1 March 2012 >>
Much has been written already about Andrew Breitbart and his life at the intersection of culture, media and politics. So instead, I will tell you a story about how Andrew Breitbart and I ended up at a Devo concert.
One day shortly after the Second World War ended, Winston Churchill and Labour Party Prime Minister Clement Attlee encountered one another at the urinal trough in the House of Common’s men’s washroom. Attlee arrived first. When Churchill arrived, he stood as far away from him as possible. Attlee said, “Feeling standoffish today, are we, Winston?” Churchill said: “That’s right. Every time you see something big, you want to nationalize it.”
25 January 2010 @ 8:40AM >>The New York Times is on the receiving end of a very good point:
To the Editor:
In “The Court’s Blow to Democracy” (editorial, Jan. 22), you strenuously disagree with the proposition that “corporations are just like people and entitled to the same First Amendment rights.”
Every day, The New York Times Company exercises its First Amendment right to engage in political speech. Today, it expresses its desire to deny that right to most other corporations.
The Constitution does not permit the government to criminalize speech based on the identity of the speaker. If any corporation has First Amendment rights, all corporations must have First Amendment rights.
20 January 2010 @ 8:35AM >>
Two weeks ago, I wrote, “Democrats losing Ted Kennedy’s seat would be a massive political earthquake.” Well, yesterday, the once-unthinkable happened, and the deep blue state of Massachusetts elected its first Republican senator since 1972.
Today, politicians and pundits on both sides of the aisle will be spinning, assigning blame, and taking credit.
Here’s my not-at-all-scientific breakdown of the factors I think went into Scott Brown’s victory over Democrat Martha Coakley:
30% - Opposition to high taxes and out-of-control government spending
25% - Backlash at the political hijinks of Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid’s “get it done at all costs” tactics
20% - Rejection of ObamaCare specifically
15% - Martha Coakley being a bad candidate
5% - Scott Brown being a charismatic candidate
5% - Disappointment in President Obama’s first year
0% - Repudiation of Ted Kennedy’s legacy
By this measure, it’s hard to say that President Obama had nothing to do with the defeat, but in my view, his party shares more of the blame than he does personally.
17 November 2009 @ 6:56PM >>
As a bit of a typography geek, I laughed at myself for having noticed many of the things mentioned in this New York Times article. (The sloppy spacing of the word “lean” on that subway sign has always annoyed me.)
I posted a link to the Times piece on my Facebook page, and it ignited a discussion of the fontumentary Helvetica, and of course the typeface of the same name.
It reminded me of the first time I noticed Helvetica in wide use. I was a kid walking down Main Street on Roosevelt Island, where all the retail store signs were rendered in that font.
It seems the typeface has changed in the years since, but most of the signs still do use the same typeface.
And one of the more odd aspects of Roosevelt Island still remains: the storefront occupants on Main Street seemed to compete over whose sign would display the most generic and lifeless name:
THE THRIFT STORE
HARDWARE AND VIDEO STORE
ROMAN CATHOLIC CHURCH
...and my personal favorite: THE CHILD SCHOOL
The drab brutalist architecture of Main Street, Roosevelt Island and the austerity of Helvetica always made me wonder if that’s what NYC would have “evolved” into had the Bolsheviks taken over here and not in Russia.
I always felt Helvetica was like the Soviet Union of typefaces, aspiring to but failing at unadorned efficiency while entirely lacking in human spirit.
21 July 2009 @ 7:06PM >>
Earlier today, my hosting provider, OpenHosting, notified me that Brain-Terminal.com had come under a denial-of-service attack and was knocked offline for several hours.
The source of the attack isn’t yet clear, but it has subsided and service has been restored for the time being.
I wouldn’t be surprised, though, if the attack resumed later. So, please forgive any site instability in the coming hours and days.
One bright spot out of all of this is that I discovered my hosting provider has stunningly good service. I’ve been with OpenHosting for a number of years, and the service has been remarkably stable. And today, OpenHosting’s support personnel responded very quickly, providing detailed technical assistance along the way.
I’ve used many hosting providers over the years, and I’ve been conditioned to expect a certain level of service (that level of service being “not very good”). My experiences with OpenHosting have been far better than with any other vendor.
Bad service is a pet peeve of mine, and I’m often quick to criticize businesses that treat customers poorly or don’t live up to their promises. It’s nice to know that, every once in a while, I run across a company whose service is worthy of praise.
