Category Archives: Politics

Read an amazing book…

and then procrastinated writing about it until the very last day when I had to take it back to the library because I’m awful.

Ta-nehisi Coates, my role-model in writing, my best friend in my imagination, had this to say about the Brad Paisley/ LL Cool J collaboration, so astute I hooted out loud:

One of the problems with the idea that America needs a “Conversation On Race” is that it presumes that “America” has something intelligent to say about race. All you need do is look at how American history is taught in this country to realize that that is basically impossible.

Eula Biss, a white (although she complicates this in her book) writer, wrote a book called Notes From No Man’s Land: American Essays, in 2010 and it is extraordinary. Reviewing this book in Salon, Kyle Minor writes,

Eula Biss’ “Notes From No Man’s Land” is the most accomplished book of essays anyone has written or published so far in the 21st century. If it has not taken up residence in the popular imagination of readers in the same way Joan Didion’s “Slouching Towards Bethlehem” did in the late 1960s, perhaps it is because we live in a time in which it is more difficult for books to assert themselves with great cultural force in the way they once did, or perhaps because Biss, unlike Didion, has yet to receive the strong support of the systems of power that bring great books to the attention of a broad readership.

I would also argue this book hasn’t received the attention it deserves because it is a prickly and uncomfortable book about race. Ta-nehisi has always been incredible on the subject of why this “conversation on race” is so rarely done right:

I have had conversations with very well-educated people who, with a straight face, have told me that there are Black Confederates. If you ask a very well educated person how the GI Bill exacerbated the wealth gap, or how New Deal housing policy helped create the ghetto they very likely will not know. And they do not know, not because they are ignorant, stupid, or immoral, they do not know because they are part of country that has decided that “not knowing” is in its interest. There’s no room for any sort of serious conversation when the basic facts of history are not accessible.

Eula Biss, in an interview about revising the essays in this book in 2008:

I was revising this collection during Obama’s campaign and I remember feeling dismay at one point because the national conversation about race in that moment felt so misguided, so atrophied, so impoverished. Almost everything I heard about race on the news was silly or stupid and so I began to worry that my book assumed some basic understandings that just didn’t exist in this country yet.

In one of her great essays, Biss describes teaching a class at the University of Iowa while working on her master’s degree:

Racism, I would discover during my first semester teaching at Iowa, does not exist. At least not in Iowa. Not in the minds of the twenty three tall, healthy, blond students to whom I was supposed to teach rhetoric…. Sexism does not exist either, at least not any more. My students considered my interest in these subjects very antiquated. These things, they informed me, with exasperation, had already been resolved a long time ago, during the sixties.

This book is so rare and so uncomfortable because it is tackling a subject most people refuse to acknowledge even exists, or refuse to acknowledge as complex. I need to buy this book, and re-read it, and stew in it, and write longer on it soon. But please read it, if you want to be challenged, and amazed, and floored.

The problems with thinking it’s a “post-racial” America…

I’ve been pretty shocked about the racist comments on Twitter about the re-election of Obama, not because I don’t think racism exists, but because of the age of the people doing it. Jezebel looked into it and many of these idiots are high school students or young college students. I think back to my time in high school, and mind you, I’m from Canada, but the n-word was extremely taboo. People heard it in rap songs, maybe occasionally mumbled it along with the lyrics, but it really wasn’t used. Not to say there wasn’t racism (I grew up in a very white province), but it wasn’t encountered widely. At that point (or at any point) in my life, if someone I knew at school put the n-word on the internet, they would be hearing from me. Loudly, and in their face.

I also came of age in the 90s, the Clinton era, the era of after school specials, and sitcoms with “messages”. If we didn’t know the n-word was bad (and we did), the point would be reiterated on one of those “heavy” episodes of Fresh Prince.

I also think back to the kids who tormented the bus monitor so horribly. They were so young, and yet so awful. Now, I don’t want to be one of those “back in my day” kind of people, and yet, I have to say it: When I was in school, children abusing an elderly woman would not happen. Other kids, definitely. But not an elderly woman.

