Thursday, April 30, 2009

The Key To Viral Success


Call It A Circumcision Tea Party

A poem on Genital Integrity Awareness Week. P.S. And a new documentary on foreskin!

Pedaling Revolution

"How cyclists are changing American cities." Book rec of the day.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Rudy's Rope-A-Dope Bid For Governor


Do Our Beliefs About Climate Change Depend on the Local Weather?



If you want to understand Afghanistan, a good place to begin would be to read everything written on the subject by Barney Rubin. Like this essay in the Boston Review.

Is Obama Reading Andrew Sullivan?

Obama's citation of Churchill in his presser has only one obvious source...

What Did Chris Matthews Know and When Did He Know It?

I was just wondering about this myself today -- did Matthews know that Specter was going to jump ship?

Israel's Tourism Minister


Sunday, April 26, 2009

A Blog Supreme

NPR needs help naming its new jazz blog.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

One-Woman Sasha Vujacic Fan Club

LA Weekly profiles the woman behind this site, which features a section called "Headband Watch" and includes enticing morsels of information like:

Sasha's tendency to pray when faced with a foul call has inspired some fans to call him "St. Sasha." So perhaps it is fitting that he would don a headband called Halo. Here he is wearing one of the sweat-blocking designs sent by the Halo folks for him to try. He later wore it at the Lakers-Clippers game on April 5.

Greatest Jewish Death Scenes

Here. Toback directed the newly released documentary Tyson.

Robert Parry on Truth Commission


Friday, April 24, 2009

Flash Mob

Mass texting is a great tool for party invitations -- sometimes too good.

Dear Prudence: I Cheated On My Wife While Sleep-Walking

Prudence replies: "It's hard to believe that the pharmaceutical industry has already solved two of our most vexing problems: How to get men to do weekend chores, and how to induce attractive strangers to have sex with you while being able to swear that you haven't cheated."

Poor People Are Crazy While The Rich Are Eccentric

Ah, billionaires: Richard Branson is photographed kite-surfing with a naked super-model on his back, while his wife and kids look on from the shore. (The naked super-model was the girlfriend of the photographer, who sounds a bit eccentric himself.)

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Golf In America

"An inclusive narrative of golf's history and popularity in the United States." Book rec of the day.

Twitter Spam

Received my first Twitter spam a few days ago: "Direct from Ganymede Journal: Hello, you'll be interested in GANYMEDE, the new gay men's lit/art print journal...stimulating website"

Don't ask me how or why I got it, because I have no idea. Is issuing low-volume spam Twitter's business model?

Cast Lead and Hanukkah Dreidels

IDF operations are named by a computer program, and sometimes things get lost in translation. (Notice that, as usual, Israel's problems are really just PR glitches.)

Michael Steele's Mike Tyson Connection

Here. The new Tyson docu-biopic-whatever sounds pretty interesting. "It is hard to imagine anyone more radically alone" -- kind of like the GOP?

Why Do Liberals Still Care About Matt Drudge?

According to Michael Wolff, a combination of weirdness, secrecy, and gayness. Sounds about right to me.

Turkey's First Female Mosque Designer

Her first effort is getting positive reviews, and she already has another mosque project lined up.

Pinstripe Patriot Act


Dawkins Confesses Under Enhanced Interrogation...


Omar Sharif, Peacemaker


Music Piracy Reconsidered


Desperate Jim Tedisco Jumps the Shark

"I just think it's ironic that this guy doesn't live in the 20th, and he's challenging my residency." So said radio show host Sam Seder after his ballot was challenged by Tedisco's camp. I guess they must have figured, hey, it can't get any more awkward than challenging the ballot of favorite-son local politico Kirsten Gillibrand... so what's stopping us from throwing out any scruples whatsoever?

It's actually not entirely Tedisco's fault that the tabulating is going so slowly, but in the end he will surely be blamed for it.

Texas Shari'a


So My Question Is...

If Michael Oren is appointed Bibi's ambassador to the US, will TNR finally decide they can no longer ethically continue to publish him?

Who's Ready for a Two-State Solution?

Israelis? Palestinians? Try Texas Republicans!

Thank Goodness the Golf Courses Are Safe

A promotional e-mail from the inbox:

Myrtle Beach Golf Courses Hope to Avoid Worst of Fire's Wrath

A large fire that engulfed part of Horry County on Thursday has spared the Myrtle Beach golf community the worst of its wrath to this point.

