Ohio Books And Authors

The Ohioana Book Festival is Saturday, May 8 at the Ohioana Library and State Library building at 274 E. First Avenue in Columbus.  It promises to be an exceptional day, beginning at 10 a.m. and running until 4:30 p.m.  There will be readings from authors, a chance to get books signed by authors, the presentation of awards to young writers, and a series of panel presentations.

All of the panel discussions look interesting, but some in particular have caught my eye.  One is Mentors & Muses:  The Writers and Books That Inspired Me, in which David Catrow and Martha Moody will discuss books and writers that inspired them.  In my view, when people start talking about their favorites of anything, it is usually revealing.  Another presentation that looks interesting for the same reason is How We Write, What We Write, in which Lisa Klein and Lucy A. Snyder will discuss their creative processes.

Ohio is full of really good writers, and the Ohioana Book Festival is a good way to get to know some of them.  Information about the 2010 Ohioana Book Festival is available here.

Another Dog Bites Man Story

Florida Governor Charlie Crist, who went from having a commanding lead in the polls to getting clobbered in the Republican primary contest for the U.S. Senate seat from the Sunshine State, has announced that he will run as an independent.  Of course, the fact that Crist was likely to get walloped in the primary wasn’t the motivating factor.  Rather, it was about “principle.”  In his statement announcing the decision, Crist said that, for him, it is all about “public service” and “putting the needs of people first.” Seriously, he said that — and apparently was able to get it out with a straight face, without dissolving into uncontrollable laughter about the obvious absurdity of his self-serving statement.

There is nothing surprising about this, of course.  Indeed, everything about the story is predictable.  Crist’s decision was not a difficult call because, as any rational person knows, every politician is just about getting himself or herself elected and then reelected.  When you have the itch to be in The World’s Greatest Deliberative Body, party affiliation doesn’t mean squat.  Arlen Specter showed that recently, and Crist confirms it.  Also predictable is the reaction to Crist’s announcement.  Republicans are outraged that Crist — that unprincipled hack! — would shed his party affiliation so casually.  Do you think they were outraged when Joe Lieberman decided to run as an independent in a bid — and a successful one at that — to keep his Senate seat, or when Congressman Parker Griffith from Alabama recently changed his allegiance from Democrat to Republican?

If I were a Florida voter, I wouldn’t vote for Crist — not because he has jettisoned his party affiliation, but because his change has exposed the naked truth.  What does Charlie Crist believe in?  Why, he believes in nothing other than Charlie Crist.  He’s now established that his interests come before everything else.  Why would you want someone like that to represent your State in the Senate?

The NCAA Tournament Expands

The NCAA has decided to expand — ever so slightly — the NCAA Basketball Tournament field, from 65 to 68 teams.  Starting next year, there will be four “play-in” games instead of just one.

I suppose this is a compromise solution, between people who wanted an 80- or 96-team field and those who would prefer to leave the Tournament the way it is.  I think making the Tournament much bigger would have been kind of silly, so I am glad the NCAA Board of Directors resisted that temptation.  As it is, I kind of scratch my head at the arguments about whether a “bubble” team from a “power conference” that couldn’t even finish above .500 in conference play should make the Tournament.  If you can’t even win a majority of the games in your conference, why should you be playing for the NCAA championship?  For that same reason, I also like the NCAA Board’s idea of the play-in games not being limited to just small-conference teams.  Why shouldn’t a “power conference” team or two have to play their way in, just like the small fry?

The linked article also notes that, in 2011, every game in the NCAA Tournament will be available for viewing, live, across the country.  The games will be broadcast by CBS, TNT, TBS, and truTV.  That news will cause every sports fan to ask one question:  “What the heck is truTV, and do I have it on my basic cable?”

Debt Commission Deception

The Debt Commission established by President Obama to recommend ways to reduce the federal deficit has begun its discussions and deliberations.  Its first meeting produced the expected round of sound bites.  Erskine Bowles, one of the chairs, said the federal debt is “like a cancer” that would “destroy our country from within.” Fed Chair Ben Bernanke said the federal budget is on an “unsustainable path.” And, with the Commission’s discussions taking place against the backdrop of plummeting credit ratings for EU countries like Greece, Portugal, and now Spain, the debt reduction effort in America should have a special urgency.

So why does the concept of a Debt Commission leave me cold?  Because I think the Debt Commission is just another exercise in deception.