So what is happening with these kids? Where is this hate coming from? Why are they such sociopaths?

Pop culture is a part of it. I think about the TV I watched as an 7-14 year old. It was shows like Fresh Prince (about a wealthy black family), Family Matters (about a middle-class black family), Full House (about a white family, but still heavy on the messages of tolerance), etc. I think about TV in its current form. Where are the shows about families and people of colour, other than on BET? There aren’t any. And meanwhile, while there is some diversity on Disney channel shows, and maybe even a message of tolerance too, kids (boys especially) probably age out of those shows young. And what sitcoms or general entertainment is there to fill the gap? MTV? Sixteen and Pregnant? Jersey Shore? The phrase “post-racial America” got thrown around a lot after Obama’s first win. This idea of a post-racial country leads Hollywood to believe that maybe we don’t need shows with a message about race. Throw in a few characters of colour and everything will be fine. Obviously, kids aren’t learning the message enough. I know having racist parents can have a huge effect on this, but pop culture matters.

I can think of two network sitcoms that talk about race in an astute and clever way, Community and 30 Rock. Both of these shows have diverse casts, small audiences and are hilarious. And yet they are too clever for the kind of mass consumption of a show like Fresh Prince.

Race still needs to be talked about, and talked about openly and clearly in entertainment for young people. It isn’t happening. Maybe the racist tweets from high schoolers can be tied to that.

Something to think about…

Due to excessive busyness, school-ness, travel-fatigue, etc., I largely avoided the 9/11 ten year hooplah. This, however, is one of the only things I read from the weekend, and it’s damn good.

Check out Laura Miller’s essay at Salon.com

Charged with looking beneath, behind and around such images, the novelist comes up against the question of what makes these particular violent deaths so very different from every other violent death. That isn’t easy to answer, and any answer you do come up with is likely to sound disrespectful, cynical, unfeeling and insufficiently solemn. A novelist may decide to push onward anyway, whether into sentimentality (“Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close”) or smarmy self-aggrandizement (“The Good Life”), but in such cases, the results feel thin, vaguely false and meretricious. “It’s kryptonite to novelists,” a critic friend of mine once said about 9/11.

TNC is, once again, so eloquently right…

speaking truth to power. Give him every writing prize there is, then invent some, just for him:

I mean growing up under a systemic and literal white supremacy, whose endorsement by virtually every sector of society (government, private enterprise, church etc.) was near total. I mean having your father murdered by white racists, and watching the killer going unpunished. I mean watching the Klan harass your now widowed mother.
I mean growing up with all of that, learning to forgive, and doing the painful work of not becoming a racist yourself. I mean taking that message of forgiveness and humanism so much to heart, that you come be known for your fundamental fairness. I mean preaching that gospel of love, introspection and broad toleration, to other wounded black people. I mean being fired for preaching that gospel by the agents of the first black president of the United States who, were it not for your individual efforts, and the efforts of your compatriots would enjoy no such power.
Sherrod’s firing didn’t have much to do with policy. Still I don’t think the Obama administration was ever more wrong, more weak, and more ungracious, then when it ordered Shirley Sherrod off the highway to tender her resignation by blackberry. The symbolism of that moment, a year later, is stunning. 
Actual people died for Barack Obama to be president. I don’t want to beat a dead horse, but he owed more to his elders than that. Let me not speak for Sherrod. I can only say that, having went through all of that,  I would be nursing some serious, serious anger.

Joan Walsh nails it…

NAILS IT!  Specifically, on how the Republicans and Obama don’t understand how to fix the economy:

In fact, China and Brazil have robust growth because unlike the U.S., they’re building a middle class, not taking it apart, the way we are. These supply-side economics groupies distort what’s wrong with our economy: Thanks to unemployment and the foreclosure crisis, plus almost 40 years of no income growth for working and middle class families (and even income declines for some subgroups), Americans can’t help the country consume its way out of the recession, or contribute to the recovery with tax revenues (for those who think the deficit is the biggest economic problem.) The recession itself is making recovery much, much harder, and maybe impossible: Too many workers are draining public revenue, rather than producing it. The resulting lack of demand makes employers nervous about increasing hiring or even capital investment. Obama’s inability to respond with a bigger stimulus bill and other measures to use the federal government to stimulate demand again will hurt the country, and may hurt him politically too. But it’s possible it won’t, because in 2012 he’s almost certain to run against a right-wing kook or a formerly-moderate dissembler in next year’s election.

