Mercury, up close

NASA’s Messenger space probe has flown by Mercury, the smallest planet and the one closest to the Sun, sending back pictures.

Shall we shut down the government? Again?

As of this moment, Republicans and Democrats in Congress are at an impasse over the 2011 budget.   Budget hawks in the Republican party have insisted on cutting President Obama’s spending plan.  Democrats have agreed to some $30 billion in cuts, but that is not enough for a key segment of Republicans.  If a budget doesn’t pass, the government shuts down on Friday.  (Well, “essential services” won’t, but still. . . .)

You may recall another time when Republicans scored a big Congressional victory over an unpopular Democratic president.  They demanded that the budget be cut and stood firm and uncompromising on that principle.  The government shut down.  Whereupon the public reacted against the Republicans, President Clinton’s popularity shot up, and he won re-election.

Is this a repeat of history?  Are the Republicans over-reaching, again? Will this mean the re-election of Barack Obama?  Is there anything different this time?

And here is a deeper question:  Will the American public tolerate a tough, trimmed down budget?  With so many Americans beholden in some way on federal money–getting social security, medicare, farm subsidies, business subsidies, government contracts, job-creating pork, federal programs, college loans, etc., etc.–even though they express worry about the deficit in the abstract, will they turn against any Republican or conservative who threatens to defund popular programs?

 

Government shutdown: Potential furloughs for 800k federal workers, disruption of D.C. services – The Washington Post.

Fox News drops Glenn Beck

Glenn Beck and his controversial pronouncements and conspiracy theories remain popular, but Fox News is cancelling his show.

Glenn Beck and Fox News Channel formally agreed to end Beck’s daily program Wednesday, bringing a marriage beset by outside pressures and internal tensions to an end after just 27 months.

Fox News Channel said it was dropping Glenn Beck’s afternoon talk show, which has sunk in the ratings and suffered financially due to an advertiser boycott. The conservative host and the news channel started by a conservative billionaire, Rupert Murdoch, as an avowed counterweight to the liberal news media agreed that they could not agree to continue. Beck will “transition” off Fox sometime this year, Fox and Beck’s production company, Mercury Radio Arts, said jointly.

Beck’s sometimes outrageous pronouncements — he infamously said that President Obama has “a deep-seated hatred for white people” — were good for drawing attention and viewers, but they made him radioactive among sponsors. They also put him out of step with Fox News’ overall ethic, which is heavy on pugnacious conservative commentary but eschews the sort of apocalyptic rhetoric Beck favors.

Beck’s program has remained a solid draw for Fox despite a gradual slide in the ratings from its mid-2009 peak. Airing at 5 p.m., a period when fewer people are watching TV than during evening prime-time hours, “Glenn Beck” still draws more than 2 million viewers, making it one of the top attractions on a cable news channel. Beck’s ratings sometimes approached those of Fox’s “O’Reilly Factor,” consistently the most popular program on cable news.

But Beck’s broadsides alienated a number of organizations that fought back by pressuring his advertisers and embarrassing his bosses. Color of Change, a group that advocates on behalf of African Americans, started an advertiser boycott in July 2009; its efforts were abetted by Media Matters for America, a liberal watchdog organization that made Fox News in general, and Beck in particular, its raison d’etre.

Jewish groups also were angered by Beck’s habit of denouncing his political opponents by comparing them to Nazis. Their anger was further stoked by Beck’s three-part series on liberal billionaire philanthropist George Soros, whom Beck described as a Nazi collaborator during Soros’s boyhood in occupied Hungary.

After a coalition of Jewish rabbis called on Murdoch to sanction Beck in a full-page ad in the Murdoch-owned Wall Street Journal in January, Beck further inflamed his Jewish critics by comparing Reform rabbis to “radicalized Islam” on his syndicated radio program a month later.

The outrage got to Murdoch and Fox News Chief Executive Roger Ailes, said Simon Greer, who heads the Jewish Funds for Justice, which organized the Wall Street Journal ad.

