Better Them Than Us — David Brooks Lands In London Town

Poor Old Blighty. Once again a Yank (really Canadian born) “is over-hyped, overpaid and over here.” David Brooks is the darling of what passes for the British political smart set; his new book is so hot that both David Cameron and Ed Miliband are meeting him this week. Steve Hilton, Cameron’s top strategist, has invited him to hold a seminar at No 10 on Friday.

Other Brits across the political and social firmament are tripping over themselves to apply Brooksian thought to everything from clogged drains to dry skin. At last, America has revenge for the Arctic Monkeys.

Why the adulation? Like Gertrude Himmelfarb, wife of Irving Kristol and mother of Willie, Brooks’ book seeks to reinterpret the Enlightenment so as to turn it inside out as it were. Rather than a period of ascending rationality, both Himmelfarb and Brooks focus on certain British thinkers of the era who urged the supremacy of the irrational, emotive essence of mankind. Brooks approvingly quotes Hume “Reason is and ought to be the slave of the passions.”

“When we invaded Iraq we were blind to the social problems that would be involved. We didn’t realise they didn’t trust us.” Hold on – didn’t he write a New York Times column urging invasion? “I did. I was so blind about it. In that column I wondered what Michael Oakeshott [the British conservative political philosopher] would have said. He would have said: this society is very complicated and you should be circumspect in thinking about what you can achieve, and that invading to install democracy without trust is doomed. And then I wrote: ‘Having said that, I think we should invade.'”

Brooks apparently thinks the problem with Iraq was that America was insufficiently irrational with ‘street smarts’ and too rational. And his message to the UK is add some irrationality and street smarts to the government along with vague communal spirits. Don’t the Brits realize they can get all this penetrating insight for free weekly on PBS? In mercifully short 10 minute doses, too.

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Nuclear Crisis In Japan – Slo Mo Crisis Of Tangible Things

Perhaps it’s the linguistic barriers; parachuting anchors into Japan probably don’t even have Japanese tourist phrasebooks. But it’s amazing how absent Japanese people, officials or volunteers are from newscasts. A speech from the Japanese Prime Minister announcing the Fukushima reactors are at a crisis point didn’t merit coverage. By contrast, earlier ramblings of a tribal dictator fighting over empty sand? Wall to wall saturation.

Perhaps we’re overly critical of American news media (primarily broadcast). Yet our impression is of Americans talking primarily to Americans standing in debris fields without Japanese faces, voices or perspectives. American broadcasters in Egypt found translators and interviewed protestors, covered Mubarak addresses, etc. Yet the greatest natural disaster in modern times happens to be in a Japan without many Japanese on camera. So far.

There are vague references to homeless. And people without food, water, medicine, heat. Little coverage on what’s actually being done, what needs to be done. The difference with coverage in Haiti is stark. Perhaps because the Japanese social contract removes ‘good tv’ images of conflict, riots, or looting.

Instead, American networks latch onto more easily covered tangible things such as exploding nuclear reactors. Broadcast producers appear to book anyone with ‘nuclear’ in their job title, from disarmament types to nuclear power (pro or con) lobbyists. It’s a two-fer if the commentator is a physicist. Unsurprisingly the commentary about the Dai Ichi plants presents more chyron alarm than clarity – exchanges of ignorance.

A corollary to the American fixation on tangible Japanese buildings is obsession on what it means for us. Should California prepare for nuclear fallout? Could California plants at Diablo Canyon survive a 9.0 earthquake and tsunami? How will Californians buy a Prius going forward? What happens to Americans’ 401ks? And perhaps most salient to Americans, how will the crisis affect their plans to buy an iPad 2?

We don’t dismiss a nuclear crisis verging close to a true meltdown. That desperate situation, however, will unfold over considerable time. Should matters continue to deteriorate the damage and clean up will be a challenge for years. Meanwhile tsunami survivors, homeless, without shelter, food, water or medicine either get needed help or succumb. Which prompts the question, ‘If catastrophe victims get help and American tv doesn’t cover them, were they ever in danger?’

Because America Deserves President Trump

Not just because everything would be ‘classy, world class, the best.’ We expect that from our presidents. And get over the hair. Nixon? Carter? Reagan?

America deserves Trump because they are both two of a kind: highly leveraged while pretending to be solvent and wealthy. Trump knows how to negotiate with creditors when in default. When you owe a bank $75,000 you’re in trouble. When it’s $2.2 billion, they’re screwed. The coming bankruptcy will be history’s largest. Who better than the Donald?

Plus, with Trump America can welcome Roger Stone back into the limelight. A former dirty trickster for Nixon he was later one of the founding members of Black, Manafort & Stone (Atwater didn’t want to become a lobbyist). He has lingered in the shadows since.

