Saturday, June 16, 2018

Seventy Years

June 16, 1948 was a Wednesday. It was a pleasant day in St. Louis, Missouri; the high was about 78 with a little haze left over from the morning fog along the river. It was a nice day for a wedding.

The young bride and groom came to the Church of St. Michael and St. George on Wydown Boulevard for the ceremony, with the two families and close friends gathering. The bride’s younger sister was the maid of honor and the groom’s twin brother was his best man. After the brief Episcopalian service, the bridal party went to the bride’s parents home for a small reception, and then the newlyweds left on their wedding trip to Chicago, staying at the Blackstone Hotel. Then they went on to their new home in Princeton where he was finishing up his studies before moving on to Houston, Texas, where he would take up a job in the bag business.

The first child, a daughter, arrived the following year, followed the next year by a son. Then, after moving on to Dallas, a third child, the second son, arrived in 1952. Shortly thereafter they moved again, this time back to St. Louis, where in 1956 the fourth and last child, another son, completed the family.

Then in 1957 the family moved again, this time to Perrysburg, Ohio, and there they stayed, the kids growing up in a big house with a big yard, lots of friends and things to do, and the usual joys and sorrows, triumphs and tragedies, that come along with any family. Dogs, cats, birds, bikes, camp, school, Little League, dancing school, tennis lessons, swim meets, all of the cacophony and organized chaos that fits in the wayback of the Ford Country Squire for trips to the lake and the ski slopes.

All too soon came the departures: college, weddings, new worlds for the kids to explore, new lives to lead, but always knowing they had a place to come home to, a phone number — TRinity 4-7824 — to call. Over the years there have been bright days and dark nights. There have been additions and losses, pain and laughter. After all, it has been life. And through it all Mom and Dad were there for us and for themselves.

Trying to put into words what a child feels when reflecting on the lives of the people who brought him to this world is not easy. And knowing that among many of my friends, the simple fact that both of my parents are still alive and well is a rare blessing. So I will make it very simple: on the seventieth anniversary of the beginning of the journey that has brought me and my sister and brothers to life, I say thank you and I love you.

From an earlier time: December 1950 in St. Louis at my aunt’s deb party.

The years have been good to us.

Sunday, March 18, 2018

Sunday Reading

Craven — Jeffrey Toobin in The New Yorker on the firing of Andrew McCabe.

If you wanted to tell the story of an entire Presidency in a single tweet, you could try the one that President Trump posted after Attorney General Jeff Sessions fired Andrew McCabe, the deputy director of the F.B.I., on Friday night.

Every sentence is a lie. Every sentence violates norms established by Presidents of both parties. Every sentence displays the pettiness and the vindictiveness of a man unsuited to the job he holds.

The President has crusaded for months against McCabe, who is a crucial corroborating witness to Trump’s attempts to stymie the F.B.I.’s investigation of his campaign’s ties to Russia. McCabe had first earned Trump’s enmity for supervising, for a time, the F.B.I.’s probe of Hillary Clinton’s e-mail practices, which ended without charges being filed against her. In these roles, McCabe behaved with the dignity and the ethics consistent with decades of distinguished service in law enforcement. He played by the rules. He honored his badge as a special agent. But his service threatened the President—both because of the past exoneration of Clinton and the incrimination of Trump, and for that, in our current environment, he had to be punished. Trump’s instrument in stifling McCabe was the President’s hapless Attorney General, who has been demeaning himself in various ways to try to save his own job. Sessions’s crime, in the President’s eyes, was recusing himself in the Russia investigation. (Doing the right thing, as Sessions did on that matter, is often a route to trouble with Trump.)

Sessions’s apparent ground for firing McCabe, on the eve of his retirement from the Bureau, thus perhaps depriving him of some or all of his retirement benefits, involves improper contacts with the news media. As an initial matter, this is rich, coming from an Administration that has leaked to the media with abandon. Still, the charges seem unfair on their face. After McCabe was dismissed, on Friday night, he said in a statement that the “investigation has focused on information I chose to share with a reporter through my public affairs officer and a legal counselor. As Deputy Director, I was one of only a few people who had the authority to do that. It was not a secret, it took place over several days, and others, including the Director, were aware of the interaction with the reporter. It was the type of exchange with the media that the Deputy Director oversees several times per week.” The idea that this alleged misdeed justifies such vindictive action against a distinguished public servant is laughable.

