Catch a Falling Star

NEW YORK – The Willamette Meteorite is a sacred icon to the Oregon-based Clackamas Indians. The tribe has its own name for the massive space rock, Tomanowas, and holds an annual religious ceremony with the meteorite in its home at the American Museum of Natural History.

Now a chunk of the 10,000-year-old meteorite is up for auction, and the tribe is denouncing its sale.

Larry McShane, MSNBC

NPR, like most mainstream media, got this story all wrong. They like to pretend that they are going to be ‘objective’ so when they do a story about the sale of the meteorite they feel compelled to mention the Native American tribe that believes the sale is wrong.

On one side, just a regular guy, and on the other, an Indian Tribe; one says yes, the other no. It’s done with just a touch of winking irony that hints that these Native Americans are a little wacko. The story should have been about where we draw the line on ‘monetizing‘ our common heritage.

You don’t have to believe in ancestors or gods to understand that there is something very wrong when natural history museums are selling scientific artifacts at public auctions. Or, in this case, trading away 28 pound chunks of the Willamette meteorite for Darryl Pitt’s piece of Mars. Why didn’t Pitt simply give the American Museum of Natural History his Martian rock?

NPR did include a story about ‘evolving ethical standards’ but it was very limp and focused mostly on museums. The problems seems to me much larger, symptomatic of an aggressive individualism that too often Trumps the collective good. No one gains when catalogs like this suggest that there are no limits to what can or should sold.

Big Soildier on Campus

Harvard’s new president, Drew Faust, gave her inaugural address last Friday–and was accompanied during the closing recessional by none other than seven members of Harvard’s ROTC corps. The flag-bearing color guard included students from Harvard’s Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marine squads, and bears tremendous symbolic significance.

Harvard has not hosted an on-campus ROTC program since 1969, when anti-Vietnam fervor resulted in the program being banned. Since then, Harvard cadets have commuted to MIT to train–and since the mid-90s, when the faculty voted to protest “don’t ask, don’t tell” by withdrawing financial support for ROTC, Harvard has not paid the annual fee required to maintain its cadets in MIT’s program. Now anonymous alumni pay the six-figure dues that enable Harvard undergraduates to combine their studies with preparation for national service.

Anthony Paletta, American Council of Trustees and Alumni Online

If you don’t think Bush is planning on bombing Iran, well, then, you’re not paying attention. First, Bush put Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps on the terrorism list. Then, on August 28 at the American Legion convention, Bush blew his bellicose bugle.

Calling Iran “the world’s leading state sponsor of terrorism,” he enumerated a list of troubles Tehran is making, from funding Hezbollah and Hamas to “sending arms to the Taliban in Afghanistan.” The latter is an odd one, since Secretary of Defense Robert Gates and Afghan President Hamid Karzai are on record denying that there is evidence that the Iranian government is involved in this.

Matthew Rothschild October 2007 Progressive

It’s hard to know what to add to this pairing. On the one hand, the U.S. is increasingly a militarized society. The elite professors and students at Harvard, of course, aren’t likely to serve in any future war, except as officers and government officials. Still, not having the ROTC at Harvard was a small victory for common sense, now being reversed.

And more specifically frightening is the ongoing calls for war, seemingly against anyone but preferably in the Middle East. Watching bits and pieces of the Republican debate last night was deeply disconcerting, with each candidate seeming to want to out do the other in adolescent macho posturing about various enemies that had to be shown what was what and who was who.

The one voice of sanity and good old fashioned conservative pigheadedness seemed to be Ron Paul, who sounded like an isolationist from just before the First World War. They had absolutely no idea what to do with him or how to respond to his scathing criticism of his party’s wildly violent overseas adventures and profligate spending habits. We are in real trouble when the wacky right wing libertarian sounds like the sensible alternative.