All but four Myrtle Beach area courses were open Thursday, and we're hopeful that all will be open Friday.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Analogy of the Day

Is the GOP a kind of Banana Republic Junta Party? Josh Marshall thinks so.

Who Wants Linkage?

Is Obama seeking to condition US action towards Iran on Israeli action towards reinvigorating the peace process with Palestinians... or is it Israel that is seeking the linkage?

Paging Jack Shafer

Absurd media euphemisms for Susan Boyle's lack of sex appeal.

Brussels Quietly Trains a Foreign Service


Bailout for Calligraphers

Los Angeles reportedly spends $1 million a year on hand-inked calligraphy scrolls... clearly pointing to the undue influence of a scurrilous calligraphers' lobby.

The Road to 60

More heartburn for Jon Cornyn: Roy Blunt has been having a rough couple of weeks in his bid to succeed the retiring Kit Bond as Senator from Missouri... including being outraised 2-1 by potential Democratic opponent Robin Carnahan.

The Way Forward for the GOP

Coates tells Jon Cornyn to buck up:

The way forward is clear: Talk more about tea parties and torture. Have thrice-married, known adulterers, offer more sanctimonious lectures to Americans on "traditional marriage." Then have thrice-married, cross-dressing Manhattanites make the case against gay marriage. Make Sarah Palin the face of your party. Keep Dick Cheney talking. And when all else fails, just ask yourself this question, "What would Rush do?" Follow these steps, and I promise, you will give new meaning to the term "minority party." You have the power.

Key Difference: Those Protests Didn't Profess To Be About "Teabagging"

Joe Scarborough exposes a vicious double standard... er, or something: "A lot of news outlets mocked these protesters.... But, if a media outlet wants to expose its bias, they can mock tea parties, if they like. ... I'm not going to mention names of people on networks that made sexual jokes, childish sexual jokes, about tens of thousands of Americans who went out and wanted to get involved in their government. I mean, it was really middle school jokes being made. I didn't hear those jokes being made when people on the left protested over the past eight years." [Italics added]

Rubin Reports

Author Barry Rubin has a new blog on the Middle East. I don't agree with Rubin much, but he's a prolific writer and researcher who knows his stuff.

Shopping Our Way to Safety

"How We Changed from Protecting the Environment to Protecting Ourselves." Book rec of the day.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Quote of the Day

Supreme Court Associate Justice Stephen Breyer: "In my experience when I was 8 or 10 or 12 years old, you know, we did take our clothes off once a day, we changed for gym, OK? And in my experience, too, people did sometimes stick things in my underwear."

Sunday, April 19, 2009

A Nice Jewish Boy Runs the Iditarod

Why should that be surprising?

Electronic Frontiers

The World Digital Library will be launched this week, with content about every UNESCO member state.

Bulletproof Underwear for the Super-Rich

While this kind of story makes good copy, it is (as the journalist John Gibler recently pointed out to me, in reference to mainstream media coverage of Mexico) hopelessly class-biased and has no bearing whatsoever on the experience of 99.99% of Colombians.

Kooky Creationists

T.A. Frank:

Disarray on the right offers liberals a chance to realize a number of important policy ambitions, which is generally good. Still, having a reasonable opposition party would be better. Let's be honest, huge deficit spending is scary, or at least it should be. Geithner's bank plan is dismaying, or at least it should be. And proponents of the Austrian school, however kooky at times, have made some undeniably accurate calls, warning about the real estate bubble as it inflated and predicting the collapse of major banks. (That most economists dismiss the Austrians as "creationists" only increases my fear of experts who implicitly view themselves, by extension, as "scientists.") But you can't defend George W. Bush fiscal policy one day and propound Ron Paul fiscal policy the next and expect to be taken seriously.

Herder Loan Defaults

The recession hits Mongolia.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Supreme Court Conspiracy Theories

Apparently Justice Stevens is an Oxfordian.

Bounty Hunters

Ron Paul's solution to Somali pirates.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Annals Of Turncoatism

George Packer on Irving Kristol, the archetypal neoconservative:

As the years go by, Kristol’s prose becomes less supple, less complex, more combative, and less persuasive. His animus against the “new class”—essentially, do-gooding liberal “elites”—grows so malignant that it overwhelms his sense of proportion, as if the greatest force for evil in America is a seventh-grade social-studies teacher. A philosophical inquiry into the role of values in modern, liberal society gradually turns into a culture war, a crusade against liberals themselves—the true, internal “enemy” in what he calls “my cold war,” “the real cold war.” The successes of the Reagan revolution only intensify this narrowing and hardening of thought into ideology. Kristol converts to supply-side economics, turns against governmental reform altogether, and forgets the lessons of his close friend and colleague Daniel Bell’s great book “The Cultural Contradictions of Capitalism”: that the most destructive threat to bourgeois morality is bourgeois capitalism. By the nineteen-nineties, Kristol’s neoconservatism has settled into ordinary conservatism, which allows no room for contradictions, cultural or otherwise.