In his statement, McCabe spoke with bracing directness. “Here is the reality: I am being singled out and treated this way because of the role I played, the actions I took, and the events I witnessed in the aftermath of the firing of James Comey,” he said. In other words, McCabe was fired because he is a crucial witness in the investigation led by Robert Mueller, the special counsel. The firing of Comey is the central pillar of a possible obstruction-of-justice case against the President, either in a criminal prosecution or in an impeachment proceeding. By firing McCabe, Trump (through Sessions) has attempted to neuter an important witness; if and when McCabe testifies against Trump, he will now be dismissed by the President’s supporters as an ex-employee embittered by his firing. How this kind of attack on McCabe plays out in a courtroom, or just in the court of public opinion, remains to be seen.

What’s clear, though, is the depth of the President’s determination to prevent Mueller from taking his inquiries to their conclusion, as his personal attorney, John Dowd, made clear. In an interview with the Daily Beast, Dowd said, “I pray that Acting Attorney General Rosenstein will follow the brilliant and courageous example of the FBI Office of Professional Responsibility and Attorney General Jeff Sessions and bring an end to alleged Russia Collusion investigation manufactured by McCabe’s boss James Comey based upon a fraudulent and corrupt Dossier.” Of course, notwithstanding Dowd’s caveat that he was speaking only for himself, Rosenstein is on notice that his failure to fire Mueller might lead to his own departure. And Sessions, too, must know that his craven act in firing McCabe will guarantee him nothing. Trump believes that loyalty goes only one way; the Attorney General may still be fired at any moment.

To spin matters out further, Sessions could be replaced with someone already confirmed by the Senate—perhaps Scott Pruitt, the administrator of the E.P.A.—who could take office in an acting capacity. At the moment, Mueller’s investigation is supervised by Rosenstein, the deputy Attorney General, but presumably a new Attorney General, without Sessions’s conflict of interest, would take over that role. And that new Attorney General could fire Mueller. Such scenarios once seemed like the stuff of conspiracy theories. Now they look like the stuff of tomorrow’s news.

Andrew McCabe, who turns fifty on Sunday, will be fine as he moves to the next stop in his career. The demeaning and unfair act that ended his law-enforcement career will be seen, properly, as a badge of honor. Still, this is far from a great day for the men and women of the F.B.I., who now know that they serve at the sufferance of unethical men who think that telling the truth amounts to “sanctimony.” The lies in this story are about the F.B.I., not from the F.B.I. The firing of McCabe, and Trump’s reaction to it, has moved even such ordinarily restrained figures as John O. Brennan, the former director of Central Intelligence, to remarkable heights of outrage. Brennan tweeted on Saturday:

The haunting question, still very much unresolved, is whether Brennan’s confidence in America’s ultimate triumph is justified.

Look For The Union Label — John Nichols in The Nation on Conor Lamb’s message to Democrats.

Paul Ryan and Donald Trump are running scared. After the Republican candidate who ran with the ardent backing of the Republican Speaker of the House and the Republican president lost a special election for a Pennsylvania congressional seat in a district that was so Republican-friendly that Donald Trump won it by 20 points and the former GOP congressman regularly ran without opposition, the men who define the Republican Party as it now exists had to explain their loss.

So they announced that the Democrat who beat them was, more or less, a Republican. Ryan claimed that the victor in Tuesday’s special election, Conor Lamb, ran as a “conservative.” Trump claimed that Lamb leaned so far to the right that, the president mused, “Is he a Republican? He sounds like a Republican to me.”

This is the carefully crafted spin that politicians peddle after they have suffered a setback.

