Tonight’s Debate Winner? Jim Lehrer

I was trying to figure out what happened to the audience. Since I missed the first three-four minutes, I now see that Lehrer chided them to keep it quiet. And they listened. Then he chided the candidates to talk to each other and not the camera. Then he stayed out of the way, asking good solid questions and keeping the candidates in line. One weak question – right as I was tweeting about his mad skills – How likely do you think we are to have another 911? … It’s nice to have a debate where we aren’t left talking about the moderator. Lehrer is one of the few newsmen out there who is about the news and the facts without wanting it to be all about him, and it really showed after so many of the poorly moderated debates this cycle. All in all, we didn’t really learn anything new about our candidates, and their performance was tame compared to the drama on Capitol Hill (Paulson on one knee before Pelosi, really?). But shout out to Lehrer, tonight’s MVP.

P.J. Corkery – One of the Great Writers

It tore a hole in my heart to learn today that my friend and mentor PJ Corkery had died. I hope that there will be an effort to publish his letters, as they were as thoughtful and intelligent as any set pieces. He was a wise and caring person. Here is an excerpt from an e-mail he wrote me in March this year, quite prescient:

“I have no idea how this presidential nomination will work out.
The campaign lately has been lousy. All this race tittling while the country
falls apart. I wish these two candidates would get on the stick and start
talking about how they’re going to help people out of the quicksand we’re
all in ….
“And while Eliot Spitzer was just a bonehead in his private life (typical of
East Coast kids who score perfectly on Sats, Lsats, etc – they’re too
wound-up and thus, wounded-up.) I believe that he was targeted to get him
out of the way. The testimony he gave at the congressional hearings the day
of his tryst and the day following was about the only real attack on the
bankers and the brokers. Bush and them bankers wanted him out of the way.
And now we have the Bankers and Brokers Relief Act (as even Barron’s calls
it) bailing out the Big Bears while ordinary people sink beneath mortgages,
oil, and food prices. Yet Barry and Hillary behave like student council
candidates. Yecch.”

I’ll miss you, PJ. …

Meth Will Change That

Boise, Idaho is an interesting and sad city. … For this California native, Boise’s capitol is reminiscent of Sacramento. It is not a large city. Beautiful old houses are interspersed with the central business district. There are churches everywhere. Very old churches, churches under construction, churches right next to one another, and churches next to strip bars. … Within blocks of the capitol we spotted two old mansions fully boarded up and tagged with graffiti. … After dark, strange wiry men walk the streets, smoking. The anti-meth campaign here makes the SF version (“I Lost Me to Meth”) look like a Barney commercial: with a picture of a sink with trails of blood and a razor blade, “No One Thinks They’ll Try To Tear Off Their Own Skin. Meth Will Change That.” …


how apt at telling others’ stories, so unprepared to face one’s own
in that groggy half-state between first alarm and foot on the floor
I think about my grandpa, dying now
The last of four, one of which I never knew and the other gone
before I really had anything but that adolescent awe
Two then, he the last and pained to speak
with lives encompassing WWII and overseas
so eager for the future, so unable to connect with own pain
I know only my lived past, no connection to the grandfathers I mourn

The Hiroshima Peace Memorial

On Tuesday, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi became the highest-ranking U.S. official to ever visit the A-bomb Memorial in Hiroshima. I am intensely proud of Speaker Pelosi – sad only that a sitting U.S. president has never made that visit, and hopeful that one soon will. … I visited the memorial in early 2002. The visit was a crucial element in my rebirth as a peacenik in the months leading to the Iraq war. … The memorial’s themed exhibit while I was there was in remembrance of the “Mobilized Youth,” the children who were working on war projects in Hiroshima when the bomb fell. The image above is a child’s uniform pieced together from scraps left in the blast zone. … The memorial was full of letters writen by the parents of these children who were working for their country far from their homes, many of whom lived a short time before succumbing to the effects of the radiation:

“Five or six of us pulled a large cart to take Naomi’s body back home. All the way back I was speechless, stricken by the horrible change wrought on her.

“Having fought many battles in China for four years, I thought I had seen the extremes of human misery. However, the heartrending sight of noncombatant women and children suffering tragic deaths was simply unbearable. The next day, in the midst of all the turmoil, we held a hurried funeral for Naomi in a crematory.

“We must swear in our hearts never to repeat such a tragic and pitiful war again.”

On one wall inside an exhibit was this poem, “Flower of Summer,” by A-bomb survivor Tamiki Hara (1905-1951):

“This is a human being.
Look how the atom bomb changed it.
Flesh swells fearfully.
All men and women take one shape.
The voice that trickles from swollen lips
on the festering charred-black face
whispers the thin words,
‘Please help me.’
This, this is a human being.
This is the face of a human being.”

Never again.