Archive for The Lileks Zone

Joe Klein Tries a Funny

Joe Klein. Time magazine superstar. Novelist. Hyperventilationist. Humorist! Here’s the start of a recent Time blog post:

The anti-Obama forces, it seems clear, are rooted in classic American know-nothing populism–nativist, isolationist, paranoid.

Oh, absolutely clear, Joe. Transparent to every sentient being on the globe. You can imagine him pausing as he wrote “populism” – hey, that’s a good thing, when it’s our guys . . . ah, know-nothing populism. Whew! And it’s a reference to 19th century politics, which makes me look all smart ‘n’ historical ‘n’ stuff.

Nativist? Simple: if you believe the word “illegal” in the phrase “illegal immigrant” is there for a reason, you might be a nativist. Isolationist? I can see that; all those critics on the right who are noting how Obama is alienating our international allies are probably just mad he’s not alienating them quickly enough. Paranoid? If you believe the Teepers are all Birthers who believe Obama’s a Crypto-Marxist Manchurian POTUS, I suppose they’d all seem paranoid. But if you believe it’s paranoid to complain about the government annexing this and that, then what did you call the people who fainted when they learned the Patriot Act would let Dick Cheney check their library records? Oh, right: patriots.

Today’s Exhibit A is from the Drudge Report, in which the newly designed $100 bill is slagged for, as the headline has it, “looking European.” Drudge links to this report from Bloomberg, which describes the reasons for the new look:

The new look, aimed at thwarting counterfeiters, has several new security features, including a “3-D Security Ribbon” and an image of a bell on the front of the note that, when tilted, changes in color from copper to green. The reverse side of the bill includes a new vignette of Independence Hall in Philadelphia.

But…reasons? Rationality? Greater security against counterfeiters? Feh! It looks like a freakin’ Euro, which means it must be a precursor of socialism. That Obama is one sneaky crypto-muslim.

Dear Joe: let me tell you a little trade secret. There’s this thing called humor. I know you’re aware of the idea; it pops up in your own work from time to time, and I think you may be trying it here. But the other side has it too. So when Drudge smacks the O for the new 100 by saying “even his money looks European,” it’s like making a drunk joke about Dean Martin, and saying “even his Terrier is a Scotch.” It’s trading on the idea that Obama is regarded by many as a figure who transcends boundaries, eschews the cowboy mold, uses the word “eschews,” and generally appeals to the bloodless, technocratic model of the Brussels technocrat.

Having manufactured a premise – the anti-Obama forces are idiots who speak through Drudge whose Euro-crack is a dog-whistle for those who think Obama’s a Muslim – Klein looks at his word count, figures there’s more to be said, and figures he should type some more:

But then, the same sort of cosmopolitanism was suspected of Ben Franklin–one of our most secular humanist playboy founders–after he sampled the bright lights, and women, of London and Paris. I mean, isn’t it, like, suspicious that Obama would want this Christian Nation to continue to feature someone as insidious as Franklin on its $100 bill? Why not Billy Graham or Ronald Reagan? Or Tom Tancredo? Can’t we get some real reform around here?

Having failed to get a joke, Klein makes his own, which fails to be a joke. it has no truthiness. The Anti-Obama Forces, I’d guess, are fond of old Ben, either in his distilled Civic Virtue form, with the bifocals, maxims, kite-in-the-storm, and pursed-lip expression. If they know Ben as the rake and man-about-Paree, I doubt they care whether he dallied with a madame in the salons of the day. In Klein’s world, though, they’d be incensed if they knew the truth about Franklin. Because for Klein, and many on the left, there is an iron rule: People who care about the rate of taxation and the size of the Federal government are also deeply repressed sexual prudes.

At this point Joe’s thinking he has a comic masterpiece on his hands, so let’s hit the Teepers where it really hurts: right in their architectural preferences!

And, when you think about it, Independence Hall is pretty suspicious, too: it is a classical colonial building, clearly inspired by European building styles of the 18th century (one of the more suspicious and licentious periods in European intellectual history and arts).

What is this country coming to?

Again with the licentiousness; it’s almost as if he associates randy happy jiggy-time with enlightenment, but that’s a Sixties thing. Mind you, Joe’s not a know-nothing – he’s a by-Gosh know-something – but Independence Hall wouldn’t be described a a “Classical Colonial” style “inspired” by Europeans; it’s a Georgian-style building, named for the King. The “Classical Colonial” style is a distinct style for homes, and quite different.

