Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Courting the Jews

Gaffes and brimstone as campaign proxies spar in Jerusalem.

Graphing the Death of Academic Fads


Cillizza Remembers Robert Torricelli's 'Speech for the Ages'

One has to admire the chutzpah of a politician who, on the eve of resigning in disgrace, can deliver a homily on forgiveness thus: "When we did become such an unforgiving people? How we did we become a society when a person can build credibility your entire life to have it questioned by someone whose word is of no value at all? When did we stop believing in and trusting in each other?"

Department of Unwanted Endorsements


The Precipitous Fall of Alan Greenspan

Joining Trump, George Foreman and Tony Robbins at Learning Annex was probably not the best move. (Just the kind of people you want to convey the message that small is beautiful, sacrifice is good, and in the current financial climate we all need to tighten our belts.) Douglas Rushkoff:

What the hell was Alan Greenspan doing there? First off, he was trying to make some money. He had a new book out, and this was a good way to pitch it to a few thousand potential buyers at once. On a deeper level, though, we can only assume he was there to pump some much-needed air into the collapsing real estate balloon. These poor folks might just be dumb enough to try to borrow some money to purchase foreclosed properties from banks and other lenders that had themselves made disastrous investments during Greenspan’s tenure. His presence lent credibility to the current, lowbrow version of the same scam over which he presided as Fed Chair.

Let's hope for his sake that he's severed all his ties with this hucksterish, bubble-inflating, irrational exuberance-mongering, greed-is-good outfit. Hindsight is always 20/20, but still someone should run an attack ad against Greenspan even though he's not running for anything... just because he really deserves it.

Does It Make Environmental Sense to Inflate Your Tires With Nitrogen?

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Can the Jerusalem Mayoral Election Somehow Top London's?


Her Oxford


Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Chris Cox, Conservative Hearthrob

Avant le deluge, of course.

People's Weekly World Discusses Rosenberg Revelations

The house organ of the Communist Party USA certainly doesn't appear to be "conceding" anything...

Life Beyond Examining Saddam's Prostate

A profile of Ala Bashir, Saddam Hussein's personal physician and now a painter in New Haven... apparently he feels snubbed by the artistic establishment, or whatever passes for it in New Haven. Why did Yale take a pass? Well, frankly because the guy's not a very good artist. (I've seen his work at Corvus.) I can't imagine why anyone would pay the inflated prices being asked for his paintings, which as I recall are mainly birds and angels painted in tiresome and maudlin pastels, except for the novelty of owning something created by the same hands that examined Saddam's prostate.

Troy Davis

Thank goodness for this. Not granting a reprieve would have been for the highest court in our land to sanction a government lynching. Davis's trial and conviction remain an utter travesty of justice. He may still be executed. But at least for the moment we can feel ever so slightly better about our country.

Rising to World Record Levels

Per Sullivan understatement, Biden has truly outdone himself. Indeed. It is sad but predictable that the only way he can get any attention is by making a gaffe, which in the last 48 hours he has done in spades. (The most accessible of the four candidates is -- by definition? -- the least accessed... isn't that a Chinese proverb or something?)

It is difficult to defend these whoppers but if one were to try, one might say that at least he is willing to speak extemporaneously with the media, unlike his Republican counterpart.

One wonders if Biden's objection to the ad targeting McCain's age has something to do with his own intimations of mortality (and failure to release medical records)? And does Biden know how to use a computer?

Lolita, LOL

My favorite caption from the comments section was "Lolita, light of my life, fire of my loins. My sin, my soul." Also good: "Why can't you say W words? I wasn't mayor of Vasilla!"

