POTUS in Pacific Heights

 

President Obama made two stops in my town tonight to fundraise for Barbara Boxer’s reelection campaign. Here’s an excerpt of the President’s remarks, as shown on San Francisco’s local KTVU Ten O’Clock News:

Here you got folks driving a car in a ditch, and then we’re out there in the mud pulling the car out of the ditch.  And they’re sittin’ there, comfortable, drinkin’ on a slurpee or somethin’, sayin’, “Uh…you’re not pulling the car out of the ditch fast enough!”  Then we finally get the car out of the ditch, and they want the keys back! I say, “You can’t have the keys! You don’t know how to drive!”

More re: Mark Steyn, Call Your Office

 

What Mark proclaimed to the world in his 2006 book, America Alone–namely that Europe is suffering demographic collapse and civilizational exhaustion–the New York Times, I noted the other day, has finally gotten around to confirming. To which James Poulos in effect replied, aw, cheer up:

[S]urely some among Europe’s rising generations will revolt against the notion that exhaustion and failure are their only birthright….We’d better prepare ourselves now, I wager, for a few inspiring surprises in Europe.

Sebastian Junger, Serious Man

 

Just finished taping an episode of Uncommon Knowledge with Sebastian Junger on his new book, War. Based on five extended trips to the American outposts in the Korengal Valley, the location that saw more combat than any other in the Afghan theater, War is beautifully written and full of acute, vivid portraiture–incomparably the best extended reporting on actual combat in Afghanistan that I’ve encountered.

Before we sat down, though, I’d developed the suspicion that Junger might simply want to discuss the experience of war, limiting himself to description and narrative while avoiding the larger questions. In the book itself, after all, he takes pains to demonstrate how irrelevant all the big think seems to the young men doing the fighting.

Behind enemy lines

 

Greetings from Park Slope, Brooklyn:

The good news is that there’s a thriving two-party system in Park Slope. The bad news is that it’s Democrats vs. Greens (seriously, the Greens outpoll the GOP in local elections). But it’s a beautiful neighborhood, so I put up with the ACLU petition drives, the militant locavores, and the eye-rolls I get when I say “why yes, I would like a plastic bag.”

In Defense Of Los Angeles

 

An easy city to hate, perhaps. But there’s something about L.A. that keeps me coming back. And back. At The Atlantic, Conor Friedersdorf rises to the defense against Bernard Henri Levy’s very old world attack on the City of Angels. A representative gripe:

[…] what must be true for a city to be legible?

Norks making trouble

 

Interesting, and troubling, that something seems to be up in North Korea. First they torpedo a patrol boat — now confirmed by South Korean MOD — now talk of Nork military alerts. Seoul remains under the gun of a lot of NKorean artillery. One itchy trigger… This could be POTUS’ next foreign policy headache. As usual the PRC is being less than helpful. After all, a crisis on the Korean pennisula might interfere with iPod production…

Taking The War Out Of The Drug War

 

Remember this?

Things being as they are, and people as they are, there is no way to prevent somebody, somewhere, from concluding that “NATIONAL REVIEW favors drugs.” We don’t; we deplore their use; we urge the stiffest feasible sentences against anyone convicted of selling a drug to a minor. But that said, it is our judgment that the war on drugs has failed, that it is diverting intelligent energy away from how to deal with the problem of addiction, that it is wasting our resources, and that it is encouraging civil, judicial, and penal procedures associated with police states. We all agree on movement toward legalization, even though we may differ on just how far.

Musical Yes & No

 

Yes: the new New Pornographers single “Crash Years.” Dreary band name, but there’s a sweet and subtle hook in the chorus, an Americana twist on the Wilco-ish alt-pop of Belgian band dEUS at its best (1999’s The Ideal Crash). Quite a step away from the jittery, yippy clip of earlier songs like “Twin Cinema,” but this soft parade ain’t no soft rock.

No: the Great New Sound of ’10, Treats by Sleigh Bells. Cute voice? Check. Advanced minimalist guitar heroics? Check. Trendiest hip hop beats, seemingly effortlessly appropriated and repackaged for ultra-indie eardrums? Check. So what’s the problem? There’s everything to like, but nothing to love. Like certain pieces of conceptual art, one glance is all it takes to ‘get it’. After that, there’s nothing to get.

Stalked By Census Maniac

 

OMG as they say in LA. I am being HOUNDED by a census taker! I mailed in my forms late, and so they decided someone had to come to my door and count me. Well, it wasn’t a convenient time since I was on the phone with some VITAL Terrell Owens bizniz, so I made an appt for Saturday at 1pm. They showed up at 6pm and I thought – you know what? (curse words here YOU). I mailed in my forms. I did my duty albeit late. Now they have Dog The Census Hunter on my case! He comes 3 and 4 times a day. I refuse to answer my door and answer his stupid questions. Sunday, I locked my gate and he climbed over it!!! And just now he tried to TRICK me! He rang the doorbell, the dogs barked. Oh…. it seems he left. But no! He was still there! He rang again and then KICKED MY DOOR! BOOM! Hahahaha. I am probably going to be arrested before this whole thing is over. But I have enjoyed writing here, I love you all. And I will be posting from the Gray Bar Hotel next!

