Tuesday, August 23, 2011

A New News Source

We had eight house guests over the weekend, all of them family, five of them under the age of eight. A couple of things were broken, but not enough to stimulate the economy all by ourselves. And we come away with a built-in excuse (those dang kids!) for anything that's missing or not working correctly. How lucky for us!

I was a little surprised when I found out in June that one of my Fathers Day gifts was...a subscription to the New Yorker. Excluding Hawaii, we are almost as far as you can get from New York. Still, the magazine doesn't confine its coverage to the five boroughs, and I have to say that each issue seems to include something pretty interesting, either current or past.
For instance, there was a review of a book about the relationship between the European powers, particularly the British, and both sides during our own Civil War. Before that conflict, Europe simply didn't concern itself much with the new nation in America, having seen little from it other than its great natural resources.
But the war changed all that. When they were able to read about the level of violence taking place, with the new ways being used to destroy the enemy, Europeans took notice. Any society capable of producing such mayhem was clearly a serious nation, and deserved to be treated seriously. There was some tendency to sympathize with the Confederacy, but the existence of slavery, which Europe had already resolved, prevented more help or recognition to the South.
I also enjoyed the article fleshing out the intellectual background of Michele Bachmann. Her personal involvement in politics goes back just over a decade, but her connection to the 'culture wars" goes back much further. Today, she presents herself with little or no mention of early influences on her thinking, which I would describe as "scary Christian Right." Even so, the article wasn't a complete hack job of Bachmann and husband. It refers to some good things they did in their frequent role as foster parents for a number of teenage girls. Her role as a part of the IRS? Way overplayed in the campaign, as is her record in founding a charter school in Minnesota that now operates under much different conditions than when she pushed its whole orientation hard to the Christian Right in violation of its own charter.
Just lately the magazine included a long article on the background of, and then the hour-by-hour experience of the Seal team sent to Pakistan to take out Osama bin Laden. Nothing that big, of course, happens without the President's involvement, and that part was also described, along with the relationship between the CIA and regular armed forces. An interesting sidelight was the forced destruction of a helicopter crippled by a crash landing within the bin Laden compound. To some it was an acceptable tradeoff made worthwhile by the fact that such evidence would give the lie to any bogus versions of who had been there. There is only one force capable of landing, and then destroying a US helicopter, and leaving it as evidence. Though OBL's remains were disposed of at sea to deny any kind of rallying point for the next generation of terrorists, there was still evidence that we are not at war with all of Islam - wives and underage children were spared, left to the care of the huge (and rich) bin Laden family.
It's true I'm not much good at small talk anymore. Where to get groceries or what sites to use for low prices, quick delivery, whatever. I'm no longer much of a consumer, but I do enjoy knowing important stuff as a result of having read something. So thanks, Dane.


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