Packer sees Kristol's descent into bitterness as the story of "intellectual conservatism" writ large, whereas I guess I see it as the story of turncoatism writ large. Kristol's prose lost its charm and wit when politics went from a noble competition of ideas to a petty competition of men (and mainly straw men at that). This is a phenomenon which runs deeper than conservatism; it is congenital to modern politics in general, and the politics of turncoats in particular.

When Is Blackface OK?

Controversy ensued when a Turkish broadcaster put on blackface to deliver a commentary about Obama following the President's recent visit to Turkey. Memo to foreigners: a solid rule of thumb for when to use blackface is NEVER. I've always thought that the biggest thing that foreigners do not, maybe cannot understand, about America is race. Uniqueness comes with a price! Some places -- South Africa, or parts of Latin America and the Caribbean -- have similarly tortured racial legacies, but it's really the unique inter-operation of race and class that makes American race relations so sui generis, and so difficult to understand something like blackface which lies squarely at the intersection of those two concepts.

Mr. Pooh Sticks!

Johann Hari profiles Andrew Sullivan:

At the dawn of Thatcherism, he became the first person in his family to go to university—Magdalen College, Oxford. Was he daunted by it? “Never. If you had spent 18 years of your life in East Grinstead, to suddenly be in Oxford was paradise.” He describes it as “a very Bridesheady time”—the famous TV adaptation had just been broadcast—and he was determined to try everything. He made his name by founding the Pooh-Sticks Society, a group dedicated to A.A. Milne’s game where you toss sticks in a river to see which floats past fastest. It became a monster: he says the group swelled to a thousand members, and crowds of hundreds would stop the traffic on Magdalen Bridge to play Pooh sticks.

Eerie Parallels!

Bright days! Finding the prisoner's weakness! Count me as unimpressed with these purported Orwellian resonances. Is any discussion of torture masked behind dry legalese inherently Orwellian? I guess so.

When you want to express outrage but don't have new information to report, you engage in hyperbole. In other words, the torture memos have not added much to our knowledge of Bush and Cheney's sanctioning of war crimes. But they have shown us in stark terms the banality of evil: human rights and the rule of law disappearing in the solvent of a powerful bureaucracy. And the brutal deconstruction of domestic and international law by the Office of Legal Counsel would put any French post-structuralist to shame. (The culture wars are turned on their head!) Seeing the gruesome handiwork of Bybee and Yoo I think not of Orwell but of Derrida.

Dreaming Bilingually?

Watch out, you might wake up Canadian! Background here.

On The Dot: The Speck That Changed the World


Not Commenting on Elvis Sightings

America's only gay, Jewish left-handed Congressman dismisses Rick Perry's secessionist saber-rattling.

He Really Is The Messiah

Barack Obama resurrects The Dead.

Elephant Polo


The Wrong Road Over the Mountain

Why Some People Do Not Read Poetry
By W.S. Merwin

Because they already know that it means
stopping and without stopping they know that
beyond stopping it will mean listening
listening without hearing and maybe
then hearing without hearing and what would
they hear then what good would it be to them
like some small animal crossing the road
suddenly there but not seeming to move
at night and they are late and may be on
the wrong road over the mountain with all
the others asleep and not hitting it
that time as though forgetting it again

And They Never Fucking Curse, Either

Josh Marshall: "Conservatives are so incensed by warnings about the threat of right wing radicalism that they're considering overthrowing the federal government."

A Defense of Opacity

Wieseltier thinks the White House is over-exposed. And doesn't much care for facebook. Or glass buildings. But he likes brick. Or something like that. The piece seems to be a defense of opacity but who knows? It's too opaque to tell.

John Cole Versus Juan Cole

Memo to right-wing bloggers: you've really gotta keep those two names straight...

School Violence Is (Alas) Nothing New

I found this morning's NPR story on the 1927 Michigan school massacre very poignant. Found on the murderer's property: a sign reading "Criminals are made, not born." Are you listening, Glenn Beck? The murderer was angry about property taxes used to fund the local public school.

Trouble For Chris Dodd

Only five Connecticut residents have donated to the embattled Senator's re-election campaign... (Roland Burris is not doing too well, either.)