As for the 18th century being a suspicious period in European intellectual history, I’ll grant him that; all the fine philosophes and their Enlightenment ideals managed to give us the French Revolution, whose noble intentions devolved quite quickly into the invention of the modern totalitarian state. But I say that as a no-nothing nativist paranoid fellow with a French brother-in-law and a keen interest in European history.

What is this country coming to? Oh, I don’t know, Mr. Klein. Its senses?

A Letter to the POTUS from EVIL, INC.

Dear President Obama:

On behalf of all of guys in the Evil business, thanks. Seriously, dude, we knew you’d be helpful, or at least keep out of our way, but this nuclear business is some serious tactical ching to throw our way. Notice we didn’t say nu-clya-yur – that’s cowboy stuff, right? Left over from those idiots who believe in white hats and black hats.

So do we, actually, but not exactly in those terms. Some like to use the weak-horse-strong-horse analogy, but we like the live-horse / dead-horse concept. We’re the live horse and we steal your saddle too. But we’re getting off topic. Back to nukes. You ever watch the Simpsons? Decadent and immoral and profane, pretty funny, although to be honest I don’t know how you’d get a chador around Marge’s hair. Some of the boys like it. Anyhoo, there’s an episode where Jasper, one of the crotchety elders, is teaching a grade-school class. He’s laying down the laws.

Talkin’ out of turn – that’s a paddlin‘, he says. Passin’ notes – that’s a paddlin’. Runnin’ in the halls – that’s a paddlin’.

That’s how we figured it would be with you guys when it came to retaliating for the really big things we have planned: that’s a nukin’. Dirty bomb in Gotham? That’s a nukin’. Plague released in a major city? That’s a nukin’. Some of us said nah, nuh-uh, they’re all played out, they don’t have the berries for atomic retaliation, but we have a few old-timers who remember a Gulf War or two, and their ears are still ringing from the first one. They remind us it’s not wise go underestimate you. So we’ve been erring on the side of caution, trying to figure out ways to off y’all in small batches until we get our hands on a game-changer.

But then this! Dude! You are teh awesomes, as the kids say. You pretty much admit you don’ t have any intention of using a nuke, because it’s just not the sort of thing a Nobel peace-guy does, is it? Yes, yes, there’s the exception for the Norks and the mullahs, but we all know that’s for show. Then you decide to go out of the nuke building biz altogether, and – well, I have to admit, that did cause a lot of debate over here at Evil Central. A lot of the guys were saying you were setting a new example, boldly forming a paradigm for a multipolar world where shared interests trump strategic competition, and hey, maybe we’re missing an opportunity here? I don’t know if it was Vlad or Ahmed or Kim-Il, but someone got real quiet and said “you know, my friends, you really cannot hug a child with nuclear arms.” And we had to think whoa, that’s true. Maybe we should seek peace and coexistence.

Just kidding! Oh, we laughed our heads off when you said you wouldn’t build nukes. We actually felt a bit stupid, because we’d hoped you’d do that, you being you, but then you up and did it, and we’re like why did we even doubt him?

The only problem we see? This will be tough to top. But we have faith in you.



PS Just saw the bit on CNN about taking out “islamic terrorism” from some document or other. You rock! Just to show you we’re taking all these messages of peace ‘n’ weakness to heart, we knocked over the government of Kyrgygtistan, or whatever it’s called. Now, we wouldn’t go attacking any Russian military bases, because those guys would shoot first and the only question they’d ask later is “do you want to be shot some more? You do? Okay then” but we’re pretty sure nothing happens if we storm your bases. Peace out. (Literally!)

Take a write-off? That’s a grillin’

Two things to remember: Any failure of a highly-regulated capitalist system is proof that the pure free market doesn’t work. Any failure of a statist system is proof that the statism was insufficiently funded. True dat, you say, and now there’s another: premature failure of a statist program can be blamed on companies that did nothing but comply with the laws the state set forth. So we see in DC now, with Henry Waxman, a bitter piece of work whose nose always seems to be imitating the entrance to the Holland Tunnel, is demanding that CEOs sit down for a grilling because they said Obamacare will make them write off tens of millions – exactly as the law requires.

