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Best idea since Irwin Mainway’s Bag ‘o Glass

[ 40 ] November 16, 2010 |

Wrigley

Illinois and Northwestern are playing a college football game at Wrigley Field on Saturday. That’s an actual photograph of one end zone.

My favorite detail is the advertising signage at the spot where the brick wall intersects the goal post.

Hope we don’t see any incidents of paralysis followed by frivolous lawsuits.

Armistice Day

[ 68 ] November 11, 2010 |

I will come to a time in my backwards trip when November eleventh, accidentally my birthday, was a sacred day called Armistice Day. When I was a boy, and when Dwayne Hoover was a boy, all the people of all the nations which had fought in the First World War were silent during the eleventh minute of the eleventh hour of Armistice Day, which was the eleventh day of the eleventh month.

It was during that minute in nineteen hundred and eighteen, that millions upon millions of human beings stopped butchering one another. I have talked to old men who were on battlefields during that minute. They have told me in one way or another that the sudden silence was the Voice of God. So we still have among us some men who can remember when God spoke clearly to mankind.

Armistice Day has become Veterans’ Day. Armistice Day was sacred. Veterans’ Day is not.
Vietnam War Memorial
So I will throw Veterans’ Day over my shoulder. Armistice Day I will keep. I don’t want to throw away any sacred things.

Kurt Vonnegut, Breakfast of Champions

Breakfast of Champions is not Vonnegut’s best book, but I read it in high school, and it was probably the first novel that ever suggested to me that the world might be more complicated than how it was portrayed in school and on TV.

Frank Buckles.

Olbermann suspended for making campaign contributions

[ 28 ] November 5, 2010 |

Casablanca

This story seems odd on a number of levels.

First, NBC’s rules, which apparently require journalists to get permission from their bosses before contributing to or otherwise participating in political campaigns, are pretty ridiculous. (News organizations have a wide variety of policies regarding this sort of thing, from anything goes at FOX to above the fray appearance of objectivity at all costs at places like the New York Times). Is anybody under the impression that Keith Olbermann is supposed to be maintaining an appearance of objectivity, whatever that means in this crazy mixed up world where the problems of three little people don’t amount to a hill of beans? (It’s unclear whether Olbermann did get permission before contributing a combined total of a little more than $7K to two congressional and one senate campaign).

Second, Olbermann’s flouting of his organization’s rules, however ridiculous those rules may be — if he did flout them; again this isn’t clear — seems tactically very unwise. His influence as a commentator is exponentially more valuable to candidates whom he favors than the piddling sums he’s legally allowed to contribute to them. Making such contributions without clearing them first creates yet another bogus issue for the Scream Machine to whinge about as it goes on about Mainstream Media Bias etc etc.

Living in the hysterical world

[ 7 ] October 29, 2010 |

Today’s “terrorist” “incidents” don’t seem too terrifying:

The rare military escort for a civilian flight heightened the drama of the still unfolding terrorism investigation, as officials isolated cargo planes at two other American airports and searched a delivery truck in Brooklyn for packages said to have been sent from Yemen to addresses in the United States.

None of those packages proved to be dangerous, but officials in Dubai found one that contained explosive material, and another — the first one to be discovered, in Britain — contained a device that appeared similar to an improvised bomb but contained no explosives.

Nevertheless President Obama held an impromptu news conference to discuss these barely newsworthy events. Obama is in a Catch-22 situation here: On the one hand if he acts like a grownup he will be excoriated from the right for not being taking The Existential Threat We Face from Islamoterrofascism seriously. On the other, we can be pretty sure that the next couple of days will feature lots of speculation regarding whether this whole thing has been trumped up by the administration for electoral purposes (it will be interesting to see if any GOP establishment mouthpieces pick up this theme).

Rick Sanchez’s formula for achieving more balanced media coverage

[ 73 ] October 1, 2010 |

Rick Sanchez

Throw the Jew Down the Well.