25 June 2009 @ 8:50AM >>
The mullahs in Iran have unleashed an even more brutal wave of violence against protesters opposing the recent questionable election. CNN reports:
Security forces wielding clubs and firing weapons beat back hundreds of would-be demonstrators who had flocked to a square in the capital on Wednesday to continue protests against an election they have denounced as fraudulent, witnesses told CNN.
They were among the more than half a dozen witnesses who told CNN that security forces outnumbering protesters used overwhelming force to crush a planned demonstration in Baharestan Square, in front of the parliament building. The witnesses said police charged against the demonstrators, striking them with batons, beating women and old men and firing weapons into the air in order to disperse them.
The melee extended beyond the square, according to one woman, who told CNN that she was traveling toward Baharestan with her friends as evening approached “to express our opposition to these killings these days and demanding freedom.
According to official figures, 17 people have been killed in clashes with government forces over the past 11 days. Anti-government demonstrators have taken to the streets in at least four cities outside Tehran.
But CNN has received unconfirmed reports of as many as 150 deaths related to the popular uprising. The government’s response to it appears to have hardened in recent days. CNN has received numerous accounts of night-time roundups by government forces of opposition activists and international journalists from their homes.
Some Tehran residents said they were too afraid to talk about the political crisis over the phone to anyone in the United States or Europe. Many protesters debated whether to venture into the streets.
“I am not going outside my house at all,” a 21-year-old college student from Tehran said. “The streets are too dangerous, and just so very busy with police. Ahhhh, when will our lives get back to normal?”
Worried the government was monitoring their phone conversations, some residents said the Internet was the best way to transmit information. However, the spotty connection made it difficult to rely on the Web.
“It’s beyond fear,” said a woman who arrived at a U.S. airport from Iran, but still did not want her name used for fear for her safety. “The situation is more like terror.”
Asked why the government has made it impossible for nearly all international journalists to report from Iran, [Iranian ambassador to Mexico] Mohammad Hassan Ghadiri accused the media of not accurately reporting events. “In Tehran, there were much bigger demonstrations in favor of the government that you didn’t report about,” he said.
Asked about the shooting of 26-year-old Neda Agha-Soltan, whose death, captured on video, has become emblematic of the crackdown on protesters, he said, “It is not clear who killed whom.”
However, the malice of the Iranian regime is self-evident in their treatment of Neda Agha-Soltan’s surviving family, as The Guardianreports:
The Iranian authorities have ordered the family of Neda Agha Soltan out of their Tehran home after shocking images of her death were circulated around the world.
Neighbours said that her family no longer lives in the four-floor apartment building on Meshkini Street, in eastern Tehran, having been forced to move since she was killed. The police did not hand the body back to her family, her funeral was cancelled, she was buried without letting her family know and the government banned mourning ceremonies at mosques, the neighbours said.
“We just know that they [the family] were forced to leave their flat,” a neighbour said. The Guardian was unable to contact the family directly to confirm if they had been forced to leave.
The government is also accusing protesters of killing Soltan, describing her as a martyr of the Basij militia. Javan, a pro-government newspaper, has gone so far as to blame the recently expelled BBC correspondent, Jon Leyne, of hiring “thugs” to shoot her so he could make a documentary film.
Soltan was shot dead on Saturday evening near the scene of clashes between pro-government militias and demonstrators, turning her into a symbol of the Iranian protest movement. Barack Obama spoke of the “searing image” of Soltan’s dying moments at his press conference yesterday.
Amid scenes of grief in the Soltan household with her father and mother screaming, neighbours not only from their building but from others in the area streamed out to protest at her death. But the police moved in quickly to quell any public displays of grief. They arrived as soon as they found out that a friend of Soltan had come to the family flat.
In accordance with Persian tradition, the family had put up a mourning announcement and attached a black banner to the building.
But the police took them down, refusing to allow the family to show any signs of mourning. The next day they were ordered to move out. Since then, neighbours have received suspicious calls warning them not to discuss her death with anyone and not to make any protest.
A tearful middle-aged woman who was an immediate neighbour said her family had not slept for days because of the oppressive presence of the Basij militia, out in force in the area harassing people since Soltan’s death.
The area in front of Soltan’s house was empty today. There was no sign of black cloths, banners or mourning. Secret police patrolled the street.
