Saturday, March 30, 2013


You: A couple of moderately old folks going uptown on the no. 5 bus having an animated conversation about Dinah Washington.

Me: An unnecessary third party old folk who insisted for some reason that this song was by Rogers & Hart rather than the Gershwins. I was wrong. I believe the band here is Count Basie's.

And here's another version, stunning in a different way. I'm not quite sure why I stopped putting up music a while back, but I'm starting again. Hope you all like it.
CBS Studios, Paris, France on May 23, 1963. Originally released on Blue Note (4146).
Dexter Gordon (tenor saxophone); Bud Powell (piano); Pierre Michelot (bass); Kenny Clarke (drums).

Who cares about the deficit?

Pretty porky putti! From Christopher at ReptileMind.
The answer could be a lot simpler than you think: rich people are overwhelmingly terribly, terribly concerned about our burgeoning annual budget deficits—and nobody else is.

That's the indication of an ongoing study conducted by Benjamin I. Page of Northwestern University, a survey of "Economically Successful Americans and the Common Good". [jump]

Friday, March 29, 2013

Inside the mind of Dana Loesch

Bayonet*. Image from Get Stuffed.

Penis. Image from HealthTap.
Are we starting to see a pattern here?

*She doesn't actually say "bayonet"—just "assault weapon", with the stipulation that it's used for "stabbing". She didn't say "penis" either, come to think of it, but rather an unnamed something that "resulted in... pregnancy". So I'm just clarifying here.

Cheap shots and fancy love

From Scotthouse Hotel, Rome.
Rhetorical questions that will stay that way:
Why wouldn’t we want a further unpacking of the teachings of Pope John Paul II on human sexuality? (Kathryn Jean Lopez, via House of Substance)
I'll tell you why I wouldn't want one if you'll tell me why you wouldn't.
Still from Mysteries of a Barbershop by Erich Engel, 1923, concept by Bertolt Brecht. Image from Wikipedia.
Please don't explain:
The interview being aired by NBC as news content is part of a larger documentary called “The Framing of Joe Paterno.” On his website, Ziegler lambasts the Freeh Report of the Penn State scandal, which concluded [jump]

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Pragmatic sanctioned

I hear the Man Called Petraeus has resurfaced, embarking on his redemption tour with a dinner address to the ROTC of USC in which he may have mentioned his "extremely poor judgment". I think we can expect to see him engaged to Mother Kardashian before too long. It gives me pride to note here that my hometown newspaper, the New York Times, has declined to headline this story, and I had to Google to find a paper that did (one of the Posts, Washington or Sideboob).
Image from Cafe Press.

Anyway, it's given me a sort of disquieting thought. I've been telling myself this pleasing story about Obama choosing Father Brennan to lead the CIA so as to take away their drones and generally reconvert them from their current status as presidential secret army to the good old conventional role of central intelligence agency for which they were originally named. ("I think I'll call you 'Central Intelligence Agency'," beamed President Truman as he tickled the infant outfit behind its ear.)

The disquieting thought is this: if it weren't for the extremely poor judgment of the Man Called Petraeus and the Woman Called Broadwell and their email habits, to say nothing of the sex part, an unforgivable breach of biographer ethics—if not for that, the militarization of the CIA would be carrying on apace while Obama and Brennan sat in the Situation Room chatting about Niebuhr, wouldn't it?

So which does Obama actually support? When the General was running the Company like the Petraerian Guard, did Obama agree with that and then change his mind, or did it just take him five years to get the CIA director he wanted? Or is it not important? Is the program simply to make the agency go, regardless of where it goes in particular?

Does he pick people for jobs and then ask them, "Well, what would you like the CIA to do?" "Jeez, Arne, I can't stand high-stakes testing, but you're the boss." "Golly, Eric, you don't have to indict any bankers if you don't want to, I just thought you might enjoy it."

The ultimate homicide

David Brooks writes:
I don't see any guns! Image from etsy.
Suppose you wanted to write a novel about a homicide. You'd want to describe the killer's neighborhood and family, of course, and his school—I say "his" school, because you'd probably want your book to have a male murderer, since most murderers are men, and fairly young, so their school is important; and his culture, because murderers tend to belong to a particular culture, right? They're rarely just regular people. And you'd have to describe his gang, you know how murderers always belong to gangs.
And in the same way you'd want to describe how he embarked on his criminal career and how many times he's been arrested and how many times he's been jailed and how he gets along with his probation officer. I mean, you can't really have a murderer if he doesn't have a probation officer, can you?
In other words, you'd want to do what I did with my novel about marriage, "The Social Animal", where I created the characters by adding up all the most [jump]

Monday, March 25, 2013

Retroactionary watch: Tehran

Peter Hart at FAIR catches Time magazine discovering that Iran's march toward nuclear supremacy has taken a retroactionary direction:
Nowhere does Time's Massimo Calabresi mention one rather inconvenient fact: There is no evidence that Iran is actually pursuing a nuclear weapon. Regular inspections have failed to turn up any evidence of that. Instead, we read things like this: "Iran itself has slowed down its efforts, converting some enriched uranium to a form that can be used only in research, not in weapons." This is treated as evidence that Iran is heading towards its nuclear weapons more slowly.
Yes, Iran has slowed to the point where they're actually going backward—making progress in reverse. The fiends! At this rate, they should be able to construct a working weapon by 2009 or so, and there will be no way we can stop them!
Photo by Rick Steves.

