Saturday Catchup 2010-08-21

"It's about the economy, stupid": "Pundits and politicians are working themselves into hysteria over a mosque near Ground Zero. But this election won't be about mosques in Manhattan. It won't even be about the deficit, really. It will be about manufacturing on Main Street, and which party can talk effectively about the progressive solutions Americans desire. Not surprisingly, polls from Gallup to the Wall Street Journal show Americans are worried most about the economy and jobs. And a just-released poll -- from progressive outfits Campaign for America's Future and Democracy Corps with sponsorship from Political Action and two labor unions -- gives a more detailed look at what voters are looking for. Respondents, in particular the 'rising American electorate' -- youth, single women and minorities that constitute a majority of voters and are President Obama's most supportive base -- support bold steps for renewing the economy." -- It's about Main Street, not the mosque by Katrina vanden Heuvel (Washington Post 2010-08-13).

Another overnight success: "The story in American history I most like to tell is the one about how women got the right to vote 90 years ago this month. It has everything. Adventure! Suspense! Treachery! Drunken legislators! But, first, there was a 70-year slog. Which is really the important part." -- My Favorite August by Gail Collins (New York Times 2010-08-13).

CSI Wall Street: "The government's $182 billion bailout of insurance giant AIG should be seen as the Rosetta Stone for understanding the financial crisis and its costly aftermath. The story of American International Group explains the larger catastrophe not because this was the biggest corporate bailout in history but because AIG's collapse and subsequent rescue involved nearly all the critical elements, including delusion and deception. These financial dealings are monstrously complicated, but this account focuses on something mere mortals can understand-moral confusion in high places, and the failure of governing institutions to fulfill their obligations to the public." -- The AIG Bailout Scandal by William Greider (The Nation 2010-08-06).

Game Day: "On Sunday in DC, I attended the 17th ballpark protest of the Arizona Diamondbacks during the 2011 baseball season. Like the other actions - in cities from Houston to San Francisco to Milwaukee - people chanted a loud and clear message to Major League Baseball commissioner Bud Selig: move the 2011 All-Star Game out of Arizona and make the state pay a price for enacting legislation that sacrifices immigrant families at the altar of election year politics. But this demonstration was also deeply different from the 16 others. It was a day of rain, risk-takers, racists, and rancor. And it couldn't have been more terrific." -- 'Today We Did Some Good': The Diamondbacks Demonstration in DC by Dave Zirin (TheNation/TheNotion 2010-08-16).

Go away: "Frank and Jamie McCourt are embodiments of the boom-and-bust ethos of the past decade, a miraculous period when a pair of relative unknowns could borrow and bluster their way into a lifestyle that includes mansions, private planes, and one of the premier trophy properties in the history of sports. Now, as it all threatens to unravel along with their 40-year relationship, the McCourts have embarked on one last luxury binge, hiring some of the priciest lawyers in the business, including, on Jamie's team, David Boies, who just successfully fought to have California's same-sex marriage ban overturned, and Bert Fields, who has represented the Beatles and Tom Cruise, among others. In Frank's corner is Stephen Susman, a Houston-based litigator described by the American Bar Association Journal as "a voracious animal" who "scares people on his own side." As allegations have flown back and forth like spitballs, efforts to settle the case have been unsuccessful, and Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Scott Gordon has raised the possibility that if the couple can't reach an agreement, the Dodgers might have to be sold for no other reason than to pay their legal bills." -- Extreme Moneyball by Richard Siklos (Business Week 2010-08-12).

Although this is obviously meant to avenge Hayek, it's not a bad representation of both sides of the argument. Just so there's no misunderstanding, though, here's Paul Krugman's explanation of why Hayek and his ilk are utterly full of crap.

Wipeout: When people's homes are being destroyed and other people's children are taken away from them for years at a time, a few pieces of foam-core that float in the water hardly seem like the most pressing cause to fight for. But that's exactly where Surfing for Peace, a rag-tag group of Israeli beach boys, international activists and a founding father of surfing, has decided to draw a line in the sand. -- The Siege vs. the Surfboards by David Sheen (Haaretz 2010-08-12).