“We are trembling,” one neighbour said. “We are still afraid. We haven’t had a peaceful time in the last days, let alone her family. Nobody was allowed to console her family, they were alone, they were under arrest and their daughter was just killed. I can’t imagine how painful it was for them. Her friends came to console her family but the police didn’t let them in and forced them to disperse and arrested some of them. Neda’s family were not even given a quiet moment to grieve.”
Another man said many would have turned up to show their sympathy had it not been for the police.
“In Iran, when someone dies, neighbours visit the family and will not let them stay alone for weeks but Neda’s family was forced to be alone, otherwise the whole of Iran would gather here,” he said. “The government is terrible, they are even accusing pro-Mousavi people of killing Neda and have just written in their websites that Neda is a Basiji (government militia) martyr. That’s ridiculous - if that’s true why don’t they let her family hold any funeral or ceremonies? Since the election, you are not able to trust one word from the government.”
The Obama administration is seriously considering not extending invitations to Iranian diplomats for July 4 celebrations overseas, senior administration officials tell CNN.
No, that’s not a line from a news spoof in The Onion. It’s true: the only tangible action taken by the Obama Administration in response to the violence in Iran is to disinvite Iranian diplomats to Fourth of July barbecues.
19 June 2009 @ 8:24AM >>
Remember when passing the Obama Administration’s stimulus plan was vital to saving the republic? The administration made all sorts of projections intended to demonstrate the necessity of their plan.
Well, now we’ve got a few months of data, so we can see how their plans panned out.
This chart shows Obama’s unemployment projections without the stimulus (the light blue line) and with the stimulus (dark blue line). Actual unemployment figures are shown as red dots:
18 June 2009 @ 9:07AM >>
The Washington Timesreports on an appearance made by former President George W. Bush:
He lamented the politics of personal destruction that he said is rampant in Washington, noting, though, that it has always been thus. Recalling how a treasury secretary and a vice president once fought a duel, he joked: “At least when my vice president shot somebody, it was an accident.”
11 June 2009 @ 8:15AM >>
President Obama’s former “spiritual advisor” is making news again:
The Rev. Jeremiah Wright says he does not feel any regrets over his severed relationship with President Barack Obama, a former member of the Chicago church in which Wright was the longtime pastor.
Asked if he had spoken to the president, Wright said: “Them Jews aren’t going to let him talk to me. I told my baby daughter, that he’ll talk to me in five years when he’s a lame duck, or in eight years when he’s out of office. ...
“They will not let him to talk to somebody who calls a spade what it is. ... I said from the beginning: He’s a politician; I’m a pastor. He’s got to do what politicians do.”
I have a hard time believing that the supposedly brilliant Barack Obama never figured out—after 20 years of listening to this guy—that he’s a loony bigot.
Why should the government tax unskilled workers making $18 an hour, who haven’t bankrupted their employers, in order to protect unskilled workers making $28 an hour, and who have bankrupted their employers, from having to take a pay cut?
I would hope that a wise Latina woman with the richness of her experiences would more often than not reach a better conclusion than a white male who hasn’t lived that life.—Judge Sonia Sotomayor, President Barack Obama’s nominee for the Supreme Court
21 May 2009 @ 7:26PM >>
In 21st century America, the federal government’s solution to every financial problem seems the same: people who are responsible with money are forced to foot the bill for the reckless.
What is going on in this country? The government is about to take over GM in a plan that completely screws private bondholders and favors the unions. Get this: The GM bondholders own $27 billion and they’re getting 10 percent of the common stock in an expected exchange. And the UAW owns $10 billion of the bonds and they’re getting 40 percent of the stock. Huh? Did I miss something here? And Uncle Sam will have a controlling share of the stock with something close to 50 percent ownership. And no bankruptcy judge. So this is a political restructuring run by the White House, not a rule-of-law bankruptcy-court reorganization.
One hallmark of organized crime loan-sharking is that, once you are in debt to the mob, you are never allowed to pay off the principal. No matter how much you pay, you always owe more. The mob squeezes you for everything you have. Until a few months ago, I never expected to see an analogy between the U.S. Department of the Treasury and the Mafia. But is it unreasonable to see a parallel in the government’s refusal to allow banks that have borrowed money under TARP to repay it? Does it not appear that financial institutions that became enmeshed with the government, and are now being dictated to by the government, find it increasingly difficult to extricate themselves?