Clarifying an Argument

Clarifying an Argument
Very useful post by Erik Loomis on Greenwald's dishonesty. Speaking of clarifying arguments, I just figured out why it bothers me that Greenwald's case against Obama relies so heavily on reminding us that Aulaqi was an American citizen. It's the implication that if the drone program just killed foreigners that would be OK. Or maybe not quite right but not as bad.

To me it's exactly as bad. Nobody should ever have a missile dropped on their head for any reason at all. If there's anything that mitigates the badness, it is when the victim of the attack is an active belligerent. It is not anything to do with the victim's passport.

I think I disagree with Obama on who needs to count as an active belligerent, or how often those missiles need to be dropped, but I agree with him on the basic moral framework here. I think Greenwald's moral framework is perverted and fascist repulsively legalistic.
Our Robot Future. From Animal New York.

He still lives in the Village, though

So if it wasn't Pollack's and O'Hanlon's war, as I was saying,—Kenny and Mickey's excellent adventure—whose war was it?

Was it Condi's war?—a war of "necessity" because "he" was a "threat" who must be "contained", who had attempted to kill Bush's Daddy (reacting with startling hostility to a man who had merely commanded an invasion of his country, despoiled him of his new province and many of his old ones, and spoken of him in very insulting terms—these Arabs get so emotional*) and must therefore be deemed capable of any mayhem whatsoever, including blowing the entire world into smithereens.

But it obviously wasn't her fault that those Weapons of Mass Destruction did not exist. "No, Sir," she said, "I don't believe I recognize that war at all. Does it claim to be from around here? Maybe it comes from England."

*I for one as a matter of fact do not believe in the tale of the Kuwaiti whisky smugglers turned incompetent hit men who decided to snuff out the life of the elderly ex-president, but I suppose G.W. Bush did.
THE INVISIBLE ENEMY SHOULD NOT EXIST (RECOVEREDMISSINGSTOLEN SERIES), 2007, sculptures created from Middle Eastern food packaging and Arabic newspapers, made to resemble artifacts looted from the National Museum of Iraq, Baghdad, in 2003, installed at Sharjah Biennial 8, 2007.
Illustrations from artwork by Michael Rakowitz as featured in Hanae Ko, "The Sweet and Bitter Road: Michael Rakowitz" in ArtAsiaPacific 78, May-June 2012.

Or perhaps the closely related Big Dick Cheney's war? According to which you could calculate the probability of any event and then respond to it as if it were real, as long as its ]jump]

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Moral turfitude

Image from Men with Foil Hats.
Samuel Knight at Washington Monthly draws our attention to
No, really:
Why is it so important that we Fix the Debt? Why does it matter to your family? To your business? To our country? to YOU?
Our leaders in Washington need to hear from each of us. We need them to know that inaction is NOT an option. We must Fix the Debt.
You couldn’t make it up.
It’s likely that the majority of responses they are receiving are either full of: A) false generalizations about a “spending problem”; B) speculation about the future of Medicare and Social Security under the assumption that rich tax-dodgers can’t do any more or that the government shouldn’t negotiate with drug companies ripping it off; or C) good old incoherent right wing rambling.
Samuel thinks we might want to give them a chance to hear another point of view. Over and over again. Not so much an email bomb as an email stink bomb to skunk up their tubes. If [jump]

Friday, March 22, 2013

Cheap shots and hot falafels

Senator, isn't there a letter missing? Maybe an "a"?
Don't hate me, this is why I call it "cheap shots".
Sarah Palin models F.A. Bartholdi's famous statue, "La Liberté arrosant le monde avec du Dr. Pepper". Image from TownHall.
Did you know that there's a writer at Townhall who goes by the name of Jackie Gingrich Cushman? Hmm, I wonder where I've heard that name before. Anyway, she writes this week about the Steubenville rape case, and her right-wing take that sure, it was bad, and it was the parents' fault:
As a parent, it makes me wonder: What were their parents thinking? I grew up in a small town, and my life revolved around band, football and church. When I came home (before curfew), my mother would call out from her bedroom to make sure it was me. She never went to sleep, at least not fully, before I was home.
I came home on time because I understood her expectations and what the consequences of my actions would have been.
Oh, now I remember. This is Little Jackie, and Big Jackie was Newtie's high school history teacher back in the day. Newtie used to tell his mom, "I'm doing a project for history class. With a friend." He always preferred being truthful if he could.
Jackie Gingrich Cushman, from Sadly, No. I believe PhotoShop may have been used here.
I wonder if mentioning Jackie is going to drive my traffic up? One of the weirdest spikes ever was when I happened for no very important reason to drop the name of Benyamin Netanyahu's second wife. There are people who Google this poor woman's name on a daily basis, for reasons I don't even want to think about.
Via Alphabetically Inclined, who writes eloquently about the blogger's relationship to strange Googlers.
To those who may have been concerned about President Obama going on an "apology tour":

