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August 16, 2013

ross douthat and russell crowe's evocation of manhood

I don't know how I missed this back in 2010 (guess what? officially a long time ago), but I did, and someone tweeted a link to it, and it's perfect.  I mean, I try not to hold the juvenile writings of public figures against them, but in this case, it's words about Ross Douthat and not words by, so, let 'er rip:
When Ross G. Douthat tells you that he hopes to become one of the world's most prominent writers, you get a sense that he just might. "Coming to Harvard, I now have a new sense of the power and success that is at our fingertips - I know I will be one of the 25 richest writers of the future", he says.

OK, I take it back, they are actually Douthat's words, but he said them to a reporter instead of writing them, so fair game.

But that's the cheap pop, right there.  Here's 2001 Ross Douthat aiming his considerable intellect towards culture:

"I regard myself as a conservative in the aesthetic sense,"he muses. Expanding on this, Douthart tells how, in a creative writing class at Harvard, he wrote a novella about a student who was "allergic to technology--he ended up having to type his essays on a manual typewriter, and fell into this collection of people soured with modernity." Douthat admits that, like his protagonist, he possesses "a vague dissatisfaction with modern life...I have always romanticized the past and that shows up in my politics". Indeed, his room is adorned with posters of Audrey Hepburn and Marilyn Monroe - stars from Hollywood's glamour heyday - as well as a towering tribute to Gladiator. "I think that Russell Crowe's evocation of manhood is something all men should aspire to", he explains, "particularly when there are such obvious parallels between Rome and the United States, with the combination of splendor and decadence of Empire."

Really, there's so much in there, but I'm going with evocation.

Also: apologies for implying that Ross Douthat is a public figure.

Posted by mrbrent at 9:39 AM

August 15, 2013

yeah great idea assemblyman declan o'scanlon

Yesterday a New Jersey Assemblyman by the name of Declan O'Scanlon announced that he's figured out a way to cut down on traffic accidents on the Turnpike and the Garden State: raise the speed limit.

No, really, wait.  See, nearly everyone speeds, goes O'Scanlon's reasoning, and the majority of crashes are caused by reckless, speeding drivers lane-changing around people observing the law:

"We should never have the situation where observance of a given traffic law makes you a serious hazard to yourself and others," O'Scanlon said. "But that's what's currently happening. Almost every section of the Parkway, where the posted limit is 55 miles per hour, is actually designed to safely handle speed limits of 65 to 75 miles per hour. And these are the speeds 80 to 90 percenttof [sic] motorists are driving anyway. That is the case around the world, people naturally drive at reasonably, safe and prudent speeds."

I don't have a problem with speeders in the context of breaking the law.  You know, there's punishments for it, should they be caught, and it's a free country, etc.  But I have an enormous problem with the reckless operation of motor vehicles, as frequently the person getting killed is not the reckless driver but someone innocent of such recklessness.

So changing the law such that the lawbreakers are suddenly in compliance?  Oh ho what a funny world we live in!  But to implicitly codify recklessness into state law when public safety is at stake?  That's moronic on every level.

It should not go without saying that Assemblyman O'Scanlon prefaced his idiocy with a sentiment that created a logical black hole that his eventual argument would be retroactively sucked into:

"Speed limits should be set solely on sound engineering criteria, not the hunches of lay persons," Assemblyman Declan O'Scanlon (R-Monmouth) said in a statement issued this afternoon.

Lay persons like Monmouth County assemblymen?  Hmmm.

Posted by mrbrent at 9:46 AM

August 14, 2013

happy tenth anniversary blackout

It's time to play the Where Were You When? Game again, as ten years ago today is the day that the power grid for the top half of the Eastern Seaboard and great swaths of the Northeast went dark.  Oh, you had to be there.  Here in NYC it was like there was an audible hum as every last thing in the city with a powercord plugged into the wall fizzled and stopped running, like a science fiction movie.  And it was a day of personal interest as well, as it is the tenth anniversary of my wife being diagnosed with celiac disease, as she was on the phone with me, telling me about it, at the very moment the lights went out.  Surprise!

Hey, did they ever figure out what really caused the Blackout (which we never really figured out a snazzy nickname for)?  Best I can remember it was like a squirrel that shorted something out in Ohio?  Let's look.

Ah!  Informed sources say that it was a software bug in an alarm system of a company in Ohio, cascaded by some terrible luck.  Funny, you'd think that the fact that a software bug brought down the power to 55 million people would cause a lot more public anxiety.  Oh well.  What we don't know won't hurt a bit, right?

