Archive

  • The Truth About The Truth About Hillary

    From Joe Queenan's review of The Truth About Hillary: What I am saying is that if Klein purposely set out to write the sleaziest, most derivative, most despicable political biography ever, he has failed both himself and his readers miserably. ''The Truth About Hillary'' is only about the 16th sleaziest book I have ever read. Though, in fairness to the author, reading creepy, cut-and-paste books is my hobby. Which isn't to say there's nothing of note in there. Ed Klein, you should know, has found himself a new angle: to my knowledge, Klein is the only journalist who has shed meaningful light on the extent to which her career has been shaped by friends, roommates, short-haired colleagues or rivals with weight problems. Monica Lewinsky is fat. Bill Clinton has long been a member of the clean-plate society. Evelyn Lieberman, the former White House deputy chief of staff, is reputed to be ''a little overweight.'' Mrs. Clinton herself has long battled a tendency to beef up, but in perhaps...
  • What is the Meaning of Life, Oh Gene?

    Lance Mannion writes : And that was Rodenberry’s most progressive idea. In the future he envisioned, everybody mattered. Everybody had an important job. Nobody was redundant. Nobody was a mere cog in the machine. What were all those people doing on the Enterprise, anyway? By the mid 1960s it was possible to see how computers would come to be able to do many jobs that people then did but do those jobs faster and more reliably and with fewer errors, with the bonus that the computers would not need to be paid. But that's not true, is it? I mean, what of all those ensigns who, every time they were thrown in with the landing party, quickly got phaser'd out of existence? They were human plot fodder, getting mulched up so viewers at home understood the gravity of the situation. I guess in that sense, they mattered, but it seems a rather crummy purpose in life. Hell, if meaning means I gotta get blasted by a Klingon, I'm all for giving my job to HAL.
  • Saturday Books

    David Brooks, Bobos in Paradise : As mentioned below, I'm really enjoying it. Yes, I know his examples sometimes don't hold water and his sociological brush is broad enough to use Australia as canvas, but it's still fun, he still has fascinating thougts and ideas, and he still brings a better, more incisive eye towards a certain subset of people than most anyone else writing about them. Other books of this sort suffer from an unrestrained contempt towards their subjects or a desire to lionize. Brooks, I think, likes living this life, but is nevertheless a bit ashamed at its inconsistencies and oddities, and the tone that that his conflicted indulgence results in is delightful. Since I'm a Bobo in good standing, I'm loving the book. Chris Matthews Kennedy and Nixon : Yeah, that Chris Matthews. Before he ran an inconsistent television show, he apparently wrote books. More surprising yet, they're pretty good. This one focuses on the troubled relationship between the two presidents when...
  • It's Not Me, It's You

    Lula, whose government is now so rife with corruption that the populist is facing impeachment, has apparently decided on a new public relations strategy. Protesting innocence and offering exculpatory evidence is for losers, the new breed of angel-pure, Latin-American leftists simply tells the citizenry that they're a bunch of scumbags and should stop being so goddamn hypocritical: As his government and his reputation collapse around him, Mr. da Silva in Brazil has taken a similar tack. He initially contended that "as regards its electoral behavior, the Workers' Party did what has been done systematically in Brazil." But he has since abandoned those excuses in favor of protestations of innocence and personal integrity. "Among 180 million Brazilians, there is no one, neither man nor woman, with the authority to lecture me about ethics, morals or honesty," he said in a speech here last week. "In this country, the person who can debate ethics with me has yet to be born." There's also a...
  • Cage Fighting

    Incidentally, what's all this fuss over cage fighting? I mean, not my cup of tea, but if a bunch of wannabe-warriors want to step between chicken wire and beat the consensual crap out of each other, who cares? I'm glad that they have fewer deaths than boxing, I'm pleased that the cage prevents whiplash, but in the end, when people want to do stupid shit outside the eyes of regulation, there's not a whole lot that can be done to stop them. Indeed, if you really were concerned about safety, you wouldn't criminalize or shun the sport, you'd try and usher it into some sort of more regulated, more codified system where the rules could be normalized, best-methods for safety could be observed, and competent referees could keep an eye on the action. When I was 15, I went to the Southern California championships for wrestling. It was my first year on varsity, I was a sophomore. In my first match, my opponent, an older, lumbering, heavier guy, flipped me. Generally, I did well with bigger dudes...
  • Priorities

    Don't you wish some of our leaders still thought like this? Medicare's history suggests that tough problems in health care can be solved, but only after long struggle, and only with visionary and effective leadership from the highest reaches of our political system. Johnson pulled out all the stops for Medicare. He told Vice President Hubert Humphrey on March 6, 1965: "I'll go a hundred million or a billon on health or education. I don't argue about that any more than I argue about Lady Bird buying flour." He added: "I may cut back some tanks. But not on health." To be fair, we do now have a Republican party that wants more tanks, more health, free cake and ice cream, subsidized trips to amusement parks, and lower taxes. But were the crunch ever to come, or were it ever to be recognized, you know exactly what'd go first. Last year we beat back an assault on Medicaid. But as the budget gets worse, if housing pops, if the economy turns south -- it'll revolve right back up to the...
  • Will the Real David Brooks Please Stand Up?

    What's happened to David Brooks? I mean that seriously -- no snark. What's gone wrong there? The other day I picked up BoBos in Paradise at a used bookstore and it's great. Funny and light-hearted and incisive in a way that really rings true, at least for me and my crowd. It's got great one-liners ("At that point, it had not yet become unfashionable to get sick and die") and chapter-long meditations, like the opening riff on professional weddings, that are actually intellectually provocative. And then...what? His last column was on the difficulty of taking kids on airplanes. Not the laws of it, not the sociology of it, just the fact that kids misbehave and parents are at a loss. Way to cover new ground, David! His political columns skim hackery a few times before sinking into party-line talking points. This guy was good. He was funny and personable and insightful. What happened? And where do we find another one?
  • So Understated

    But Nathan, how do you really feel ?
  • The Struggle Against Extremism?

    I don't imagine I'm the only one made seriously nervous by the Bush administration's rebranding of "the Global War on Terror" as the "Global Struggle Against Extremism". I remember, back in the good ol' days of Tom Daschle and Jim Jeffords, how we all complained that the War on Terror was a mind-shatteringly broad label, that it would never end, that you could no more kill terror than eradicate roundhouse kicks. But even so, there was a comforting definition to it: terror, as used in the label, was a verb. We were going after those who plunged nailbombs down subway holes and entered cafes with dynamite strapped to their chest. Broad it may have been, but it made sense and it denoted something relatively specific. But the struggle against extremism? What the hell is that? Whose extremism? Only Arabs? What about Palestinians? Israeli settlers, anti-abortion protestors, socialists? Those weird folks who plaster college campuses in anti-circumcision propaganda? The war on terror promised...
  • Gore on Health

    Via The Carpetbagger , this just about clinches the Gore deal for me. What worries me about Hillary, and has for awhile , is how hemmed in she is on health care. After the total failure that was her first attempt at a major overhaul, her credibility and, thus, ability to push for substantive reform is asymptotically approaching zilch. She'll have to be an incrementalist. She'll get things done, sure, but small things, like IT, not big things, like single-payer. That's not because she's philosophically opposed to the project -- at least I don't think she is -- but the media storyline (Hillarycare 2!) would be ext to impossible to overcome. Gore has no such constraints. More to the point, he's already endorsed single-payer: "I think we've reached a point where the entire health care system is in impending crisis," Gore said. "I have reluctantly come to the conclusion that we should begin drafting a single-payer national health insurance plan." Just having such a major figure push that...

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