Big Smoke

'cause it's hard to see from where I'm standin'

If David Weigel’s so smart, why isn’t he running the country?

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“If Bill Clinton’s so smart, why can’t he save the Democrats?” asks David Weigel on Slate, before he completely misinterprets Bill Clinton and the Democratic party. To wit,

[Bill Clinton] had an airport-hangar-sized room to win over, and he did—by talking about why health care reform needed to pass.


Ah, this is the stuff that Clinton really knows but doesn’t say. He just implies it. Massive progressive reform isn’t going to happen anymore.

But, even watered down, Obama’s health care bill was massive progressive reform and, clearly, it happened. Yeah, it competes with the original Social Security for modesty, but damn, it got passed. And while polls say people hate Obama’s bill by name, they also say they love the shit in the bill. Such is our national network news.

Clinton has been in the peanut gallery giving sage advice for years, it’s true. But let’s not kid ourselves: If there weren’t term limits, he’d have been president in 2001, not George Dubya. And while I hate the premise of Weigel’s article (why isn’t Bill Clinton Jesus? – it kinda reminds me of people thinking Obama was Jesus during the campaign), it’s an opinion piece. But even as an opinion piece, it can’t keep the rhetoric straight: Is Bill Clinton looking for big policy reform a la health care (like he lauded, promoted and had himself attempted during his terms) or does he want Democrats to give up on those and focus on “micro-ideas about what could fix the economy?”

I think that, to Clinton, those aren’t mutually exclusive, and to listen to him on the Daily Show this week, he’s clearly about a hair’s breadth from demanding that Democrats get bolder – in their policy, in their politics, in their invective. That they should exploit their political gains. Y’know, kinda the opposite of what they’re doing. The very last thing the Democrats should be doing is what Weigel suggests, to “stop dreaming, get busy tweaking.”

Oh, and by the way, David: “How do you fix things when the natural majority party doesn’t want the government to govern?” I’ll have you know there have always been far more voters registered Democrat than any other party. We are the natural majority party, and we damn well want the government to govern.


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Is it just me, or does Slate hire writers solely based on their work on topics they know nothing about? Richard Ford has written an article about why Ladies’ Nights are discriminating against men as an argument as to where Civil Rights can go wrong.

Justice Bird’s admonishment notwithstanding, legal prohibition must depend on judgments about which practices are important or harmful. Not every distinction—even if based on race or sex—is invidious.

He’s just as wrong as the people in the examples he gives:

In 2006 Stephen Horner sued a Denver nightclub over its ladies’ night policy. Horner explained his opposition to the unfair advantages women enjoy in American society: “Women are growing up these days feeling they’re entitled to favors. I believe this entitlement mentality is counterproductive to the social goals of a[n] egalitarian society.” He then added, apparently without irony: “I’m going to ask for every dollar I’m owed to the letter of the law, which is $500.”

Have these people never gone to clubs? They waive fees for women so that, when their club fills up with women, men show up. The entire practice is done to entice men to that club. Horner was wrong because, far from being discriminatory against men, it’s actually a service for men. Hell, by using those women as window dressing, arguably the whole thing is sexist against women! Ford – and the judge in that hearing – is wrong for allowing people like Horner to frame the debate. It’s not a Civil Rights case any more than senior discounts at the movie theater is a discrimination case, despite what a bunch of rather creepy blowhards say when they have to pay the cover.

But then, the article’s just one in a series of essays Ford is writing that attempt to make the argument that Civil Rights can go too far, and the second is worse:

Under IDEA, schools that fail to effectively educate disabled children can be made to pay for private school tuition. But the public schools—especially those in large cities like New York—are failing to educate many of their students who aren’t disabled, too. In 2004, more than 3 percent of all students served by the District of Columbia schools were in private placements, at a cost of 15 percent of the district’s entire budget. Yet D.C. schools “struggle to provide an adequate education to any of their students,” write two researchers at the Manhattan Institute. “Disabled students are entitled … to demand an adequate education,” they note, while nondisabled students “lack the same mechanism for exiting failing schools.”

Ford’s argument is that, because the public school systems in a lot of cities are failing, they are discriminating against people who are not offered options to escape the public school system. Indeed, Ford concedes this point: “The solution is obvious: better services for everyone. But IDEA doesn’t make the public schools better.”

It’s not meant to. Because a system is broken to the point that anybody with a means to escape it immediately does so – and I know the NYC Department of Education is well aware of just how unrepresentative its public schools are compared to the general youth, as they’re filled with those who couldn’t finagle their way into magnet schools, private schools or charter schools – doesn’t mean that the program itself should be scrapped, and least of all things be nixed as discriminatory.