The movies in your mind: "'North of the Border' is at once an engaging, provocative, revealing and amusing documentary and a searing indictment of North American anti-war and social justice activists, journalists and film-makers for their failure to break with President Obama. Written and directed by the first-time documentary film-maker Gilbert Hurricane, the film uses Oliver Stone’s recent documentary 'South of the Border' as its inspiration and tactical departure point, beginning with a brief recap of the advances made by socialist leaders in South America and asking 'What about North of the border?'" -- A review of the Gilbert Hurricane documentary “North of the Border” by Gary Gordon (Fire Dog Lake 2010-07-29).

Speaking of movies: "'Eat, Pray, Love,' the film adaptation of Elizabeth Gilbert’s best-selling memoir, received mediocre reviews when it was released last week. But the film’s premise, the journey of self-discovery for one modern, working white woman, it’s sure to inspire droves of other women to book similar trips to faraway destinations — if they can afford it. And it’s all in the name of self-discovery. Sandip Roy writes at New America Media that for white women, the more exotic the backdrop, the better the degree of introspection. 'It’s not Gilbert’s fault, but as someone who comes from India, I have an instinctive reflex reaction to books about white people discovering themselves in brown places. I want to gag, shoot and leave.'" -- Eat, Pray, Love and Leave? by Naima Ramos-Chapman (ColorLines 2010-08-16).

Always room for Dion:

The Return of Deja Vu: "Out of all the famous quotations, few better describe this eerily familiar time than those attributed to George Santayana and Yogi Berra. The former, a philosopher, warned that 'those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.' The latter, a baseball player, stumbled into prophecy by declaring, 'It's deja vu all over again.' Vietnam showed us the perils of occupation, then the Iraq war showed us the same thing — and yet now, we are somehow doing it all over again in Afghanistan. The Great Depression underscored the downsides of laissez-faire economics, the Great Recession highlighted the same danger — and yet the new financial 'reform' bill leaves that laissez-faire attitude largely intact. Ronald Reagan proved the failure of trickle-down tax cuts to spread prosperity before George W. Bush proved the same thing — and yet now, in a recession, Congress is considering more tax cuts all over again. In a Yogi Berra country, the jarring lessons of history are remembered as mere flickers of deja vu — if they are remembered at all. Most often, we forget completely, seeing in George Santayana's refrain not a dark warning, but a cheery celebration. Why have we become so dismissive of history's lessons and therefore so willing to repeat history's mistakes?" -- Insanity all over again by David Sirota (Creators Syndicate 2010-08-21).

Must-See TV: There once was a time when nobility, courage and unbending optimism were the norm not the exception: "Ask most people today what the Freedom Rides were, and they can't tell you. Or they misunderstand its significance, painting the Freedom Riders as lightweight pacifists who just lay down and allowed themselves to be beaten. That couldn't be further from the truth. Those who, like me, were alive during that time have since seen pictures of John Lewis being beaten up, but I'd forgotten that white Southerners had actually set a bus on fire. It was a remarkable moment. They were literally holding the door closed. The bus was a crematorium on wheels. Thankfully, the Freedom Riders managed to escape." -- Civil Rights' Most Misunderstood Moment: The Freedom Rides by Stanley Crouch (The Root 2010-08-17). To arrange a showing of Freedom Riders, contact Firelight Media (

A Day In The Life: "At the hour of dawn, in the same southwest-corner, second-floor bedroom of the White House where Abraham Lincoln once slept, the president awakens. On this spring morning, a Wednesday, Barack Obama is alone; his wife, Michelle, is on her way to Mexico City on her first solo foreign trip. He heads upstairs for 45 minutes of weights and cardio in his personal gym, then puts on a dark suit and navy-blue pin-striped tie. Obama may be surrounded by servants morning till night, but not for him the daily drill of Dwight D. Eisenhower, who was dressed by a valet, John Moaney, from inside out—underwear, socks, pants, shirt, tie, shoes, jacket—every morning. After breakfast and a quick read of the papers, the president sees his daughters, Sasha and Malia, off to school. Then he enters the private, wood-paneled family elevator—installed in the same shaft used by Theodore Roosevelt’s son Quentin to bring his pet pony upstairs—perhaps taking a moment to straighten his tie in the mirrored back wall of the cab. He descends two stories, alights on the ground floor, just outside the White House kitchen, passes down a short, vaulted corridor and through a greenhouse-like antechamber known as the Palm Room, and walks along the colonnade that borders the Rose Garden and leads to the Oval Office. His 450th day in office has begun." -- Washington, We Have a Problem by Todd Purdum (Vanity Fair 2010-08).