This causes no consternation on the left, because A) the idea of companies hauled to DC to account for themselves is a Good Thing, regardless of the cause; if Henry Waxman held hearings to uncover the conspiracy responsible for gas prices going up TODAY when oil futures shot up, he’d be roundly applauded. If you pointed out that gas goes up TODAY because it reflects the cost of replacing inventory, you’d get a blank look, followed quickly by a rote denunciation of Bush and his Oil Cronies. But of course since gas is going up now under Obama, it’s not an issue; nevermind. If you pointed out that Democrats blocked domestic oil exploration during Bush’s term, they’d still think Obama inherited the problem from the previous administration. Now that Obama is opening up areas to drilling, it’s good, because he’ll be using ACORN’s drilling-supply wing, not Cheney’s. The hour is forever Bush O’Clock when it comes to the reasons for bad things in the era of Hope and Change.

But then there’s B: whatever these companies experience is irrelevant, because A Good Thing Has Been Done and nothing can change that. Even if it means the companies don’t hire more, or lay off people, or pay shareholders less (that’s good; freakin’ parasites) it can only mean there’ll be more pressure down the road for single-payer national health-insurance run by the same wise, compassionate solons who are figuring out at this very minute how to gut your Social Security payments. The objective is not the best possible care for everyone; the objective is the same level of care for everyone.
Your average progressive may burn with righteous fury over an illegal immigrant not getting a kidney transplant at government expense two days after he staggers over the border, but he’s really cheesed off by the rich guys who can get special treatment on their own dime. (Exception: George Soros. National treasure. Spend whatever’s necessary to keep him alive.)

This is the egalitarian imperative: not level the playing field, but raze the goalposts and erase the yard-markers, kill the refs, unionize the cheerleaders and nationalie the ball.. Equality of outcome is proof of a just society. The quality of the outcome is irrelevant.

So if Caterpillar doesn’t hire, and Deere doesn’t hire, and Verizon and AT&T and the rest don’t hire, that’s fine; a life on the dole is preferable to a life in the cubes or the factory line, anyway. No one has an obligation to work, but we all have the right to the product of other’s labors. Simple test: put your hands on your ribcage. Do you detect a rising and falling motion? Then you are entitled – but while this sounds like the surly bonds of obligation have been sundered, it really means you’re beholden to a new boss. Not the one who made you show up daily and do things daily. Just one who wants you to show up every other year and flip the lever marked D.

Twenty percent unemployement sounds bad, but when you consider that fifty percent don’t pay Federal taxes, the equation changes. The more people out of work because of dunderheaded laws and policy decisions, well, the more people who need benefits; the more people out of work, the more evidence that capitalism is a cock-up best left on the dust-heap of history. The more people out of work, the more evidence that statist solutons aren’t working because they’re underfunded.

Repeat until you’re Greece. Is it too late to join the EU? It would be amusing to ask Germany to bail us out. They might say yes. But they’d probably ask for the Polish corridor.

A big tent, indeed

Another Canadian conference, another fellow describing 9/11 as an “inside job.” The subject was “Muslims in the media,” and a few speakers bailed because conference included some questionable sorts – like the “cultural attache” for Iran, for example.

Hamid Mohammadi said media deception has caused hatred and fear of Muslims by presenting the “false belief that religion is incapable of running a country” and that Iran is therefore illegitimate.

Oh, I don’t know. Vatican City seems to do well enough. As for the other speakers:

. . . the Christmas Day underwear bomber was described as the tool of an Israeli plot; Barack Obama was referred to as “Mr. Black Man”; al-Qaeda was called “the figment of the imagination of the West”; and a video was shown that mocked 9/11 by putting the Muppet Show logo over slow-motion footage of the second plane’s impact, with screams of terror for audio.

Muppets? Well, there are Al-Qaeda connections.

This was interesting:

The keynote speaker, given the absences, was Michael Keefer, a professor of literary theory at the University of Guelph.

And so much more: this YouTube page describes him as the “former president of the Association of Canadian College and University Teachers of English,” so he has been borne aloft on the shoulders of his peers and carried ‘round the room to shouts of huzzah, mortarboards thrown in the air, school songs sung in competing keys, and so on. He is, after all, a man who’s not afraid to speak the truth about the media:
(he) said that all mainstream news media is “systematically fake” because “news editors have internalized the values of their advertisers.”

Speaking on behalf of journalists everywhere: we have advertisers? Thought they’d all gone to the web. Well, which advertisers? One of the major advertisers on the paper where I work is the Amish Heater Company, which sells portable furnaces made by C. Everett Coop look-alikes. Another big advertiser sells Lasik surgery at an affordable price, and given the number of the people in the newsroom with spectacles, I can testify to a remarkable failure to internalize the value of drilling your orbs with focused light beams. And there’s Macy’s. Oh, and Big Zionist Furniture. Other than that, I don’t know what this fellow is talking about.