You'll be able to tell when he does it, by the people making the apologies. Hint: Obama might not be the one.
Prime Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel apologized in a personal phone call to Turkey’s prime minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, for a deadly raid on a Turkish ship by Israeli commandos in 2010 that killed nine people, a senior American official traveling with President Obama told reporters on Friday.
(Correction: Due to the omission of a word, the Times referred incorrectly to Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu of Israel. He is not a cut of meat, even of very high quality.)
The Prime.. uh, Minister, with Turkish falafel. Times of Israel.

Whose war that was I think I know

Young Ezra used a funny expression—
Rather than looking at the war that was actually being sold, I’d invented my own Iraq war to support -- an Iraq war with different aims, promoted by different people, conceptualized in a different way and bearing little resemblance to the project proposed by the Bush administration. In particular, I supported Kenneth Pollack’s Iraq war.
Pollack's war? Which one is that? I mean, other than being one of the ones that didn't take place (which would be, in fact, infinite in number, if I understand this)?
Rebuilding Afghanistan, Destroying al-Qaida, Setting Israel and Palestine on the Road to Peace, and Then, a Year or Two Down the Road After Some Diplomacy, Invading Iraq. In interviews and op-ed articles, Pollack himself still supports the war, saying that now is better than never. But it's fair to say that his book does not—or at least not Bush's path to it. (Chris Suellentrop in March 2003, cited in Wikipedia)
Oh, I see. That was the war where you'd leave the diplomacy running while you went out and did a bunch of other errands, so you could pop the war right into the oven when you got back. Also, the UN and the NGOs and Russia and what not were all going to like it better than the real one, for some reason, maybe because of Prime Minister Sharon tootling down that road to peace, so they'd be happy spending a ton of money to rebuild all the stuff you would have blown up. In short, it was delusional. Sorry, Ezra, I don't think that gets you off the hook.

But then whose war did we get, after all?
Photo by Winnie's Human.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Who could have predicted

Speaking of blood-gargling psychopaths, I woke up this morning to a voice on NPR that sounded as if it was regretful about something that it did 10 years ago, but, pressed, dwindled into excuses about how they were all doing their best on the basis of the information that was available to them.
NPR "Morning Edition" host Renee Montagne asked, "Ten years later, nearly 5,000 American troops dead, thousands more with wounds, hundreds of thousands of Iraqis dead or wounded. When you think about this, was it worth it?" 
"I've got to say, I think that is not a reasonable question. What we did at the time was done in the belief that it was necessary to protect this nation. You can't, a decade later, go back and say, 'Well, we shouldn't have done that.'" (Luke Johnson, Huffington Post)
It turned out to be that blood-squirting zombie squid Richard Perle, slanderer, fraud, coward, and confessed war criminal. (Of course NPR always presents a balance of views, so I'm sure we'll hear from the other side soon, maybe those soi-disant "harsh critics" Kenneth Pollack and Michael O'Hanlon.)

Who could have imagined that invading Iraq would turn out to be more trouble than it was worth? Here's a picture of me and four or five hundred thousand of my closest friends, on February 15 2003:
That's who. We were making a lot of noise, too.

Everything else that needs to be said is in soonergrunt's beautiful brief essay.

Ay, in the very temple of Delight

Photo by MissMaria.
The Charles Scribner's Sons building at 597 Fifth Avenue, designed by Ernest Flagg and built in 1912-13, now houses a Sephora—I just noticed for the first time, though it may have been years. Last time I looked at the building it was a Benneton, which was bad enough; I remember it from back in the 60s, when it was an enchanted place with all that visible greenish ironwork and the grand staircase. It's imaginable that as a teenager I could have purchased a book from Patti Smith, who was on the sales staff. The posters currently inhabiting the great bay windows are advertising an emerald eyeshadow that the model has smeared all around her eyes to look like a green raccoon's mask.

And you youngsters call that rubbish capitalism! Harrumph, harrumph. Why, in my day...