A Qualified Defense and a Qualified Criticism of Obama's Oratory

Kaus links to this piece questioning whether Obama is really that great a speaker. Fair enough, except maybe for the "likes the sound of his own voice too much" part. In fact I would argue that Obama's rhetorical skills, purely as a matter of presentation, are no great shakes. But again I think this is the wrong question and clearly we're dealing with the soft bigotry of low expectations. Delivering a prepared text really isn't that hard for a person of moderate competence and intelligence! (There may be some exceptions to this - John McCain is of more than moderate competence and intelligence and he certainly makes it look hard, which isn't to say that he's terrible at it.) Even if Obama were the master orator that many people think he is, so what? It's just not that difficult, and has little or no diagnostic value, to come off well when you've been a politician for a long time and you're delivering a set speech or a stock answer! (I mean if Sarah Palin can do it...) What really distinguishes Obama is the fact that he actually writes his own speeches, or at least the major ones, which lends them an added dimension of authenticity, sincerity, and emotional continuity. But it doesn't, ipso facto, make him a great speaker.

The Battle Over War Powers

Paul Findley and Don Fraser, supporters of the 1973 War Powers Act, defend the law against House Joint Resolution 53 which would basically supplant it... I concur with them that the Baker-Christopher proposal is basically one giant loophole but the idea that "the War Powers Act of 1973 is basically sound" and applies meaningful restraints to a president like Bush, equipped with legal acrobats like John Yoo and David Addington, is equally pathetic, and just as hopelessly and risibly naive. According to Findley and Fraser, the War Powers Act "remains an important measure to sustain the rule of law." The Bush administration has left a rule of law to be sustained? News to me.

Another Wall Street Meltdown What-if...

If it happened nine months ago, would that have given Bloomberg '08 a raison d'etre?

Adventures in Wasilla


Think Globally, Invest Locally

I own some stock in a local (Connecticut) bank and, despite what's going on down on Wall Street, the share price has been doing very well lately, rose 2% today and is basically at the highest point it's been all year...

Soft Bigotry of Low Expectations

Some people in the media evidently have a very low opinion of politicians such that reading a Teleprompter is portrayed as being very difficult and anyone who can do it with a modicum of competence (see Palin, Sarah) is a huge political talent. Just as there's a group of people who have such a low opinion of McCain that they think it will be a fantastic struggle for him to keep from losing his temper in the debates... when McCain and his staff know perfectly aware that this is precisely what everybody in the media is watching for and will be on guard against it. T.A. Frank points out that setting the bar this low for McCain is ludicrous. Hey, I wonder if Obama can somehow manage to keep from referring derisively to "whitey" in the debates? (At the end of this piece Brent Staples seems to wonder just that...)

Ten Most Expensive Art Books Sold in 2008 (On Abebooks)

Includes a book of photographs documenting the overthrow of Salvador Allende! (A wealthy leftist buyer? Kissinger trying to get it out of circulation?)

In Crisis

Coates and Douthat are taking a pass on bailout-blogging. I guess I'm in the same boat.

Seems to me that when economic problems are so complex and inscrutable that people of average or even above-average intelligence can't get a firm grasp on them, democracy fails to function properly. The wisdom of crowds can't work its magic when the crowd can't really ascertain the problem. That's why this is a political as well as an economic crisis.

David Brooks seemed to be saying something similar in his column yesterday, but actually seemed to welcome Paulsonomics as a sort of harbinger of post-partisanship.

In any event, we are now seeing who the real elitists are. They've been outed and they're circling their wagons.

Platform Shmatform


What Magic? What Illusion?

Why is David Blaine still referred to as a magician or illusionist, when he's basically a stuntman or even performance artist? (Signs of movement in this direction? The AP uses "magician-daredevil" and AFP uses "illusionist and daredevil"... OK, you're getting warmer!)

Michael Barone: Political Expert or Partisan Pundit?

Michael Barone thinks Palin is helping McCain big time in "The Frozen North" (which apparently includes Washington, making one wonder if he was tutored in climatology by James Inhofe). Twofold quibbling: 1) Does Barone really believe McCain is going to compete in Washington? If so, he must think McCain is a political nincompoop, since McCain doesn't appear to staffing up or running ads there; and 2) Opportunity cost - Palin might be helping a bit in rural Minnesota (despite McCain being down eight points in the Gopher State in the latest Rasmussen poll), but wouldn't Pawlenty have helped more?

Methinks Barone is letting his partisan hat (as opposed to his political expert hat) squish his brain his little.