Lamb’s narrow victory, which could still be challenged with a recount demand, unsettled top Republicans for good reason. It suggests, as the 2018 midterm-election season takes off, that Democrats could win almost anywhere. According to the Cook Political Report, there are 118 Republican-held seats in the US House that are less Republican-friendly than Pennsylvania’s District 18. This vulnerability explains why Ryan and Trump want pundits and pols to imagine that Lamb embraced their policies and simply ran with a “D” after his name. They want that to be the “lesson” that pundits and pols take away from Tuesday’s election result.

The real lesson, the one that Democrats need to recognize, is precisely the opposite. Lamb isn’t exactly a progressive Democrat. But Ryan’s being absurd when he tries to identify the Pennsylvanian as a conservative. Lamb campaigned as a sharp critic of corporate influence on American politics, someone who criticized Trump’s tax policies and aggressively defended the Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid programs that Ryan seeks to dismantle. Alex Lawson, the executive director of Social Security Works, says: “Lamb’s victory is a repudiation of Donald Trump and Paul Ryan’s plans to gut the American people’s earned benefits.”

There’s no question that Lamb adopted cautious language—and cautious stances—on several issues of consequence. Even as he supported abortion rights, the Democrat described himself as “personally pro-life.” Though he backed background checks for gun purchases and was explicitly opposed by the National Rifle Association, Lamb’s response to gun-violence issues was disappointingly tepid. The same goes for his vapid statements on immigration. And Lamb’s digs at House Democratic minority leader Nancy Pelosi were political gimmickry at its most drab.

But on the essential issue of labor rights, Lamb ran a far more militant campaign than most prominent Democrats have in recent decades. The candidate sought labor endorsements, as Democrats usually do, and he called his Republican rival out for taking anti-labor positions. But Lamb went much further than that. Instead of treating organized labor as a special-interest group, he embraced unions like the Pennsylvania-based United Steelworkers as a vital piece of the infrastructure for a healthy civil society.

On the short list of priorities that he made the focus of his campaign, Lamb listed “Unions” and declared: “I support unions, and I’m proud to be endorsed by the AFL-CIO. I believe that all workers have the right to organize and bargain collectively for better wages, benefits and working conditions. And I know that when unions do the work, it gets done on time and on budget. Union members in our district can count on me to be the most effective ally they have in fighting to protect their rights, support prevailing wages and Project Labor Agreements, and defeat the ideological extremists who want to put unions out of existence.”

Go search the websites of prominent Democrats for similar sentiments. Rarely, if ever, will you find this sort of explicit pro-labor message. Listen to the speeches of Democratic winners (and losers) in recent races for lines like these from Lamb’s election-night address:

Side by side with us at each step of the way were the men and women in organized labor.

Organized labor built Western Pennsylvania. Let me tell you something: Tonight, they have reasserted their right to have a major part in our future. These unions have fought for decades for wages, benefits, working conditions, basic dignity, and social justice. Thank you! Thank you!

You have brought me into your ranks to fight with you. Let me tell you something else: I am proud to be right there with you.

National media outlets have had a hard time wrapping their heads around the reality of what Americans think about unions and labor rights. They have, for the most part, failed to communicate the significance of Conor Lamb’s bold embrace of a labor movement that has been the target of a brutal assault by billionaire donors like the Koch brothers and political tools like Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker.

Lamb put organized labor at the center of his campaign. That was smart politics. As AFL-CIO president Richard Trumka explained: “Conor Lamb won this race because he proudly stood with unions, shared our agenda and spoke out for our members.” That is the lesson Democrats should take from this special election. And it’s not just a lesson about western Pennsylvania or the embattled Great Lakes states.

Americans like unions. The Gallup polling organization has for 80 years asked voters: “Do you approve or disapprove of labor unions?” The current approval rating, 61 percent, rivals the high rates of 50 years ago—when leaders of both major parties pledged their allegiance to organized labor.

Back in the late 1960s and early 1970s, perhaps because unions were so popular, even Republicans were supportive of them. There was an understanding that former Republican President Dwight Eisenhower was on to something when he explained: “Should any political party attempt to abolish social security, unemployment insurance, and eliminate labor laws and farm programs, you would not hear of that party again in our political history. There is a tiny splinter group, of course, that believes you can do these things. Among them are H. L. Hunt [a wealthy political donor of the era], a few other Texas oil millionaires, and an occasional politician or business man from other areas. Their number is negligible and they are stupid.”