Yes, the public school system propagates a Separate But Unequal situation. But IDEA is not the cause of that, despite certain parents’ abuse of the program to get the feds to pay for private school education, and to argue that Civil Rights legislation is somehow wrong because of IDEA’s inability to rectify our broken schools is, at best, mistaken, and at worst deliberately misleading.

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  • Published: Apr 20th, 2010
  • Category: Media
  • Comments: 1

It’s Not Always About the Look

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Less interesting than the most recent Farhad Manjoo article on Slate is the little flame war between him and Charles Stiegler in the comments section* (which are now lamentably inextricably linked to one’s Facebook/Twitter/other social network site and utterly redundant to the local forums anyway, but I digress).

No, people don’t always buy expensive products solely on the look of them. Hell, with cars it’s fairly clear to me that people honestly don’t care about the looks at all, which is why just about every contemporary car is some similarly amorphous egg-like blob, and just about every previous era’s cars were boatloads more distinctive in looks (not to mention color. “Mist” is not a color. Your car is gray, and so’s your life, asshat.) It’s practically the engineer’s dream: Things like cost, luxury options, safety ratings and gas mileage become the primary means for gauging cars because everything else is basically the same.

But back to AppleCo, Manjoo on Slate is to Technology like Emily Bazelon on Slate is to Mothering: Lowest common denominator uninformed squeeing that makes me wonder why I’m not making money duping people who are equally as ignorant on those topics that I’m some form of journalistic guru. Case in point, who the fuck cares about what the new iPhone looks like, if it still sucks as a phone? What ever happened to utility?

While I’m beating up on Manjoo, there’s also his last article about Twitter, with this incredible bit of tripe:

…if a lot of conversation on social networks is banal, that’s only because banal conversation is one of the main ways people form and maintain social bonds. You don’t ask your co-worker what she did on the weekend because you really care; you ask her because you want to chat. In that way Twitter is only mirroring real life.

It’s called “banal” for a reason: It lacks originality. If you form social bonds by broadcasting banality, you’re a very boring person and so are all your friends.

*If there’s anything I hate more than closed-source iShit, it’s professional shills paid to suck the teats of Steve Jobs. This particular example trolls his own articles’ comments threads. It’s rather funny how masturbatory it all is.


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I’ve always pretty much worked under the assumption that Republican party was the party of the rich, maintained largely through the manipulation of the heartstrings of the non-rich in order for them to vote against their economic interests.

As it turns out, this describes the Tea Party “movement” perfectly: People who don’t have a clue what they’re talking about being cynically manipulated by people who wish to hold on to their vast wealth. In fact, I think this is the closest I’ve ever seen the New York Times get to running a Daily Show skit.

It’s too bad that under their collective shrill tantrums – people collecting unemployment insurance, Social Security and Medicaid complaining about government size and spending, during a time when taxes went down for practically everybody – meticulously directed and publicized for ulterior motives (on Fox! And now: CNN!) drown out the voice of reason.


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Jon Lackman attempts to make the argument on Slate that Rush Limbaugh and Frank Rich calling the current political rigmarole “Kabuki theatre” is a vain attempt by them to denigrate it by associating it with something foreign.


The point those commentators are attempting to make by calling parliamentary tricks “Kabuki” is that it’s a highly ritualized form of theatre.

For example, we’re about to go through another turn in the bender for a Supreme Court nomination. This will involve Republicans – themselves gross caricatures of otherwise legitimately perceived grievances or political philosophies – making some very predictable, if outlandish, acts in order to block whatever nominee the White House chooses. The nominee the White House chooses will be, in turn, pointedly scrubbed by Democrats of any history that might be considered “radical,” a term that will ultimately be defined not by social convention but by professional propagandists on the airwaves, for which there will be a lot of manufactured Sturm und Drang.

That’s a highly ritualized form of political theatre, marked by its outlandish performances. “Kabuki” is not far off the mark. Where Limbaugh and Rich leave themselves open for criticism, however, is not that they’re being racist, but that they’re being big flaming hypocrites, for outlandish, ritualized theatre is exactly what they’re peddling.

Fuckin’ Duh


Christoper Beam of Slate muses, “Do newspapers ever correct a speaker’s broken English?

Short answer: Duh. So what?

The only time it matters that we know the exact manner in which something was said is either a) so that it be intelligible, given the context, or b) if the speaker is a public figure. We care about Bush mangling words because he’s a public figure. We don’t care that Juan the electrician from Flatbush mangles words because he is not a public figure, and the news is and should be more interested in the content of his words than in judging him for how he says them.

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