Over The Top

The congenital excesses of the British press are clearly on view in the intemperate abuse being heaped on Nick Faldo after Europe's Ryder Cup loss. Faldo's supposedly terrible singles strategy - sending out his emotive firebrands first and keeping his solid, stolid veterans in reserve to bat cleanup -- was basically the same strategy as winning team captain Paul Azinger's, and if it weren't for Anthony Kim's drubbing of Sergio Garcia in the first Sunday match, it might have worked.

This is not to mention that the role of captain really doesn't matter much! Maybe strategy counts for a couple of points plus or minus, but the US margin of victory was five points. As Ian Poulter said, "we got beat fair and square." Amen.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Can Large Wind Farms Actually Affect Weather Systems?


Watching Animals Play


Patriotic Smearing

Good conservative that he is, Douthat plays the moral equivalency card... the problem with this is twofold: 1) While neither campaign is a paragon of purity, and Obama's ad tying McCain to Limbaugh is outrageously unfair, there is still both a qualitative and quantitative difference in campaign sleaze between the two campaigns; and 2) Psychologically, Obama justifies running negative ads to himself because he's a typical rather pol and wants to win; McCain actually seems to believe he is entitled to run sleazy ads because he is "the original maverick" (as I've said before, for McCain being a "maverick" is not a measure of behavior but an ontological status) and sliming Obama is his patriotic duty (putting country first) to save America from an Obama administration... not to mention that it's all Obama's fault because he didn't agree to town halls!

I would never dream of criticizing someone for running negative ads. They are effective! Enough said. But to say your opponent is responsible for the negative ads you are running against him? It's your patriotic duty to run negative ads? Let's get a grip.

Astros Vs. Bud Selig

The Astros are pissed off that Bud Selig turned their home games into road games after Hurricane Ike... fair to say that the Astros are using basically the same shtick against Bud Selig that Steve Schmidt uses against the New York Times?

UPDATE: A friend suggests that "the only Bud that killed the Astros' season is the kind that Carlos El Caballo Lee is bringing back from Panama during his many rehab stints."


Sunday, September 21, 2008

It's All About the Jews

Why do financial crises seem to take place in the fall (Sept./Oct.)? Perhaps it's God sending a High Holy Days message to the Jews...

Qui Bono?

Ambinder asks: "Did any presidential candidate, aside from Ron Paul, have any inkling of the Fed's emergency power?" While Obama certainly benefits from the sudden spotlighting of the economy, the real winner in some sense is Ron Paul... to paraphrase the old joke, Ron Paul predicted five out of the last three financial collapses!

If this crisis had occurred nine months ago, could Paul have somehow pulled off the Republican nomination?

Historic Occasion This Thursday...


Friday, September 19, 2008

Something To Do in NYC This Sunday


Banning Bike Lanes in Brooklyn

If it involved Muslims rather than Hasidic Jews, Daniel Pipes would be all over this...

Sexism Reconsidered

Here I see that Hillary is saying the media is sexist because it doesn't cover the male candidates' hairstyles "or any other personal characteristic like that." Now I don't doubt for a minute that there are some pretty sexist pundits out there (cough cough Chris Matthews cough), but this HRC assertion is just manifestly untrue. In fact it is embarrassing just how false it is. The media DOES cover Joe Biden's hair (or lack thereof), Obama's dorky outfit while bicycling, McCain's loafers, Bill Clinton's boxers, and on and on. If you really think sexism is rampant in the centralized cabal known as "the media," you're going to have to do better than that, feminists!

For what it's worth, I thought that the widely circulated piece by Tim Wise on "white privilege" was mostly bullshit, though I do think "white privilege" is a more accurate formulation than "racism" for understanding contemporary racial dynamics in America and hopefully Wise's article will help it gain a foothold in public discourse.

A slight tangent: I remember being told in elementary school that racism ("white privilege" hadn't gained currency yet, but would have been a more appropriate label) meant not having band-aids that matched your skin color. They told us this because they thought it was something tangible we could relate to better than, say, lynching (while it's true that Marin County hasn't seen a lot of lynchings, race riots, civil rights marches or other obvious manifestations of racial strife, there are these things called "history books" which magically enable people to understand things they didn't personally experience). But wait, I'm white and band-aids don't match my skin color either! And who gives a shit about band-aid color anyway? Citing examples of bigotry that collapse under scrutiny doesn't help the cause of equality; on the contrary it does a disservice to the cause.