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

A few corrections

Updated 3/20/2013

Due to an editorial error, David Brooks's column of March 19 misstated the location of a statue of a powerful, rambunctious horse and extremely muscular man in Washington, D.C. It is not outside the Department of Labor headquarters in the Frances Perkins Building on Constitution Avenue, but a quarter of a mile west at the Federal Trade Commission, in two versions, one on the south side of Pennsylvania Avenue and the other on Constitution Avenue. Also, the horse is not being depicted as "reined in", i.e., stopped in gallop by a rider, but rather wrestled into harness from the ground. The man is dressed in a pair of baggy pajama bottoms.
Humanity Controlling Trade (Pennsylvania Avenue), by Michael Lantz (1942). Photo from University of Washington Law Library.
The statement that the statue "used to be a metaphor" is inaccurate; it was in fact intended as an allegory, and  continues to be one. Nor is it the case that the [jump]

Monday, March 18, 2013

My peace plan for Afghanistan

Photo by Narid Popalzai/IRIN, via Afghanistan Online.
Ever wonder why it is that whenever you read anything about the economics of Afghanistan, there is always an emphasis on the country's famous fruits, the apricots and pistachios and other nuts, the cherries, figs, mulberries, and pomegranates, as well as melons and grapes, and yet whenever you see a picture taken outdoors you see a treeless waste? I certainly have. That forbidding terrain doesn't look even a little hospitable to trees.

Guess what! That's another gift from the war. NPR tells us this morning that before the struggle with the Soviets began, 50% of the land area was covered with forest; today it is 2%. It's not [jump]

Look back in sorrow-more-than anger

Image from Seven Deadly Sinners.

There were, it turned out, no weapons of mass destruction; it was obvious in retrospect that the Bush administration deliberately misled the nation into war. And the war — having cost thousands of American lives and scores of thousands of Iraqi lives, having imposed financial costs vastly higher than the war’s boosters predicted — left America weaker, not stronger, and ended up creating an Iraqi regime that is closer to Tehran than it is to Washington. 
So did our political elite and our news media learn from this experience? It sure doesn’t look like it. 
The really striking thing, during the run-up to the war, was the illusion of consensus. To this day, pundits who got it wrong excuse themselves on the grounds that “everyone” thought that there was a solid case for war. Of course, they acknowledge, there were war opponents — but they were out of the mainstream.
That's what's wrong with President Obama's insistence that we look forward rather than back. It's not that we need to punish those responsible—I'd love to see Cheney and Rumsfeld and Wolfowitz in jail, but it's not necessary—but that people should understand what happened, how it happened, and how it can be avoided in future.

Is the future something like the spot under the lamppost where the drunk is looking for his dropped twenty-dollar bill? Do we look forward on the retroactionary view that the light's better there? Huh.

Afternoon Update:

What I said about jail not being necessary does not apply to that grinning shit Tony Blair, especially after today's news, and thinking back I'm not sure I mean it at all. But if we could practice Shunning—if they could be kept off TV and out of boardrooms—that would be sufficient for my needs.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Austerity, bigger than God

For reals! It brought the snakes back to Ireland.

During the Celtic Tiger boom, snakes became a popular pet among the Irish nouveaux riches, status symbols in a country famous for its lack of indigenous serpents. But after the bubble burst, many snake owners could no longer afford the cost of food, heating and shelter, or they left the country for work elsewhere. Some left their snakes behind or turned them loose in the countryside, leading to some startling encounters. 
A California king snake was found late last year in a vacant store in Dublin, a 15-foot python turned up in a garden in Mullingar, a corn snake was found in a trash bin in Clondalkin in South Dublin, and an aggressive rat snake was kept in a shed in County Meath, northwest of Dublin, an area dotted with sprawling houses built during the boom.
Happy St. Patrick's Day!
From EuropeanCuisines.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

It trolls for thee

When I first saw this now notorious piece of video, at Echidne's, the question seemed to be whether the guy who disrupts the meeting was a leftist provocateur doing a little bit of indoor street theater; some could not believe there were conservatives in our country who would openly say that black slaves should have been grateful to their masters for their cushy, well-fed lives. Of course there's Allen West, who pretty much does say that.

But what struck me, starting with the little smirk he was wearing at the end of the clip, was that he was in particular a troll; that what he really wanted was not to spread any particular opinion, but just to see people unhappy. I mean even in this little crowd of people that presumably share some of his "legitimate" beliefs, like government is Too Big, and taxes are Too High, and people always call you a racist when you're totally not, his instinct is to give them pain.

And then mistermix of Balloon Juice used the same expression about Mr. Greenwald: called him a troll, I mean.
Because yes, there is a big difference if you like, in that Portman doesn't voluntarily know anybody who's gay while Obama freely makes friends with gay people, and because Obama didn't switch anyhow but "evolved" from supporting same-sex marriage in 1996 through a period of not admitting to supporting it  (standard average political dishonesty) to supporting it again in 2012, and because he did it at a scary moment before the election when nobody could say what effect it would have while Portman is doing it in a clearly changed environment long before his next campaign needs to start.