Huma Abedin is waaaay too good for him…

In which I judge another person’s marriage at Brutish&Short.

So, no, I’m not surprised he likes to send Myspace-esque douchey photos to hot women on the internet. I am surprised, however, that he managed to marry an apparently smart, gorgeous and extremely competent woman, or more accurately, I’m surprised she married him.

On timing, cynicism-reduction, and weening myself off Amazon…

I voted today, in my slippers. There is a polling station in the lobby of my apartment building; it was embarrassingly easy.  I have spoiled my ballot in the last several federal elections, because I didn’t like the options. I still don’t really, but that goddamn mustachio’d sleazeball is growing on me.

As I voted I couldn’t get the images of Tahrir Square out of my head. People die to be able to do this. No matter how cynical I can get, there’s no way to be cynical about that.

On another non-cynical front! They killed Osama bin-Laden at a completely non-politically relevant time. Timing is  everything in this kind of situation, and obviously this is going to make Obama look good no matter when it happens. But! Why do I get the feeling that if this was 2004, bin-Laden would be chilling for a few months in Dick Cheney’s guest room until a week before the election? So good for Obama, good for Leon Panetta, and yay for them not exploiting this too much. And good for him for being so hilarious at the Correspondents dinner, and totally pwning Donald Trump.

And! I got a library card today, my very first one since I was 11 years old. The Oakville Public Library is awesome. A nice building, good book selection, just an all around great place to hang out. And it only took me eight months to discover it. Obviously, I was one of those kids who loved visiting the library when I was a kid – I was BFFs with my elementary school librarian – but since I left university, I stopped visiting them. You know what I did do? Buy a billion books instead. From Amazon, Chapters, wherever. I have spent so much money on books in the last four years, thinking that libraries wouldn’t have the books I wanted – but yay! they totally do! Now I will only buy the ones I really like, which my husband and anyone who helps us move ever again will surely appreciate!

I realize that the discoveries I made today  – voting is good, libraries are awesome – are ludicrously obvious to normal people. I guess I was too busy being a recluse in my impenetrable bubble of cynicism, running away from anything that had to do with “community” and “civic duty” to notice.

There may be hope for me yet.

Part of the problem, part of the solution:

On female bylines. Vogue does a profile on the Syrian first lady, and I haven’t read the whole thing yet, but the excerpts are hilarious (from Max Fisher at the Atlantic:

“Asma al-Assad is glamorous, young, and very chic–the freshest and most magnetic of first ladies. Her style is not the couture-and-bling dazzle of Middle Eastern power but a deliberate lack of adornment. She’s a rare combination: a thin, long-limbed beauty with a trained analytic mind who dresses with cunning understatement,” opens the story, “Asma al-Assad: A Rose in the Desert,” which also appears in the March issue of Vogue magazine.

And:

After securing what would be many journalists’ dream — time alone with Bashar al-Assad — Vogue‘s Joan Juliet Buck wrote only that he is, “A precise man who takes photographs and talks lovingly about his first computer, he says he was attracted to studying eye surgery ‘because it’s very precise, it’s almost never an emergency, and there is very little blood.’”

But this might be my favourite:

it notes, for example, Bashar’s “startling” electoral victories but not that he was the only candidate. It lists one detail after another portraying Bashar and Asma al-Assad as fun, glamorous, American-style celebrities: trips to the Louvre, a story about the couple joking with Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie, Asma’s effort to give Syria a “brand essence,” the fact that all three Assad children “go to a Montessori school,” and countless references to Christianity.

