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I’ve been away for the past week so over the next few days I’m going to catch up by posting some of the best stories and items I read on vacation. First up is this terrific piece by James Wolcott, which should be savored word by delicious word. In it, Wolcott eviscerates former Senator Bob Kerrey (“one of those bipartisan junkies who thinks the only way to solve America’s problems is to glue an Abe Lincoln beard on Sam Waterston and heed his craggy wisdom”) for the unsolicited advice he recently offered Barack Obama on how to conduct himself with John McCain. Obama should handle Kerrey’s advice “with tongs and dispose of in a plastic baggy,” Wolcott writes:
Kerrey’s message to the Democratic victor is that he should take the initiative and strike a preemptive note of cooperative assent with his opponent, emphasizing their shared goals instead of sharpening and highlighting their differences. “From this comes a modest proposal and an immodest wish: That Obama begin now to look for opportunities to say to McCain: ‘I agree with you on that.’” Stuffing words into Obama’s mouth, Kerrey offers a rollcall of issues on which Obama can reach out and ally himself with McCain…
This is so wrong I barely know where to begin. First of all, it’s boring–if Obama wants to disillusion even more Democrats than he has recently, the best way to do it is by mouthing mush such as, “I agree with you about the need for a comprehensive solution to immigration–help me help you help me to help America.” And what is John McCain going to be doing while Obama is doing all this agreeing?–he isn’t going to face pressure from the Republican side to make similar overtures to Obama. The voters, watching Obama strike one note of harmony with McCain after another, are going to think, Hell, if McCain is right on so many issues, why not just vote for him to begin with? Why go for the echo when you can have the golden-oldie original? The time for Obama to be conciliatory and solicit McCain’s help in the Senate is after he’s beaten his ass in the general election, not before.
More from Ken Silverstein:
Perspective — October 23, 2013, 8:00 am
How pro-oil Louisiana politicians have shaped American environmental policy
Postcard — October 16, 2013, 8:00 am
A trip to one of the properties at issue in Louisiana’s oil-pollution lawsuits
On a Friday evening in January, a thousand people at the annual California Native Plant Society conference in San Jose settled down to a banquet and a keynote speech delivered by an environmental historian named Jared Farmer. His chosen topic was the eucalyptus tree and its role in California’s ecology and history. The address did not go well. Eucalyptus is not a native plant but a Victorian import from Australia. In the eyes of those gathered at the San Jose DoubleTree, it qualified as “invasive,” “exotic,” “alien” — all dirty words to this crowd, who were therefore convinced that the tree was dangerously combustible, unfriendly to birds, and excessively greedy in competing for water with honest native species.
In his speech, Farmer dutifully highlighted these ugly attributes, but also quoted a few more positive remarks made by others over the years. This was a reckless move. A reference to the tree as “indigenously Californian” elicited an abusive roar, as did an observation that without the aromatic import, the state would be like a “home without its mother.” Thereafter, the mild-mannered speaker was continually interrupted by boos, groans, and exasperated gasps. Only when he mentioned the longhorn beetle, a species imported (illegally) from Australia during the 1990s with the specific aim of killing the eucalyptus, did he earn a resounding cheer.
Percentage of Britons who cannot name the city that provides the setting for the musical Chicago:
An Australian entrepreneur was selling oysters raised in tanks laced with Viagra.
A tourism company in Australia announced a service that will allow users to take the “world’s biggest selfies,” and a Texas man accidentally killed himself while trying to pose for a selfie with a handgun.
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“Shelby is waiting for something. He himself does not know what it is. When it comes he will either go back into the world from which he came, or sink out of sight in the morass of alcoholism or despair that has engulfed other vagrants.”