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Though Obama never submitted his own bill—which might have helped but he didn’t want to be seen losing on some of its provisions—he said again and again what he wanted the health care bill to be, or what it was, but the press didn’t think that was news. What good the bill would do, even what it would do, didn’t fit in with the story the press wanted to tell. The people who appeared most often as guests on television—to the point of aching tedium—were those who had objections to the bill, particularly those on the left such as Dean, and Anthony Weiner, a New York House member, who complained repeatedly about the absence of the public option, long after it was clear that the Senate wouldn’t accept it; and the Socialist-Independent Bernie Sanders, who clung to the fantasy of turning the whole thing into a single-payer system. One unfortunate upshot of Obama’s decision not to get very involved publicly until the final negotiations was that his presidency became too defined by the goings-on on Capitol Hill, the deal-making. The clear impression was that Obama was not leading. –“Is There Life in Health Care Reform?,” Elizabeth Drew, The New York Review of Books
Downstairs is Madison’s study, where he spent his final year, too crippled by arthritis to go up to his bedchamber. A life-cast of the elderly Madison, rendered as a bust in Roman garb, stands by the window, frowning over the room. When he was dying in the summer of 1836, the guide said, doctors offered to prolong things so he could die on a Fourth of July, as Jefferson, John Adams, and James Monroe had died. He declined the opportunity and stopped breathing on June 28, with a smile on his face. –“Presidents’ Weekend: Montpelier, Feb. 14,” Tom Scocca, TomScocca.com
Miller cites a speech Ibsen made to a working men’s club after a performance of An Enemy of the People in which he reassures them that, when speaking of an aristocracy, he meant an aristocracy of the intellect, character and will, rather than one of birth. But there are many recorded instances of remarks that indicate he was no friend to what Miller would, rightly, have insisted were the necessary conditions of democracy. He told his friend, Brandes, that “under no circumstances will I ever link myself with any party which has the majority behind it”. Another of his recorded obiter dicta runs: “What is the majority? The ignorant mass. Intelligence always belongs to the minority”. Arthur Miller’s stance in relation to this involves forgetting that, while great artists often put their best selves into their creations, the greatness of the work depends upon a continued contention with their less-than-best– or even worst– selves. Ibsen would have been horrified by what happened politically in the 20th century and also honest enough to acknowledge where his own feelings had tended. –“Ibsen revival: Why the playwright can still change our lives,” Paul Taylor, the Independent
I recently spent a semester teaching writing at an elite liberal-arts college. At strategic points around the campus, in shades of yellow and green, banners displayed the following pair of texts. The first was attributed to the college’s founder, which dates it to the 1920s. The second was extracted from the latest version of the institution’s mission statement:
The paramount obligation of a college is to develop in its students the ability to think clearly and independently, and the ability to live confidently, courageously, and hopefully.
Let us take a moment to compare these texts. The first thing to observe about the older one is that it is a sentence. It expresses an idea by placing concepts in relation to one another within the kind of structure that we call a syntax. It is, moreover, highly wrought: a parallel structure underscored by repetition, five adverbs balanced two against three.
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 naked man believed to be under the influence of LSD rammed his pickup truck into two police cars.
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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.”