The Watcher Cat

The Watcher Cat

Saturday, September 28, 2013

The Dane Geld

From CNN:
House Republicans have added a measure aimed at limiting contraceptive coverage to the spending bill coming up for a vote Saturday night, a spokesman for Rep. Tim Huelskamp, R-Kansas, told CNN.

A senior House leadership aide confirmed that development.

The so-called “conscience clause” would allow employers and insurers to opt out of preventative care for women which they find objectionable on moral or religious grounds. That prominently includes birth control, which most insurers are required to provide for free under current Obamacare rules.

With this move, House Republican leaders would give any employer or group health plan the ability to opt out of contraception coverage for the next year. That time frame syncs up with the larger measure in which this is included: a one-year delay of Obamacare provisions not yet in effect.
So, to update, the House previously demanded, as the price for not shutting down the government, " a one-year delay of President Obama’s health care law and the repeal of a tax to pay for the law before approving any funds to keep the government running." The Senate has rejected that demand--and the House raises the ransom demand. And then, in a few weeks, they will demand that the Senate and the President effectively adopt the Romney campaign's economic plan, as the price for the House not causing the United States to default on its obligations.

There really is no point to negotiating is there? I mean, for Democrats. If they cave to the GOP, this will be the new normal--the reckless Republicans threatening Armageddon unless they are allowed their way even when they lose elections. There is simply nothing in it for the President or the Senate. As Rudyard Kipling knew, it is better not to ever pay the the Dane Geld than to pay and try to break the custom:
It is always a temptation to an armed and agile nation
To call upon a neighbour and to say: --
"We invaded you last night--we are quite prepared to fight,
Unless you pay us cash to go away."

And that is called asking for Dane-geld,
And the people who ask it explain
That you've only to pay 'em the Dane-geld
And then you'll get rid of the Dane!

It is always a temptation for a rich and lazy nation,
To puff and look important and to say: --
"Though we know we should defeat you, we have not the time to meet you.
We will therefore pay you cash to go away."

And that is called paying the Dane-geld;
But we've proved it again and again,
That if once you have paid him the Dane-geld
You never get rid of the Dane.

It is wrong to put temptation in the path of any nation,
For fear they should succumb and go astray;
So when you are requested to pay up or be molested,
You will find it better policy to say: --

"We never pay any-one Dane-geld,
No matter how trifling the cost;
For the end of that game is oppression and shame,
And the nation that pays it is lost!"
Shut it down.

The Final Days of..the Final Countdown

I know, I know. I just posted about this yesterday. But here's the deal: My old friend, Anthony Clark, has a Kickstarter campaign to raise the funds for the last research for his forthcoming book, titled The Last Campaign. As of this writing, Anthony is $700 below what he needs for the Kickstarter to succeed--and Kickstarter is an all-or-nothing proposition; if he doesn't make that $700, he gets nothing. And as of this writing, Anthony has 62 hours to go. It is, in fact, the Final Days of the Final Countdown for The Last Campaign. So I'm having another bash at this; here's more from Anthony about why this book is important:

I really do believe this book will light up a microcosm of where American governance falls prey to politicking, and self-interest, and will be interesting as well as illuminating.

We are also, of course, in the final countdown to the end of Matt Smith's tenure on Doctor Who. So that gives me some tenuous connection and excuse to reward those who consider this bleg with this:

Friday, September 27, 2013

The Final Countdown

My good friend Anthony Clark's Kickstarter has entered its final 3 days, and he is not yet there--he needs to beat $7,500.

As I've already pointed out:
Anthony Clark, an old friend of your Anglocat, has launched a Kickstarter campaign to fund the final stages of research he needs to finish his book, The Last Campaign: How Presidents Rewrite History, Run for Posterity, and Enshrine Their Legacies. The book is an expose of the politicking, brand-building, and whitewashing that Presidents, their families, and their supporters engage in creating glitzy displays and compelling narratives, all the while gently nudging the shadow side of the Presidency commemorated by the library deeper into the shadows. More to the point, these libraries, maintained by taxpayer dollars, are designed to facilitate research and the writing of more definitive history, not merely to be shrines. Anthony Clark, who had to fight to get access to documents in presidential libraries, then became a lecturer on the effect of politicization of presidential libraries, ultimately served on the staff of the Congressional Committee that exercises oversight over the National Archives and this presidential libraries.