I love it. Oh yeah, I’m sure Bashar al-Assad is a real dreamboat.

Thanks for really making the most of that opportunity, Joan Juliet Buck. I mean, I get it, Vogue has to be Vogue, but honestly? The Assads? I’m sure they’re glamourous – so is the Gaddafi family - just ask Beyonce and Jay-Z . But I guess we can’t really expect Vogue to be part of the solution, can we?

But this is:  a new Tumblr that draws attention to lady journalists’ work around the web. Good stuff!

The Editors Respond…

Elissa Strauss, a blogger, actually asked the editors of major publications about the dearth of female bylines. Good for her. They said a variety of interesting things.

First, what Strauss thinks:

After reading their responses and having the opportunity to speak with some of them on the phone, it struck me that the byline gap would not be resolved simply by having more female editors, or seeking out more female writers. It would help, but it isn’t the whole picture.

To begin with, I believe that there just aren’t as many women aching to cover subjects like the economy and politics — and you have to want it bad to get a gig in today’s journalistic climate. I think women still stay away from certain subjects because of the macho, boys club atmosphere that surrounds them; I believe women — present company included — are generally more inclined to write cultural criticism and cover the arts.

A perhaps deeper issue is that we still live in a world where news itself is gendered, where matters like making and raising human beings, gender identity, sexuality, and childhood and adolescence are considered something for the ladies, while subjects like war and politics, which are more likely to be covered by male writers and reporters, hold the monopoly on general interest stories. But I also think both editors and reporters often lack imagination when it comes to the ties between culture and gender and politics and the economy, and that perhaps we would all benefit from a more holistic view of how the world works.

Lastly, I know these publications that I singled out for quotes are hardly the only publications at which women are poorly represented. I chose them not because they are the worst in terms of byline equity, but rather because they are places that I hold in highest esteem. As I said before, these magazines are the sources of some of the sharpest ideas and most erudite and enlightened thinkers around, which is why I think it matters so such that they have more female bylines on their pages:

David Remnick, from The New Yorker gets right to the point:

I read your piece, I read the piece in Slate by Meghan O’Rourke, who writes for us and was an editor here — and you are right. It’s certainly been a concern for a long time among the editors here, but we’ve got to do better — it’s as simple and as stark as that.

The rest of the responses are good too, Jonathan Chait from The New Republic, especially. Take a looksy.

Sullivan sticks it to Obama…

Amen brother:

They have to lead, because this president is too weak, too cautious, too beholden to politics over policy to lead. In this budget, in his refusal to do anything concrete to tackle the looming entitlement debt, in his failure to address the generational injustice, in his blithe indifference to the increasing danger of default, he has betrayed those of us who took him to be a serious president prepared to put the good of the country before his short term political interests. Like his State of the Union, this budget is good short term politics but such a massive pile of fiscal bullshit it makes it perfectly clear that Obama is kicking this vital issue down the road.

To all those under 30 who worked so hard to get this man elected, know this: he just screwed you over. He thinks you’re fools. Either the US will go into default because of Obama’s cowardice, or you will be paying far far more for far far less because this president has no courage when it counts. He let you down. On the critical issue of America’s fiscal crisis, he represents no hope and no change. Just the same old Washington politics he once promised to end.

More on women and magazines…

At Bookslut, which is often a delightful read. Alizah Salario issues 23 thoughts about women and criticism and each one is awesome.

15. I contacted Susan Orlean, who became a staff writer at The New Yorker in 1987. When I read her book The Orchid Thief some years ago, I remember thinking it was the type of writing I wanted to do: explorations of something seemingly random and obscure that blossomed into larger truths when you’d least expect it. Since starting at the magazine, Orlean has worked with about seven editors, five of whom are women. Orlean is not a critic and cannot speak for all women at the magazine, but she experiences The New Yorker as a meritocracy and hasn’t encountered discrimination in her tenure there. The reasons why fewer women get published than men — at least in the realm of long-form journalism at the New Yorker – has more to do with harsh social realities than outright sexism, she suggested. “I happen to think writing long-form nonfiction is a tough undertaking, ideally suited to a single person with a good set of suitcases and few domestic demands,” she said in an e-mail. “That fact often starts to screen out people — usually women — who have obligations to home and hearth, especially children. That’s where I see the disparity arising; not from the magazine or any institutional attitude at all, but from an uncomfortable fact about life in general, and how much responsibility falls on women.”