Ronald Reagan, a former president of the Screen Actors Guild, ran for governor of California in 1966 as a foe of Republican assaults on labor rights. “Reagan recalled with pride his years as a labor-union president,” Time magazine reported at the time. “As a result of that experience, he has taken a strong pro-labor position on right-to-work laws.” Several years earlier, Richard Nixon was an outspoken opponent of an attempt to undermine labor rights in California and make it a so-called right-to-work state.

In the 1980s and 1990s, Republicans turned hard against labor, and too many top Democrats imagined that unions were a thing of the past.

That was always false, and it remains so to this day.

At precisely the point when strong unions are needed to address mounting inequality and injustice, Republicans like Ryan and Walker have positioned their party on the side of the virulently anti-labor extremism of the Koch brothers. Unfortunately, too many Democrats have continued to mount only lukewarm defenses of unions. That’s a mistake that has cost the party politically.

Americans of all backgrounds have experienced jarring economic and social shifts— globalization, a digital revolution, a revolution in automation and robotics—that are making them feel insecure about their future. Just as unions addressed the insecurities of the past, they are needed to address the insecurities of our own time.

Conor Lamb recognized this reality, made common cause with the labor movement, and won. His fellow Democrats would be wise to do the same.

Stephen Hawking Lived Beyond His Body — An appreciation by Héléne Mialet.

Midnight. As I was browsing the internet, I saw, like shooting stars, emails suddenly appear and disappear from the right-hand corner of my computer screen. The first from CNN announcing the death of Stephen Hawking, the second from an editor at TheAtlantic asking me to write about him.

I had written about the man for 10 years—as a biographer of some sort, or an anthropologist of science to be more precise, studying the traces of Hawking’s presence. But now I felt a powerless inertia, unable to write anything. I didn’t think I would be affected by his death, but it touched me deeply. I was overwhelmed by the numerous articles that started to appear all over the world doing precisely what I had studied for so long and so carefully: recycling over and over again the same stories about him. Born 300 years after the death of Galileo Galilei, holder of Cambridge’s Lucasian Chair of Mathematics (once held by Isaac Newton), and now … died on the same day Albert Einstein was born. The life paths of history’s most iconic scientists intersected in weird ways. The puzzle seemed complete: Hawking had fully entered the pantheon of the great.

Because of him, I too had been in the eyes of the press. After I wrote an article in Wired magazine about his reliance on technology, I received an incendiary message on my answering machine accusing me of desacralizing his iconic status by transforming him into a robot. My picture circulated in the Daily Mail with Darth Vader at my side. I even received death threats. But I was arguing not that he was more machine than human, but rather that he was like all of us: all too human, and always dependent on others, whether humans or machines.Hawking fascinates. He has always done and he will always do. He fascinated me as an anthropologist curious to understand the ins and outs of modernity: science, technology, and, at its core, the central role of genius and individuality. Hawking was at once a “beautiful mind” in the public eye, and a beautiful counter-example to those like me who argue that science is socially, collectively and materially made.

So what to make of Hawking then—this iconic genius, who had lost the capacity to talk, and the use of his hands, and seemed to live only in his head? Was it really “all in his head”? This is the question I explored in my book: incredulous, but curious; interested in the myth, but thinking like a social scientist; respectful of the man, but ready to understand what allows him to think and produce theoretical work as a cosmologist. It is then that I started to reconstruct, one by one, what I call his “extended bodies.”