Of course I’m blinded by the experience of actually working in a newspaper. (Nothing Lasik wouldn’t cure, now that I think of it!) The good professor, able to view things from the Olympian heights, knows better, just as he could properly diagnose disease by riding a hot-air balloon over a hospital. I believe it’s called the Flight-Assisted Etiology Theory, and they’re teaching it at all the best colleges. But I’d suggest that “internalizing the values of the advertisers” means we go along with a realtor’s belief that selling a house for a profit is a good thing, as opposed to confiscating all property and handing out houses for free.

He described 9/11 as a “planned demolition” run by Americans, and the Toronto 18 bomb plot, which led to convictions and guilty pleas, as a “police frame-up” over “nothing of significance.”

He’s a Truther, of course. An interminably tiresome lecture of his beliefs on the media and the world can be found here, where the Keefer-friendly site describes the event thus: “The program was held on Feb 14 2010 to celebrate the 31st anniversary of the Islamic Revolution in Iran.”

You know, I can see showing up for the 30th just for appearances’ sake, but you really have to be a fan to show up for the 31st. It’s one of the great mysteries of the West: the unfailing ability of the professorial left to pimp for people whose definition of “academic freedom” is letting jailed teachers walk around the exercize yard for half an hour a day.

He also offered a curious piece of gossip that shows Conrad Black’s influence on Canadian media lingers long into his absence.

Begging the apology of Mohamed Elmasry, his partner at the Canadian Charger alternative media website, Prof. Keefer told the story of Mr. Elmasry writing to Lord Black to protest treatment of Islam in his many newspapers.

“Why don’t you buzz off,” was how Prof. Keefer paraphrased the handwritten reply. “If you want a newspaper to reflect your opinions, why don’t you start one of your own?”
“We have attempted to do just that,” Prof. Keefer said.

That would be a reference to the Canadian Charger, an online-only joint that raised eyebrows when it used this Taliban-enthusiast nutter for a fundraiser.

We’ve come a long way from the idea of the Ivory Tower, were learned men peered over steepled fingers at a bust of Plato and pondered the Ideals. The rot began in the 60s, to state the obvious, and for an interesting look at how marvelous things were in the Spring before the Summer of Love, read this article on a “student” riot and the occupation of Columbia buildings. It’s about a professor who was sympathetic in spirit to the protestors, but advised the to ramp it back, lads, because totalitarianism often steps in when either side goes nuts. In return for his friendly advice, they burned all of his research. Chief miscreant was a fellow named Rudd. This passage caught my eye:

On April 23, 1968, Rudd led a noontime rally to protest the planned punishment. At first the protest faltered. To many observers, it seemed that the SDS leaders were making a self-serving pitch for support. But then members of the Student Afro-American Society, the main black student organization on the campus, joined the protest. Their takeover of Hamilton Hall, which housed classrooms and faculty and administrative offices, lent the demonstration an air of legitimacy.

There you go: taking over people’s offices by force bestows legitimacy. The most extreme positions are the most authentic, don’t you know. Oooh, hard core. So no one really wants to criticize an honored professor who shows up at pro-Iran parties and believes 9/11 was arranged by the government, because on some level it’s kinda truthy, no? The government does do bad things, and we did support the Shah, so anything that smacks of comeuppance or echoes the left’s core certainties is useful.

And Arianna is worried about Glenn Beck.


It’s obvious, and maybe we’re all thinking this, but: if the fellow who crashed the plane into the IRS office turns out to be an anti-tax-kinda-guy, the first people to connect him to the Tea Parties will be the same who shrieked when Islamism was ascribed to the Fort Hood Shooter.

Or am I just being cynical.

Garrison Keillor explains the Scott Brown Election for you

Nothing makes a Man of the People angrier than the People when they don’t listen to the Man. Garrison Keillor – fine talent on the radio and in fiction, bone-headed as a museum fossil in his newspaper column – gives plentiful evidence of that maxim in his latest “Old Scout” column. It appears here. Some highlights:

There they all were on the Sunday-morning chatfests, droning on about the anger of the American people as shown by the election in Massachusetts of a pickup truck to the U.S. Senate — ever ready, as pundits are, to take one good story and extrude it into a national trend portentous with meaning.

Yes, they elected a pickup truck. By all means, make fun of the pickup truck. No one in Lake Woebegon drives a pickup truck. Farmers know that when you need to pull out a stump in the field, nothing does the job like a Prius.

One could draw other conclusions from that election — the importance of actually campaigning, for one, and not vacationing in the Caribbean — but OK, maybe anger was a factor.