Regulars, Elites, and Crack-Addicted Professors

George Saunders:

Now, let us discuss the Élites. There are two kinds of folks: Élites and Regulars. Why people love Sarah Palin is, she is a Regular. That is also why they love me. She did not go to some Élite Ivy League college, which I also did not. Her and me, actually, did not go to the very same Ivy League school. Although she is younger than me, so therefore she didn’t go there slightly earlier than I didn’t go there. But, had I been younger, we possibly could have not graduated in the exact same class. That would have been fun. Sarah Palin is hot. Hot for a politician. Or someone you just see in a store. But, happily, I did not go to college at all, having not finished high school, due to I killed a man. But had I gone to college, trust me, it would not have been some Ivy League Élite-breeding factory but, rather, a community college in danger of losing its accreditation, built right on a fault zone, riddled with asbestos, and also, the crack-addicted professors are all dyslexic.

Mapping an Occupation


Soccer in America


Friday, September 12, 2008

Inspiration for Ted Baxter Dies at 94

Eulogy to be delivered by Will Ferrell?

Calling All Freudians...

John Lennon and his mum...

No Surprises There

Sounds like the new glossy, glitzy, fluffy advertising vehicle LA Times Sunday Magazine basically sucks... not that anyone was expecting any different...

Here's a sample (Robyn Todd writing about her dog):

Izzy has the presence of a king—-okay, a prince. He walks with his head high. Perfect posture. He loves people, and people love him. When he’s approached, he sits up, looks his friends (which they are immediately) in the eye, and when they’ve finished swooning and are reluctantly ready to leave, Izzy waits for the right moment and gives his paw. They go nuts. It’s like being with a rock star. Am I a mother in love, or what?

Believe me, it only gets worse from there.

Memo to Republicans

Please, please keep denying (as Krauthammer does here) that Palin was clueless on the Bush Doctrine -- it will only invite more gotcha questions. When a hurricane is coming you don't keep building a house of cards.


Whatever talk there once was about Drudge being pro-Obama (the most plausible explanation being that it was good for business, particularly in terms of garnering international traffic), I think it's fair to say that this phase has passed.


So Sarah Palin isn't too familiar with the Bush Doctrine... maybe John McCain can look it up for her on the Internet?

Skittish as a Baby Deer Jacked Up on Espresso

Maybe it's just me... but it seems to me that there's something wrong with your financial system when this happens... out of chaos and crisis on Wall Street Ron Rosenbaum sees political opportunity (beware, ye malefactors of great wealth)...

Disabilities and Fish

Pixar's Finding Nemo is being screened at the Manhattan JCC's Disabilities Film Festival. I hadn't ever thought of this as a film about disabilities but then again I guess it is (Nemo has a deformed fin). Not only does Pixar consistently produce insanely good movies, but it also has a social conscience (cf. anti-consumerist tropes in Wall-E). Perhaps it's overstating the case, but one Pixar film might do more to raise awareness about disabilities or overconsumption than a whole raft of well-meaning nonprofits can do in a decade... sobering, and probably tells us more about our culture than it does about Pixar or the issues.

Dukakis Knocks It Over the Green Monster

Michael Dukakis on experience:

I think this experience thing is phony as a three-dollar bill. This guy's been in elected office for twelve consecutive years. That's more than Reagan was, more the Carter was, more than George Bush was, in fact double the amount of time Bush was in elected office, the same as Clinton and Bush One, and a couple of years less than John Kennedy. Some of that was in Illinois which is hardly the minor leagues of American politics, and he represented more people in his state senate district than live in the entire state of Alaska. He was an extremely effective state legislator. He's been an extremely effective United States senator. And frankly I don't know exactly what John McCain's executive experience is, to tell you the truth.

To be fair, experience isn't the issue for Sarah Palin either. Nor is her pregnant daughter the issue, or her special-needs son that she won't be able to spend much time with if she's off doing her thing "reforming Washington"... the issue is that she appears to be a pathological liar and if she can't even handle a press conference how the hell is she going to handle dangerous dictators like the Prime Minister of Spain?