In other words, he is an expert in this field who earned his credibility the hard way--working his way from the outside in.

But, you may ask, why do you care?

Because, I would suggest, there is one hell of a lot of information out there, buried under the glitz, the celebrity, the cult of personality, that obscures the achievements and failures, virtues and vices, of our Presidents. We pay for the maintenance of both the information--which is hard to get to--and the infotainment, which is all too easy to flock to and get lost in.

Anthony Clark is trying to blow the lid off the politics and the intrigue--interesting reading in their own right--and bring about substantive reform.
But let Anthony tell you himself why what he's doing is worth supporting:

Help make history. Think about supporting The Last Campaign. And then rock out, GOB Bluth-style.

Don't miss the Boat!

Thursday, September 26, 2013

"My Offer is Nothing..."

From The National Review:
Below is an outline of the GOP’s debt-ceiling bill obtained by National Review Online. The document originated from staff to a senior member of the House Appropriations Committee and is dated yesterday.


One Year Debt Limit Increase

Not a dollar amount increase, but suspending the debt limit until the end of December 2014.

Similar to what we did earlier this year.

Want the year long to align with the year delay of Obamacare.

One Year Obamacare delay

Tax Reform Instructions

Similar to a bill we passed last fall, laying out broad from Ryan Budget principles for what tax reform should look like.

Gives fast track authority for tax reform legislation

Energy and regulatory reforms to promote economic growth

Includes pretty much every jobs bill we have passed this year and last Congress

All of these policies have important positive economic effects.

Energy provisions

Keystone Pipeline

Coal Ash regulations

Offshore drilling

Energy production on federal lands

EPA Carbon regulations

Regulatory reform


Regulatory process reform

Consent decree reform

Blocking Net Neutrality

Mandatory Spending Reforms

Mostly from the sequester replacement bills we passed last year

Federal Employee retirement reform

Ending the Dodd Frank bailout fund

Transitioning CFPB funding to Appropriations

Child Tax Credit Reform to prevent fraud

Repealing the Social Services Block grant

Health Spending Reforms

Means testing Medicare

Repealing a Medicaid Provider tax gimmick

Tort reform

Altering Disproportion Share Hospitals

Repealing the Public Health trust Fund
Now, before I comment, let me lay out two other facts.

First, the debt ceiling or debt limit:
doesn’t authorize new spending; instead, it provides the funding to pay for spending commitments that Congress has already made. The Treasury can’t issue new debt once the limit has been reached, but it can forestall a crisis for several months via stop-gap measures. Once these measures are exhausted, the government would be forced to slash spending - an outcome that could result in a partial government “shutdown” and/or a debt default (i.e., the failure to make interest and/or principal payments on time).
The mere threat by Republicans to refuse to raise the debt ceiling in 2011 were a major factor in the downgrading of the USA's credit rating being lowered by Standard & Poor that year. As The New York Times summarizes today:
Economists of all political persuasions have warned that a failure to raise the debt ceiling by the Treasury’s deadline of Oct. 17 could be catastrophic. The world economy’s faith in the safety of Treasury debt would be shaken for years. Interest rates could shoot up, and stock prices worldwide would most likely plummet.

“Defaulting on any obligation of the U.S. government would be a dangerous gamble,” Doug Elmendorf, the director of the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, told the House Budget Committee on Thursday. “In a very uncertain world, the one thing everyone has been able to count on is that the U.S. government will pay its bills on time.”
In other words, the Republicans in Congress are, effectively, demanding that President Obama surrender his entire agenda, every victory from his first term, or they will crash the economy like the Titanic into the iceberg. On purpose. Even though he was just re-elected, and the House is only in Republican hands through gerrymandering--as the GOP itself acknowledges--they will dash the U.S economy into the rocks unless he surrenders unconditionally. Because if they win this time, they will do it again next year. And the year after. And the year after that.

There is only one proper answer to them:

Ronald Reagan was right to deplore negotiating with terrorists, although he later was forced to admit he did just that. Today, his party is playing the part of those with whom Reagan negotiated, against his own precepts. So far, the White House is treating them as such, quite rightfully.

