Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Political Extortion

That is exactly the logic behind David Brooks' endorsement of Romney.  Basically, the GOP won't work with Obama so therefore we should vote for Romney so maybe the Grand Old Party of temper tantrums will play nice.

Matt O'Brien (@ObsoleteDogma) put it even better: Shorter David Brooks: Give the hostage-takers what they want.

Somewhere, I hear the voice of caricatured Republican president bellow with bellicosity that America doesn't negotiate with hostage-takers.

I usually like David Brooks but I thought his reasoning behind his tepid endorsement was dangerous.  Ezra Klein said it well that it sends a message that Republican obfuscation and tactical ramrodding works:

“The single most important thing we want to achieve is for President Obama to be a one-term president,” Mitch McConnell said. “The purpose of the minority is to become the majority,” said Rep. Pete Sessions, head of the National Republican Campaign Committee.
These endorsements are proving Republicans right. As they show, the Republican strategy to deny the president any cooperation and make his Washington a depressing and dysfunctional place has done Obama enormous political damage. In that way, the endorsements get the situation backwards.
While it’s true that President Romney could expect more cooperation from congressional Republicans, in the long term, a vote against Obama on these grounds is a vote for more of this kind of gridlock. Politicians do what wins them elections. If this strategy wins Republicans the election, they’ll employ it next time they face a Democratic president, too, and congressional Democrats will use it against the next Republicans. Rewarding the minority for doing everything in their power to make the majority fail sets up disastrous incentives for the political system. 
There are good reasons to endorse Mitt Romney for president. But if you want the political system to work more smoothly, endorsing McConnell and Boehner’s strategy over the last four years is folly.

Such behavior is nothing short of political terrorism.  Terrorize the system until you get your demands.  Such Republican tactics are the modern equivalent of the liberum veto and are a plague on our democratic system. It is the absolute wrong idea to reward them for their hostage-taking, and of all people, David Brooks should know better.

Guilt by Association

I received a work credit card today. The official title of my organization is "Association of American Voices" I now have a credit card to Paul S. Rockower, Ass of American Voices. I have nothing else to say.

What to do with that PhD

Monday, October 29, 2012



So when all the fear over Sandy passes, when can we discuss climate change?

And as always, Bill Maher says it better than me:

RT @billmaher: Scientists say #HurricaneSandy likely linked to record ArcticSea loss this yr but fuck them they're just scientists what does the bible say?

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Friday, October 26, 2012

Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter

Winter came, and I finished the fifth book of Game of Thrones.  I have returned to reading the phenomenal book by Doris Kearns Goodwin, Team of Rivals.  Reading of Lincoln, I can't help thinking of Obama.  

Next up in the library docket is Bram Stoker's Dracula.  So the perfect mashup for a freaky friday night spent sick is the mashup: Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter

PS: As noted from Team of Rivals, in near record time President Lincoln's first inaugural address reached from DC to coastal capital Sacramento: 7 days and 17 hours.  These days, that sounds like a glorious delay from the news cycle.

RT American Security Project

The beauty and brevity of twitter responses.  That tweet was directed at that twat who wrote that garbage AmericanStinker pot shot piece bashing AMA.  Thanks American Security Project, a far better authority on American security...

Hey @moshephillips RT @amsecproject great program, enhances our longterm #natsec thru #publicdiplomacy & #music : @usamusicabroad program app season open

Thursday, October 25, 2012

The Choice

The stellar New Yorker endorsement of Barack Obama:

The Choice
The morning was cold and the sky was bright. Aretha Franklin wore a large and interesting hat. Yo-Yo Ma urged his frozen fingers to play the cello, and the Reverend Joseph E. Lowery, a civil-rights comrade of Martin Luther King, Jr.,’s, read a benediction that began with “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” the segregation-era lamentation of American realities and celebration of American ideals. On that day in Washington—Inauguration Day, January 20, 2009—the blustery chill penetrated every coat, yet the discomfort was no impediment to joy. The police estimated that more than a million and a half people had crowded onto the Mall, making this the largest public gathering in the history of the capital. Very few could see the speakers. It didn’t matter. People had come to be with other people, to mark an unusual thing: a historical event that was elective, not befallen.

Just after noon, Barack Hussein Obama, the forty-seven-year-old son of a white Kansan and a black Kenyan, an uncommonly talented if modestly credentialled legislator from Illinois, took the oath of office as the forty-fourth President of the United States. That night, after the inaugural balls, President Obama and his wife and their daughters slept at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, a white house built by black men, slaves of West African heritage.