Posted by mrbrent at 10:20 AM

August 13, 2013

stop and frisk: the mayor's reaction

As predicted, the Mayor and his police commissioner totally threw a fit yesterday, and Bloomberg was as self-righteous as a billionaire could be, hoping that the Appeals court would issue an injunction on the stop and frisk oversight because he "wouldn't want to be responsible for a lot of people dying."  If the Mayor used some of his private fortune to hire an orchestra to play ominous music behind him, it was not reported.

It was a bunch of the same argument: Bloomberg and Commissioner Ray Kelly did not address the issue of the found abridgements of the Fourth and 16th Amendments; they just prattled on about how the judge never talked about the efficacy of the program! and how probies are instructed never ever to racially profile!  The implication is almost that the city has been knowingly infringing on the civil rights of the citizens, because, well, look at the results!

You start to feel sorry for Bloomberg a bit (not Kelly — he's determined that he can still beat back the crime wave of the 80s), because, in his obtuse, bullheaded way, he's trying to do the right thing for the city, and he's just not the type of guy to take anyone's advice other than his own.

But then he does clown-ass shit like this (from Michael Powell's column linked above):

The mayor chose to end the news conference by conjuring up an officer who comes upon a criminal with a drawn gun. The officer wants to pull his service revolver and defend himself. But he thinks: What about the federal monitor? What about the City Council-imposed inspector general?

"By that time, he's dead," the mayor said, swelling with anger at his imaginary tale. "I'd like to see you go to the funeral and explain to the wife."

OMG the Mayor has peopled the NYPD with officers unable to think about chain-of-command and training while performing their duties!  Alarming.  So, who wants to go and tell the wife that the husband was too dumb to be a cop?

Posted by mrbrent at 9:20 AM

August 12, 2013

stop and frisk stopped, frisked

This will take some time to sink in, but it looks like stop n' frisk may soon be a thing of the past, as a federal judge has ruled them unconstitutional:
These stop-and-frisk episodes, which soared in number over the last decade as crime continued to decline, demonstrated a widespread disregard for the Fourth Amendment, which protects against unreasonable searches and seizures by the government, according to the ruling. It also found violations with the 14th Amendment.

Based purely on Mayer Bloomberg's temperament, I can see him appealing this one to the grave and beyond.  But systemically violating the Fourth Amendment (and 14th!) is a pretty big thing to be accused of, and has totally been glossed over in the Mayor's (and the Commish's) arguments for the seemingly random stopping and frisking of private, usually brown, citizens.  They're argument has been, "Look at the numbers, it works, and to stop from doing it hurts our abilities to do our jobs."  But of course it works.  It's cheating.  It works like a charm.

At some point in the past twenty years (and Ray Kelly has there from the get-go) the NYPD stopped being a police force and became instead an occupational force, one that measured its success by the number of arrests made, positing a city of limitless and unending crime.  That's around the time that drinking a beer in a paper bag on the street would land you in the Tombs for the weekend.  Tougher drug laws got passed, cops started stopping and frisking, etc.

And the crime went down (though it has been argued that this could be due to a number of non-NYPD factors), but you know what?  The city started sucking.  And I'm white!  I've never been hassled by cops, made to empty my pockets, just because I was walking down the street.  There is still crime: I've had friends mugged in the past twelve months, and the sidewalks of my quiet neighborhood are frequently strewn with broken auto glass.  It's part of the deal of living in the city.

Personally, I would love to see a return to community policing, patrols on foot, living in the area, less occupying force and more beat cop who knows everyone's name.  That's not gonna happen anytime soon, but it sure would be neat.

But it's a good day for the good guys!  At least so far.

Posted by mrbrent at 9:59 AM

August 11, 2013

the first story about women's golf i've recced ever

In the interest of saying something nice for once, this feature on Japanese LPGA golf import Chie Arimura is a lovely way to start your morning, contemplated the confluence of a bunch of stuff you never ever thought would get their chocolate into their peanut butter:
Like many Asian golfers on the L.P.G.A. Tour, Arimura came to the United States with little grasp of English and few friends. Many players, especially those from South Korea, come with relatives who have invested their lives in the players' success. Arimura came alone.

But Arimura is hardly alone in the challenges she is facing in the United States. A surge of Asian golfers to the American tour in the last 15 years has transformed the sport, causing athletes and officials to grapple with questions about immigration and race as much as competition.

It's a bit of a minefield of a story (a story about golf!), as it speaks of a foreign national living in the States, and also as it is a story about a sports league for women only — either worth a trigger warning for entirely different constituencies.  For example, the lead paragraph talks about Arimura painting her nails, which would be enough (if it ever came to their attention) to Break Certain Portions of Twitter In Half.

But eff that noise: it's a nice slow long look at a sport in transition, and on what it's like to be the NextGen of Asian golf superstars.  Have a cuppa; we'll get snarky later.

Posted by mrbrent at 11:54 AM