“I think Fox News and its leadership value their relationships with the American Jewish community, and Glenn Beck has consistently insulted and disrespected Jews to such an extent that it was bad for Rupert Murdoch and Roger Ailes’ worldview,” Greer said in an interview.

Leading conservatives have taken issue with Beck lately, too. Pat Buchanan and neoconservative columnist William Kristol, among others, criticized Beck’s comments about the Middle East after Beck asserted that the uprisings were part of an alliance between American liberals and Muslims seeking to create a caliphate that would spread radical Islamic ideology across the region.

“When Glenn Beck rants about the caliphate taking over the Middle East from Morocco to the Philippines, and lists (invents?) the connections between caliphate-promoters and the American left, he brings to mind no one so much as Robert Welch and the John Birch Society,” Kristol wrote in the Murdoch-owned Weekly Standard in February. “He’s marginalizing himself.”

via Glenn Beck to end daily TV program on Fox News Channel – The Washington Post.

So is that responsible journalism on the part of Fox News or a craven capitulation to ideological pressure?  So is Fox not all that conservative after all, or is Beck no true conservative?

Happy belated Cranach day!

I can’t believe I missed blogging about this yesterday, April 6 being the Commemoration of Lucas Cranach and Albrecht Dürer: Christian Artists | CyberBrethren-A Lutheran Blog.

Go to that link to celebrate by looking at some of their paintings and what they mean.

Obama starts his reelection campaign

President Obama formally threw his hat back into the ring, announcing that he will run for re-election.

He’s got a lot of weaknesses and vulnerabilities, what with the economy, his new war in Libya, a reputation as indecisive, and a number of unpopular policies.  And yet, say Democrats, who can the Republicans put against him who would not be even less popular?  He at least, they say, comes across as presidential, unlike most of his Republican rivals.  The power of the incumbency is great, and things may get better by the next election.

What do you think?

 

NationalJournal.com – Obama Announces Reelection Bid – Monday, April 4, 2011.

Why We Need Jane Austen

My colleague Mark Mitchell on why Jane Austen still resonates with young people today and what they can learn from her:

Reading Pride and Prejudice with a group of bright and interested students has been a delight. Austen can charm students in 2011 and, given the multitude of voices and volumes competing for their attention, this is no small feat. But what, exactly, is it that makes Austen such a good teacher today? The question, itself, suggests that Austen is more than a good read, more than an escapist literary drug, more than a comedy of manners.

I want to suggest that Austen provides something for which young people—even the jaded ones—secretly long. While the world she depicts is in many ways foreign to us, it is only just different enough to bring our own pathologies into clearer relief. In short, Austen reminds us of the largely forgotten categories of the lady and the gentlemen. It is her genius to make us aspire to these roles even in a world where such notions are strange and often ridiculed. . . .

Austen’s gentlemen (I’m thinking especially of Darcy here) understand the call of duty; they are committed to family, reputation, propriety, and self-control. To be sure, Darcy takes himself quite seriously, but aren’t these pursuits serious by nature? To neglect one’s duty, to be careless of one’s family and reputation, to ignore the bounds of propriety and to indulge the appetites without restraint are not the actions of a gentleman. They represent, conversely, the behavior of a boor. Or, perhaps equally fitting, they are the actions of a male who has no sense of what it means to be a man. Such characters may be Guys or Peter Pans but they are not men and surely not gentlemen.

Austen’s ladies are likewise conscious of their place in society and understand that the bounds of propriety must be observed. And while it is no doubt a gain that women today are not threatened with ruin if they don’t marry, we should not overlook the social benefits latent in a society that makes marriage the ideal. The ideal lady in Austen’s world (and here I’m thinking of Elizabeth) is strong-minded and clearly the equal of any man. She is quick witted, self-confident, and an independent thinker who will not bow and scrape before a social superior such as Lady Catherine de Bourgh nor will she accede to marry any man she does not both love and respect. Like a gentleman, a lady is constrained by social limits that direct behavior even as those limits make interaction between the sexes intelligible.

via Why We Need Jane Austen or How to be a Gentleman with Examples Good and Bad | Front Porch Republic.


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