Stay the course; no deal, Mr. President.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

"...And None of Us Deserving the Cruelty or the Grace..."

William Faulkner famously wrote "The past is never dead. It's not even past."

But sometimes it is both. Sometimes the world moves on, and we move with it.

Just a thought on hearing the above song off Leonard Cohen's new album Old Ideas.

Come and Run With Me!

He's in:
A man who wants to run for mayor as the Rent is Too Damn High Party’s candidate should be on the general election ballot, a judge has decided.

Jimmy McMillan, who ran unsuccessfully for governor in 2010, became an Internet and cable TV sensation after a debate in which he repeated his point about New York’s price of living: “The rent is too. Damn. High.” He filed signatures with the city Board of Elections in support of his mayoral candidacy. The board invalidated his petition on the grounds it contained errors serious enough to keep him off the ballot.

McMillan filed a legal petition, and a judge agreed the mistakes weren’t catastrophic and he should be on the ballot. The decision was announced Tuesday.

The Board of Elections declined to comment on the decision pending further review.
Which really is just an excuse to run with this most excellent clip again:


Saturday, September 21, 2013

Another Abuse Incident-But Does the Song Remain the Same?

Or, from the article:
A Catholic priest in Pennsylvania has been charged with molesting a teenage boy after police said he was found in a car on a college campus with a 15-year-old who was wearing no pants, according to a police criminal complaint filed Friday in Lackawanna County. The Rev. W. Jeffrey Paulish was charged with one felony count of involuntary deviate sexual intercourse and one felony count of unlawful contact with a minor after Dunmore police say they found him and the boy on Thursday in a car on the Worthington Scranton campus of Penn State University, according to the complaint. Paulish, 56, of Scranton, was also charged with three misdemeanor counts -- indecent contact with a person under 16, indecent exposure and corruption of a minor. He is being held at the Lackawanna County jail on $50,000 bail. Dunmore police officers say they discovered Paulish and the boy after responding to a call of a suspicious vehicle, according to an arrest warrant affidavit filed with the court. Allegedly Paulish told police he was at the campus working on his homily when he met the teen, who he said was in emotional distress, and began counseling him. According to the affidavit, he later admitted to police that he had arranged the meeting with the teen through the "casual encounters" section of Craigslist. Paulish told investigators that he had asked the boy three times if he was over the age of 18, the affidavit said.
To the credit of the diocese, its reaction was swift, and promising:
Paulish has been removed from his post at the Prince of Peace parish and has been suspended from acting in the capacity of a priest, according to a statement released by the Diocese of Scranton. The diocese pledged its cooperation with the investigation, and it called on anyone who "may have been sexually abused by Father Paulish or any member of the clergy" to notify the district attorney's office. "I wish to acknowledge how unsettling this is to me personally and to countless others, that yet again a priest has been involved in such inappropriate, immoral and illegal behavior," the Bishop of Scranton, the Rev. Joseph Bambera, said in the statement.
I can't help but think how confusing this response must be for Catholic League bloviator Bill Donohue, who normally would find a way to claim that this is all a liberal conspiracy. The real question is which of the two contradictory positions he took in the matter of Father Fugee will he adopt here? It could be the position that "any priest who is guilty of committing a crime, especially sexual abuse, should have the book thrown at him; he will get no defense from the Catholic League," or that he espoused two days before that principled statement, "If accused Muslim terrorists, who seek to kill as many innocent Americans as they can, are given (free of charge) attorneys prepared to exploit every legal loophole there is, then I want priests to be afforded the same measures."

The Cat that Lived

Just a brief note of gratitude and celebration that Elspeth, my 12 year old kitten, is running, playing and sometimes ornery, as she always has been. She is back to her old ways, not at all unlike Christopher Smart's Jeoffrey:
For he is the quickest to his mark of any creature.
For he is tenacious of his point.
For he is a mixture of gravity and waggery.
For he knows that God is his Saviour.
For there is nothing sweeter than his peace when at rest.
For there is nothing brisker than his life when in motion
Change the pronouns, and you've got the picture.

In other words, while we have to continue to monitor her eating and her weight, and will probably have to do this for the rest of her life, Elspeth is very much better, and that terrible period when it seemed that she just didn't want to try is over.

