This was one of those vacations during which I purposely avoided the news. So I spent a good part of Sunday reading through a week's worth of papers. As usual after such a retreat, I found the world had gone on pretty much as usual without me, with things not getting much worse or, alas, much better. Some things that would have seemed important or at least useful to read on the same day had lost much of their urgency -- old news, like old mail, gets stale. A crisis over Iran or health care? There'll be other ones to replace them tomorrow. Some things did catch my eye, though.
The one crisis I lingered over was Afghanistan, which is now in "damned if we do, damed if we don't" territory. If we pull out, we risk again sending the signal that we don't finish what we start and inviting another attack here. If we escalate, we risk getting sucked into the same quagmire almost every outside force in history has in that country. The worst course of all, it seems, is the one we're stuck on right now.
As Obama and senior members of his national security team plot the way forward in Afghanistan following Gen. Stanley McChrystal's assessment, and in anticipation of the general's expected request for as many as 40,000 additional troops for the war, the starkest choices may be the president's best options. The most dangerous course, according to some military strategists and diplomats in Afghanistan, is what Obama often gravitates toward: the middle ground.
I noted that Michael Jackson was "fairly healthy" when he died. "Damn, doesn't he look good for a dead man!" I'm pleased to say that when I go, the report will be that it was a miracle I lasted as long as I did.
I saw that Mayor Henry was taking over all of CEDIT instead of letting some of the money stay in the City Council Re-Election Fund council members' discretionary accounts. Having the administration spend money on priority projects instead of letting individual council members fritter it away piecemeal on small projects seems like good government to me. (See editorial in tomorrow night's paper on the subject.)
Our paper published a photo of the Fort Wayne Art Musem, noting that work continues there and the museum should reopen in March 2010. The thing that struck me was that the stupd, bone-white sculpture in front looks as ridiculous as it always has. Will somebody please hide that thing so we can stop embarrassing ourselves with pretensions of artistic sophistication?
People seemed to be going out on limbs last week by taking risks with giving their support. President Obama went to personally lobby for getting the 2016 Olympic Summer Games for Chicago, and Chicago came in last. Many of his critics said this was a failure that will damage Obama politically because it shows the limits of his appeal. I doubt that. Obama and his followers are learning, I think, that there is more to politics than one person's personality; there are issues and serious differences of opinion to deal with. But I don't think anybody will be hurt in the long run for putting in a good word for his home town. Woody Allen, on the other hand, has become even more pathetic than ever with his support of Roman Polanski. As one observer notes, it amounts to "one pervert using his supposed good name in defense of another: a little like Billy the Kid speaking up for Jesse James."
Maybe the two of them can explain themselves -- with lots of yucks thrown in, of course -- on the David Letterman show. I don't know which man was more clueless, Letterman for thinking he could keep his indiscretions forever secret, or accused Robert Joel Halderman for thinking there was anything shameful enough to pay blackmail over these days.
The International Black Genealogy Summit is expected to draw more than 400 people for a conference at the downtown library Oct. 29-31. That's far bigger than most genealogical groups that come here, and shows we can still draw people for in-person searches despite all the historical stuff that's online these days. Cool.
People keep arguing over "the best use" for the current City-County Building and the Renaissance Square building to be purchased by the city, with an apparent consensus forming over putting the city and county police in the new building. Everyone seems to have left behind the obvious solution -- let's make do with what we have and NOT SPEND $14 MILLION on a new building!
Some Indiana parents are pushing to have a state law mandating that school start no earlier than late August or even (perk up, nostalgia buffs) after Labor Day. That would save the state money and give parents more precious summer vacation time. But it would also involve a state mandate, ironically being supported by the sort of people who usually call for mostly local control of schools. Ain't gonna happen. President Obama, meanwhile, is calling for both a longer school year and school day. Ain't gonna happen, either.
The Supreme Court agreed to consider Chicago's handgun ban, which could give gun-rights advocates the big victory hinted at last year when the court struck down D.C.'s handgun ban. Washington has a unique federal status, and the Chicago case could decide whether the 2nd Amendment is an "individual right" that must be respected by cities and states as well. Cool again.
Finally, columnist, wordsmith and former presidential speechwriter William Safire departed the Earth, accompanied by the fulsome praise of The Journal Gazette:
William Safire's way with words was remarkable, but it was the way he combined that skill with research, fairness, inquisitiveness, a conservative ideology and old-fashioned reporting that made him such a memorable writer.
Safire has become, to liberals, a "good conservative" in the way native Americans became good Indians to the cowboys of the Old West. Politicians such as Ronald Reagan and Barry Goldwater and polemicists such as William F. Buckley and Safire, vilified during their lifetimes, suddenly become paragons of virtue on their deaths, held up as role models for the current crop of bad conservatives who have lost their way and insist on staying alive.