Those gullible voters, hornswaggled by that most mind-clouding political trick, campaigning. It’s never the issues.

Warming to his task, he spits on his hands, grabs the shovel and starts to work: this BS isn’t going to get into the paper on its own, by Cracky.

Meanwhile, one-sixth of our population is without health insurance, and Republicans have decided that defeating Mr. Obama is more important than the welfare of 50 million Americans: Let them die and decrease the surplus population and be quick about it.

There you have it: if you don’t have insurance, you will die; once again insurance = health care. If you do die, this pleases the Republicans. There is no logical reason to oppose the Democratic bill, so the GOP’s mulish refusal to roll over and vote AYE stems from hatred of Obama and the warm glow they get from knowing Americans die as a side benefit, and they have the bring-out-yer-dead cart concession locked up.

If the previous excerpt struck you as the mad spatter of an partisan hack, raise high the sneeze-guard:

The midterms will require Republicans to decide who they are. Are they interested in unemployment, healthcare, banking regulation and the long-term health of the planet? Or are they just angry that a non-citizen and practicing Muslim got elected president so he could send death panels around to enslave us in the chains of Marxism?

When you encounter a fact-free farrago of Olbermannesque mischaracterization like that, where you start? Never mind the portrayal of all Republicans as paranoid birther-bigots. “Are they interested in unemployment?” I imagine the subject has crossed the minds of a few, yes. “Banking regulation?” Depends on how you define it; if you mean “requiring banks to make more risky loans while using the power of the state to micromanage their pay-scales,” no, but that’s like saying that Repubicans aren’t interested in dogs because they oppose a law requiring everyone to carry a Chihuahua in a small basket. “The long-term health of the planet?” He means cap-and-trade, I guess. For a man who writes every other column from a different location on the planet, he certainly burns a lot of carbon. DOESN’T HE CARE ABOUT THE PLANET? If we’ve learned anything lately, it’s this: there’s absolutely no abrogation of property and liberty that can’t be eroded under the guise of doing something, anything, about the long-term health of the planet. But Republicans wouldn’t oppose a huge gas tax because it would drive up the cost of everything and make people poorer for no good reason; they’d do it because A) they’re in the pay of Big Oil, and B) they don’t care about the planet because they have their own version, pristine, orbiting on the other side of the sun, and they will all go there when this one gets too stinky.

But this is just standard abuse from the Old Crank; when it comes to the right, the man is incapable of issuing a thought that doesn’t betray his utter ignorance of the motivating ideas of conservativism. Here’s the pith of the gist: listen to your betters!

Be as anti-elitist as you like, but when the surgeon comes in to open up your skull to see what that big dark spot on the CT scan was, you don’t want him to be wearing a humorous T-shirt (“Hey It IS Brain Surgery”) and eating Jujubes. You board the DC-10 to London and you’d like to see a lean guy with a military-style crew cut, an overachiever, not a guy with hair in his eyes who is really, really into his own music. Your life may depend on an arrogant elitist who happens to know what he’s doing.

So: if doctors are non-populist elites, and airline pilots are non-populist elites, then government officials are non-populist elites, and you should elect them and shut up and not be fooled by pickup trucks. Roll back a bit, and regard this deathless wisdom:

Running on anger is not such a great idea. For one thing, it’s hard to sustain if, God forbid, the economy springs back. And as Republicans well know, government does not change when you yell at it. The world doesn’t run on slogans, it runs on paperwork.

Yes, that’s how Obama got elected: his brilliant manipulation of paperwork.

The world may run on paperwork, but it is shaped by the people who write the laws that require the paperwork, and their attitude towards law – its scale, its intention, its power, its abuses – can often be boiled down to a slogan, inasmuch as clear ideas can be pithily expressed. Thus “Government is not always the solution, government is often the problem” may not tell you how the person intends to rewrite the phase-in of the EPA regulation of carbon dioxide, but they give you an idea about how he thinks of the idea in the first place. “Yes We Can,” on the other hand, doesn’t really tell you that much, except that the speaker might get angry if someone says “No You Can’t.” That’s just yelling!

When The People all loved Obama, that was good. When some of the people turn against him, that’s Populism, and it’s bad. (Old-style definitions of Populism, like soaking the rich and attacking bankers, don’t seem to be in play anymore, because Obama supports them.) But he makes an interesting definition of modern populism: “Down with the Meritocracy.” That’s how he sees the Scott Brown election: a revolt against people who succeeded, and were rewarded, by virtue of their skills.