Unable to do anything by himself, Hawking had to delegate his competences to machines and humans who were doing for him what he couldn’t do alone. His disability was thus making visible what we normally don’t see and take for granted: the complex support without which not only Hawking—but anyone—would not be able to be and to think. The question was becoming then, not who he was, but where he was in these multiple collectives, in his extended bodies. And he was definitely there.Someone who can walk, when asked to give a lecture, can just jump on a train and go. For Hawking it typically took months of preparation before he could travel from one point of the planet to another. Even the questions that he would be asked had to be prepared in advance. Despite this orchestration, made possible by his many human and mechanical assistants—the people and things which in a sense choreographed his genius—the man would always surprise his audiences, making them, for example, wait for 15 minutes, only to respond to an elaborate question with a simple “yes” or “no”.

Writing an article for him was often the product of a close collaboration with his students. But more than once, though his students had spent months doing complex calculations, they would often underplay their own contributions and give credit instead to Hawking’s amazing intuition. Intuition? Thinking, you mean? Yes, of course, he was a master at thinking, but his thinking was aided by intellectual tools, such as diagrams, that were carefully crafted by his students who had learned his diagrammatic way of thinking. He would learn these diagrams, memorize them and think with them, as he couldn’t draw them by himself.

Yes, he was definitely there, resisting his entourage when they tried to convince him to change his software, his old program, Equalizer, that was painfully slow, but had become an extension of himself; or to change his American accent, which had become, as he liked to recall, part of his identity.

There was the Hawking who played with his audience by making them wait for 15 minutes to only say “yes” or “no.” The one who surprised me the first time I met him by telling me he would print our interviews directly from his computer, no need to record. The one who protested the white studio used in the documentary called TheHawking Paradox, because he thought it made him look dead.

But more than all of this, the image that will remain forever in my memory is Berlin. Hawking had flown from Cambridge with his assistants and a few students for an international gathering on string theory. The last night, after the meeting, we went to a fancy restaurant in Potsdam, where Churchill, Stalin, and Truman met to establish order on the world after the war. Stephen decided we should all go to a nightclub after dinner. Nobody really wanted to go; we were all tired. He was not, and so we went, dancing together till late in the night.

 Doonesbury — Dress for success.

Monday, March 5, 2018

They Might Have A Chance

David Hogg and Cameron Kasky, founders of Never Again MSD, on Real Time with Bill Maher.

I admire them for more than just their compelling drive to make something happen. Their vision goes beyond just getting bills passed and people elected; they’ve sparked a visceral response that might actually get some things done. Maybe not today — the Florida legislature is deeply embedded with NRA cronies and deeply in debt to them — but soon, hopefully before more guns take more lives.

And speaking as one of those in the generation that fucked it up, thank you for your gracious acceptance of our apology. We too had dreams of a better world when we were seventeen. I hope yours turn out better.

Monday, January 8, 2018

And The Winner Is

Oprah Winfrey’s acceptance speech at the Golden Globes is making news.

You can read the transcript here.

This is what leadership looks like, and while there’s all sorts of chatter about running her for president — I mean, come on; who ever said a TV star could do that? — there are those who lead by inspiration, who call forth our better nature, and who can make us look to ourselves to do good and improve the lives of others without running for office.

There are going to be those who will dismiss Ms. Winfrey as just another Hollywood celebrity who is out of touch with “real America,” who have so much that they’re hardly in a position to tell us or show us the right way or any way to solve our problems and heal the abyss between various factions.  Or there will be those who say that we’ve already tried having a dynamic and inspirational leader, and all we got from that was backlash from a base that never accepted the idea that a black man could be president.  They will say, “Do we really want to go through all of that again?”

It doesn’t matter if Oprah Winfrey runs for president.  She’s reaching out to those who might or who will run and is trying to turn us away from anger and venting.

In my career, what I’ve always tried my best to do, whether on television or through film, is to say something about how men and women really behave. To say how we experience shame, how we love and how we rage, how we fail, how we retreat, persevere, and how we overcome. And I’ve interviewed and portrayed people who’ve withstood some of the ugliest things life can throw at you, but the one quality all of them seem to share is an ability to maintain hope for a brighter morning, even during our darkest nights.

I hear you.  As I’ve said many times myself, hope is my greatest weakness.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

2017 Pulitzers

Here’s the list of the winners of the 2017 Pulitzer Prizes.  The Miami Herald picked up two: Jim Morin for his editorial cartoons, and for their work with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists and McClatchy on the Panama Papers story.