But mostly because how is this conversation about Obama anyway? It becomes about Obama because that's what Greenwald wants to use it for, in the hope of giving somebody a sad.
By LuckyCatXD at Deviant Art.

Friday, March 15, 2013

You can't make an omelet without laying eggs

By Chico1985 at DeviantArt.
Reuters reported that Steven Bucci, the military assistant to former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld in the run-up to the war and today a senior fellow at the Heritage Foundation, didn’t dispute the report’s findings but said the U.S.’s post-invasion battles with al-Qaeda in Iraq — a group that did not exist prior to March 19, 2003 — made the war worth it.
“It was really in Iraq that ‘al Qaeda central’ died,” Bucci said. “They got waxed.” (Via ThinkProgress)
Or maybe, "We had to build the village in order to destroy it." Or, "It takes a child to raze a village." Or something.

Rumsfeld might say, you go to war with the army you have, etc., etc., but you get more flexibility with the choice of enemy and battlefield. Which got me to thinking, why couldn't we just have attacked Al Qa'eda in Russia? Or Canada? Where there's more suitable terrain for "the army we have" and it's big and empty enough that we could have accomplished that mission without really inconveniencing anybody? Just my two dinars.

Cheap shots: Cannes for conservatives

CPAC up your troubles in your old kit bag and smile, smile, smile.
Altos? Can we try getting it in tune this time?
Nobody doesn't want a piece of Louie. Especially the ladies:
His first stop is the Tea Party News Network’s booth, where host Scottie Nell Hughes, a big-haired blonde in a hot-pink wrap dress and sky-high leopard-print heels who’s just finished interviewing Newt Gingrich, tells him, “You’re more of a diva than I am!”.... [jump]

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Too cool for shul

I haven't been meaning to neglect the Sage of Cleveland Park, but to tell the truth he hasn't been all that inspiring of late.
Image from Jewlicious.
So what if he argues that Obama is caught in a Cascade of Brutality from which he can only escape by starting a Friendship Circle with the Republican Caucus of Common Sense? Little did I know that Obama was going to take Brooks's advice and have a stag party of Republican senators at Plume in the Jefferson Hotel, with Tom Coburn as a human shield.
we do know that of the 16 people seated in the hotel’s private Parlor Boardroom (including the 12 senators and presumably a handful of staffers), there were six orders of the filet, five of the Colorado lamb açaí, four Lobster Thermidors, and one special-ordered vegetarian plate. Dessert options included peanut butter crumble, heart of guana chocolate tart and iced Tahitian vanilla and praline bar.

The president had arranged for the $85 per person tab (not including tax or tip) to be billed directly to the White House. The hotel was sworn to secrecy on the question of whether or not wine was ordered or consumed. (Washington Post, March 7, 2013)
Le tout-Washington was feverishly speculating, of course, as to who that vegetarian Solon might be. I'm hoping it's Chambliss. As to whether the Brutality stops here or not, stay tuned. Apparently the Republicans were much startled to learn that Obama had proposed cutting Medicare and Social Security growth; it seems McConnell has been hiding it from them, though you'd imagine they'd have been able to find out on their own, say by asking their clear-eyed young staffers to read the newspapers for them.

And then Brooks went on a tour of darkest Midwood, Brooklyn, where the Applebee's has two salad bars, one meat and one dairy. Just kidding. But I'll bet you can find a Whitefish Thermidor. The natives there, Modern Orthodox Jews, spend their lives figuring out how to live exactly like everyone else—wired, overweight, and amused to death—without violating the laws of kashrut, thus illustrating Brooks's principle that life is better when you live by a code and all your fundamental decisions are made for you.
Much of the delight in life comes from arguing about the law and different interpretations of God’s command. Soloveichik laughingly describes his debates over which blessing to say over Crispix cereal, which is part corn, but also part rice....
All of us navigate certain tensions, between community and mobility, autonomy and moral order. Mainstream Americans have gravitated toward one set of solutions. The families stuffing their groceries into their Honda Odyssey minivans in the Pomegranate parking lot represent a challenging counterculture. Mostly, I notice how incredibly self-confident they are. Once dismissed as relics, they now feel that they are the future.
No word on when Mr. and Mrs. Brooks are going to give up Saturday driving and start begetting those 14 kids. Oh wait, I forgot that they practice Brooksian Exceptionalism, in which there is an advanced condition known as too cool for shul.
Image from Heeb magazine.
Speaking of the future, that turns out to be located on the Axis of Tedium that extends through the plains from North Dakota to Texas and then veers eastward (bypassing New Orleans) to the Atlantic, where it sweeps northward through South Carolina, framing America's new growth area where our country is growing (backwards) into a commodity economy based on tar sands, soy beans, and shale gas. Really! Our Brooks is challenging no less a thinker than Thomas P. Friedman, better known as Thomas L. Friedman, the Mustache of the Thinkable, who has insisted for years that we are heading toward an economy of pure thought!

