*I'm fired up to get some winter birding in. Right now I'm targeting the end of this month, with a possible trip to Blackwater NWR on the Eastern Shore of Maryland. If that doesn't pan out, it may be time for a return trip to either Land's End or the George Washington Birthplace on the Virginia side. I want snow geese, dammit, and I want them in quantity.

*The national shutdown of B. Dalton Bookseller (a division of Borders, as it happens) meant that the store in Charlottesville's mall put its entire stock on heavy-duty markdown. I didn't spend an enormous amount, but I did pick up John Scalzi's Zoe's Tale, a Sandra Boynton calendar, and a copy of The Best American Science Writing 2009. I'm working through the latter just now, having read an awful lot of Scalzi over the holidays, and so far the articles therein seems focused almost entirely on neurology. Interesting, but I'm waiting for it to branch into some other areas. Since David Quammen's "Contagious Cancer" is one of the upcoming entries, I'm betting that branching will occur soon.

*Of all the stupid things being thrown around in the discussion of Harry Reid's comments about Barack Obama's appeal to the electorate--and there are a number--the dumbest, to my mind, has got to be the attempt to compare Reid to former Minority Leader Trent Lott. Reid, if you haven't been following the news, was revealed in the new book Game Change to have said in private conversation back in 2008 that he felt Obama could be elected because he was "light skinned" and spoke "with no Negro dialect--unless he wanted to have one." The criticism of Reid has focused largely on his use of the word "Negro," rather than his apparent belief that a man with darker skin couldn't win--a far more damning commentary on white America than anything he said about black America. Still, he apologized for his remarks, and President Obama has accepted his apology.

The word "Negro" having fallen out of favor, however, Reid's use of it has attracted a lot of commentary, especially from Republicans, including RNC Chairman Michael Steele and Senators Jon Kyl and John Cornyn, the latter of whom feels Reid should resign as Lott did. Many of them have suggested that Lott was judged more harshly than Reid by the media and the public. And they're right, of course--Lott was excoriated for the remarks he made in 2002, resigning as minority leader in their wake. Why the difference in treatment?

Maybe because what Lott said was so much worse than what Reid said. Let's not forget, Lott (whose record on racial issues was already a little shaky, what with his opposing the extension of the Voting Rights Act and speaking at a meeting of the segregationist Council of Conservative Citizens) stepped up at a public celebration of Sen. Strom Thurmond's 100th birthday and said, "When Strom Thurmond ran for president, we voted for him. We're proud of it. And if the rest of the country had followed our lead, we wouldn't have had all these problems over the years, either."

If you weren't paying attention when Thurmond ran for president, it was in 1948, as the nominee for the Dixiecrat Party, whose slogan, "Segregation Forever!" contained a not-terribly-subtle segregationist message. In other words, while Reid was using a word that might be considered dismissive or offensive (though the United Negro College Fund apparently doesn't find it so), Lott was musing on how proud he was that his home state had supported a defiantly segregationist party, and how much better off America would be if only the rest of the country had done so, too.

As Atlantic blogger Ta-Nehisi Coates put it, Lott wasn't forced out "because he said something 'racially insensitive.' He was forced to resign because he offered tacit endorsement of white supremacy--frequently.

"Claiming that Harry Reid's comments are the same, is like claiming that referring to Jews as 'Hebrews' is the same as endorsing Nazism."

*I've been pretty good about my lunchtime diet lately, restricting myself to soup and salad. Today I slipped a bit--I ate the fried fish sandwich, as well as the split pea soup, but I did get it without the bun.

*Do we still have snow on the ground from December 18th's big storm?  Oh, mais oui!  And I'm not just talking
about the big mounds created by snowplows, either; a significant section of our yard is still white.

*Kelly and I displayed an uncommon discipline by going to Ikea last week and spending less than $100 there. (Well, actually, she picked up a half-dozen cinnamon rolls for the boys, which boosted the total to about $105, but we were going to come in under the century mark before that.) On Sunday I put together the big black Benno bookshelf we bought, and last night we put it into place in the living room. Of course, to do that, we had to move the sofa back into its regular position, and to do that we had to take down the Christmas tree, and to do that... anway, we eventually got the shelf where it's supposed to be, and it's gradually filling up with scrapbooks and DVDs and family photographs. Maybe we'll find someplace to put books next.

*The species list for 2010 so far contains 35 species, largely thanks to an early-January trip around the Orange/Madison border with Leighton Reid. We didn't see the Rapidan eagles, alas, but we logged a number of beautiful hawks, some wild turkeys, multiple species of woodpeckers, and one mysterious grey bird that we'd both claim was probably a Townsend's Solitaire if only we thought anyone would believe us.

*I've officially put in my request for a trimester-length sabbatical next year. Keep your fingers crossed for me...

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This page contains a single entry by Peter Cashwell published on January 12, 2010 3:38 PM.

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