French Entrepreneurs


Today NR’s Helen Rittelmeyer points me suitably enough to the LA Times. Paris’s fare dodgers, Column One explains, face an existential problem: get caught, and you must pay — to the tune of $60. The answer?

scofflaw insurance funds, seasoned with a dollop of revolutionary fervor. For about $8.50 a month, those who join one of these raffish-sounding mutuelles des fraudeurs can rest easy knowing that, if they get busted for refusing to be so bourgeois as to pay to use public transit, the fund will cough up the money for the fine. It provides a little peace of mind, however ethically dubious, in a time of economic uncertainty.

Here’s how to tell what’s really happening in countries where the press is controlled


There was a lot of talk, last year, about Twitter as a tool of democratization, particularly during the Iranian elections. The hope was obviously exaggerated. I haven’t seen much discussion of the way social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter are being used to promote Islamism, terrorism, anti-Semitism and anti-Americanism in this region.

Facebook has no handle on this situation. I doubt anyone at their corporate headquarters reads the languages in which this propaganda is spread. I suspect, although obviously I can’t prove it, that Iranian intelligence, Hamas and Hezbollah are behind a lot of this. They’re not stupid. They can listen to TED talks and read Seth Godin like the rest of us. They’ve figured out how to use social media; they’re using it.

A Lot of Money for a Piece of Paper


Ricochet member Trace Urdan shares this story:

Last Friday I picked up my son from baseball camp and we went to the Dept. of Health to get a copy of his birth certificate to prove his age for the All-Star team. After I filled out the form and gave the woman my debit card, my son said, “Why do we have to pay money to get a copy of my birth certificate?” I said, “Well, it costs money I guess to pay for the people that work here and to store the documents.”He responded, “Isn’t that what taxes are for?”Me: “I guess so, but it’s not a lot of money. It’s only $14.”My Son: “It seems like a lot of money for a piece of paper Daddy.”

Great Moments in Government Efficiency


Little Alyssa Thomas, age 6, has a problem. The Westlake, Ohio youngster is on the federal government’s no fly list. The Thomas family was notified of their daughter’s presence on the list when the family attempted to board a flight from Cleveland to Minneapolis. They were allowed to fly, but were advised to contact Homeland Security to rectify the situation.

The government’s response? Alyssa has received a letter from the feds telling her that her name remains on the list for reasons they will not disclose. Of course, if you’re a terrorist who intends to ignite your boxers, no problem? Would you like some nuts with your bomb?

Driving Me Violent (DMV)


I never mind too much when I see police officers in their patrol cars, drinking cups of coffee and laughing with their partners. I figure they’ve earned a break. If you might get shot at later in the day, simply as a part of doing your job, go ahead and help yourself to a jelly donut, too, I say.

If, on the other hand, you push papers, remove staples, and administer vision tests all day long in an air-conditioned office, then, I say, get off your a** and call my number already so that I can get back to my life.

Don’t Know Much About Geography


Milwaukee County Board Supervisor Peggy West, a Democrat, says she might understand if a state like Texas, which shares a border with Mexico, wanted to pass an immigration reform law. Arizona, on the other hand?

Journalists, lies and videotape: You be the judge


Andrew Sullivan, about whom we can all have a debate some other time, said something on Friday with which I completely agree:

Like David, I am privileged in many ways to be able to meet and talk to a lot of powerful figures. David and I have been at many functions of this sort together, but I have to say I disagree. These interactions are the least interesting part of my job, and often the most misleading. Every now and then, you discover a nugget that adds something. But in general, you get the schtick and spin, larded with a few anecdotes to make you feel flattered to be included in the salons of power. And what still amazes me is how deferent most of even the A-list journos are (with a few glorious exceptions). In fact, the definition of an A-list journalist in Washington is the person who is chummiest and closest to the people they cover. They have risen to the top in part because they know what questions the powerful really don’t want to answer – and decide not to ask them.