One of the approximately two interesting things about this column is the resurfacing of a character we've met before (just last November) in Brooksland, noted urban futurist Joel Kotkin of Chapman University, Orange County, California, previously spotted lamenting the decline in religion, fascism, and male managers, which is leading to inadequate rates of reproduction (at least outside Midwood). Today he has a new webpage for the Manhattan Institute arguing the existence of these new growth corridors where a new class of "material boys" are going to totally kick China's ass by burning more fossil fuel than was previously thought to exist so they can grow more corn and soy so they can raise more pigs and cows so the entire country can die of heart disease before it starts dying of thirst in the desert of the 22nd century. Or whatever. He makes Friedman seem like a model of perspicacious thoughtfulness.

In fact Brooks cites Joel Kotkin an awful lot. He has been citing him since Pearl Harbor Day, 2004, when he noted Kotkin's theory that people (i.e., Republicans) in the exurbs of the Plains and the South have more babies than the selfish materialists of the coasts and the Rust Belt and Europe. He mentioned Kotkin in passing in a column on compassionate conservatism and Katrina to the effect that
Immigrants were flowing across the land in search of opportunity, but as Joel Kotkin has observed, few were interested in New Orleans
(a statement, then and now, as false as it is pointless). In January 2006, Brooks referenced Kotkin's concept of the "New Suburbanism", of
an ''archipelago of villages'' -- a new sort of landscape that is neither city nor sprawl. It's all kind of amazing: market-tested cohesive institutions to counteract the segmenting and niche-ifying forces of the age. It's not anti-suburbia; it's go-go suburbia growing up.
And in December 2008, it was the "New Localism" of the reviving downtowns of Charlotte and Dallas.

In April 2010, he took up Kotkin's thesis that America was on the verge of a population surge to fill up those suburbs with the young and enterprising. That September,  Kotkin was Brooks's authority for asserting that California had been wrecked by environmentalists, rich people, and government workers (in fairness, he acknowledged that anti-tax fever might have a share in the responsibility).

It's as if Kotkin were Brooks's PR client, or maybe his reclusive Smarter Brother. Every time he opens his mouth, it seems, Brooks is on top of it. As he worries these themes back and forth, while the birth rates and employment patterns and migration go up and down, and the Kotkinian future swims in and out of focus, Brooks is reporting every move. What's this about?
From JaysAnalysis.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Call for signatures

There are still Republicans howling about the religious freedom of employers to abuse the religious freedom of their employees and decide whether the employees can use birth control or not: so as they put together their shakedown package to avert a government shutdown (Young Guns!), one of the demands is likely to be repeal of the birth control provisions of the Affordable Care Act.

Planned Parenthood is circulating a petition, which you can sign here.
Image via ElephantAdvice.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Possessor Emeritus

Eton. Image from Notboxed.
Judd Gregg:
One of the great advantages of America — and the one that has drawn so many people to our shores — is the opportunity our way of life affords to people who work hard, take risks and want to succeed financially. At its core, the nation has been, and to a large extent continues to be, a meritocracy.  
To be more accurate, we have developed over the years into a benign meritocracy. We have social and government structures that funnel huge resources to helping those who need help in participating fully in our society.  But, even so, much of our success as a nation and culture is due to the fact that people can succeed on their own initiative. We do not overly penalize those who accomplish this success, and we certainly do not vilify them.
The Duke of Omnium:
The Conservative who has had any idea of the meaning of the name which he carries wishes, I suppose, to maintain the differences and the distances which separate the highly placed from their lower brethren. He thinks that God has divided [jump]

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Juan is the loneliest number

Pop-tart sushi, from Pop-Tarts World, Times Square.  Photo  by Robyn Lee for Serious Eats.
Atrios says:
Shorter Juan Williams: I didn't try to pass off CAP's writing as my own, I tried to pass off my intern's writing as my own, which is totally not plagiarism because shutupShutupShutUpSHUTUPSHUTUP.
This may not be totally fair, or maybe not unfair enough, depending on how you look at it. I don't know what Williams's practice was when he was making a living as a writer, but that's not what he is today in any case; what he really is is a brand name, whose main professional function is to show up as a talkinghead on Fox News and lend it whatever prestige it is he provides. [jump]

Friday, March 8, 2013

Cheap shots, Punic Wars edition

Carthaginian battle elephant. By Teves Design.

Snowstorm Saturn showed up at last, a day late and approximately a dollar short I suppose, its projected accumulation diminishing from five inches at peak to one-to-three at closing to approximately nothing now that it's been and gone. It made me wonder: is this an effect of the Dread Sequester, as in qualified meteorologists have had to be laid off and now the National Weather Service is in the hands of management, who are excellent at silly marketing-based propositions like giving every storm a name, but maybe not so hot at prediction? Just asking.

