Dome of our nation’s capitol Is threatened by cracks and crackpots!

To the myriad indignities suffered by Congress, including stagnant legislation, partisan warfare and popularity on a par with petty criminals, add this: the Capitol’s roof is leaking, and there is no money to fix it…

The dome has 1,300 known cracks and breaks. Water that has seeped in over the years has caused rusting on the ornamentation and staining on the interior of the Rotunda, just feet below the fresco “The Apotheosis of Washington,” which is painted on the Rotunda’s canopy.

Like most of what the federal government is on the hook to fix — highways, bridges and airports — the dome is imperiled both by tough economic times and by a politically polarized Congress. While Senate appropriators have voted to repair the dome, which has not undergone major renovations for 50 years, their House counterparts say there is not money right now. In that way, the dome is a metaphor for the nation’s decaying infrastructure.

“The dome needs comprehensive rehabilitation,” said Stephen T. Ayers, the architect of the Capitol, whose office oversees the building’s physical state. “It’s a public safety issue.”

The skirt of the dome — the section around the base of the original sandstone foundation — was fixed up recently at a cost of about $20 million, but an additional $61 million is needed to repair and restore the rest of the structure’s exterior…

“This is not a ‘bridge to nowhere’ we’re talking about here,” said Senator Charles E. Schumer of New York, the leader of the Senate Rules Committee, which oversees the architect’s office. “This is basic upkeep to the United States Capitol building. There is a time and place to debate spending levels and the proper role of the federal government, but when your house has a leaky roof, you pay to fix the roof.”

It’s easiest for everyone to malign Congress as a whole. But, everyone – including Republicans, including the nuttiest of the Kool Aid Party – knows who is wholly responsible for getting absolutely nothing accomplished since the 2010 elections. The Tea Party pantywaist populists and Republican Party honchos who think they’re being the best beancounters in the world by putting a halt to any task Congress may attempt.

Saying they’re saving money doesn’t make it so. Saying they have a constitutional mandate doesn’t make it so. Saying they’re following the will of the people – on the basis of a not-so-unusual mid-term election – never makes it so. And since most of this crowd haven’t learned to lie as skillfully as the leftover Republican Party bosses – they rely on blaming everyone but the people who say “NO” to everything.

Including fixing the roof.

How Bobby Fischer briefly changed America

This summer marks the anniversary of an extraordinary moment in U.S. history: the 1972 match in which the American genius Bobby Fischer defeated the Soviet wizard Boris Spassky for the chess championship of the world.

The battle probably should have been just one more headline in an eventful three months that saw the Watergate burglary, the expulsion of the Soviet military from Egypt and the humiliating dismissal of vice presidential nominee Thomas Eagleton from the Democratic ticket. Somehow the story of Fischer and Spassky and their epic match, which ended 40 years ago this month, captured our attention in a way that no struggle of intellect has since.

The two best players in the world were playing 24 games in Iceland, and everyone paid attention. Strangers who had never picked up a chess piece discussed the match on subway trains. Newspapers put out special editions announcing the results of the games, and vendors hawked them from the corners, shouting out the name of the winner. Book publishers were signing up chess writers by the dozens.

Chess is a very hard game, and what is most remarkable about that summer is that people wanted to play anyway. They wanted their minds stretched, and were willing to work for that reward. The brief period of Fischer’s ascendancy — he quit chess three years later — was perhaps the last era in our nation’s history when this could be said.

Nowadays, we like things easier. We seem more interested in the doings of the “Real Housewives” than in the great intellectual challenges (except of course those intellectual challenges that yield a great deal of money, such as those on Wall Street or in Silicon Valley). Those who deploy their extraordinary mental gifts to do a difficult thing extremely well for a modest reward somehow cannot hold our attention…

…The great Ray Bradbury, who died this year, used to say that simplicity was the great enemy against which we should be doing battle — that theme is the subtext of “Fahrenheit 451” — but we are a long way from heeding the call to arms…

When Fischer died in 2008, his passing went scarcely noticed. He was never an admirable man, but he performed an admirable service. By his brilliance and his antics he focused our attention, in that shining summer 40 years ago, on the life of the mind. He made an enormously difficult intellectual pursuit so alluring that, for a brief moment, everybody wanted to be a part of it.

We could use another moment like that. Bradbury was right: Simplicity is the enemy of democracy. Yet our images and arguments get simpler, and sillier, by the day. Unless we can become freshly excited about stretching our minds, the rest of the world — much of which still values complexity — may leave us in its dust.

Bobby Fischer’s personal politics were easily as contemptible as, say, Sheriff Joe Arpaio or Todd Akins – both of whom hold elective office in the United States. Less fashionable, though.

His erratic behavior and egregious self-concern never eclipsed his brilliance – most of the time – at the chessboard. I doubt Americans have the attention span anymore to grow that kind of focus.

Only governments want war

A photograph of wrestlers Jordan Burroughs and Sadegh Goudarzi is being hailed as the single image to encompass the spirit of the Olympics.

Jack Moore of Buzzfeed first posted the image of Burroughs, an American, and Goudarzi, an Iranian, hugging after the New Jersey native beat his Middle Eastern competitor for first place.

“American wrestler Jordan Burroughs defeated Iran’s Sadegh Goudarzi in freestyle wrestling to win gold,” wrote Moore. “After the match and medal ceremony, Burroughs tweeted this photo…”

After all, the Olympics is not about athletes winning gold, but rather about nations meeting in peace for friendly competition.

Well said. There are more than a few Americans who worked in Iran, who have friends in Iran – who would be welcomed completely independent of any of the political crap that exists between our two nations.

Thanks, Ursarodinia