16. So am I returning my New Yorkers? I’m still not sure. I like being at ground zero of culture and then reading commentary that trickles down from there. I like challenging my dwindling attention span to handle dense reading marathons when I’ve grown so accustomed to online click-happy sprints. Also, in my attempt to achieve something of literary merit, I often feel like one of those Arkansan blackbirds that supposedly died from blunt force trauma. Reading magazines like The New Yorker somehow makes me believe I’m barreling toward something other than cold cement.

I love me some Andrew Sullivan…

Especially when he’s so damn dramatic, yet eloquent:

“I’m reminded of the moral courage of my partner, who encourages me everyday to continue to put on that uniform; who believes that some things are worthy of our energies; who quietly plods along and prepares for my deployment as I do the same. I know as a soldier, it is the people we leave behind who bear the real brunt of deployment, who hold it all together, who send the care packages and pray for our returns. He’ll have to do it on his own though. There are no support groups for the gay partners left back home.

In the meantime, gay soldiers who are still serving in silence will continue to put on our rucksacks and do what our country asks of us –- and wait,” – an American soldier, with a knife in his back.

Remove it.

Knee-jerk.

Whereas I believe that the real – and undeclared – ideology of American journalism is savviness, and this is what has made the press so vulnerable to the likes of Karl Rove… Deep down, that’s what reporters want to believe in and actually do believe in – their own savviness and the savviness of certain others (including operators like Rove). In politics, they believe it is better to be savvy than it is to be honest or correct on the facts… Savviness, the quality of being shrewd, practical, well-informed, perceptive, ironic, ‘with-it’, and unsentimental in all things political – is in a sense, their professional religion. They make a cult of it. And it was this cult that Rove understood and exploited for political gain.                           – Jay Rosen

Cynicism is toxic. I know this because I’ve been poisoning myself for the last several years, in a way that David Foster Wallace seems to understand spookily well. So what I’ve done this afternoon is put on some very sincere neo-folk (Joanna Newsom, Sondre Lerche, and the Tallest Man on Earth make up the soundtrack to this post), irony-free music. I’m in that squishy disclosure phase that comes annually, where I feel the need to parse out what “my problem” is in front of the whole internet.  See prior examples here and here.

What brought this on, out of the blue? Elizabeth Edwards died yesterday and here’s why that makes me extra sad: I am so cynical that I thought she didn’t even have cancer. I thought it was a PR stunt, a political strategy, a ploy for sympathy, a battle plan, etc etc.

Does this make me a bad person? Maybe. I imagine DFW, a writer I greatly admire, would be disappointed (ignoring the fact that if DFW were still alive, he would have more important things to be disappointed in, but I digress). He heartily and eloquently fought against cynicism in a lot of his essays and in his fiction. He wrote a brilliant article while on the campaign trail with McCain in 2000:

But if you, like poor old Rolling Stone, have come to a point on the  Trail where you’ve started fearing your own cynicism almost as much as you fear your own credulity and the salesmen who feed on it, you may find your thoughts returning again and again, to a certain dark and box-sized cell in a certain Hilton half a world and three careers away, to the torture and fear and offer of release and a certain Young Voter named McCain’s refusal to violate a code. There were no tech’s cameras in that box, no aides or consultants, no paradoxes or grey areas, nothing to sell. There was just one guy and whatever in his character sustained him.