The House of Zombie Representatives has attempted to defund ACORN:
WASHINGTON -- A new short-term budget bill introduced on Monday by House Republicans includes a bizarre provision banning federal funding to anti-poverty group ACORN, despite the fact that the group has already been stripped of federal funding -- and has been defunct for nearly three years. 

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

The philosopher's stones

Why does Friedman keep talking about Mooks? And Koreans? Only time will tell.
In today's Friedman on the subject of massive open online courses, the Mystax Sapientiae sometimes seems to be parodying himself—I mean on purpose, with a little wink, as when he mentions his driver, here, and then the driver turns out to be one of his VIP friends.
You may think this MOOCs revolution is hyped, but my driver in Boston disagrees. You see, I was picked up at Logan Airport by my old friend Michael Sandel, who teaches the famous Socratic, 1,000-student “Justice” course at Harvard, which is launching March 12 as the first humanities offering on the M.I.T.-Harvard edX online learning platform. When he met me at the airport I saw he was wearing some very colorful sneakers.
The sneakers turn out to be a gift from Sandel's 14,000 students in Korea, where he was also asked to throw out the first ball in the baseball season opener, and I imagine to film a [jump]

Hugo your way and I'll go mine

Headline in the New York Post:

OK, Hugo to hell now! Venezuela’s loony leftist Chavez croaks

And overheard (I wasn't really listening) on the BBC this morning, on the same subject, a voice from Miami, I think, young, US-educated, and deeply offended: "He divided us."

No, Sunshine, he forced you to recognize the division. Venezuela was this sleek little country where oil money wasn't a problem, and practically the whole population was beautifully dressed Italian immigrants, and the Liberals succeeded the Conservatives, and then the Conservatives succeeded the Liberals, and everything was perfect if you had a little money, and everybody did, except it wasn't true. Hugo Chávez discovered that there were poor people in Venezuela, and self-satisfied oligarchs, and mountains of corruption, and he rubbed your faces in it. Then you disposed of your unpleasant knowledge by blaming it on him. "He divided us."
Centro Finanziero Confinanzas, Caracas, half-built and abandoned in 1994, now  a squat for 625 families on 28 floors, no elevators. Photo by Iwan Baan.
And then he tried to do something about it. I expect he did a lot of things wrong. Probably he wasn't as well educated as some of you all, and nobody can say he had very good taste. I'm sure he caused political opponents to be badly treated on flimsy pretexts and did favors for his family and friends. It seems amazingly difficult, though, to present convincing evidence of human rights violations on his watch.

And the other thing I wanted to say was this: the clownish persona, the four-hour speeches, the monstrous self-regard, and the playdates with disgusting foreign thug leaders all began after the 2002 coup attempt convinced him that the United States was his implacable enemy. Rightly or wrongly, who knows; it's certain that the old Iran-Contra villain Otto Reich, who was serving as assistant secretary of state, welcomed it, and it's not as if the US never involved itself in any of that there regime change before. Just because you're paranoid doesn't mean they're not out to get you, as the saying goes.

Every once in a while they try the other approach, you know, quite a bit recently with some of those other South Americans, old Lula, of course, and Evo Morales, and so on, and let them just go about their weird socialist business, and guess what happens? It's not so bad, really. It's better than being the kind of scum that writes judgmental headlines for the Post.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