From Citizens United to Lobbyists United


Mark Hemingway with the daily bummer:

The DISCLOSE Act is the Democrats big legislative “fix” to pushback against the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision that eliminated a number of campaign finance restrictions on first amendment grounds. It just passed the House this afternoon — even with 36 Democrats voting against it. […] “The language in question would exempt from disclosure requirements transfers of cash from dues-funded groups to their affiliates to pay for certain election ads.”

NYTimes and the News: When They Bury it on Page 4,765, You Know it’s Interesting


Surprise! Turns out the Obama administration isn’t all that eager to close Guantanamo. From the New York Times:

“There is a lot of inertia” against closing the prison, “and the administration is not putting a lot of energy behind their position that I can see,” said Senator Carl Levin, the Michigan Democrat who is chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee and supports the Illinois plan. He added that “the odds are that it will still be open” by the next presidential inauguration.

The McChrystal Mystery


Now they tell us. “Gen. McChrystal allies, Rolling Stone, disagree over article’s ground rules” — that’s the surprise headline in The Washington Post this morning. Talk about about a day late and a dollar short. Where was this response when it could have made a difference?

It’s hard to believe that Stanley McChrystal’s career vaporized so quickly–accounts of that Rolling Stone article first started dribbling out on Monday, June 21. Within two days, as we know, McChrystal had resigned; during that time, his aides never seemed to do anything but apologize to the multitude of people he offended, all the while not challenging the nasty quotes that so aggrieved so many.

Who Needs Political Liberty When You’ve Got a Michael Graves Casino?


Ah, Singapore — a place that asks, if we supply you with a certain amount of cultural freedom, and a large amount of economic freedom, will you ever gaze out of your penthouse or your Lexus or your Michael Graves casino and ask “What’s it all about?”

And if you do, will you ever answer “The citizenship of a free republic?” After all, look at the way they behave in the West — the West, where supposedly (ha!) political freedom was the precondition for wealth and license. Silly, silly Westerners…

Al Gore, SFW…but just barely…..


Remember last winter, when the Tiger Woods scandal broke? And remember when talk shows all over the dial were showing that hilarious Chinese animation depicting the, ahem, alleged events? If you don’t, refresh your memory here.

Well, they’re at it again. This time, depicting the, ahem, alleged events in the recent Al Gore massage-in-Portland story.

The Internet Is a Dominatrix


Because Dave Weigel is a friend of mine, and because apparently every other friend of mine on planet Earth has weighed in on the matter while I spent several hours in an airplane drinking a goopy bloody mary, I am obligated to say something about Dave’s resignation from the Washington Post in the wake of what I am probably obligated to call JournoGate. This is very inside baseball stuff, I know, but it raises a very broadly relevant point: the more you live by the internet, the more you are likely to be whipped and debased by the internet. Even for ace reporter-bloggers, the internet is a cruel mistress. You cannot control it. You can never be sure. You cannot beg, plead, or threaten the internet if something you don’t want out is about to get out. Zees ees your fate, you vurm: a brutal new sentence handed down to the new new journalism.

It also reminds me of my new new favorite quote from my old favorite sociologist: “In every culture, the best are those who know they have dreamt what the worst do.” A version of this problem crops up again and again for me as I forge ahead with a life spent in no small part trying to distill the character of our strange time and critique it honestly, fully, and accurately. In an atmosphere like ours, restraint all too often looks like cowardice at best and an empty, snobbish pose at worst; I throw around the #generationperv hashtag on Twitter because nowadays it is expected that a person on the make be comfortable with crassness and sleaziness, even celebrate, wallow, revel in it. If you are not an enthusiastic foulmouth in public, you are boring. Rude is rewarded. (Exhibit A: Jon Stewart.) For the record, what Dave emailed about Matt Drudge pales in comparison to what Ezra Klein tweeted about Tim Russert. The cruelest aspect of the internet is its arbitrariness. Some are cut down, some grow big flowers. Who knows why.