I read the Sunday New York Times, so you don’t have to: Aug. 7
I’ve been out of town the past two weekends. I suppose I could have read The Sunday Boston Globe for you, or The Medina County Pennysaver. Instead, thought I’d take a break from all the news. But now, here we go again, while listening to The Cowboy Junkies….
1, After Standard & Poors dropped the credit rating of the United States on Friday, the finger-pointing included Republicans blaming Democrats, Democrats blaming Republicans, China blaming free-spending American policy and Europeans blaming S&P’s math. But deep in the story is a startling number that I had not yet encountered, one that suggests why the economy is faltering: “The weakness of the American economy is most evident in the lack of jobs,” The Times writes. “Only 55 percent of working-age adults held full-time jobs in July, the lowest level in modern times.”
2, Thirty-one Americans were killed when their helicopter was shot down Friday in Afghanistan, the single deadliest day for U.S. troops in the almost decade-long war. To date, 1,678 American service members have died in Afghanistan and related actions. Just in case you’d forgotten that was still going on.
3, The Bergson group, covered in a fine layer of history’s dust, is finally being recognized in Israel for its efforts to save Jews and Holocaust victims during World War II. “The Bergsonites were appalled by what they saw as the indifference of the Roosevelt administration and the passivity of the Jewish establishment,” reports The Times, “which staunchly supported the administration and largely accepted its argument that the primary American military objective was to win the war, not to save European Jews.” The Bergson group’s campaign to bring attention to the massacre of Jews included lobbying members of Congress, taking out full-page ads in The Times and The Washington Post and filling Madison Square Garden twice with a pageant called We Will Never Die, supported by the writer Ben Hecht, Broadway impresario Billy Rose and composer Kurt Weil. The group also organized a march on the White House by 400 Orthodox rabbis, “most of them in traditional black garb, a spectacle the likes of which had never been seen in Washington,” The Times writes. Among the resistors to this movement were traditional Jewish leaders, “apparently afraid of making waves, and losing their own prominence.”
4, On the Jobs page of the Business section, writer Peter Sims points out, “Even the most successful stand-up comedians, like Chris Rock, try thousands of new ideas in front of small club audiences in order to develop a one-hour set.” Ideas that don’t work are merely a part of the process. “Invention and discovery emanate from the ability to try seemingly wild possibilities; to feel comfortable being wrong before being right; to live in the world as a careful observer, open to different experiences; to play with ideas without prematurely judging oneself or others; to persist through difficulties; and to have a willingness to be misunderstood, sometimes for long periods, despite the conventional wisdom.”
5, In the Sunday Review, “Particularly on the conservative side, we’re seeing a lot of beliefs that have this faith-based quality, ‘We know it’s true because our ideology tells us it’s true,’ ” says Alan Abramowitz, a professor of political science at Emory University. Adds Jon A. Krosnick, a social psychologist at Stanford, “The minute you decide to buy the Toyota, your evaluation of it goes up.”
6, Check out “The Austerity Survival Guide” in The Strip. In one panel, cartoonist Brian McFadden advises, “For the sake of your own mental health, don’t look up ‘Recession of 1937’ on Wikipedia.” Pounding his laptop with his fists, a man screams “Hey! This happened before, and they’re doing it again?”
7, Geoffrey Grey, who’s written a book about D.B. Cooper, addresses this week’s news that a woman claims her uncle L.D. Cooper was the legendary hijacker, based on a brief conversation she overheard when she was 8 years old. Grey expresses amazement that anyone’s even paying attention to this latest suspect. “After researching the case for a few years and analyzing hundreds of FBI files on the hijacking, I can tell you that the tale of uncle L.D. is as unremarkable as they come in Cooperland,” he writes. I’m sure he’s right about that. But he’s wrong when he writes: “For all the clamoring hope for the day that Cooper is identified and the mask is finally pulled back, we want Cooper to keep getting away. After all these years, we need him to continue to escape.” That’s romantic nonsense. Actually, I want to know who D.B. Cooper was, and what happened to the $200,000 that he had on him when he parachuted out of that jet. I want to know who Jack the Ripper was. I want to know if Shakespeare wrote all of those plays. I want to see a Bigfoot skull.
8, In an editorial called “The Truth About Taxes,” The Times reminds us what the non-delusional of us know: “Here is the bottom line. There is no economically sensible or politically honest way to address the deficit without also increasing revenues and reforming the tax code.”
9, Here’s how the Republicans pulled off last week’s anti-American debt deal, according to another Times editorial: “Through a combination of fear and fervor, Republican leaders in Congress and in the presidential campaign have lined up behind a radical new strategy in which all major decisions are made under threat – to shut the government in April, to implode the economy in July, to cut off money for the Federal Aviation Administration in August. Party leaders have said they will do this again and again, in perpetuity.”
10, A movie is being made of the killing on Osama bin Laden, by the same folks who made the acclaimed film The Hurt Locker. The White House is giving the filmmakers unprecedented access to files on the mission. With the film due to be released a month before the 2012 presidential election, it’s image polishing, for sure, but perhaps not the same kind that we accused George W. Bush of practicing with his Mission Accomplished aircraft carrier party. “At least in this president’s case,” writes Maureen Dowd, something was accomplished.”
11, In travel, Seth Sherwood visits one of those charming little Euro-countries overlooked on the Adriatic, Slovenia. “I followed the strains of an avant-Muzak-like take on “Summertime” to Presernov Square, where hundreds of spectators were watching two humanoid snails perform Kama Sutra positions on an open-air stage. Absorbing the scene in the moonlight, I wondered: Would Shakespeare even recognize his own hand buried underneath this unorthodox interpretation of A Midsummer Night’s Dream? It looked more like a midsummer night’s acid trip.”
12, Activist and writer Gloria Steinem writes about the South Korean island of Juju, often called one of the most-beautiful places in the world. Massacres have occurred there – thousands of the island’s residents were killed by Japanese occupiers during World War II, and as many 30,000 slaughtered by South Korean troops just before the Korean War, under the apparently unwarranted assumption that they would side with the North Korean communists. Yet the island has retained its physical beauty. Now a new threat looms: A giant naval base is apparently going to scar the coast. The people there have let it be known that they do not want to live amidst ballistic missiles. Steinem writes that “bulldozers were spreading small rocks in preparation for laying concrete over lava, and living coral that is a distinctive natural habitat,” she writes. “Once the bulldozers are out of sight, children pick up those rocks, pile them into towers and plant a peace flag in each one of them.”
13, A small note from The Book Review: “In the new biography David Bowie: Starman, Paul Trynka describes Bowie’s weekend routine when he was starring in The Elephant Man on Broadway in the early 1980s: ‘Every Sunday, he’d buy The New York Times and carefully read through the book reviews. Later in the week, all of the books that had received raves were lying on a table in his room; soon after, he’d finished them.’ On the other hand, Trynka cites a friend who accuses Bowie of having quoted Nietzsche and Khalil Gibran on the basis of reading their book jackets alone. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.”