But DFW didn’t have to watch McCain do this:

There has been a turn away from cynicism and a fairly widespread critique of the “savviness”-obsessed press of late, mostly coming from Jon Stewart and the Rally to Restore Sanity crowd, which I can appreciate, but it really seemed lackluster and well, dare I say, insincere. I haven’t been blogging much and linking the usual examples of craziness/sanity lately because I’ve been so disheartened and cynical about every news story I come across, I can’t really see the point in it. I’m not throwing in the towel (there’s still TNC, Sullivan and Maddow, after all), but I’m not sure how to proceed from here. I’m working on a statement of interest for  a master’s application, in journalism, and it’s no wonder I’ve been dwelling on this stuff.

Elizabeth Edwards really did have cancer, and she died of it. Now, maybe she was a saint, as some in the press are making her out to be, Hillary Clinton – but even better and even smarter -  or maybe she was an abusive, controlling harpie as the authors of Game Change would have you believe. I don’t know, I’ve never met the women. I saw her on Oprah once. I can’t say.

But where should I go from here?

Heartening vs. Disheartening…

Heartening:

I went to the gym 6 out of the last 9 days.

Double-heartening:

Defense Secretary Robert Gates knows that war in Iran is futile. Thanks, Wikileaks:

Secretary of Defense Bob Gates, in a meeting with his French counterpart in February of this year, said that “he believed a conventional strike by any nation would only delay Iranian plans by one to three years, while unifying the Iranian people to be forever embittered against the attacker.”

Triple-heartening:

I came across this last night on National Geographic. Fantastic documentary. Even more fantastic? Captain Kearney, the Captain of this battalion. He is smart, compassionate, tough as nails and tries hard to understand and work with the Afghan people. It’s heartening to know that there are people like him in the military. Sometimes it’s hard not to picture it as a bunch of Private Pyles led by a bunch of bloodthirsty Dick Cheneys-in-waiting.

Disheartening:

The usual. The fact that this idiot princess thinks she can pick and choose WHO she speaks to. And the really disheartening? She’s getting away with it.

“I studied journalism, who, what, where, when, and why of reporting. I will speak to reporters who still understand that cornerstone of our democracy, that expectation that the public has for truth to be reported. And then we get to decide our own opinion based on the facts reported to us.”—To Sean Hannity, in a Fox News interview, Nov. 22, 2010.

Alex Pareene is dropping Truth Bombs all over Salon.com

in the form of his Hack 30 list, the 30 worst political pundits…. there are some doozies, such as:

Peggy Noonan might be the single funniest Op-Ed writer currently working, and for that I do, honestly, respect her. Her red wine-and-laudanum-inspired tales of wandering the Upper East Side in search of some clue to the Contemporary American Mood, her ability to wring a column out of the phenomenon of seeing a Mexican, her sentence fragments and Golden Books prose — all of this makes for a reliably entertaining Friday read. It’s certainly much more fun than a Krauthammer column.

The dotty old Morning-in-America charm is what made her Reagan’s finest speechwriter, and it also helps explain why no one ever calls her on her dog whistles.

Her recurring theme is a return to the innocence and purity of the past. Specifically the “Mad Men” era, or just before it. She allows herself Camelot-worship (as Reagan did), but it’s Eisenhower she pines for. Never mentioned, of course, is the fact that those days were a time of simple joy only for the people lucky enough to be considered fully American by the law and in the culture. She longs for the day when black people, gays and even Beatniks could be safely ignored — the time before they started causing trouble.

And most of her columns follow a similar pattern: Rambling anecdote (probably involving Reagan), misty-eyed reminisce of a Catholic girlhood in a more pleasant America, paean to Grown-up Seriousness in our politicians, pro forma endorsement of some randomly selected item from the Republican Party platform. Things were better before, and that is why we need tort reform, or English as our official language, or tax cuts. Amusing as she is, she’s also predictable.

TNC: the god of self-awarenesss…

As usual, Ta-nehisi takes on tea party spokesman Mark Williams’ galling, disgustingly racist letter better than anyone else:

Williams has since taken the original down and posted a half-hearted justification. Mark Williams is the same man who has denounced Barack Obama as “Indonesian Muslim” and a “welfare thug.” If Mark Williams is not a racist, then there are no racists in American society–a position which many, some liberals among them, no doubt find plausible.

