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A Peace To End All Peace: The Fall of the Ottoman Empire and the Creation of the Modern Middle East
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New Column From Me -- "You're on Fire, L.A.!": My wet kiss to Southern California's firefighting of the past week, topped with a full-throated defense of Tom LaBonge. Excerpt:

Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and the rest of the city's disaster-response leadership were impressive and seemed to be cooperating well, but the star of the show was clearly 4th District Councilman and Griffith Park mega-booster Tom LaBonge. Like Las Vegas, LaBonge is an acquired taste, but you can't help but suspect that those unable to make the acquisition just aren't very happy people. In a Council otherwise filled with think-global idealists, grumpy ex-cops and nakedly ambitious political climbers, LaBonge is the rah-rah pothole guy who loves his job and his district so much you almost want to laugh at him. That's okay; he's usually laughing, too.

But not last week. At Greek Theater press conference after press conference LaBonge lurked behind the various fire chiefs, occasionally darting in with absurdly specific planting histories of various scorched groves, cheesy tales of personally evacuating locals (he knew their names, of course), or anguished recounting of watching a lovely and frightened Griffith Park deer leap westward, away from the flames. On just about any other politician, this cornball act would look like shameless self-promotion; but on LaBonge last week it made me glad to live in District 4.

05/14/2007 09:38 PM  |  Comment (4)

The Family Business: See this boat?

That's the USS Osterhaus, stretching its legs in the Atlantic during WWII. Why are we looking at this particular Destroyer? Because it was named after my great-great grandfather, Hugo Osterhaus, who was a Read Admiral in the U.S. Navy, and flag commander of the entire Atlantic Fleet before WWI. Here's a pic:

And here's my great aunt Helen, expertly breaking the champagne bottle to dedicate the ship:

I mention all this because it's Mother's Day, and I was talking to my Ma about the family's military history (four-star Civil War General & German immigrant begets a Navy Rear Admiral named Hugo who begets a Navy Rear Admiral named Hugo who begets a Navy Captain named Hugo, and then we basically trade white suits for white collars on that side of the family).

But I also mention this because I've always had a sneaking suspicion, and tonight I have confirmed that it was true. Hugo Osterhaus commanded the flagship of Teddy Roosevelt's famous Great White Fleet, the Connecticut. There was also a young ensign of note on the Connecticut, name of John Sidney McCain. That's right -- my great-great grandfather commanded John McCain's grandpa. Both men were on this boat as it steamed into Frisco Bay in 1908:

Check out the groovy lettering of "Connecticut"....

"Slew" McCain would later become a rear admiral himself, as would his son, making the John McCains and the Hugo Osterhauses perhaps the only two father-son combos to ever earn that rank....

05/13/2007 10:26 PM  |  Comment (1)

Extremely Satisfied, in Fact: John McCain, on "Meet the Press" this morning:

RUSSERT: But under your plan, you're strongly suggesting we're going to be there for the next 10 years at least in order to secure and stabilize that country.

McCAIN: I am suggesting that we will have -- hopefully reach a situation where American troops will not be on the front lines, where -- and, by the way, that will not be immediately -- where American troops are able to withdraw. We've had troops in South Korea for 60 years, and Americans are, are very satisfied with that situation.

I for one think we should always have at least 29,000 U.S. troops in South Korea, preferably forever.

05/13/2007 08:41 PM  |  Comment (7)

You People Know Who Regina Spektor Is, Is That Right?: I'm out of it, so I don't really know who the latest Tori Amos gals are, unless they have the last name Swan (in which case they're much more interesting than T.A., but I digress).

We were listening to the radio in the car, and heard a pretty stunning version of one John Lennon's best last songs. It is from Regina Spektor, and here's someone phone-camming her live version in Portland last month.

05/13/2007 06:27 PM  |  Comment (6)

Hey! I Used to Live Here! On Bartok Bela Avenue, a couple hundred yards from the Danube!: As did, at various times, Ken Layne, Jim Lowney (pictures), Emmanuelle Richard, Ben Sullivan, Samet Nuhiu, Rob Luke and Susan Skiles, a Bosnian guy named Adi (who, last I heard, was running some tech company in Austin), and God knows who else. That bookstore is new....

05/13/2007 01:17 PM  | 

Hi! What are you doing down here?

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