In drama, it went to Lynn Nottage for her play “Sweat,” which is currently running on Broadway.

Congratulations to all.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Thank You, Friend

I received a very pleasant surprise today from a friend of this blog: a donation to the BBWW coffers.

I won’t embarrass my friend by mentioning any names, but let me take this opportunity to say a heartfelt and humble thank you for your support and encouragement.  It is a vote of confidence and an inspiration to keep on going.

Two weeks from today will not only be the election, but it will also mark BBWW’s thirteenth anniversary.  I’ll have more to say about that at the time, but having your support — financially or otherwise — is one of the reasons I keep doing this.

Thank you.

Monday, June 27, 2016

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Post Haste

Last Saturday morning I took nine play scripts, three books, two shirts (one Inge t-shirt and one Inge corduroy), and two Inge Festival wine glasses (boxed) to the Post Office on Laurel Street in Independence, Kansas, to mail them home because I barely had room in my carry-on for what I’d already packed. (Yeah, I need a bigger vulture for my carry-on…) Tom, the clerk at the counter, got a box and he neatly packed it all in and sealed it up. The price of postage back to Florida — the box was free — was $13.45.

The receipt says the package was accepted at 9:48 a.m. on Saturday. At 5:30 p.m. on Monday there was a knock on the front door from my postal carrier (a nice lady; she comes to our car shows) and she handed me the box. Everything was intact, barely a mark on the box, and less than 72 hours after I sent it from Kansas.

A lot of people knock the Postal Service — ah, it’s slow, it’s typical government bureaucracy, blah, blah. Except the USPS has been an independent self-supporting agency since 1972, and more importantly, can UPS or Fed Ex pick up a package on Saturday in the middle of rural Kansas and get it to South Florida in less than three days for less than $15? YMMV, but I’m impressed.

As the carrier was dropping off the box, a Fed Ex truck zoomed by. I wanted to holler “Neener, neener!”

Sunday, December 27, 2015

Sunday Reading

Jon Swift Memorial Roundup 2015 — The Best Posts of the Year, Chosen by the Bloggers Themselves

Welcome to a tradition started by the late Jon Swift/Al Weisel, who left behind some excellent satire, but was also a nice guy and a strong supporter of small blogs. As Lance Mannion put it in 2010:

Our late and much missed comrade in blogging, journalist and writer Al Weisel, revered and admired across the bandwidth as the “reasonable conservative” blogger Modest Jon Swift, was a champion of the lesser known and little known bloggers working tirelessly in the shadows . . .One of his projects was a year-end Blogger Round Up. Al/Jon asked bloggers far and wide, famous and in- and not at all, to submit a link to their favorite post of the past twelve months and then he sorted, compiled, blurbed, hyperlinked and posted them on his popular blog. His round-ups presented readers with a huge banquet table of links to work many of has had missed the first time around and brought those bloggers traffic and, more important, new readers they wouldn’t have otherwise enjoyed.

It may not have been the most heroic endeavor, but it was kind and generous and a lot of us owe our continued presence in the blogging biz to Al.

Here’s Jon/Al’s 2007 and 2008 editions. Meanwhile, here are the revivals from 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013 and 2014.

This post, Gay Day At The Supreme Court, was my submission.  But take a stroll and a scroll through the list of all the others and see some very good writing by some familiar names, and take a look at those you might not have yet met.

Doonesbury — The Kool Kidz Table.

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Standing Ovation

One of the best things a playwright can say about seeing his work performed is “That’s what I meant.” The actors understand the characters and convey them authentically to the audience.

That was what I felt last night as I watched the reading of my new play “All Together Now” at Mina’s Mediterraneo in Miami, sponsored by New Theatre. Thank you, Kenneth Averett-Clark, Carlos Alayeto, Jonathan Mitzenmacher, Joel Kolker, Joanne Marsic, and Nicole Quintana for bringing Paul, Adam, Fox, Jim, Dorothy, and Julie to life, and thank you, Steven A. Chambers and Erik Rodriguez for guiding the play with love and care.

