Suddenly "Pomp and Circumstance" was booming out of the Zellerbach Auditorium sound system and there she was -- my daughter Miranda, that short blonde in the front row (no mere mortarboard could obscure those locks) as the orchestra section filled up with hundreds of graduating University of California history majors last Friday morning. And just as suddenly, but not in the least surprisingly, I was overwhelmed by every stereotypical parental emotion: How had that erstwhile little munchkin become this terrific young woman? How had she grown so supremely capable at a whole range of things that neither her mother nor I could do if our lives depended on it? And -- inevitably -- where had the time gone?
"Nobody dast blame this man," says Charley in a spontaneous eulogy for his neighbor, Willy Loman, in the concluding scene of Arthur Miller's tragedy. "A salesman is got to dream, boy."
And certainly nobody blames Nicholas Berg, beheaded in Iraq by ghouls from the Dark Ages. Berg had his dreams, and they weren't just of business opportunities in Iraq. Though just 26, Berg was already something of a globetrotter in the cause of building a better world. Working through the American Jewish World Service, he'd gone to Kenya to help construct a water access project -- the kind of project that Africa needs most, and for which Berg's idealism, engineering skills and evident affability suited him to a tee.
By the middle of the 20th century, Los Angeles and Houston were the dominant cities in the dominant states of the just emerging Sun Belt. Politically, though, they were both still tight, white little towns.
Each city had a remarkably small informal governing committee -- all white, all Protestant, all CEO, all right-wing -- that held sway over matters large and small. In Los Angeles, the Committee of 25 met regularly in Asa Call's office at Pacific Mutual Insurance, tending to the selection of pro-business mayors. To persuade Norris Poulson, a conservative congressman, to run for mayor in 1953, committee members had to promise him that they'd personally shell out for a chauffeured limousine should he be elected. (He was and they did.)
Back when he was running for president, in 2000, Sen. John McCain routinely
referred to Bill Clinton's handling of world affairs as a "feckless photo-op
foreign policy." Four years later, Clinton's foreign policy seems fairly filled
with feck when contrasted with his successor's.
"It's rough around here," Nancy Pelosi says softly, almost in passing, as she scurries down a Capitol hallway from one meeting to another, greeting colleagues and staffers as she goes.
The "here" in question is the House of Representatives, where Pelosi has been the Democratic leader for the past year and a half. What she means is that she heads a party that has lost the capacity to legislate. Republican Speaker Dennis Hastert and Majority Leader Tom DeLay have decreed that all significant legislation is to be passed by straight GOP party-line votes. Save on the most trivial issues, no floor amendments are permitted under DeLay's rules, and no Democrats are allowed on conference committees, which frequently rewrite major bills in accord with DeLay's diktats.