Imagine Trump selling off toxic collateralized debt on QVC: ‘These historic collectors items are the best, only these instruments are fit to bear my name. And you know I insist on everything being the finest in the world. Order now and Ivanka will also add a special edition of ‘Trump Cologne’, the classiest cologne. Call now before we sell out of these premium, unique investments and a piece of American history.’

We could go on, but surely you see the inevitability?

Arianna’s $100 Million Serfs

What do the unpaid contributors and their commenting audience get from the AOL deal? Apparently permission to keep on doing what they do, still unpaid. As true serfs, they will thank the Manor Born for that permission. Better to get some publicity — they think — than toil in some ‘not part of the conversation’ twilight.

All of us probably know someone or perhaps some have posted items/comments on that site. What we’ve found talking to acquaintances is a weird passive resentment being used mixed with pride that their item is posted. Like a sweating serf beaming after receiving a nod from the carriage as it enters the gates.

Hats off to Arianna for using all those people so ruthlessly and profiting off them so blatantly. With a few minor exceptions, the people we know who post items there deserve that unseemly existential resignation. Some deserve more. We can’t wait to see how the circus will set up shop under AOL. So many serfs wanting to be found.

The Revolution Will Be Televised But People Want More Jersey Shore

So far, the extraordinary anti-government protests in Egypt have drawn much more attention from the news media than from the American public.

Only about one-in-ten (11%) cite news about protests in Egypt and other Middle Eastern countries as the story they followed most closely last week. By contrast, more than three times that number (38%) followed news about the aftermath of the Jan. 8 Arizona shooting rampage most closely last week, according to the latest News Interest Index survey conducted Jan. 27-30 among 1,007 adults.

Remember when Baker sold the Gulf War as being about ‘jobs, jobs, jobs’? The new Pew Survey indicates the Administration may have little recourse, soon.

For The Record: Memorializing Stewart’s Beat Down Of Huckabee And Republicans For Abandoning 9-11 First Responders

We make this post knowing you’ve likely already seen it. We just want to record its happening as part of the STSOZ record. Jon Stewart’s wrenching explanation of how Senate Republicans and Fox News are telling dying 9-11 First Responders to pound sand crystallized where we are as a Nation. At issue is the Zadroga Bill, granting benefits and health care to those First Responders sick from the toxic Ground Zero site. That the guest was Mike Huckabee gamely plugging some Baby Jesus cheese book? Perfect.

Huckabee’s lame initial excuses for Fox ignoring the issue and Senate Republicans quickly evaporated. Like a trapped animal, his politician’s instinct for self preservation kicked in. He needed to think of video posterity. Huckabee’s stammering, deer-in-the-headlights look before belatedly calling on all Senate Republicans to support First Responders — priceless.

The Daily Show With Jon Stewart Mon – Thurs 11p / 10c
Worst Responders
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The Daily Show With Jon Stewart Mon – Thurs 11p / 10c
9/11 First Responders React to the Senate Filibuster
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We suspect you, Dear Reader, follow the Zadroga Bill more closely than this blog. Some may have been in the City that day. Or had friends or know someone connected to the tragedy. Who paying respects at Ground Zero in the aftermath can forget the acrid, thick air and pervasive dust cloud?

Thanks for patience with this post. We just wish to incorporate what Stewart said into the record here. It breaks our heart to think this may be just a foreshadowing of what is to come.

What Would You Do If We Blogged Out Of Tune, Would You Sit Up And Click Out On Us . . .

There's Something Happening Here, What It Is Ain't Exactly Clear

If 1969 was caught in HiDef with long tail business models leveraging brand value across platforms and temporal access . . . (a slight load time but worth it). David Fricke states an ‘inconvenient truth’ about the mudfest:

. . . [t]here is a solid shot of Creedence Clearwater Revival’s roots-‘n’-TNT set and more of the Who’s enraged dead-of-night assault, if not enough of either. Pete Townshend’s amp-gutting solo in “Amazing Journey” at least partly explains why he didn’t hesitate to whack Abbie Hoffman into the pit when the yippie bolted onstage after “Pinball Wizard.” (Hoffman: “I think this is a pile of shit while John Sinclair rots in prison!” Townshend: “Fuck off my fucking stage!”)

That exchange underscores a dirty, overlooked truth of Woodstock. The biggest massed-youth moment of the decade was also the least political: straight-up capitalism (if you bought a ticket, like I did) and hip escapism. The most direct comment on the real state of the nation — Vietnam, urban riots, civil protest — only came on Monday morning, as most of the mob headed home: Jimi Hendrix’s wrenching firefight guitar adaptation of “The Star-Spangled Banner.” If it hadn’t been in the movie, most of the Woodstock Nation would have missed it altogether. (emphasis added)

Thank goodness the Woodstock generation and their intellectual (if not actual biological) heirs lead us now in our time of crisis. If anyone can repair the Nation and hold off the Movement’s Revanchism . . . Joe Klein, please enlighten us. Poor Cenk Uygur (not that we know who he is): someone just told him that Britney lip syncs.