As promised, I've been thinking of what are the highlights of the October Ath list.
For those who haven't seen, the full list of Ath speakers is here.
But, first, I wouldn't be Charles C. Johnson if I didn't give you some of the lowlights:
- I mean no disrespect to Devashish Dey or Nawal Kishdeg Singh, who I am sure are fine musicians, but do we really need "A Concert of Traditional Indian Music Celebrating Ghandi's [sic] Birthday"? Why are we evening celebrating Gandhi's birthday when we can't even spell it? Is Gandhi one who we should celebrate? I think not. It turns out, our dear Gandhi, was, well, something of a racist who not only disdained black Africans, but also low-class Indians. So much for the Gandhi myth! Of course we all know why we love him. Thanks to Sir Ben Kingsley, who, in the words of a Claremont professor, captured Hollywood's love affair with the activist, who was everything Hollywood aspired to be: "thin, tanned, and moral." (Lest someone criticize me for being unfair to Mr. Gandhi, need I remind you that I also think Mother Theresa and the Dalai Lama are frauds, as well?)
- On October 5, we have Mr. Hisham Melhem, who is something of a special on this question of why the Muslims don't play well with other religions. Sadly, he does not come to the obvious conclusion -- that they are Muslims -- and instead, insists that it is because of the misdeeds of America. You can get something of a taste of that when you read this interview.
- George Halverston of Kaiser Family Health Plan will be coming. One of his books says that one of the solutions to our health care "crisis" is having the government force you to buy a private product. In this case, insurance. Yeah, that's definitely not constitutional, but hey, what's a little illegality among friends? Oh, and having just had my premiums rise, I'm wondering when this whole Obama thing is going to leave with a little bit more than change to pay the bills.
- Next up, there's Lucas Guttentag of the ACLU who'll be speaking for on the Immigrants' Rights Projects. You should read that as I do, which is to say, yet another "open borders enthusiast."
- I'm a bit disappointed to say that I will be missing Jhumpa Lahiri's visit to the Athenaeum. I confess to being something of a fan, if only because literature these days has become de rigeur to be writing about the exotic. To Ms. Lahiri's credit, she often finds the universal, but almost always in spite of her stories. I have found the whole "caught between two cultures" theme of writers to be a bit cliched nowadays, but I'm saddened that I will be missing this one for class.
- On October 12th, we have Bruce McKenna, co-executive producer and writer of two of the finest mini-series ever made: Band of Brothers (2001) and The Pacific (2010). Both of these series were so good that I almost forgot how much of an ass Tom Hanks, the other executive producer made of himself when he flat out said that my grandparents' war (my grandfather, Dwight Johnson is a Navy Cross winner from that campaign) consisted of a race war. Maybe so, but still an impolitic thing to say. McKenna is not Hanks, though, and I shan't be asking him anything untoward. McKenna gets it. He said, according to the LA Times, that he wanted to open the miniseries with footage of Wild Bill Guarnere saying that as rough as he had it, the boys in the Pacific had it much, much worse." Hear him discuss the history of the Pacific War and the savagery of the Japanese. The run time is 4:32. We really are living in the Golden Age of television.
- On October 13, Bill Kristol of The Weekly Standard will give his sense of how he thinks the Democrats are going to get bludgeoned in the mid-terms. (I have the Republicans winning the House and getting to 49 in the Senate.) It seems as if Bill Kristol was here just yesterday talking about the 2008 elections. This year things'll be different. Yours truly has given up my previous levels of drinking, but he might indulge himself a bit that night, if things going according to plan.
- On October 14, Leszek Balcerowicz, who is something of an economic guru, will be talking about how to avoid another financial crisis. I wish him luck, but the economic prognosticator profession I have about as much faith in as the oracles of old. The Washington Post wrote favorably about him in 2007. I quote below from this article here:
Like Walesa, Balcerowicz is a genuine hero -- a man of principle, perseverance and courage who as finance minister, deputy prime minister and head of Poland's central bank managed the turnaround of one of Europe's poorest and most dysfunctional economies. While his "shock therapy" for the Polish economy in the early 1990s was risky and painful, it produced some of the strongest growth and lowest inflation on the continent.
Though he has been driven out by Poland's new government -- a somewhat kooky coalition of anti-communists, nationalists, populists and puritans cobbled together by twin brothers Lech and Jaroslaw Kaczynski -- Balcerowicz can take satisfaction that the roots of economic and political reform are now deep enough that backsliding is unlikely.
- I'm looking forward to the concert on October 26th, but that, thankfully, is mercifully not political. Enjoy Robert Schumann's 200th birthday.
- Frank Deford is an NPR sports columnist. I'm opposed on principle to him receiving a salary from the federal government and I loath most sports, but I'm not sure I'd want to miss this.