Keillor always invariably ends his columns with some goofy cooing to the Dear Readers, the sensible people, the great proud liberals who know they’re right because they know they’re smart. After all, they didn’t vote for this guy:

Senator Brown is a graduate of Wakefield High School, Tufts University, and Boston College Law School. He is a practicing attorney, and a 29 -year member of the Massachusetts National Guard, where he currently holds the rank of Lt. Colonel in the Judge Advocate General’s Corps. Brown was awarded the Army Commendation Medal for meritorious service in homeland security after the attacks of September 11, 2001.

Senator Brown is a member of the Massachusetts Bar Association, Wrentham Lions Club, United Chamber of Commerce, North Attleboro / Plainville Chamber of Commerce, Neponset Valley Chamber of Commerce, and the United States Triathlon Federation.

In the legislature, Senator Brown serves on the following committees: Consumer Protection & Professional Licensure; Education; Election Laws; Higher Education; Public Safety and Homeland Security; and Veterans & Federal Affairs. He is a member of the Charles River Caucus, Biotechnology Caucus, Suburban Legislative Caucus, and he is Co-Chairman of the Metco Caucus. He is also a member of the Governor’s Advisory Council on Veterans Services.

No, sir. Smart good people don’t vote for someone like that. They vote for Al Franken.

About the iPad, if you care

Since the iPad doesn’t give you X-ray vision or the power of flight, some are complaining it’s another overpriced useless toy. I had to wince while reading some HotAir comments on the iPod; it’s a reminder that reflexive anti-Apple booshwa is bipartisan, but comes in two flavors. The nerdy geek-techie types – in my experience, mostly liberal – are Apple-haters because jobs comes out with something that does not support whatever wild-hair flavor of open source goodness that makes it possible to suck down HD versions of movies from Bulgarian pirate sites, and locks people into closed systems. Ideally we should all get the New York Times for free, you see, and if they come up with a paid app that lets you read their paper and browse a century’s worth of archives, you should be able to crack it. And if the masses can’t figure out how to do that? Sheeple!

The conservative complaints are discouragingly fuddy-dud: Apples are for fashionistas who must be liberals because they care about aesthetics. You get the picture of someone in Sansabelt slacks peering at a monitor set on 640X480.

These are broad characterizations, and hence unfair; there are many liberals who love shiny Apple toys, and as for conservatives who love Macs, well, one word: Rush. (I’ve found that libertarians are more likely to love Macs, too.) The idea that coolness, aesthetics, hipness and forward-looking ideas are somehow incompatible with tax cuts and deregulation is rather mysterious.

That said: is the iPad good? Don’t know; haven’t seen it. But I suspect so. Is it great? It will be. If that sounds like tempered praise, it is; the first version of the iPad will, in a few years, look as crippled and clunky as the first iPod. You may recall how that item was loudly derided by all, what with its steep price, 5 GB capacity, grey screen (running Chicago font, of all things). Now it rules the world. So will the iPad . . .

. . . when it gets a few more things. It doesn’t have multitasking, and for long-time Mac users, this is hilarious: so we’ve lost Multifinder, now? It doesn’t have a camera, so it’s not a tool for video conferencing. It doesn’t have Flash. But I’m guessing it will have multitasking in the next OS update, as will the iPhone; the camera has been reserved for version 2; Flash, Steve Jobs hopes, will be replaced by HTML5, and hence not under the control of Adobe, and not so crash-tastic. When these things hit the iPad, they’ll make it better. But that’s not critical. Movie editing on the iPad isn’t critical. Books, newspapers, magazines: that’s the ticket.

Books, that’s obvious. It’s an e-book reader. Right now e-books are just text – a color tablet with a really, really fast processor makes possible a new genre of books. Example: a few months ago I was reading a novel set in Rome while waiting for my daughter to finish karate class. A character would enter the book; he seemed to be a real historical figure. Twenty years ago: forget it, unless you have the appropriate reference books at home. Ten years ago: wait until you got home, research him on the web, find some boring page. Now: put the book down, get out the iPhone, google the name, squint at the wiki entry. iPad: double-tap the name, and you get a bio, a picture of the fellow’s bust. Simple stuff. But expand the idea: when I read about locations in Rome, I found myself googling them to see what remained, what was real, and the results were always frustrating. Not enough.

Imagine “Angels and Demons” in iPad form, with every single location, every piece of art, every clue, available in a pop-up window. It’s not hard. You send one underpaid intern to Rome with a $150 pocket-sized HD camera, you have the content. At first it will be a novelty; then it will be the norm.