Go Negative, Young Man

These sorts of criticisms of Obama's newly minted negative advertising strategy totally miss the point. The substance of the negative ads don't matter, only the barrage itself. If you are really going to play offense, you must attack on all fronts with overwhelming force -- you're not going to win on every front, but thankfully you don't have to. Go after McCain on his age, his Internet illiteracy, his Sunni/Shia gaffe, his flip-flops, his temperament, his sexism and frat-boy sense of humor, his Bush lite policies, his hiring of Karl Rove proteges, his total lack of vetting of Palin, his lobbyist-riddled campaign staff, his adultery... throw everything you've got and then throw some more. Some of it will get through. No mercy, nothing is off limits, and take no prisoners. Remember, bitch is the new black.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Greek Postmen Beat Zombies...



Is there anything more pathetic than third parties bickering with each other? One is reminded of the quote about academia that academic arguments are so fierce precisely because the stakes are so low...

Sunday, September 07, 2008

The Collapse of the Republican Ideal in France

Injustice tends to breed injustice, and racism and violence tend to conjure up their snarling mirror images... Jewish youths are attacked in France ... and the father of one of the youths, commenting on the police's ineffectiveness, says: "Clearly they won't do anything because they can't. There are almost 10 million Arabs and blacks in France, many of them residing in Paris." This rightfully aggrieved father wants to blame all the Arabs and blacks in France for the brutish criminality of a few thugs! And isn't the clearly articulated lack of faith in the police an invitation to vigilantism?

If there is anything that approaches the horror and tragedy of anti-semitic violence committed by children against other children, it is an adult resorting to racism to vent his frustrations. French republicanism, once the glory of the enlightened world, is utterly in shambles.

Courage, Conviction, Kerry, Palin

So Palin is a fundamentalist Christian but not (Douthat would have us believe, just as he would have us believe that Chesterton's anti-semitism is a mere peccadillo in the face of his sterling and brave critique of liberalism) a particularly officious or apostolic one. Is it possible to separate religion and politics this way? I believe it is. But isn't this precisely what John Kerry (and Rudy Giuliani) was criticized for - not having the courage of his convictions? Professing moral disdain for abortion like a good Catholic but refusing to enshrine those beliefs into law?

If Sarah Palin is a sincere creationist, how can she justify NOT insisting that it be taught in schools?

Another Unlikely Place for a Brawl...


Saturday, September 06, 2008

Cafe Urbanism


Is Los Angeles a Good City for Singles?

You'd think it would be close to #1. According to Forbes, you'd be wrong.

Model City Blues


From the 2008 Republican Party Platform...

"To protect our servicemen and women and ensure that America's Armed Forces remain the best in the world, we affirm the timelessness of those values, the benefits of traditional military culture, and the incompatibility of homosexuality with military service." Doesn't this actually go beyond Don't Ask, Don't Tell in that it refers to "homosexuality" full-stop, not to "open" or "overt" homosexuality?


The Guardian's Steven Wells tackles vinyl nostalgia: "Ask yourself this: Do you know anybody who still buys vinyl that isn't a total dick?"

Cognitive Dissonance

Cricket: The Pitch
Originally uploaded by oaxoax
A shooting takes place at a Sacramento cricket match, then a crowd pummels the gunman with cricket bats... No joke!

And I thought cricket was supposed to be civilized...

Not Paying Attention as Usual

Marty Peretz, an Obama supporter, praises the woman who called Barack Obama an "anti-Semite" earlier this year...

Disappearing Act

Josh Marshall: "Isn't Palin supposed to move to Cheney's undisclosed location after she gets elected, not before?"

Yoo Es Ay! Yoo Es Ay! Yoo Es Ay!

Of all the commentaries on McCain's speech I've seen, I think Jim Sleeper's best captures the contrast and conundrum of McCain's basic decency set against the shame, sham, and shambles of his party... as one caller to NPR's call-in show after the speech said to Neil Conan, McCain is simply "too good for the Republicans." And that is both why he deserves to be pitied and why he deserves to lose the election.