It’s been asked in comments, a few times, what good has come of the NAACP’s resolution. I would not endeavor to speak for anyone but myself when I say that I owe the NAACP a debt of gratitude. I have, in my writing, a tendency to become theoretically cute, and overly enamored with my own fair-mindedness. Such vanity has lately been manifested in the form of phrases like “it’s worth saying”  and “it strikes me that…” or “respectfully…”

When engaging your adversaries, that approach has its place. But it’s worth saying that there are other approaches and other places. Among them–respectfully administering the occasional reminder as to the precise nature of the motherfuckers you are dealing with. It strikes me that this is a most appropriate role for the nation’s oldest civil rights organization.

Finally…

Okay, I’ve always been wondering why the Republicans are so able to capture the narratives and imaginations of their base in any given election period, while the Democrats just stand there wringing their hands. It’s annoying. There are several reasons for this, not least of which is that less-educated Americans want to buy a simple narrative, not one that has any kind of nuance.

So I always figured that the Dems had a major PR problem. But this ad, playing right now in Connecticut, IS AWESOME. I mean, the ads probably write themselves when your opponent is Linda McMahon, but still.

Watch it.

Still loving Alex Pareene…

Today at Salon:

Because CNN is now basically E! except without E!’s coherent ideology and shared sense of purpose, they have hired disgraced former New York Governor Eliot Spitzer to cohost a television show on their 24-hour news network. He will lead a “nightly roundtable” with Kathleen Parker, a terribly average political columnist who became suddenly successful when she announced that, despite being a female Republican, she disliked Sarah Palin. (She was smart enough to announce this in a column, instead of accidentally into an open mic like Peggy Noonan, who is still a much better columnist that Parker despite being a lithium-and-white wine-addicted Upper East Side bag lady.)

I love how casually he lobs the grenades.

Organization Kids…

David Brooks has a great column today that nails why I and so many others don’t like Elena Kagan:

About a decade ago, one began to notice a profusion of Organization Kids at elite college campuses. These were bright students who had been formed by the meritocratic system placed in front of them. They had great grades, perfect teacher recommendations, broad extracurricular interests, admirable self-confidence and winning personalities.

If they had any flaw, it was that they often had a professional and strategic attitude toward life. They were not intellectual risk-takers. They regarded professors as bosses to be pleased rather than authorities to be challenged. As one admissions director told me at the time, they were prudential rather than poetic.

If you listen to people talk about Elena Kagan, it is striking how closely their descriptions hew to this personality type.

And he sums it up:

What we have is a person whose career has dovetailed with the incentives presented by the confirmation system, a system that punishes creativity and rewards caginess. Arguments are already being made for and against her nomination, but most of this is speculation because she has been too careful to let her actual positions leak out.

There’s about to be a backlash against the Ivy League lock on the court. I have to confess my first impression of Kagan is a lot like my first impression of many Organization Kids. She seems to be smart, impressive and honest — and in her willingness to suppress so much of her mind for the sake of her career, kind of disturbing.

Alex Pareene

I like the new guy at Salon:

A U.S. citizen was arrested in New York for committing a crime in New York. Long-established Supreme Court precedent — a.k.a. the law the land — establishes that any statements he makes will be inadmissible as evidence in a trial against him for committing this crime unless he is informed of his Fifth and Sixth Amendment rights to non-self-incrimination, an attorney, and due process.

According to a United States Senator and recent major party presidential candidate, if the established law of the land was actually followed by the law enforcement agency that made this arrest, our national security is now at risk.

Yes, John McCain says a “serious mistake” was made if the Time Square bombing suspect was informed of his Miranda rights. Which, again, the nation’s highest court says the FBI is required by the Constitution to give to everyone they arrest. Why does John McCain hate the Constitution so very much?

We don’t know if the FBI Mirandized Faisal Shahzad. But don’t worry, that was also among the first questions asked by our Washington press corps! Because if a political party is going to demagogue against our entire established legal system, the media will make sure to help.