Hey, kids, rock 'n' roll wasn't always as bland as porridge. Back in the day...

Tourism: "Everywhere you go in Pyongyang, the skyline is dominated by a huge 105-story concrete pyramid, the Ryugyong Hotel, which looms over the city like the pyramid-shaped Ministry of Truth in Orwell's 1984. It was intended to be the world's tallest hotel, but it turned out to be structurally unsound, so it was never completed. It's been standing there, abandoned, since 1992. It doesn't appear on any official maps, and nobody ever talks about it, because it's such a horrendous embarrassment. The most memorable thing about Pyongyang, though, is the total darkness that descends at night. Because electricity is in short supply, there are hardly any lights at all -- a couple of bulbs here and there, and the headlights of passing buses. People are out and about, but all you can see are the dark shapes right beside you. Back at the hotel, you look out the window and there's just nothing. It's like the whole city was just swallowed up." -- What's It Like to Be a Tourist in North Korea? (Foreign policy 2010-08-16).

Get Into Reading is an initiative started nine years ago by Jane Davis, an English lecturer at Liverpool University with the purpose of introducing great literature to people who would never otherwise encounter it. That is still one of the principles of Get Into Reading, and the charity to which it gave birth, The Reader Organisation. Yet along the way, the goalposts shifted. Davis has effectively turned William Shakespeare and Charles Dickens, George Eliot and Emily Brontë, Alfred Tennyson and WB Yeats, into therapists. -- Well read: Literature is being used as part of revolutionary therapy to transform people's lives by Brian Viner (The Independent 2010-08-14).

Antoine Dodson's furious outburst on a news channel after a sex attack on his sister turned into a viral YouTube video and inspired a hit song. Now he is making the most of his fame. -- Antoine Dodson: from local news item to internet sensation by Paul Gallagher (The Observer 2010-08-15).

See also ‘Bed Intruder’ Rant Earns Family a New Home (New York Times 2010-08-19).

Ideas want to be free: Did Germany experience rapid industrial expansion in the 19th century due to an absence of copyright law? A German historian argues that the massive proliferation of books, and thus knowledge, laid the foundation for the country's industrial might. -- No Copyright Law: The Real Reason for Germany's Industrial Expansion? by Frank Thadeusz (Spiegel Online 2010-08-18). See also: The Costs of Ownership: Why Copyright Protection Will Hurt the Fashion Industry by Johanna Blakley (The Design Observer Group 2010-08-19).

Pray for Peas: Did Alcoholics Anonymous “dumb down” the Serenity Prayer? Much of the prayer’s worldwide popularity is due to AA. In the mid-twentieth century, AA adopted the prayer as a part of its culture of recovery, and it remains a mainstay today. AA’s version runs as follows: “God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; the courage to change the things that I can; and the wisdom to know the difference.” Reinhold Niebuhr’s family, however, prefers a different text: “God, give us grace to accept with serenity the things that cannot be changed, courage to change the things that should be changed, and the wisdom to distinguish the one from the other.” -- You can quote them by Fred R. Shapiro (Yale Alumni 2010-7/8).

Antiquities: Spectacular 2,000-year-old Hellenistic-style wall paintings have been revealed at the world heritage site of Petra in Jordan through the expertise of British conservation specialists from the Courtauld Institute in London. The paintings, in a cave complex, had been obscured by centuries of black soot, smoke and greasy substances, as well as graffiti. The British experts removed the black grime, uncovering paintings whose "exceptional" artistic quality and sheer beauty are said to be superior even to some of the better Roman paintings at Herculaneum that were inspired by Hellenistic art. -- Discovery of ancient cave paintings in Petra stuns art scholars by Dalya Alberge (The Observer 2010-08-22}.

Not The Onion: Those Whacky Republicans, Democrat division:

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