Friday, September 05, 2008

American Stories About Global Warming

Submit your own story and get published...

As an aside, the seriousness and diligence of this exchange (to call it a "debate" is to obscure the many points of essential agreement) in the New York Review of Books about the economic ramifications of global warming has not been surpassed in any general-interest publication... the angry right can say whatever they want, but when you want sober analysis of a serious problem you cannot do better than this house organ of the East Coast intellectual elite.

Green Clubbing in the Netherlands

The "pee experience" sounds a bit much...

Mental Health Break

I came across this Cavafy poem today -- it reminded me a bit of the POW passages in the speech given by John McCain (whose candidacy for President I do not support, but whose fundamental decency as a human being, at least before he met Steve Schmidt, is undeniable) the other night...

When you set out on your journey to Ithaca,
pray that the road is long,
full of adventure, full of knowledge.
The Lestrygonians and the Cyclops,
the angry Poseidon -- do not fear them:
You will never find such as these on your path,
if your thoughts remain lofty, if a fine
emotion touches your spirit and your body.
The Lestrygonians and the Cyclops,
the fierce Poseidon you will never encounter,
if you do not carry them within your soul,
if your soul does not set them up before you...


The Medium is the Message

Eve Fairbanks listens to McCain's speech on the old RCA wireless (or something like that), and implies that perhaps he would have been a much better candidate in a radio-only age.

What Were They Thinking?

Why the iShares poster ads in Grand Central should probably be re-thought...


Sullivan credits himself with the stratospheric ratings for Palin's speech. I also detected a hint of uppitiness in this.

Whose web traffic or TV ratings will Andrew take credit for next? Tune in at 10 pm...

What You Need is a Newspaper!

Jeffrey Goldberg issues a challenge to neoconservative billionaires. And here the Sun oh-so-impartially indulges in a veritable fit of self-congrulation, I mean reports on itself... (I'm sure they looked far and wide for someone with an alternative viewpoint -- "good riddance" or "I've been waiting for the implosion of that neocon rag" or "I'm not surprised - their adulatory editorials in favor of George W. Bush's 'clear grasp of the substance on both foreign and domestic policy' and the profound racism found in the comments section of any article they publish about Obama and left unscrubbed by editors indicate that the paper is totally out of touch" -- but just couldn't find anyone...)

McCain's Character

Kevin Drum:

McCain likes to present his past as past and his time in a prison camp as a transformative experience, but the fact is that his experience as a POW transformed nothing. In fact, it amplified his fundamental belief in his own self-righteousness, something he's used ever since as an unending justification for his worst impulses. He was 31 years old when he was captured by the North Vietnamese and 36 when he was released. When he was 43 he abandoned his injured wife for a younger woman and married into a fortune. When he was 51 he intervened with regulators on behalf of his pal Charles Keating and ended up enmeshed in the Keating Five scandal — a scandal he initially tried to blame on his wife when his role became public. When he was 61 he was amusing a partisan crowd with boorish jokes about Chelsea Clinton. When he was 64 he was pandering to Southern racism by refusing to condemn the confederate flag flying over South Carolina's statehouse.

Hey, maybe by his second term he'll have grown out of it! Or maybe he'll be a senile vegetable. Or maybe he'll be dead. The thing is that for McCain his "born-again" experience (and that is what we're talking about here - a marginally secularized salvation experience that panders to the religious right while not alienating independents) doesn't mean he can no longer commit huge lapses in judgment - just the opposite! It entitles him to make lapses and still consider himself a straight-talking maverick. And the media is basically complicit in this.

Michelle Obama's Rabbi Relative


But What Was the Joke?

Community organizing as a cultural trope. (One of the GOP's specialties is the punchline with no joke (or is it the joke with no punchline?) -- cf. "East Coast elite," "mainstream media," "celebrity," "Hollywood," "Democrat Party," "liberal," and "Hillary Clinton." If you don't get the joke, well, they can't explain it to you.)

Van Jones says Sarah Palin would hate Rosa Parks -- and presumably Martin Luther King as well.