Magazines can make the transition easily; I don’t care if I get the same Economist in iPad form, because that’s enough. The content is strong enough as it is. Newspapers, on the other hand, can break free of the existing online templates, which are loaded with cruft from a million managers, laden with the legacy of countless redesigns, and aimed at people who read stuff on their computers.

Do you really like to read things on your computer? I suspect enough time with an iPad will make people realize that reading things on a computer screen is like reading a book on a television set. When Jobs said the iPad was pitched as the item between the computer and the iPhone, I laughed: gosh, I didn’t know that niche previously existed. But come to think of it: yes. The computer screen is no fun for reading. Mobile phones are handy, but bleepin’ small. The iPad is the size we’ve been used to for years, an object that fits in the human hands.

Put it this way: right now people are poking through the code in the iPad’s software developer’s kit, figuring out a way to make money off this. Others are waiting to give Apple their money so they can get a jump on what might be the next platform, or at least the most popular version of it. People may say “I don’t know what you’d do with it,” but they’ve said that about new innovation. Except, perhaps, the atomic bomb. That one pretty much spoke for itself.

The gentle sound of millions of scales falling from people’s eyes

Don’t worry, good liberals; according to the HuffPo, the Obama coalition is still holding together:


The day after Coakley’s bright lights suffered a Brown-out, there’s mutterings about the death of “health-care reform.” The administration has only itself to blame.

The Obama administration could have had health-care-payment reform passed a long time ago if they’d stuck to something you could fit on an index card – say, a one-percent tax on existing plans to fund insurance for the uninsured, with a 2-year cut-off (later extended to “infinity,” as government programs are wont to do); interstate competition; mandatory balloons for the kids when they get a shot. Something like that. Call it the “Health Insurance for People Who Don’t Have Any Right Now” bill, push the greased squealing pig through the marble trough of Congress, and voila: lots of time and political capital left over to squander on nationalizing banks and banning lead content in lead mines. (Studies show they’re FULL OF IT.) But no, we had to have the usual best-and-the-brightest approach, stuffed to bursting with laws and regulations that reached their tentacles down into every aspect of American life:

Any participant in AmeriHealth Section B (defined as someone who contributes to the plan, uses the plan, walks past the building where the plan is administered, or hears its name mentioned in the media [defined to include, but not limited to, broadcast, print, web-based information dispersal systems, mailings, smoke signals, skywriting] shall be required under penalty of imprisonment to refrain from exceeding 37% of the targeted resource allotment within a six-month period beginning, but not including, the date of their birth. Usage above this amount shall constitute anti-social activity, or “parasitical resource consumption,” punishable by death or (we’ll work this part out in committee)

Doctors – hereafter defined as greedy sawbones who scoop out the wrong kidney because they’re angry about being late for golf – shall be paid what we damn well think they should be paid

All health plans shall be required to pay for mental health treatment and abortions, with the exception of mental-health issues incurred following an abortion

And so on. The irony is this: it’s not Obama’s bill. This unholy agglomeration burst from the skull of the Democratic Congressional geniuses, and the smartest man in the world has more or less said “It’s all good” and left it at that. But it’s Obamacare, and he’s taking the fall for it. The good folk of Massachusetts would have stuck another humorless wonk-drone in the Kennedy slot and let her bleat “aye,” but this – well, this was too much. This was just too much.

She was a lousy candidate, as well – bland, remote, aloof, a member of the ruling clique that scuttles from marbled hall to paneled room, arranging things for the hoi polloi, expecting only periodic burnt offerings in the form of an election as their grunting thanks. A candidate with a better touch might have beat Brown, but he or she would have had to sidle center-wise, emphasize independence and individuality. Big change, that. A year ago a fella could have proudly stood at the podium, ripped open his shirt to reveal an Obama O tattooed indelibly on his chest, and be assured of loud huzzahs, YouTube tributes, and a mention in European editorials approving the transformation in American politics. Now Obamunism, as some wags tagged it, has become a liability for many: the President seems less than Olympian, his speeches have become rivers of lugubrious syrup flecked with tin cliches, and a clammy dread has settled over many supporters. What if he’s not the smartest post-racial centrist uniter EVER? What if he’s a glib fellow with a Gibralter ego, a set of hoary trite leftist views unexamined since they were inhaled in a college-era dorm-room bull session, and a congenital inability to accommodate shifting political winds? Gosh, what if?

I mean, if you can’t trust a Chicago politician, what’s left?

