Monthly Archives: December 2003

Gone Fishin’

I won’t be posting for the next week. Tomorrow morning, I’m driving up to Washington, DC, where I’ll meet up with Newley.com political analyst Jack W. On Monday morning, we’ll pick up Win L. and make our way up to Vermont, where we’re meeting a group of friends for new year’s celebrations. Yes indeed, I’ve got some long hours on I-95 ahead of me.

I’ll be back in DC on Sunday, January 4th, and may stick around our nation’s capital for a day or two. I’ll be back online here in South Carolina’s Lowcountry somewhere in the neighborhood of Tuesday, January 6th. (And then after that, well, I’ll let you know as soon as I know. I’m working on short-term employment in Washington from mid-January until the end of February, after which I shall be setting sail for E. Asia, where I’ll be teaching English. More details soon. I promise.)

Happy new year in advance, everyone.

Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Wealth

Josh Marshall points out this snippet from David Brooks’s column in today’s New York Times:

I remind Oakeshott that he was ambivalent about the American Revolution, and dubious about a people who had made a sharp break with the past in the name of inalienable rights and other abstractions. But ours is the one revolution that worked, and it did precisely because our founders were epistemologically modest too, and didn’t pretend to know what is the good life, only that people should be free to figure it out for themselves.

Because of that legacy, we stink at social engineering. Our government couldn’t even come up with a plan for postwar Iraq — thank goodness, too, because any “plan” hatched by technocrats in Washington would have been unfit for Iraqi reality.

It just so happens that I’m in the middle of Howard Zinn’s leftist screed historical survey of our nation from 1492 to the present, “A People’s History of the United States.”

Zinn makes the compelling argument that the American revolution wasn’t about “inalienable rights.” In fact , it was about the ruling class’s desire to free themselves from British taxes so as to become richer. End of story.

Sure, the Declaration of Independence proclaimed that “all men are created equal.” But that didn’t include the Indians who were systematically exterminated, it didn’t include slaves, and it didn’t include women. The colonies broke from Britain not, as we’ve come to believe, because of ideological necessity, but because the white guys who were running the show wanted to retain their power.

Zinn’s theories are steeped in gender and identity politics, yes, but he’s pretty convincing. I agree with Marshall: America has a long and rich tradition of “non-ideological pragmatism.” It’s shaped every international conflict from the revolution to the war in Iraq.

Housekeeping

I’ve edited the links on the left-hand side of this page. I’ve removed some superfluous stuff and added some new blogs. They are:

Baseball Musings, the title of which speaks for itself;
Jim Henley‘s Weblog, which covers politics and culture;
–Reason Magazine’s Hit & Run Weblog;
–Josh Marshall’s Talking Points Memo, in which he reflects on political happenings;
Obernews, Brooke Oberwetter’s entertaining blog;
The Devil’s Excrement, a Weblog written by a fellow Southern Exposure blogger, Miguel Octavio, who lives in Venezuela;
SCHotline, which summarizes news from my adopted home state of South Carolina;
Matthew Yglesias’s Weblog, in which he opinies on politics and culture;
–the always-juicy Romenesko’s MediaNews, an oldie-but-goodie; and
–a non-blog, JournalismJobs.com.

Read and enjoy.

UPDATE (Sat. afternoon): I’ve added two more–these’re sites I’ve been reading for a long time but am just now linking to: BravesJournal, which covers my favorite underperforming baseball team, and The London Guardian’s TEFL news, about teaching English to non-native speakers.

Happy Holidaze!

A few interesting photos from around the world this Christmas day: Saddam decked out in his holiday getup, Blitzen gets frisky in Alaska, Santa camel in Egypt, Santa monkey in Tokyo, ice lamps in China, workers take a smoke break in Hong Kong, and an Indian army solider executes a jump on his motorcycle in Calcutta.

Best wishes to everyone for a happy Christmas and an enjoyable 2004.

“Ha! I Kill Me!”

This is the best Festivus present I ever could have asked for: “ALF” is returning to TV!

E Online: “This just in from the home office in Melmac: The 7,385 signers of the “Bring Back ALF” online petition letter have finally gotten their wish.

The furry, cat-craving extraterrestrial star of the 1980s NBC sitcom, most recently spotted slumming it for long-distance services 10-10-220 and 1-800-COLLECT, has just landed his own show on Nickelodeon.”

Rolf Potts Reports from Nicaragua

Rolf Potts, a travel writer I admire, has just published the first in a series of articles about his exploits in Central America. Check out his inaugural dispatch from Granada, Nicaragua; Slate will continue to publish his thoughts as he makes his way, as part of the Drive Around the World expedition, toward Argentina.

(Side note: you may remember that a few months ago Rolf was kind enough to link to my article entitled “How and Why I Moved to Ecuador.” His excellent book “Vagabonding: An Uncommon Guide to the Art of Long-Term World Travel.” is one I recommend wholeheartedly.)

Safe travels, Rolf, and keep the stories comin’.

Back in the Land of Formidable Plumbing

The differences between life in Ecuador and life in the United States are myriad. Different languages, different customs, different food, different people. But for me, transitioning back to living in The US-of-A ineluctably boils down to one thing:

You can flush your toilet paper here in America.

In Ecuador, the plumbing is chronically weak, so you have to dipose of your soiled TP in a trash can. (Yes, it’s disgusting, but you get used to it.) Here, though, in the land of plenty, where our plumbing is strong, that simply isn’t necessary. God bless our fine nation.

The details of my return trip are these: I flew from Guayaquil to Atlanta on Wednesday, stayed in ATL with my old friend David Z., and then made my way to Savannah, GA last night. I’m writing this message from Beaufort, South Carolina, where I’ll be staying with my family through Christmas.

I fired up my computer this morning to discover that Nick M., the First Ever Newley.com Guest Weblogger (TM), has fulfilled his mission with complete ablomb. Let’s give Nick a big round of applause–not only did he execute his fine stewardship of Newley.com with verve and humor and biting insight, but he’s raised the bar for my own writings herein.

Nick M., I thank you dearly. Next time I’m in New York I’ll buy you a gin and tonic or 13.