Also thank you to Ricky J. Martinez and Eileen Suarez for making it all happen. I am very grateful for such strong support and genuine love for theatre and making new works happen, and I look forward to going forward with you all.

Friday, September 18, 2015

Short Takes

Fed holds off raising interest rates.

At least 11 people were killed in the 8.3 earthquake off the coast of Chile.

President Obama greeted the three men who thwarted the train attack in Europe.

Verizon now works in Cuba.

Doritos unveiled rainbow-colored chips.

Tropical Update: TD Nine heads west.

The Tigers had the night off.

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Welcome Caitlyn

From the New York Times:

Caitlyn Jenner 06-01-15

In April, Bruce Jenner spoke about her transition to woman in a television special that drew nearly 17 million viewers.

On Monday, that woman revealed her new identity, appearing as Caitlyn Jenner on the cover of Vanity Fair. The photograph of Ms. Jenner in a revealing outfit, shot by Annie Leibovitz and accompanied by the headline “Call Me Caitlyn,” immediately became a sensation on social media when the magazine posted the article online.

Ms. Jenner, 65, who won an Olympic gold medal in the decathlon, has had a long public life. As Bruce Jenner, she had been on the cover of Playgirl, an author, an actor and most recently a part of the Kardashian family’s reality television empire. Earlier this year, reports emerged that Bruce Jenner was in the process of becoming a woman.

The Vanity Fair article represents the latest in a carefully calibrated series of public steps by Ms. Jenner and her team, as she moves toward the debut of a new reality show on the E! network that will begin airing at the end of July, and a new public life as a woman. A Twitter account, in the name of Caitlyn Jenner, was started at the same time that the Vanity Fair article was published online. Within hours, the account had more than 1.1 million followers.

I salute her on many levels: for coming to terms with her identity and doing it in public.  She didn’t have to, and I am sure there are a lot of people who feel morally superior to everyone else who are sniffing and sighing about how Ms. Jenner just had to wave it under everyone’s nose — or to use their favorite Freudian-laden metaphor — ram it down their throats.  It’s truly sad that they can’t understand and celebrate the complexity of life.

Or perhaps they’re afraid of their own questions and feelings.  That’s not to say that every prude is repressing a part of their nature, but you have to wonder in a world where understanding who we are is a never-ending process of discovery, they would be so adamantly opposed to and threatened by the life of an absolute stranger.

By the way, and I mean this in the best way, my first reaction to the photo was how much she reminds me of Julie Newmar.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Short Takes

The post-attack run of 3 million copies of Charlie Hebdo sold out.

Al-Qaeda in Yemen claimed responsibility for the Paris attack.

Feds file charges against a man who plotted to blow up the U.S. Capitol.

Secret Service executives demoted after report on scandals.

Climbers reach the top of El Capitan’s Dawn Wall in Yosemite.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Saturday, October 11, 2014

The Peace Prize

Meet Malala Yousafazi.

Who is Malala?” shouted the Taliban gunman who leapt onto a crowded bus in northwestern Pakistan two years ago, then fired a bullet into the head of Malala Yousafzai, a 15-year-old schoolgirl and outspoken activist.

That question has been answered many times since by Ms. Yousafzai herself, who survived her injuries and went on to become an impassioned advocate, global celebrity and, on Friday, the latest recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize alongside the Indian child rights campaigner Kailash Satyarthi.

Yet since that decisive gunshot in October 2012, Ms. Yousafzai and her compelling story have been reshaped by a range of powerful forces — often, though not always, for good — in ways that have left her straddling perilous fault lines of culture, politics and religion.

In Pakistan, conservatives assailed the schoolgirl as an unwitting pawn in an American-led assault. In the West, she came to embody the excesses of violent Islam, or was recruited by campaigners to raise money and awareness for their causes. Ms. Yousafzai, guided by her father and a public relations team, helped to transform that image herself, co-writing a best-selling memoir.

And now the Nobel Prize committee has provided a fresh twist on her story, recasting her as an envoy for South Asian peace.