California politics

 

Hi All, let’s get down to business. We had Carly Fiorina over to our house the other day. We spoke for over an hour. She seems like a reasonable choice for Ca. Senator. We have to get rid of Barbara Boxer. Carly took the lead in the polls recently, what do you think?

BP and Obama

 

Okay. Let’s discuss the devastation of an eco-system, an economy and a damn pretty place. Why is Obama hanging all his hopes on BP and not turning to every oil company who has had experience in capping and containing oil spills? There’s certainly enough of them. This could turn from catastrophe to triumph for him. Even the liberal blogs are asking these questions. He’s acting more like an “oil man” than that “oil man” who last resided in the White House. Someone illuminate me.

Simple Pleasures

 

I’ve spent the entire morning congratulating myself on not having watched Lost. Does that make me shallow? (If not, how can I become shallow?) I stopped watching after the first six episodes when it became clear to me (as a certified professional maker-up of things) that the conclusion could only be 1) it was all a dream or 2) everyone was dead. The only thing that would have redeemed it is if the entire cast had awakened in bed with Bob Newhart.

Lost Without A Trace — Of Interest

 

I’ve managed to watch exactly zero minutes and zero seconds of LOST, the supposedly gripping series which has, apparently, now come to an end. Lest I seem anti-TV, let me emphasize that I’ve made time in my life for The X-Files, Deadwood, Project Runway, and many other shows great and small. I’m susceptible to hype. I’m inclined to trust my friends’ judgments. But I never felt even a shiver of longing to dip into Lost. And with reactions like this coming in from trusted sources, I’m feeling certain of my final verdict on the end of Lost: no big loss.

Always an entertaining morning

 

By way of an introduction to the rest of Ricochet’s intrepid contributors, I’d like to share my delight with the LA Times. It always lightens my day. It took but three short minutes to get a couple of laughs on this dreary Monday morn.

I hooted with when I saw a below-the-fold 10 paragraph story that “Survivor” producer and chief suspect in his wife’s murder, Bruce Beresford-Redman, has just waltzed right back into his comfy LA lifestyle. No problems at the border for him….even after they took his passport. See, we don’t stop anyone illegally leaving Mexico, even those polluting our society with reality TV. And how about that pathetically incompetetent Mexican justice system? All this after the Times lauded Mexican President Felipe Calderon for lambasting the U.S. to the standing ovation of congressional Dems.

Email etiquette: D+

 

Okay, so I did that thing where I forwarded an email and the chain went with it. I had written something dopey — and a little snotty — early in the chain. I feel pretty bad about it. Do I try to apologize? Ignore it and hope no one bothered to scroll down through boring emails to see the one incriminating one? No state secrets involved. Just might make my child’s teacher think I’m a little selfish. *Sigh* Not the best Monday morning.

Is The Internet Making Our Brains Shallow?

 

Yes, says Nick Carr, in a forthcoming book. Russell Arben Fox has deep thoughts:

we become habituated to viewing all information — literature, science, journalism, scholarship, whatever — as something to be “strip-mined [for] relevant content” (p. 164), and rather than thereby supposedly refining our ability to recognize (in classic marketplace of ideas fashion) good information from bad, in fact our capacity to make learned judgments is physically undermined.

Is Rand Paul Changing The Conversation?

 

Judging by the careful and qualified reactions of the left-friendly Julian Sanchez and Dave Weigel, the answer might just be yes. It’s a truism nowadays that everything wrong with American culture is driving us deeper and deeper into narrow, self-selecting, self-congratulatory cubbyholes. There’s no doubt that the distinctions among our political alternatives are, like our tongues, getting sharper and sharper. But at the same time, the old battle lines are shifting as circumstances change and fertile new ideas spread and interact. Our national arguments are becoming less productive in some ways and more productive in others. And that’s not a wash; the phenomenon points toward some of the productive political ground of the next several years — if not beyond.

Mark Steyn, Call Your Office

 

“This book,” Mark Steyn writes in America Alone, “is about…the larger forces…that have left Europe…enfeebled….The key factors are: 1. Demographic decline; 2. The unsustainability of the advanced Western social-democratic state; 3. Civilizational exhaustion.” Today, four years after the publication of America Alone, the New York Times confirms the enfeeblement of Europe in every particular. Excerpts:

In Athens, Aris Iordanidis, 25, an economics graduate working in a bookstore, resents paying high taxes to finance Greece’s bloated state sector and its employees. “They sit there for years drinking coffee and chatting on the telephone and then retire at 50 with nice fat pensions,” he said. “As for us, the way things are going we’ll have to work until we’re 70….”

Schooling The Nanny State On Cool Condoms

 

We’re all familiar with the decline in quality, relative to market choices, associated with government-supplied goods and services. But who could have predicted this?

High school students and college-age adults have been complaining to District officials that the free condoms the city has been offering are not of good enough quality and are too small and that getting them from school nurses is “just like asking grandma or auntie.”