First, Sanchez started out expressing an anecdote from his own experience, when someone who was “top brass” at CNN told Sanchez to his face that he saw Sanchez as “more as John Quiñones,” referring to the Hispanic ABC News reporter. Sanchez’s example was an illustration that the problem of racism in the media business goes further than many expect, enveloping “not just the Right,” but also “elite, Northeast establishment liberals” that “deep down, when they look at a guy like me, they see a guy automatically who belongs in the second tier, and not the top tier.”

That’s when Sanchez really let his feelings loose: “I think to some extent Jon Stewart and [Stephen] Colbert are the same way. I think Jon Stewart’s a bigot.“

Pete noted that Stewart is his former boss, and pressed Sanchez to explain himself further. “How is he a bigot?” Pete asked.

Sanchez:

I think he looks at the world through, his mom, who was a school teacher, and his dad, who was a physicist or something like that. Great, I’m so happy that he grew up in a suburban middle class New Jersey home with everything you could ever imagine.

Pete pressed, “What group is he bigoted towards?”

Sanchez replied: “Everybody else who’s not like him. Look at his show, I mean, what does he surround himself with?”

Pete asked for a specific example, saying the term “bigot” is pretty strong.

“That’s what happens when you watch yourself on his show every day, and all they ever do is call you stupid.”

Asked again what group Stewart is bigoted against, Sanchez replied, referring to Stewart in the second person:

Anybody who’s different than you are, anybody who’s not form your frame of reference; anybody who doesn’t look and sound exactly like the people that you sound [like] and grew up with. The people that you put on your show, who always reflect somebody who’s, “I’m bringing in to sit around me,” you know, who’s very different from me. I’m sorry, but I just don’t buy this thing that the only people out there who are prejudiced… are the Right. There’s people that are prejudiced on both sides.

Sanchez went on to claim that Stewart’s worldview is “very much a white, liberal establishment point of view.” Sanchez added:

He can’t relate to a guy like me. He can’t relate to a guy whose dad worked all his life. He can’t relate to somebody who grew up poor.

Inexplicably, Sanchez argued, “If we’re gonna call one side bigoted, we probably gotta look at the other side and say the same thing.” This, of course, does not stand to reason in the slightest, but Pete noted that he agreed racism and prejudice are not the exclusive domain of conservatives, which Pete has stated countless times on the air.

At the end of the first exchange of the day about Stewart’s alleged bigotry, Pete pushed Rick to back off a bit, and Sanchez eventually conceded:

All right, I’ll take the word bigot back; I’ll say prejudicial [sic] — uninformed.

Later in the interview, Sanchez pushed the discussion again, returning to the idea that Stewart is “prejudiced,” though again backing away from the word “bigot.”

If I did just sit there and read the teleprompter every day, Jon Stewart would never say a word about me. He’d say I’m a good Hispanic anchor, “Way to go, you’ve done a good job, stay right there.” … I am a complex human being, I’m not some moron to be…”

At least part of Sanchez’s gripe with Stewart, he said, is that Stewart picks on Sanchez for superficial on-air failings instead of substantial offenses like those committed by Fox News personalities, and the Daily Show does this in order to be seen as criticizing CNN as much as it criticizes Fox News Channel. (Regular watchers of The Daily Show know that Fox takes far more of Stewart’s media-savvy ribbing than CNN does, but Sanchez claimed Stewart sought parity in comedically critiquing the two leading cable news operations.)

Here’s what they do. This is the game they play. “I just picked on Fox News, because they just had a bold-faced [sic] lie about something — damnit, that means I gotta find something on CNN. Oh, I know… wait, hold on, let me find, oh that Rick Sanchez, that little Puerto Rican guy. I’ll make fun of him. Do you have anything.” “Uh, yeah, last week, he mispronounced the word indutably or whatever.” “Yeah, that’s it, find me that and we’ll do a whole 4-minute segment on how he mispronounced the word arithmetic.”

When Pete defended Jon Stewart as “just a comedian,” Sanchez shot back, “That’s a cop-out.” (I happen to agree with Sanchez on that one.)