I have my Elspeth P. Kitten again.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Chronicling Barchester

In writing my own Trollope pastiche, now titled Phineas at Bay, I brought back into the mix the scoundrelly Rev. Emilius, lately married to Lady Eustace. However I wanted a counterpoint to this rascal, and bethought myself of the son of Archdeacon Grantly, Samuel, called "Soapy Sam," as he is a parody of Samuel Wilberforce, a High Churchman of the Tractarians' generation. Here is Trollope's description of Samuel in The Warden (1855):
But perhaps Samuel was the general favourite; and dear little Soapy, as he was familiarly called, was as engaging a child as ever fond mother petted. He was soft and gentle in his manners, and attractive in his speech; the tone of his voice was melody, and every action was a grace; unlike his brothers, he was courteous to all, he was affable to the lowly, and meek even to the very scullery-maid. He was a boy of great promise, minding his books and delighting the hearts of his masters. His brothers, however, were not particularly fond of him; they would complain to their mother that Soapy's civility all meant something; they thought that his voice was too often listened to at Plumstead Episcopi, and evidently feared that, as he grew up, he would have more weight in the house than either of them; there was, therefore, a sort of agreement among them to put young Soapy down. This, however, was not so easy to be done; Samuel, though young, was sharp; he could not assume the stiff decorum of Charles James, nor could he fight like Henry; but he was a perfect master of his own weapons, and contrived, in the teeth of both of them, to hold the place which he had assumed. Henry declared that he was a false, cunning creature; and Charles James, though he always spoke of him as his dear brother Samuel, was not slow to say a word against him when opportunity offered. To speak the truth, Samuel was a cunning boy, and those even who loved him best could not but own that for one so young he was too adroit in choosing his words, and too skilled in modulating his voice.
Now, as Samuel was modeled on a bishop, it seemed to me, why not make him achieve the rank of one in later life? In the 1890s (when Phineas at Bay is set) , Samuel, born roughly in 1840-1845, would be just the right age to be one. And what better see for him to have than his grandfather's see of Barchester?

But I envision Samuel as having improved much since childhood, through association with his grandfather--and of having been, through the influence of his uncle, Mr. Arabin, one of that interesting second wave of Anglo-Catholics, such as Charles Gore, whose High Church piety coexisted with a social liberalism, and passionate belief in social justice. That made him an effective counterpoint to Emilius. It then occurred to me that, being about ten years older than Gore, the fictional Grantly would be just the right age to get caught up in the ritualism controversies of the late 1870s. And this, in turn, could give me another story to tell, after that of Phineas, or even alongside it, should I try to continue my sojourn in Trollope-land. And a story came to hand.

However, when I heard a couple of weeks ago about Ronald Knox's Barchester Pilgrimage (1934), an earlier continuation of the Barchester stories, and obtained a copy, I was saddened to see a brief appearance of "Samuel Grantley" (Knox adopts an alternative spelling that Trollope sometimes used) as--you guessed it!--Bishop of Barchester. Still, he is drawn in that cameo appearance as a rather unattractive figure, consistent with the worst of the childhood description. So I am not considering myself bound by Knox's tales, entertaining though they are; I view them as non-canonical. Some of his spade-work I may adopt--his classic map of Barchester, and some of his family trees, say, but he goes well beyond where I intend to go chronologically in Barchester, and in a very different direction.

And Samuel Grantly? His story is hinted at in Phineas at Bay; if that works out to my own satisfaction, I may move on to The Book of Samuel.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Time, Be a Friend of Mine

My second mentor in the world of law as practiced was an associate at a big firm where I worked as a summer associate between second and third years. I was sent to her by a compassionate secretary for help with a knotty assignment from a fierce partner. She not only helped me but became a beloved friend with whom I remain close, lo these *ahem!* several years later.

Martha was and remains a talented musician, and when I saw her this past Sunday, she revealed to me that she had been posting music both old and new that she made online. Here is my favorite of the songs of her youth, and a new recording she has made:

And the new:

I've known Martha through many (though not all) of the phases she documents in the second video, and she has been a steadfast friend and companion through my own evolution from eager young aspirant to the law to...what shall I say? Aspirant to the Diaconate? Anglocat on the Prowl? Fox Without a Brush?