Recently, we have seen what Congress can do when it tries.  I agree with at least one part of Richard’s recent post — if you are going to control Congress, at least try to do something with that control while it lasts.  The dogged Democratic efforts to pass the “health care reform” legislation shows what Congress and the Administration can accomplish when they are fully committed to doing so — even though, in that case, I strongly disagreed with the solution.  If Congress has the will to enact a bill that is thousands of pages long, that regulates and restructures an enormous and extraordinarily complex slice of our economy, surely Congress could substantially reduce the deficit through a similar effort.  What the Debt Commission really tells us is that Congress doesn’t have the stomach for that deficit reduction effort.

Sure, we’ll hear the sound bites from the unelected, ultimately powerless people on the Debt Commission . . . and it will avail us naught.  Congress likes to giveth — a subsidized health benefit here, a new consumer financial regulatory agency there — but doesn’t like to taketh away.  Until circumstances force Congress’ hand, deficit reduction will always be on the back burner.

Something Similar to Alan Parsons Project (Pt. 3)

In addition to what Dad posted, here are some albums I think are similar to the Alan Parsons Project’s I Robot.

1. Jean Michel Jarre, Oxygene. Oxygene, released in 1976, is more electronic and less rock than I Robot, and it’s not exactly a concept album, but it has a similar sound and sensibility.

2. and 3. Pink Floyd, Animals and The Wall. Pretty much any Pink Floyd album from the 1970s is as close to Alan Parsons as you can get. In fact, Alan Parsons was an engineer for Dark Side of the Moon, so he probably influenced the sound for that album and was influenced by Pink Floyd’s sound. Like I Robot, both Animals and The Wall were concept albums and were also sort of funky.

4. The Who, Tommy. Tommy‘s sound is different than I Robot‘s because it was made in the late 1960s, but both are concept albums about an anguished protagonist and both have lots of good songs.

5. The Talking Heads, More Songs About Buildings and Food. This isn’t a concept album, but it reminds me of I Robot because it, also, seems to be a mix of new wave, electronic, classic rock, funk and disco. Actually, pretty much anything by the Talking Heads in the late 70s would qualify.

Massachusetts’ Offshore Wind Farm

I’m delighted that the federal government has approved construction of America’s first offshore wind farm, which will provide most of the power for Cape Cod, Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket.

The wind farm I pass on I-65 in Indiana (via Google search)

The project was held up for nine years, partly because locals complained that the turbines would be an eyesore. I don’t know what they’re talking about. Every time I drive from Ohio to Chicago I drive past a wind farm, and I’ve always thought the turbines were beautiful. The Times article says opponents fear they will be an “industrial blot,” but they’re one of the most sleek and graceful examples of industrialism I’ve seen. They’re sort of organic-looking, so they blend in well with nature, and their size and the speed of their turbines make them a magnificent sight. Also, they just look clean and harmless – instead of emitting smoke, they seem to emphasize the purity of the air – which is fitting for what is perhaps the cleanest and most harmless form of power we have.

The beauty of these things shouldn’t be an issue, anyway. What matters is that they provide clean energy. The wind farm’s opponents worry that the turbines will ruin the “pristine beauty” of their coast, but they will make their community’s environment more pristine than the hidden smokestacks currently used for power. The people of Massachusetts should be proud to be national leaders in adopting this form of power.

Greece Fire

Standard & Poor’s has cut Greece’s credit rating to “junk” status.  In so doing, the ratings agency indicates that it considers it unlikely that investors who purchase the bonds will ultimately be paid the principal amount of the bonds and all required interest payments.

What is the meaning of this for the United States?  The fact that some other country’s debt is considered likely to default is not earth-shaking news; this article notes that bonds issued by Egypt and Azerbaijan have the same rating that has now been assigned to Greece.  No, the risk is that Greece’s unrelenting troubles — and the corresponding reduction in the credit rating of Portugal — will inflame general investor skittishness about the massive governmental debt among European countries and the U.S.A.  If investors perceive greater risk of non-payment, they are going to insist on higher interest payments to bear that risk, and higher interest rates mean more deficits and a spiraling debt problem that becomes increasingly difficult to solve.  The yield on Greece’s 2-year bonds is now trading at about 15%.  Imagine if the United States, or debt-ridden states like California, had to pay 15% interest on their borrowings, and an ever-growing portion of the federal budget therefore had to be devoted to debt payments to overseas investors.

The lesson to be drawn from Greece’s predicament is that deficits must be addressed, non-essential spending must be cut, and budgets must be balanced.  As Greece has now demonstrated, constant deficit spending and borrowing is the path to perdition.