When Pete suggested Jews (such as Stewart) have at least some sense of what it’s like to be an oppressed minority, Sanchez seemed to make the claim that Jews run CNN and the news business in general and that Stewart thus did not in fact know what it was like to feel the sting of prejudice.

“Yeah,” Sanchez snickered sarcastically at the idea that Jews are as much minorities as Latinos in the US.

Very powerless people… [snickers] He’s such a minority, I mean, you know [sarcastically]… Please, what are you kidding? … I’m telling you that everybody who runs CNN is a lot like Stewart, and a lot of people who run all the other networks are a lot like Stewart, and to imply that somehow they — the people in this country who are Jewish — are an oppressed minority? Yeah. [sarcastically]

That’s right, CNN anchor Rick Sanchez basically suggested that Jews have run the media.

Pete asked, “They can’t relate to that? A Jewish person doesn’t have a constant fear in the back of their head that we could [inaudible] the Holocaust?”

“I think his father could,” Sanchez replied, referring to Stewart.

“I think every Jewish person feels that way,” Pete said.

“I hope so,” Sanchez responded.

Sanchez also suggested Jews in general, at least of his generation or younger, are not discriminated against, though they might hear the occasional Jew joke now and again.

I grew up not speaking English, dealing with real prejudice every day as a kid; watching my dad work in a factory, wash dishes, drive a truck, get spit on. I’ve been told that I can’t do certain things in life simply because I was a Hispanic. My friends who are black, I’ve seen that with them; I’ve seen that with a lot of minorities. I can’t really think — although I understand the plight of Jews, and all the experiences, and the things that have happened historically for them — but I can’t say that my buddy Glen or my buddy Izzy who I grew up with in South Florida ever were prejudiced against directly simply because they were Jewish. There may have been jokes around them or about other things, but it’s kinda — you know what I’m saying, it’s kind of a different thing.

“No, I don’t,” Pete replied.

“I can’t see somebody not getting a job somewhere because they’re Jewish,” Sanchez added.

“Well, then you’ve never been to Nebraska,” Pete shot back to lighten the mood.

Returning once again to his criticism of the Daily Show host, near the end of the exchange, Sanchez concluded about Stewart: “I don’t respect the guy.”

I happen to have a fairly similar background to Sanchez in a number of ways. Now it’s always dangerous to generalize about other peoples’ lives on the basis of one’s own experiences, but with that nuanced scholarly caveat in mind, I’m calling bullshit. Not just on the obviously hysterical Protocols of the Elders of Zion stuff here, but on Sanchez’s all but explicit claim that he’s a discriminated-against minority while Jon Stewart is not just a white guy, but an especially privileged white guy (because he’s a Jew and Jews run the media etc).

Look Rick, in America in 2010 you and me are basically white guys — just like Jon Stewart. Now I’m not doubting that somebody somewhere has said or done something nasty to you because of your last name (which is the only thing that would ever signal to anybody that you might have had trouble joining the New York Athletic Club in 1965), but you’re white. Comparing your life experiences to those of black people in the deep South is preposterous. It’s unfortunate that a CNN pooh bah once said something tactless to you, but if that’s your best example of what sort of things you’ve had to overcome as a “minority” in America, then I suggest you might ask yourself why your last name is still Sanchez while Jon Stuart Leibowitz’s is now Stewart.

Pass your MB7-843 on first try using 70-653 practices questions and 70-237 prepared by certified experts to provide you guaranteed success; they also prepare MB5-858 dumps & 70-450 papers with full devotion.

“Fiscal restraint”

[ 6 ] September 23, 2010 |

Jon Chait points out that for a generation now GOP proposals for Doing Something About Big Government have followed a predictable not to say neurotic pattern:

Republicans keep running on platforms consisting of specified measures to increase the deficit and unspecified pledges to reduce it. Inevitably, they fail to reduce it. Then the party faithful decide the problem was leaders who lacked true conviction, and so the new leaders promise to mend their ways. Then they do the same thing all over again.