We have many facets, and our dear friends are, among many other things, the light by which we discover those facets hidden from our own knowledge. So here's to Martha Radclyffe Rix, who taught me that a lawyer need not forsake the creative life.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Spectre of the Gun

From today's Times, summarizing the state of affairs in the wake of the shootings in Newtown
In Washington State, where gun control supporters have already collected 225,000 of the more than 244,000 signatures needed for a ballot initiative on requiring background checks for private gun sales, their opponents have begun their own, dueling initiative, which would prevent the state from requiring background checks that are more restrictive than federal standards.

Gun rights supporters in other states are also focusing on legislators. In Nevada, for instance, a recall campaign has already begun against State Senator Justin Jones, a Democrat who led the successful passage in June of a bill to strengthen background checks. Gov. Brian Sandoval, a Republican, vetoed the bill.

In the decade before the Newtown shooting, state after state had gradually extended the rights of gun owners. But the push for new legislation that followed the massacre inspired a new burst of energy on the other side.

Angered by talk of a renewed assault weapons ban and fearful of increased government oversight, opponents of tighter restrictions increased their efforts.

Ammunition and semiautomatic rifles flew off the shelves of gun stores. Second Amendment groups welcomed a flurry of new members. Dave Trahan, the executive director of the Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine, said the group’s membership had grown 120 percent over the last year, gaining 70 to 100 new members each month. The alliance, he pledged, would fight any attempt to place an initiative for background checks on the state ballot.
gun rights groups have continued to make inroads in many Republican-controlled states. Indiana, Kansas, North Carolina and about two dozen other states passed measures this year allowing people to legally carry guns in churches, elementary schools and casinos, on college campuses and at other venues; made state records of concealed carry permits confidential; expanded self-defense statutes; or otherwise increased gun owners’ rights.

And although Missouri lawmakers last week failed to overturn a veto by Gov. Jay Nixon of a bill that would have prevented the enforcement of federal gun laws in the state, a modified nullification law was enacted in Kansas. Gun rights groups in other states are pushing for similar statutes.


Dave Workman, communications director for the Citizens Committee for the Right to Keep and Bear Arms, said gun owners feared that the background check initiative could lead to “a de facto gun registry.”

“There are two reasons you want to register all the guns in a community: either to tax them or ultimately to take them,” he said.

Oh, I know a third reason: to trace them when a homicide is committed. Why is there such a strong belief in the right to shoot anonymously?

Moreover, all this fear comes out of nowhere. What did the Democrats in fact propose in the wake of Newtown? A revised and updated assault weapons ban, one that would not automatically expire. And the President hardly attacked the Second Amendment and demonized gun owners; in fact, he said:
Now, let me be absolutely clear: Like most Americans, I believe the Second Amendment guarantees an individual right to bear arms. I respect our strong tradition of gun ownership and the rights of hunters and sportsmen. There are millions of responsible, law-abiding gun owners in America who cherish their right to bear arms for hunting or sport or protection or collection.

I also believe most gun owners agree that we can respect the Second Amendment while keeping an irresponsible, law-breaking few from inflicting harm on a massive scale. I believe most of them agree that if America worked harder to keep guns out of the hands of dangerous people, there would be fewer atrocities like the one that occurred in Newtown.
The President's proposals were all pretty moderate, adding (1) background checks; (2) a ban on assault weapons updated from the expired ban; (3) researching the causes of gun violence; (4) funding local initiatives on gun safety and school safety; and (5) providing federal funding to efforts to treat the mentally ill who might turn to violence. This last one, by the way, was the NRA's one proposal, other than more guns everywhere.

While there has been some progress in the wake of Newtown, today we suffered another mass shooting--ironically bare days after two Democratic lawmakers were recalled for their support of gun regulation.

So, gun rights activists, congratulations. Thanks to your unceasing efforts, your hobby is safe, and the cost in human lives? Well, seemingly we as a society are ok with that. But responsible gun owners, if you don't want the government involved, then it's own you to lead. Lead the way in stigmatizing irresponsible gun use. The fact that David Keene, whose son shot at another driver in a road rage incident and drew a ten year jail term, was the face of the NRA until 2013, and neither he nor it have proposed anything to address the issue of irresponsible gun owners leaves this little problem on your doorstep.

