of his failed “surge” in Iraq, which again suffered rebuke today. Where Webb was good to avoid platitudes, I’m actually surprised Bush didn’t resort to more in an effort to guise his failures with mellifluous chatter. Stubborn ‘till the end though, it seems.
In other political news, I was made euphoric by the late afternoon news that John Kerry has made the decision to not run for President. Hopefully reason will continue to trump hubris and he will focus more of his not-insubstantial energies on the Senate where he does have a reasonably powerful position and a reasonably strong track record of legislative accomplishment. In other 2008 news nymag.com was reporting today that Giuliani is selling off some of his political liabilities. This doesn’t bode well for Giuliani, because if he is worried enough about something to get rid of it, then it must be really, really sordid and awful. After all, nearly every moment of Giuliani’s life is somehow connected to scandal, and for this to stand out as urgent is alarming. And yet he still polls the strongest for the GOP, again and again and again. I hope the national stage crushes him, because I couldn’t bear for the country to be run by someone whose entire political career was rescued and rebuilt around his being in the right place at the right time, especially when that right place was perhaps the most gruesome and tragic day in our nation’s history.
Three final items of note: it seems the 100 Hours stands to become irrelevant as one of the first major house initiatives before the Senate, raising the minimum wage, stumbles and stands to be watered down significantly in floor debate. Hopefully the Democrats can leverage enough support from their GOP counterparts to get a few of the 100 Hour initiatives through in the Senate. As always, I’m skeptical. Secondly, an interesting article from Slate about sentencing guidelines and a number of recent and upcoming cases that stand to greatly change the constitutional interpretation of the 6th amendment among other things. And lastly, a front page story from the NYT today paints a far bleaker picture of Iraqi Democracy than I had originally imagined.
First, meat stealing. Attention piqued?
Second, an amusing piece from McSweeney’s that almost perfectly captures my own relationship to the world of sports, football in particular.
Can’t remember if I posted this in my barrage of film-related pieces yesterday, but perhaps my biggest surprise upon reading the Oscar nominations was the notable absence of both Pan’s Labyrinth and Children of Men from the major categories. As such, I was pleased to see this Slate piece when I awoke this morning.
Perhaps the most compelling film story of late however, is the furor over 12 year old Dakota Fanning’s rape scene in recently-premiered Sundance film, Hounddog. The usual collection of religious zealots and conservative psychopaths is demanding a federal investigation and alleging child pornography. This article succinctly disagrees and makes a strong argument for the film’s legal and proper exercise of free speech.
Switching towards design, or urban planning really, the NYT ran a piece early this week about a host of Robert Moses exhibits around the city in the upcoming weeks. Interesting to read even without the ability to see them. Moses was the principle architect behind the city’s last major growth period, especially notable for pushing through major highway systems in the five boroughs and especially dubious for having left out public transportation from most of his “greatest” work and for forcing thousands of residents out of their homes in the process. As the article mentions, with New York’s current push towards development, a close analysis of Moses is quite timely.
As for criticism, Slate had this interesting biopic on art critic Robert Hughes, notes for his vicious, outside attacks on the art world and its indulgent veneration of less than deserving artists. (I’ve also been desperately searching for a copy of the poem mentioned in this piece, “SoHoiad: or, The Masque of Art”, which sounds like a terrifically amusing and sardonic take on one of Pope’s finest works).
And, in finding this review of Martin Amis’s new book in New York Magazine, I found myself wishing some of Hughes’s shrewd iconoclasm was mandatory for reviewers. Too easy to dismiss Amis, I say. Yellow Dog may have been a literary failure, but to attack his bibliography with such gratuitous self-indulgence (ironic really, given the subject) is irresponsible and terribly, terribly ignores the acute level of narrative awareness in Amis’s books. To accuse him of anything is to deny his narrative near-omniscience which is always masterful and disconcerting at once.