A few quick items:
R.I.P., Kurt Vonnegut. The science fiction author, whom I once met on a train between New York and Washington, died. His works were terse, sardonic, and shadowed by the horror of modern war. He will be missed.
Barack Obama, the Duke lacrosse scandal, and Don Imus: Despite a half-century's progress, race relations in the U.S. remain problematic. Presidential candidate Obama has been criticized by some African Americans as not speaking out quickly enough on civil rights issues and is viewed by (I hope only) a few as "not black enough" or "too black" to be seriously considered. While I feel that his relative lack of national political experience and vague idealism are flaws, I don't think that he or rival Hilary Clinton should be disqualified by the American public on the basis of their skin shades or sex.
Unfortunately, many rape cases become a legal duel of "he said, she said," and too many women suffer in silence. I'm glad that the Duke lacrosse scandal is finally over, even if my initial sympathies tended to be with the alleged victim. As fellow blogger Steve M.R. has noted, the occasional false accusation and use of the so-called race card — remember Tawana Brawley? And yet rabble-rousing preacher Al Sharpton still came across as an elder statesman when compared to some of his competitors in the last elections — undermines the credibility of those who criticize the real social problems of abuses against women and minorities worldwide.
Speaking of sports and race, our nation's original sin of slavery continues to contaminate popular entertainment. Nobody should have been surprised when aging radio "shock jock" Imus made an insensitive comment about members of a women's college basketball team. I'm sure his peer Howard Stern is laughing over on satellite radio, where he tries to be an equal opportunity offender. Imus has the right to be an idiot in public (see Wil Wheaton's blog about fellow "Star Trek" actor William Shatner for examples), but I'm glad that some sponsors have also exercised their right not to support someone who ceased to be funny years ago (see some of the work of the late conservative cartoonist Johnny Hart for more examples).
I've usually stayed away from political debate in this blog, but as always, I welcome any constructive criticism or rational debate.