Your move. Fix it, since you won't let us try.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Focus of Unity?

From Thinking Anglicans:

Forward in Faith regrets the decision of the Governing Body of the Church in Wales to authorize the ordination of women as bishops without first agreeing arrangements for those who, for theological reasons, will not be able to receive episcopal ministry from them.

We cannot see how a female bishop could be what a diocesan bishop should be – a Father in God and a focus of unity for all within his diocese. This vote therefore makes the question of the provision of episcopal ministry for those who continue to uphold catholic faith and order in the Church in Wales even more pressing.

Experience in Wales and elsewhere does not give us confidence that the promised ‘code of practice’ could offer the level of assurance that would encourage growth and flourishing – so sorely needed in Wales – or the degree of certainty that would remove the possibility of damaging and distracting disputes.

Our brothers and sisters in Credo Cymru will seek to enter into dialogue with the Welsh bishops. We can only hope that their representations will be met with the generosity of spirit that ought to be the hallmark of Christian episcopacy. Meanwhile, we continue to pray for and with our Welsh sisters and brothers, encouraging them to follow St David in being joyful and keeping the faith.

The Rt Revd Jonathan Baker, Bishop of Fulham
13 September 2013
Some of the bishop's defenders are pointing to angry statements from his opponents. I've no doubt that supporters of women's consecration to the episcopate may have, on occasion, shown a lack of charity. But this is a statement from a bishop, purporting to ask for charity from the majority, while expressly denying that "a female bishop could be what a diocesan bishop should be, a Father in God and a focus of unity to all within his diocese."

A bishop's official statement on behalf of a faction of the Church is not equivalent to an over-heated blog comment. I must say, were I in the C of E and the Bishop of Fulham my diocesan, I do not see how I could accept him as a focus of unity. And I'm not even of the gender he believes relegated to an inferior--oh, sorry, "complementary", place. That view on the merits, but especially in conjunction with his blithe willingness to delegitimize all who disagree while demanding a non-reciprocated honoring of his own view from them, make him unable to be what he describes as the sine qua non of a bishop, unless his diocese is utterly homogeneous in its views. Autocracy suppresses division; it does not create unity.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Bisy Backson

Sorry; between taking care of Elspeth--who is eating food on her own--working on what will be volume II of Phineas at Bay, as I have titled my novel--my Victorian family saga of which I have completed approximately 90,000 words out of a projected 150,000, I have allowed the blog to suffer these past few days.

The timing of my work on the novel has been fortuitous; the Trollope Society, of which I am a member, hosts an annual fall lecture. This year's, on October 8 in Manhattan, is remarkably apropos:
“Phineas Finn and the Bildungsroman” is the title of our 2013 Annual lecture, by Prof. Nicholas Birns, The New School.

Professor Birns, who was so captivating this past February in discussing La Vendee at our Mid-Winter Reception, has agreed to return as the Annual Lecture speaker. His subject will include both Phineas books — Phineas Finn and Phineas Redux — as well as cameo appearances in the last two Palliser books.

As Prof. Birns puts it: “One can ask: how and why did Trollope split the Phineas story into two books, with the second book also finishing the Lizzie Eustace story? What does it mean formally for the Bildungsroman to be spliced into a roman-fleuve like the Palliser series? The Bildungsroman changes when it is set in a complex, modernizing mid-Victorian society — as opposed to some thing like David Copperfield, written in the Victorian era but really set in the earlier era of Dickens’ childhood, in a simpler and less diversified milieu. Is Trollope’ s portrait of an Irish Catholic becoming socially acceptable in British society accurate or as it a kind of fairy tale, somewhat like Branson in Downton Abbey? Why is Phineas one of Trollope’s most appealing characters? Did Trollope see himself in Phineas, despite the manifest differences? (Most Bildungsromans are about characters roughly based on the author). We can also talk about other instances of the Bildungsroman in Trollope: The Claverinqs, the entire idea of the “hobbledehoy”, and instances of the Trollope’s female Bildungroman (Lady Anna? Can You Forgive Her?)”
The link between Phineas and Branson in Downton Abbey is suggestive, but I think that Trollope's Phineas, rooted in his own experience in Ireland, and in the reality of Irish politicians like Sir John Pope Hennessy (believed by the latter's grandson to have been the model for Phineas) is more deeply rooted in reality.