The Revolution Will NOT Be Tweeted

The New York Post infiltrates an East Village socialist hideout... and is dismayed to not find anyone using Twitter.

Trotsky's Ashes Baked Into Cookies

This (apocryphal?) story has further damaged the already strained relations between Trotskyists and anarchists...

Wednesday, April 15, 2009



New Orleans Style and the Writing of American Jazz History


Condi Reports on Tiger


Make Pet Adoption Fees Tax Deductible?


Why Don't Marriott Hotels Show C-Span?


Your Own Personal Green Job

How much money does growing your own food save you? (Not that the Obamas need to scrimp.)

Tea Party Turnout

So the next time an anti-war protest brings out 25,000 people in DC, New York, and San Francisco, there should be ten times as much media coverage as there was for the tea parties... right? P.S. The original Boston Tea Party drew approximately 46% of Boston's population at the time... compared to Wednesday's 0.08%.

Godless Albion

In one of those delicious ironies produced by the legacy of colonialism, two of the most outspoken advocates for Christianity in Britain are a Pakistani-born and a Ugandan-born priest... check out Rob Gifford's fascinating report on god, godlessness, and the curious absence of culture wars in Britain.

Who's Going to Get The Green Jobs Mentioned in the ARRA?


Ain't Fare

Going up against Big Taxi in the Nutmeg State:

You've decided to open a mom-and-pop store in a Wal-Mart world, so you seek the necessary permits from the government.

You have retail experience (eight years working for Wal-Mart), a business plan (you'll hire two employees, take a modest salary for yourself), and willing customers (who know you from Wal-Mart but would prefer to shop in your store).

Before you can open, you must first prove to the government that there is a need for your store — that Wal-Mart isn't meeting the public demand for stuff. You must show there are enough shoppers to support your store and guarantee Wal-Mart the profit margins they're used to.

You must subject yourself to five separate public hearings — spread out over six months — in which the CEO of Wal-Mart himself will grill you about your business plan, to demonstrate why you shouldn't be allowed to compete with him.

You must hire an attorney, because Wal-Mart's good at this. They eat small business owners like you for lunch. And if you successfully leap every hurdle without going broke, you win the right to earn a few bucks more than you made at Wal-Mart in exchange for the pride and stress of being a small business owner. Congratulations.

Replace Wal-Mart with Metro Taxi and you get an idea of what Mubarik Mir has gone through trying to open his own cab company.

Five Tips For Citizen Journalism From ProPublica’s New “crowdsorcerer”

Amanda Michel comes from a background of political organizing and wants to bring that sensibility to journalism.

The Special Case of California

"Why are Californians so much better at conserving energy than the rest of the country? At least, it looks like they are: Since 1975, per capita electricity use in California has barely budged, while it's shot up 50 percent across the rest of the United States. Some observers have credited the state's aggressive energy-efficiency policies—everything from installing LED traffic lights to painting roofs white to ensuring that residential air ducts don't leak heat. Meanwhile, California's 'decoupling' laws have given electric utilities incentives to push energy-saving measures (in most states, utilities only make a profit if they sell, sell, sell)." But as Bradford Plumer points out, the picture is really not so simple...

Drug Traffickers Move Underwater

Semi-submersibles are becoming the smuggling vehicle of choice...

Sunday, April 05, 2009

Like Pizza Crust, Only Better


Secrets of Famous Bloggers

"Ezra Klein is 14 and has to be in bed by 9:30." See more.

Friday, April 03, 2009

NY-20 Tied, Literally

Amazing to think that I pulled at least 10 votes for Murphy, and frustrating to think I couldn't get a few more... P.S. Jim Tedisco sends out mass e-mail soliciting contributions for the "Tedisco Ballot Integrity Fund" to protect against evil "National Democrats."

Another Idea For Michelle Obama

Pander to the bike-ped lobby and the foodie lobby at the same time! P.S. Urban gardening is too easy, Michelle -- for a real challenge try urban foraging!

How Does That Crow Taste?

JTA's Ron Kampeas eats crow about level of congressional support for Special Envoy George Mitchell and the President's "aggressive" peacemaking agenda, as number of co-sponsors for H. Res. 130 tops 100, including some who are "not the usual suspects"...

Thursday, April 02, 2009

Behind The Curve

Ha ha ha. Not. This modestly funny joke ("in the future everyone will be Secretary of HHS for 15 minutes," as Kaus renders the punchline) was made by Jay Leno about two months ago. Memo to right-wing pundits: your unintentional material ("teabagging") is much funnier than your intentional stuff.