West of Eden: The little things

No comment.
A group of hardcore fans — known as “La Familia” — have recently expressed outraged after the Beitar Jerusalem team signed two Chechen Muslim players, Zaur Sadayev and Dzhabrail Kadiyev. Members of “La Familia” were seen last month flying a banner that said, “Beitar is pure, forever.” And more recently, two members were arrested for starting fires outside the management offices of Beitar Jerusalem.
On Sunday, the tension boiled over when Sadayev scored his first-ever goal for the club. The Independent reported that many at Teddy Stadium cheered, but “hundreds” of members of “La Familia” stood up and walked out.
“The reaction to the Muslim players being here is not racist,” a 19-year-old fan named Akeeva explained. “But the club’s existence is under threat. Beitar is a symbol for the whole country.”
“It’s just a matter of being Arab,” a fan named Jacob concurred, referring to the fact that Sadayev is Muslim. “It’s not racism, they just shouldn’t be here.” (David Edwards for Raw Story)
Check out the full account at Raw Story, and the video—a very clean and elegant goal followed by the rhinoceros herd huffing out of the stadium. Count how many of the boycotters are religious, wearing those big hand-knitted kippas associated with settlers, and ask yourself how many are thinking of the Torah injunction:
When a stranger resides with you in your land, you shall not wrong him. The stranger who resides with you shall be to you as one of your citizens; you shall love him as yourself, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt: I the LORD am your God.
But then maybe they just couldn't spare any more time off from their busy prayer schedule. (To be fair: President Shimon Peres has asked authorities to clamp down on racism, and old Ehud Olmert will refuse to attend his beloved Beitar's matches as long as they are marred by these protests. Binyamin Netanyahu has also formally condemned at least the violence aspect, using the word "racism", though it took him somewhat longer than the other guys to get there.)
Must be really nice buses, too—look how anxious people are to get on! Photo by ActiveStills.
Meanwhile, Ynet has the story on special Palestinians-only buses introduced by the Israeli Transportation Ministry this week:
The bus lines in question are meant, according to the ministry, to transport Palestinian workers from the West Bank to central Israel. The ministry alleges that the move is meant to ease the congestion felt on bus lines used by Jews in the same areas, but several bus drivers told Ynet that Palestinians who will choose to travel on the so-called "mixed" lines, will be asked to leave them.
Also too, only Palestinians were told about the new bus lines, in Arabic-language flyers distributed in West Bank Arab villages. Hey, it's not like they're preventing Arabs from riding on the same buses as Jews. I mean, that would be illegal, for Pete's sake.
"We are not allowed to refuse service and we will not order anyone to get off the bus, but from what we were told, starting next week, there will be checks at the checkpoint, and Palestinians will be asked to board their own buses," a driver with Afikim – the company that holds the routes franchise for the area – told Ynet.
Oh wait, they had segregated bus service already. A-and some of those Freedom Rides, too!  Photo by ActiveStills, November 15, 2011.

First they came for the shepherds, and I was like, I don't even like lamb...
Photo by Ta'ayush activist Guy.

On Saturday, some people from Umm al Amad in the South Hebron Hills, were grazing their sheep a little too close to the (illegal) Jewish settlement of Otniel, but the border police came and shooed them away. Then came a couple of settlers, in masks. So what did the cops do with them? Looks like a handshake...
And now, courtesy of +972, the other Israeli Jews, the ones who have been right about everything since—well, before the 1967 war. It's a long video, but you should take the time to watch the whole thing, because you've had enough damn snark for one day. The beautiful man who is at the center of the film died on February 9.

Monday, March 4, 2013

Behind the headlines, but not too far

Image from MI Printing.
TOM BROKAW: Well, I really think that, behind the headlines-- this is the Washington Post this morning, and it says that, "Obama sees 2014 as key to his legacy." What we have going on here, 18 months out, are both sides positioning themselves for trying to retain control on the Republican side of the House, and maybe even win the Senate; the president trying to build a legacy of some kind. There's a whole lot of politics in this, as there is in everything else. Kind of two villages, clashing with each other, who seem to occupy a separate universe. (via driftglass)

Drifters didn't get a chance to take formal note of what is to me the most amazing part of this horror, which is that Brokaw knows perfectly well that it's not a question of both sides at all, and is too cynical, or insufficiently sober (has anyone else noticed how drunk he has sounded whenever he pops up on TV over the past ten years or so?) to disguise it. Because that first clause of analysis, from "What we have going on here," says it's about "both sides" but isn't. How many parties are trying to retain control on the Republican side of the House, or maybe even win the Senate? As I count all the parties that have control on the Republican side of the House and haven't won the Senate yet this cycle, I can't get past one.

And then he realizes that grammar has let him down and it's oops, did I let the cat out again? and adding an additional clause, not about the Democrats, who scarcely exist, but the president, who has to be accused of the parallel crime of wanting to, um, accomplish something (the swine! the bloody show-off!).

Virtuous reality

Shorter David Brooks, "The Learning Virtues",  New York Times, February 28, 2013: 
The contrast between the Chinese superstudent and the American slacker could be described with the usual tired stereotypes. But why bother when I've got some totally fresh stereotypes, from an authentic Oriental person with cred from Harvard and Brown?
See, to Chinese people education is all about personal morality, you study in order to become a better person, whereas for Westerners it's about learning stuff and becoming more knowledgeable. This is why Chinese students are polite and obedient while American ones are raucous, spitball-throwing hooligans, even at a reputable school like Yale, where you can be offering them the wisdom of a lifetime spent acquiring humility and they just sit there playing Pac-Man on their I-pods.

Thus, when Li Jin, known in America as Jin Li, learned from Deng Xiaoping that to get rich is glorious, she dedicated herself to the study of German literature, married an American, and wrote a book entitled Cultural Foundations of Learning: East and West that landed in Brooks's Kindle a couple of weeks ago. Aha! said Brooks to himself, with a typical Westerner's eagerness to seize an opportunity, there's a column I should be able to write in about 20 minutes. And so he did.
Celebrating the Lantern Festival. Qing dynasty folk painting, via Cultural China.