I look forward to Professor Birns' lecture; an expert on Trollope and Anthony Powell? Most promising.

By the bye, for those who think that writing sequels to Trollope is an abomination before the Lord? Msgr. Ronald Knox beat me to it, with a sequel to the Barset novels--published by the Trollope Society in a handsome edition...

Saturday, September 7, 2013

My Twitter Doppelgänger

On what planet, I have to ask myself, am I worth impersonating? I mean, really?

Nonetheless, some bright spark on Twitter has duplicated the sidebar, the photos and the short bio of my Twitter account. The tweets, though, are so at variance with my tastes, nature, and general mode of expression that I feel like the narrator in William Wilson, except, instead of being stalked by my conscience, I'm being stalked by some sports-obsessed nimrod who thinks than masquerading as a cat-fancying middle aged lawyer enhances his sex appeal.

No accounting for tastes, mind you, but, as GOB Bluth would say:

I've reported it, of course, and hope that Twitter will execute the high, the middle and the low justice with its terrible swift sword.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Shofar, So good

On my way home from work this evening, getting off at the Nostrand Avenue Station, I found myself greeted by two cheerful young Orthodox Jewish men. "Happy New Year!" they called to me, and I wished them one as well. Then the slightly older of the two, asked me if I had heard the shofar yet. (Now, I should add, my immediate fear that I might be lulling these nice guys into thinking I was of their faith was greatly ameliorated by the fact that they had opened a similar conversation with an African-American gentleman who politely replied "Happy New Year," but kept on going.) Anyway, I replied I had not.

They explained to me that there would be a series of blessings to say first, and then they would play the 4 traditional shofar blasts for me. The elder of the two led me through the prayers, patiently saying them with me, after slowly reciting them so I could join him. After the blessings, he smiled, and told me that we had just shared prayers that we would be better men in this new year. Then, he played the first two blasts, and passed on the shofar to his colleague to do the last two.

I thanked them for sharing the experience with me, and I meant it. It's always an honor to be included in something that is sacred to the one who shares it, but the pleasure the young men had in imparting it to a stranger, and their very sincere reverence, touched me greatly.

Happy New Year, to all who celebrate!

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

The Campaign to Finish "The Last Campaign"

"Give us the tools and we will finish the job," said Winston Churchill, and in a very real sense, that is the genius of Kickstarter; it allows artists, scholars, filmmakers, and a wide variety of makers of culture, artefacts and even just plain products to assist in their funding and thus creation. Supporters get the satisfaction of contributing something they believe in, and sometimes creators offer related perks to those who contribute at a certain level, which they set.

Anthony Clark, an old friend of your Anglocat, has launched a Kickstarter campaign to fund the final stages of research he needs to finish his book, The Last Campaign: How Presidents Rewrite History, Run for Posterity, and Enshrine Their Legacies. The book is an expose of the politicking, brand-building, and whitewashing that Presidents, their families, and their supporters engage in creating glitzy displays and compelling narratives, all the while gently nudging the shadow side of the Presidency commemorated by the library deeper into the shadows. More to the point, these libraries, maintained by taxpayer dollars, are designed to facilitate research and the writing of more definitive history, not merely to be shrines. Anthony Clark, who had to fight to get access to documents in presidential libraries, then became a lecturer on the effect of politicization of presidential libraries, ultimately served on the staff of the Congressional Committee that exercises oversight over the National Archives and this presidential libraries.

In other words, he is an expert in this field who earned his credibility the hard way--working his way from the outside in.

But, you may ask, why do you care?

Because, I would suggest, there is one hell of a lot of information out there, buried under the glitz, the celebrity, the cult of personality, that obscures the achievements and failures, virtues and vices, of our Presidents. We pay for the maintenance of both the information--which is hard to get to--and the infotainment, which is all too easy to flock to and get lost in.

Anthony Clark is trying to blow the lid off the politics and the intrigue--interesting reading in their own right--and bring about substantive reform.

Isn't that worth a look?