Hello, China; anybody home?

I remember reading years ago that China had decided its growth rate would be 8 percent per year. To my continued amazement, it’s been 8 percent every year – imagine that! Almost as if the entire point of the economy was to find a way to hit the target regardless of the consequences or the jiggery-pokery required to get there. Next time you read an op-ed about the virtues of the Chinese way, keep this in mind.

Any bets on whether the eventual move to the new city will be voluntary?

How Gitmo produces terrorists . . . or not

President Obama has been talking “tough” lately, which usually means he said “make no mistake,” then vowed we would do something or other. It’s better than apologizing for everything – “for too long we have allowed planes to fly on Christmas and serve alcohol, heedless of the offense this may cause” would have been out of bounds, but not quite out of character – but his speeches have struck two notes discordant with his supposedly Hard Stance.

1. The President cited poverty in Yemen as a contributing factor to terrorism. This is terribly relevant to the Undiebomber, since he’s from Nigeria, was educated in Great Britain, and has a rich dad. Yemenese poverty was to blame, eh? This is like singling out a Pakistani-born man who was educated in Tokyo but got his go-ahead-with-the-jihad telegram wired to him in Alabama, and blaming the attack on country music. There may be some vague, incoherent belief that the infidels have impoverished Muslims, and if enough planes are blown up the Jews will power down the magic Anti-Muslim rays that prevent Yemen from being, oh, Dubai.

2. Gitmo. Under this theory, the Undiebomber could have killed Muslims on the plane – indeed, the wreckage of the airplane could have fallen on a mosque – and his imprisonment in Gitmo would enflame new recruits. It’s a rather arrogant theory, since it sees the struggle through our cultural and historical prism: They hate us because we support Israel, invade Muslim lands – like Kuwait, or Bosnia – and the rest of the sins that naturally follow from being a swaggering hyperpower. We can sooth their fevered brows with cool words, preferably high-flown nonsense like “Our greatest strengths can be found when we are all weak together,” or some such sonorous tripe. If you believe that, then of course you’re surprised when the election of a globe-healer with supranational appeal doesn’t cool the Islamist’s zeal. Actually, the list of reasons they want to kill us can be summed up thus:

a) We do not believe exactly everything they believe, and so we must submit or die
b) See point A

If you believe otherwise, you will be constantly calibrating your response to the placate individual complaints. But if the Gitmo rationale is true, then imagine the hard times ahead at the recruiting office. Scene: London. The door opens, and a young man walks in, uncertain.

Recruiter: Welcome! Sit down! Join us! Help us strike a blow against the Crusaders!

Prospective Jihadi: Tell me more; I am intrigued by your fervor.

Recruiter: They are moral degenerates, their rotten society permeated by sodomy and lingerie! Their children make a god of Michael Jackson and their elders consume beer while watching “Fiddler on the Roof” and their women are permitted to enjoy sex or use mechanical devices to prepare bacon while dogs roam the house! They have converted minarets into cellphone towers! They think we did 9/11 instead of the Jews! Okay, they’re technically correct there, but in a larger sense it was a Zionist plot –

Prospective Jihadi: I am inflamed with righteousness, and would like to subscribe to your newsletter. Tell me more, so I may guide myself on the path to turning myself into a shower of nails in a shopping mall, as God surely intends.

Recruiter: The Crusaders have taken our comrades, denied them access to lawyers and dynamite, and placed them in prisons around the United States –

Prospective Jihadi: I thought Guantanamo was in Cuba.

Recruiter: It was, but they closed it down; their perfidy is matchless, I tell you, for they have dispersed our brethern into the cold bowels of their Midwestern prisons –

Prospective Jihadi: Hold on, no more Guantanamo? Seriously? That’s what brought her here. Your flier said – here, I have it in my pocket. Look. “Join now, avenge Guantanamo, your first suicide bombing free with membership.”

Recruiter: You may still avenge!

Prospective Jihadi: Sorry. If they’ve closed Guantanamo, well, that changes the game. I’m going to immigrate and see if I can get into the Marines.

Recruiter: (Sigh) Yes, my young friend, I see your point. I too have trouble maintaining my fury, now that the stain of Guantanamo has been washed away. Can I interest you in something against the Russians? They have –

Prospective Jihadi: No thanks. Those guys chop off your parts.

Recruiter: It will grow back in Paradise.

Prospective Jihadi: Sorry, no. Uh, here’s my parking receipt; do you guys validate?

Podcast Archive Calendar

September 2021