The current federal budget:

21% Medicare and Medicaid

20% Social Security

20% Military

6% Debt service

So two-thirds of the budget is made up of spending that can’t be altered significantly under anything like current political conditions. What both parties like to ignore in their superficially different but largely identical ways is that

(a) Wealth transfer payments to the elderly and America: World Police both remain very popular; and

(b) We have a extremely dysfunctional political system, in which among many other hoops that have to be jumped through you need a 3/5ths majority in an already wildly un-representational body to get any legislation passed (why anyone other than the politicians who benefit from dodging responsibility thinks this is a good thing remains difficult to understand).

So making any significant cuts in about 2/3rds of the budget is at present total political non-starter.

Which leaves everything else.

14% of the budget represents all federal programs and subsidies (other than Medicaid) for the benefit of poor people. It’s true there are some cost savings to be had by cutting this significantly. It’s also true there are some other costs that would be incurred by turning the US into Brazil.

7% is veterans benefits of all types and vested federal pensions.

3% is education

3% is transportation and infrastructure

2% is scientific and medical research

1% is non-military foreign aid of all types

4% is everything else the federal government does: running the courts and the administrative regulatory state, the park services, farm subsidies, grants to communist ballet groups etc etc.

Paul is dead?

[ 18 ] September 17, 2010 |

The SSA has a nice site that lets you look up all sorts of statistical info on naming patterns. Among other things it allows one to predict that 70 years from now very few baby girls will be named Isabella, Emma, Olivia, Sophia, Ava, or Emily (people who study this kind of thing have noted that girls’ names associated with the generation of women who are now grandmothers tend to be very unpopular, apparently because they’re now strongly associated with old age. Hence the current scarcity of Doris, Ruth, Shirley, Jean, Betty, Dorothy etc.).

But what about Paul? Paul was a remarkably consistent name for the first seven decades of the 20th century, always coming at between 12th and 20th in popularity. Then in 1969 it began a steady decline, to the point where it’s now outside the top 150.

My theory as to why:

Abbey Road

Nobody wants to associate their newborn with a dead guy.

Mistakes were made

[ 75 ] August 19, 2010 |

This is an admirable post by Matt Yglesias.

What I especially like is his willingness to conclude that his mistake in judgment on a specific issue was a product not merely of idiosyncratic circumstances, but of a structurally flawed way of thinking about the world, and specifically an over-willingness to trust elite opinion (this is especially impressive for for someone from Yglesias’ background, i.e. upper class Harvard grad etc.).

Mission Accomplished

[ 27 ] August 18, 2010 |

Mission Accomplished

This is the way the war ends.

Grasping the precise semantic distinction between “combat troops” and “the 50,000 remaining U.S. troops that will go on combat missions with Iraqi troops (if asked), plus an unspecified number of special forces that will continue to engage actively in combat operations against ‘terrorists’” would have strained the literary critical faculties of Frank Kermode (RIP).

Bobby Thomson

[ 21 ] August 17, 2010 |

My favorite detail about the Shot Heard Round the World is that after the game Thomson rode the subway home (apparently major league ballplayers in New York in the 1950s routinely rode the subway to and from games).

Where even Richard Nixon has got soul

[ 16 ] August 16, 2010 |

This little vignette is interesting for a number of reasons. First, it’s almost certainly false (among the many quite incredible details my favorite is the writer’s claim that he had never told the story to anyone before). Second, it’s a glimpse into the rich fantasy life of a denizen of Nixonland. Third, it raises the question of why CBS Sports allows one of its writers to publish an obviously false story, and moreover a story that the putative author requested not be published. I say putative because I suspect Dodd actually composed this preposterous vignette himself and then passed it off as an anonymous email — a method which is rapidly replacing the anonymous talkative cab driver as the favorite device of journalists who find the depths of hangover intersecting with the demands of a deadline.

The best government money can buy

[ 2 ] August 5, 2010 |

My favorite nugget in this particular chart is the inspiring tale of the veritable K Street Horatio Alger, Thomas Scully.