Some Outstanding Issues Regarding Israel's New Government

Nathan Jeffay:

After giving cabinet posts to everyone he [Netanyahu] promised during coalition agreements there are 30 ministers, eight deputies, and new furniture in the cabinet room to accommodate everyone. In fact, it is the biggest government in Israeli history.

When Olmert built a 25-member cabinet Netanyahu described it as wasteful to an unprecedented degree.

He went on to strongly support a bill to cap the government at 18 ministers.

One of the instigators of this move was Likud lawmaker Gideon Saar who is now education minister. At the time, Saar said, “The cost of appointing so many ministers constitutes a waste of public funds at the expense of essential needs.”

And what about the political machinations of Sheldon Adelson, largely ineffectual in America but all-too-successful in Israel:

Yisrael Hayom (translation: “Israel Today”), founded in 2007 by American billionaire Sheldon Adelson, has always promoted a right-wing agenda. It has been rumored that he only started the paper to get his friend Netanyahu in to office — a claim given exposure last year in a New Yorker profile of Adelson.

So what now? If it has achieved its aim, will it fold? In interviews this week, Adelson said no.

Even if it does close, its journalists shouldn’t be too worried. After all they did to swing the election, and given the new ethos on cabinet building, they could probably find jobs in Netanyahu’s new cabinet.

Balancing Act

An interesting article in the Forward about the worthy, if not always adept, efforts of Minnesota Congressman Keith Ellison, the only Muslim in Congress, to be both pro-Israel and pro-Palestinian at the same time. He may not always get it right, but he's a model of someone who challenges himself and others to witness, speak, and legislate with empathy.

Photo-Musical Americana

Dave Brubeck composes "Ansel Adams: America."

Following in the Footsteps of Midgets

National Review editor Rich Lowry is now (co-)writing potboilers? Good grief. Following in the footsteps of William F. Buckley, I suppose? The problem with imitating WFB in this respect is that his bathroom-reading spy novels were pretty doggone shitty. Keep your day job, Rich. I think.

What Would Ronnie Do?

UC Davis student group plans to show hardcore pornographic film in campus lecture hall. Would Ronnie "I'm going to clean up that mess in Berkeley" Reagan have called out the national guard?

Too Slow

Andrew Sullivan attacks Obama for his lackadaisical attitude about DADT. It wouldn't be so painful for the gay rights community if all the other liberal interest groups hadn't already had their turn at the trough.

The Least We Can Do

Jon Cohn defends Peter Orszag's government chauffeur and wants the taxpayer to pick up his Starbucks tab as well... arguing in effect that the essence of populism is to be penny-wise, pound-foolish.

Cantor, Merkel, Sarko

Ben Smith points out that the GOP's minimalist approach to the economic crisis is creating some interesting "old Europe" bedfellows.

Nature in Common?

"Environmental Ethics and the Contested Foundations of Environmental Policy." Book rec of the day.

The Jewish Quest To Settle Suriname


Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Air-Brushing The Bard

Did over-eager art restorers ruin the newly discovered Shakespeare portrait?



On Criticism of UNRWA

A comment from a friend who attended a briefing on Capitol Hill yesterday by United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) operations director John Ging: "Shelly Berkley's staffer asked why UNRWA even needed to exist considering that the United Nations High Commissioner For Refugees (UNHCR) exists and should be able to handle the refugee problem. It's interesting - UNRWA is currently the hated entity, but I am curious that if the UNHCR were in charge of the Palestinian refugee crisis, would the UNHCR became anathema instead?"

Who's the Biggest Biofool?


Nancy Pelosi, Bogeywoman

In the inbox, from Republican congressional candidate Jim Tedisco, down by less than a hundred votes in the NY-20 special election yesterday, with absentee ballots still to be counted:

We need to ensure that the integrity of the election is protected and every vote is fairly counted. As it stands now, there is a Republican advantage in the number of absentee and military ballots that have been returned. The numbers are on our side. We can and will win this race!

We need to raise as much money as possible in the coming days to stop Nancy Pelosi and the National Democrats from stealing this election with a lot of lawyers and dirty tricks.

It is possible if not probable that Tedisco will win, but this pre-emptive hysteria about Nancy Pelosi stealing the election takes a lot of chutzpah coming from a guy running against a political neophyte in a district with a massive Republican registration advantage... and who is currently trailing in votes.

P.S. Is "National Democrats" supposed to sound like "National Socialists"?