Archive for August, 2011

Leave that train in the station

Much like Christ used parables, politicians and journalists pile on metaphor after metaphor. Of those, none is as useful, generic and ubiquitous as the train one. But despite Mae West’s quip that too much of a good thing is a wonderful thing, too much of a good thing can actually sit quite heavy on the stomach. Case in point, a quote in the August 19 Washington Post, from a former Yeltsin aide, Georgy Satarov, remembering the good times.
Read more…


“New killer” energy

We had nuclear reactors all along in central Virginia, in the North Anna station? Now you tell me? And, writes the Wall Street Journal, “the plant tripped out of service,” whatever that means? The August 23 earthquake I found almost funny–though the cat obviously didn’t. But now I’m really, really not amused. Especially when I read that had our measly 5.8 tremor been even slightly higher, there could have been cause for concern. There are 104 nuclear reactors in the U.S. –to me, all accidents waiting to happen. The precedents are there, aren’t they? A quick reminder, if needed, of the more spectacular examples.

1979: The core reactor at Three Mile Island undergoes meltdown. The industry and regulatory commissions swear themselves blue in saying that no loss of life followed. Mmmm… Reports tell us otherwise in spikes of death and illness by cancer. As for causes, Nuclear Regulatory Commission(NRC) experts have blamed the accident on lack of communication, lack of training, equipment failure, operator error, etc. Not reassuring when you think that the plant has not been closed to this day. Read more…

I am not an “Ashrafi”

“Ashrafi” is what former Congressman Patrick Kennedy called himself in a show of support for the Iranian MEK holed up at camp Ashraf in Iraq— echoing his uncle JFK’s famous uttering of “Ich bin ein Berliner” and, to venture a guess, perhaps hoping for some of the golden president’s prestige by association.

The MEK movement, a Marxist-Islamic throwback to the 1970s with a cult structure, uses its deep pockets to pay a speaking fee to public figures or make contributions to their campaigns. It can then parade these officials at rallies in front of large audiences composed of both MEK members and groups paid for attending. In Paris, a few months ago, several thousand Polish students were present. Interviewed by French media, they said they had no idea what the MEK was but had paid $6 each for a three-day trip to Paris, everything included. According to a Washington Post article today [“Iranian dissidents gather high-profile support” by Alice Fordham] last Friday’s audience outside the State Department included the members of a church whose pastor encouraged them to attend. One said he did not know the name of the organization holding the rally or the country it is from, but “We need to go out and let our voices be heard.”  [sic] Read more…

Actors, brainless and generally heartless, should stick to acting

In the May 9 issue of the New Yorker’s Talk of the Town, actor Ted Danson talks to Elizabeth Kolbert—the magazine’s environment expert—about his work in the field of oceanography and marine conservation. He talks about the protection of oceans and marine life, about his concern over the fact that a year after the BP oil spill, offshore drilling is again being promoted. (Though why he should be disappointed by politicians being politicians and wealthy companies getting away with murder indicates naiveté more than anything else.) I was surprised at Kolbert–a great and thorough journalist–who wonders about whether an actor shouldn’t stick to acting. Yes, that’s the common attitude toward celebrities putting their weight behind a cause. Elizabeth Taylor and AIDS, Sean Penn and Haiti, Tim Robbins and Susan Sarandon in their heyday as all-round activists, Read more…

How irritating are they?

Guests who insist that plates don’t be changed between courses, using as argument that after all it all goes in the same place. Oh, it does, does it? How about this novel way of serving a meal, then? Read more…

Categories: Things we say Tags:

Natural-Born Defense Attorneys (NBDAs)

August 18, 2011 1 comment

I know a few, you know a few. The kind souls that rush to the defense of anyone you make the slightest criticism of, or even a passing remark.

They don’t realize how irritating it is to have thrown in your face this permanent explanation of the reasons people have for doing the stupid things they do or the stupid things that happen.

When in the company of the natural-born defense attorney (NBDA), I try to avoid any remark that could have him/her come back with an instant justification for whoever they perceive as unfairly attacked, but I’m still sometimes caught off guard.

Here are a few examples of natural-born defense attorneys making the case for their client.

  • In a hotel, you say the maid didn’t do a good job of cleaning the room. The NBDA counters by saying that she probably doesn’t know how. I would argue that either she should be in a line of work where she’s competent or, more reasonably, that everyone knows how to clean.
  • Read more…

Categories: Things we say Tags:

You had to be there

August 16, 2011 1 comment

On a recent trip to Armenia, I hear a lot about the 1915 Armenian genocide perpetrated by the Ottoman Turks. As a friend tells me, there is not a single Armenian family that does not have some personal history of the genocide, ancestors slaughtered, survivors emigrating to various countries. For years, I’ve been appalled both by this terrible episode and by the attitude of Turkey. Not only have successive Turkish governments refused to recognize the reality of this crime but they are furious at European countries calling the 1915 massacres a genocide. They cannot stand the word and have made it a crime for their own citizens to use it when talking about this dark page in their country’s history (even briefly throwing in jail their own Nobel Prize winner for literature, Orhan Pamuk).

I watched a debate on You Tube, with two Turks who called themselves “historians” Read more…

%d bloggers like this: