I confess I've found the last half-season of "The Sopranos" to be something of a letdown so far, especially after the bravura season opener at the lake house. Taken individually, the episodes have been fine. But that's just the problem: You basically have to take them individually. Apart from the Phil Leotardo storyline, which has been progressing in the (sometimes distant) background, there's been almost nothing in the way of a broader narrative arc.
GQ has made available on its website former TNR editor Michael Kelly's classic "Ted Kennedy on the Rocks," one of the best pieces of political reportage I have ever read. As the article clearly demonstrates, Chappaquiddick did not do much to stave Ted Kennedy's recklessness, but, since marrying again in 1992, Kennedy has tempered his behavior. Interestingly, the article also features Kennedy carousing with current long-shot presidential candidate Chris Dodd. According to Roll Call's then-gossip columnist Bill Thomas, "[Kennedy]'s off the reservation ... out of control ...
Reality show producer Mark Burnett is apparently planning a web-based contest show about politics to air during the height of primary season. The details are a bit convoluted so far, but basically, it seems, the winner of the show would get cash to donate to his or her presidential candidate or PAC of choice. According to the LA Times, MySpace users would run for office by submitting videos and conducting virtual campaigns for votes. The top 100 or so would make it to the TV series, which would end with debates.
Jason, Romney's plan to create an ambassador-at-large dealing with nuclear terror sounds like a fine idea, although I'd like to see more details. But I'm actually more struck by his embrace of another idea: "a new body of international law that would make nuclear trafficking a crime against humanity, on a par with genocide and war crimes." When I first saw this idea in a March Washington Post op-ed it struck me as a fine one, and I suggested that some 2008 candidate turn it into a "new idea" of their campaign.
by Jeffrey Herf Here are three more steps readers of the Open University can take in the aftermath of the Virginia Tech massacre. 1. If Federal law had been enforced in Virginia, the killer would not have been able to purchase those two handguns. Faculty, students, and staff at colleges and universities and parents of students attending them should ask their administration--deans, provosts, and presidents-- how their institution complies with the federal laws that prohibit people who have been diagnosed as mentally ill from purchasing or possessing guns.
CongressDaily (sus req) today has a dispiriting analysis of the Pentagon's just-released National Defense Budget Estimates for FY '08: The impartial numbers show that [Lyndon] Johnson spent $2.1 trillion in FY08 dollars on the American military from FY64 through FY68 when both the Vietnam and Cold wars were raging. He put more than 500,000 troops on the ground in Vietnam from an active duty force of 3.5 million men and women, many of them low-cost draftees.
The WaPo's Marc Fisher answers a question that occurred to me: If Seung-Hui Cho was so obviously disturbed even as a young child, how did he ever get into Virginia Tech? Blame it on a depersonalized admissions process. According to Fisher, Tech seeks students with at least a B+ average and an SAT score of at least 1130. Fisher writes: Virginia Tech makes its admission decisions purely and entirely on the basis of those numbers. Its application includes no requirement for interviews or teacher recommendations.
by Jeffrey Herf One of the historian's favorite words is "conjuncture." It refers to the simultaneous presence of causal factors that leads to an outcome that none on their own would have produced. It is our alternative to simplistic, single-cause explanations of events.
Back in 1994, after Susan Smith drowned her two children, Newt Gingrich made an ass out of himself by saying: "I think that the mother killing the two children in South Carolina vividly reminds every American how sick the society is getting and how much we need to change things. . . . The only way to change is to vote Republican." Now, alas, it's Joe Biden's turn. Speaking to Al Sharpton's confab this week, Biden said: "I would argue, since 1994 with the Gingrich revolution, just take a look at Iraq, Venezuela, Katrina, what's gone down at Virginia Tech, Darfur, Imus. Take a look.
Everyone knows that John Ashcroft was fully committed to fighting the all-crucial War on Porn. But what about Alberto Gonzales? He wasn't one of those porno-king sympathizers found so frequently on the Western left, was he? Hardly, Salon's Mark Follman reports today. Not only did Gonzales make adult obscenity a "top priority" for the Justice Department during his tenure, but two of those fired U.S. attorneys may have actually been sacked for being soft on internet nudity: Two of the fired U.S.