So the federal government along with the unions will have total control over not only General Motors, but Chrysler too. Meanwhile, the federal government can indefinitely extend its control of certain banks by refusing to let them repay government loans.
27 April 2009 >>
Pick your brackets and put down your money!
We now have brewing an epic battle that will determine the relative importance of three different groups: Jews, Muslims and Mexicans.
You see, in the Hierarchy of Multiculturalism, when the interests of different identity groups conflict, the arbiters of political correctness must decide which group has the most victim cred. That’s how such disputes are settled: to the victim go the spoils.
Today’s battle involves the name of the influenza virus that’s currently causing worldwide panic. “Swine flu.” Say it with me: swine flu.
Do you feel a little dirty? No? How insensitive of you!
The term “swine flu” is apparently offensive to both Muslims and Jews, a pretty impressive bank-shot of an insult if you ask me.
So to alleviate this grave injustice of nomenclature, an Israeli health official proposes renaming the virus “Mexican flu.”
Now you see the conflict.
Try to use your knowledge of multiculturalism and political correctness to determine how this conflict gets resolved. Which identity group wins? And why?
Be careful, though! Improper thinking may result in being labeled a xenophobe, an anti-Semite, a racist, an Islamophobe, or some combination thereof.
Yes, this decision is fraught with peril—your views may mark you as a potential domestic terrorist—but this mental exercise will prepare you well for the New Era of Hope & Change.
...but perhaps we should all be pushing for the name to remain “swine flu.”
You got any better ideas for uniting Muslims and Jews?
As of Sunday, the federal government has spent all the money it will raise in taxes for the current fiscal year. From now until the end of the fiscal year in the fall, the government will be spending money that it will borrow from the Chinese and others, which will be repaid by our children and grandchildren. With interest. This is the earliest Debt Day in modern history, if not ever. From 2002 until now, it has fallen between July and September.
If the government increased the top tax rate from the current rate of 35% to 100% (yes, that’s right 100%), it would only collect an extra $400 billion this year. In other words, confiscating all the income that is currently taxed at 35% would not raise enough revenue to cover any of the annual deficits projected in the next 10 years. There is no way that tax hikes on the rich alone can pay for proposed spending in the current budget.
Nevertheless, that fact alone won’t stop politicians from scapegoating “the rich,” I suspect.
Over the past four years I’ve asked police officers throughout the U.S. (and in Canada) two questions. When’s the last time you had to fight someone under the influence of marijuana? (I’m talking marijuana only, not pot plus a six-pack or a fifth of tequila.) My colleagues pause, they reflect. Their eyes widen as they realize that in their five or fifteen or thirty years on the job they have never had to fight a marijuana user. I then ask: When’s the last time you had to fight a drunk? They look at their watches.
All of which begs the question. If one of these two drugs is implicated in dire health effects, high mortality rates, and physical violence—and the other is not—what are we to make of our nation’s marijuana laws? Or alcohol laws, for that matter.
Anybody out there want to launch a campaign for the re-prohibition of alcohol? Didn’t think so. The answer, of course, is responsible drinking. Marijuana smokers, for their part, have already shown (apart from that little matter known as the law) greater responsibility in their choice of drugs than those of us who choose alcohol.
[H]umans have an inborn tolerance for risk-meaning that as safety features are added to vehicles and roads, drivers feel less vulnerable and tend to take more chances. The feeling of greater security tempts us to be more reckless. Behavioral scientists call it “risk compensation.”
[In 1975,] Sam Peltzman, a University of Chicago economist, published an analysis of federal auto-safety standards imposed in the late 1960s. Peltzman concluded that while the standards had saved the lives of some vehicle occupants, they had also led to the deaths of pedestrians, cyclists and other non-occupants. John Adams of University College London studied the impact of seat belts and reached a similar conclusion, which he published in 1981: there was no overall decrease in highway fatalities.