Announcing the prize in Oslo on Friday, the committee chairman, Thorbjorn Jagland, said it was important for “a Hindu and a Muslim, an Indian and a Pakistani, to join in a common struggle for education and against extremism” — a resonant message in a week in which the Pakistani and Indian armies have exchanged shellfire across a disputed stretch of border, killing 20 villagers. But it was also a message that highlighted how far Ms. Yousafzai has come from her original incarnation as the schoolgirl who defied the Taliban and lived to tell the tale.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Short Takes

Twenty-six NATO foreign ministers pledged to combat ISIS.

Secretary of State Kerry says U.S. is open to talking with Iran about ISIS.

GM will pay compensation for 19 deaths caused by faulty ignitions.

President Obama presented the Congressional Medal of Honor to two Vietnam veterans.

August 2014 was the warmest August since they started keeping records.

Tropical Update: TS Odile is battering Baja California.

The Tigers beat the Twins 8-6.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Fond Farewell

Carl Kasell retires from NPR’s “Wait Wait… Don’t Tell Me,” the radio news quiz.  Panelist Roxanne Roberts tells the story.

We knew Carl Kasell’s last taping of “Wait Wait . . . Don’t Tell Me” was going to be a big deal, which is so not Carl. After 16 years as official judge and scorekeeper of the NPR quiz show, and 60 years in radio, he wanted his last show to be just like any other.

As if. Sprinkled throughout the hour were tributes from Stephen Colbert, Tom Hanks, Katie Couric and President Obama, which caused the 80-year-old veteran newsman and the 1,800 people packed into the Warner Theatre on Thursday to get all verklempt.

The crowd, as they say, went wild. We are talking public radio fans, so that meant standing ovations and loud applause, not underwear tossed onstage. At the end of the taping, they politely mobbed Carl like he was Springsteen or the Pope, thrusting items both cute (a Carl plush doll) and mildly creepy (a Carl face pillow) at him for autographs. I’m pretty sure I saw a guy in the second row tattoo Carl’s name across his heart.

[…]

So House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi, Sens. Dick Durbin, Jeff Flake and Kay Hagan all attended a tribute dinner for him Wednesday night, along with the “Wait Wait” family, former colleagues, NPR brass and even some of Carl’s pals from high school. Pelosi presented him with a flag that had been flown over the Capitol, besting (just barely) Durbin’s gift of Garrett’s famous Chicago popcorn.

The man of the hour was, characteristically modest. “Thank you so much,” he told the audience. “I’ve had so much fun. I enjoyed every moment of it.” But official retirement? Not so much. “What does it mean? Putting things aside, doing nothing? Are you kidding?” he said. “I can’t live that way. I’ve got to do something, somewhere, somehow.”

Carl is now officially “Wait Wait’s” Scorekeeper Emeritus, but will continue to record voice mail greetings for winners on the show. (He’s already done more than 2,000.) But — since we’re sharing here — you probably want to know whose voice is on Carl’s home answering machine.

His wife’s. Carl’s king of the castle, but Mary Ann is queen.

Best wishes.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Standing Ovation

For digby for winning the Hillman Prize for Opinion and Analysis Journalism.

Heather “Digby” Parton grew up all over the world as the daughter of a peripatetic employee of the vast American Military Industrial complex. After a traditional 1970s-style misspent youth and fitful education, she landed in Hollywood and spent a couple of decades as an executive in the film industry, pushing the usual paper and making the usual deals. Out of a need to vent her frustration with the state of America’s politics, she began writing daily political analysis, punditry, random musings and snark on her website “Hullabaloo” in 2002. It soon turned into a full-time vocation, obsession, and, surprisingly, a new career.

[…]

Digby has written for mainstream publications such as Salon and New York Magazine among others but maintains the blog as her primary publishing platform, still churning out a half dozen posts a day, sparking debate and riding the political zeitgeist from her beach cottage in Santa Monica, California. She remains a prominent voice of progressive thought and online activism, often linked by others with one simple line: “What Digby said.”

They could not have made a better choice.