There has been a lively debate over risk compensation ever since, but today the issue is not whether it exists, but the degree to which it does. The phenomenon has been observed well beyond the highway-in the workplace, on the playing field, at home, in the air. Researchers have found that improved parachute rip cords did not reduce the number of sky-diving accidents; overconfident sky divers hit the silk too late. The number of flooding deaths in the United States has hardly changed in 100 years despite the construction of stronger levees in flood plains; people moved onto the flood plains, in part because of subsidized flood insurance and federal disaster relief. Studies suggest that workers who wear back-support belts try to lift heavier loads and that children who wear protective sports equipment engage in rougher play. Forest rangers say wilderness hikers take greater risks if they know that a trained rescue squad is on call. Public health officials cite evidence that enhanced HIV treatment can lead to riskier sexual behavior.
All of capitalism runs on risk, of course, and it may be in this arena that risk compensation has manifested itself most calamitously of late. William D. Cohan, author of House of Cards, a book about the fall of Bear Stearns, speaks for many when he observes that “Wall Street bankers took the risks they did because they got paid millions to do so and because they knew there would be few negative consequences for them personally if things failed to work out. In other words, the benefit of their risk-taking was all theirs and the consequences of their risk-taking would fall on the bank’s shareholders.” (Meanwhile investors, as James Surowiecki noted in a recent New Yorker column, tend to underestimate their chances of losing their shirts.) Late last year, 200 economists-including Sam Peltzman, who is now professor emeritus at Chicago-petitioned Congress not to pass its $700 billion plan to rescue the nation’s overextended banking system in order to preserve some balance between risk, reward and responsibility. Around the same time, columnist George Will pushed the leaders of the Big Three automakers into the same risk pool.
“Suppose that in 1979 the government had not engineered the first bailout of Chrysler,” Will wrote. “Might there have been a more sober approach to risk throughout corporate America?”
Brazil’s President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva on Thursday blamed the global economic crisis on “white people with blue eyes” and said it was wrong that black and indigenous people should pay for white people’s mistakes.
Speaking in Brasília at a joint press conference with Gordon Brown, the UK prime minister, Mr Lula da Silva told reporters: “This crisis was caused by the irrational behaviour of white people with blue eyes, who before the crisis appeared to know everything and now demonstrate that they know nothing.”
I suspect these bigoted comments will not elicit the same level of outrage that others do.
We do apologise to all those people who have suffered from the mistakes that have been made in the Stafford Hospital.—British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, After an investigation revealed that substandard care resulted in up to 1,200 deaths over a three-year period in the government-run hospital.
Sources close to the White House say Mr Obama and his staff have been “overwhelmed” by the economic meltdown and have voiced concerns that the new president is not getting enough rest.
Allies of Mr Obama say his weary appearance in the Oval Office with [British Prime Minister Gordon] Brown illustrates the strain he is now under, and the president’s surprise at the sheer volume of business that crosses his desk.
A well-connected Washington figure, who is close to members of Mr Obama’s inner circle, expressed concern that Mr Obama had failed so far to “even fake an interest in foreign policy”.
A British official conceded that the furore surrounding the apparent snub to Mr Brown had come as a shock to the White House. “I think it’s right to say that their focus is elsewhere, on domestic affairs. A number of our US interlocutors said they couldn’t quite understand the British concerns and didn’t get what that was all about.”
The American source said: “Obama is overwhelmed. There is a zero sum tension between his ability to attend to the economic issues and his ability to be a proactive sculptor of the national security agenda.
“That was the gamble these guys made at the front end of this presidency and I think they’re finding it a hard thing to do everything.”
Obama is finding out that it’s much easier to criticize from the campaign trail than it is to actually, you know, run a country.
For some reason, the frayed nerves at the White House are leading the Obama administration to lash out at our allies:
The real views of many in Obama administration were laid bare by a State Department official involved in planning the Brown visit, who reacted with fury when questioned by The Sunday Telegraph about why the event was so low-key.
The official dismissed any notion of the special relationship, saying: “There’s nothing special about Britain. You’re just the same as the other 190 countries in the world. You shouldn’t expect special treatment.”
It’s interesting that Obama seems more willing to make nice with Iran and North Korea than a long-term ally like Great Britain.
31 January 2009 @ 10:59AM >>
Any time Democrats in Congress opposed one of President George W. Bush’s initiatives, it was taken as evidence that Bush was a divisive president.
Now we’re in an Obama administration, and our new president was unable to persuade a single Republican in the House of Representatives to support the pork-laden sham of an economic stimulus package that he wants passed.
Suddenly, it isn’t the president who’s divisive, it’s his angry opposition in Congress.
It’s nice to have the media in your corner. Probably makes governing a little easier.