Obama succeeded George W. Bush, a two-term President whose misbegotten legacy, measured in the money it squandered and the misery it inflicted, has become only more evident with time. Bush left behind an America in dire condition and with a degraded reputation. On Inauguration Day, the United States was in a downward financial spiral brought on by predatory lending, legally sanctioned greed and pyramid schemes, an economic policy geared to the priorities and the comforts of what soon came to be called “the one per cent,” and deregulation that began before the Bush Presidency. In 2008 alone, more than two and a half million jobs were lost—up to three-quarters of a million jobs a month. The gross domestic product was shrinking at a rate of nine per cent. Housing prices collapsed. Credit markets collapsed. The stock market collapsed—and, with it, the retirement prospects of millions. Foreclosures and evictions were ubiquitous; whole neighborhoods and towns emptied. The automobile industry appeared to be headed for bankruptcy. Banks as large as Lehman Brothers were dead, and other banks were foundering. It was a crisis of historic dimensions and global ramifications. However skillful the management in Washington, the slump was bound to last longer than any since the Great Depression.

At the same time, the United States was in the midst of the grinding and unnecessary war in Iraq, which killed a hundred thousand Iraqis and four thousand Americans, and depleted the federal coffers. The political and moral damage of Bush’s duplicitous rush to war rivalled the conflict’s price in blood and treasure. America’s standing in the world was further compromised by the torture of prisoners and by illegal surveillance at home. Al Qaeda, which, on September 11, 2001, killed three thousand people on American soil, was still strong. Its leader, Osama bin Laden, was, despite a global manhunt, living securely in Abbottabad, a verdant retreat near Islamabad.

As if to intensify the sense of crisis, on Inauguration Day the national-security apparatus informed the President-elect that Al Shabaab, a Somali affiliate of the Al Qaeda network, had sent terrorists across the Canadian border and was planning an attack on the Mall, possibly on Obama himself. That danger proved illusory; the others proved to be more onerous than anyone had imagined. The satirical paper The Onion came up with a painfully apt inaugural headline: “black man given nation’s worst job.”

Barack Obama began his Presidency devoted to the idea of post-partisanship. His rhetoric, starting with his “Red State, Blue State” Convention speech, in 2004, and his 2006 book, “The Audacity of Hope,” was imbued with that idea. Just as in his memoir, “Dreams from My Father,” he had tried to reconcile the disparate pasts of his parents, Obama was determined to bring together warring tribes in Washington and beyond. He extended his hand to everyone from the increasingly radical leadership of the congressional Republicans to the ruling mullahs of the Iranian theocracy. The Republicans, however, showed no greater interest in working with Obama than did the ayatollahs. The Iranian regime went on enriching uranium and crushing its opposition, and the Republicans, led by Dickensian scolds, including the Senate Minority Leader, Mitch McConnell, committed themselves to a single goal: to engineer the President’s political destruction by defeating his major initiatives. Obama, for his part, did not always prove particularly adept at, or engaged by, the arts of retail persuasion, and his dream of bipartisanship collided with the reality of obstructionism.

Perhaps inevitably, the President has disappointed some of his most ardent supporters. Part of their disappointment is a reflection of the fantastical expectations that attached to him. Some, quite reasonably, are disappointed in his policy failures (on Guantánamo, climate change, and gun control); others question the morality of the persistent use of predator drones. And, of course, 2012 offers nothing like the ecstasy of taking part in a historical advance: the reëlection of the first African-American President does not inspire the same level of communal pride. But the reëlection of a President who has been progressive, competent, rational, decent, and, at times, visionary is a serious matter. The President has achieved a run of ambitious legislative, social, and foreign-policy successes that relieved a large measure of the human suffering and national shame inflicted by the Bush Administration. Obama has renewed the honor of the office he holds.
The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009—the $787-billion stimulus package—was well short of what some economists, including Joseph Stiglitz and Paul Krugman, thought the crisis demanded. But it was larger in real dollars than any one of Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal measures. It reversed the job-loss trend—according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, as many as 3.6 million private-sector jobs have been created since June, 2009—and helped reset the course of the economy. It also represented the largest public investment in infrastructure since President Eisenhower’s interstate-highway program. From the start, though, Obama recognized that it would reap only modest political gain. “It’s very hard to prove a counterfactual,” he told the journalist Jonathan Alter, “where you say, ‘You know, things really could have been a lot worse.’ ” He was speaking of the bank and auto-industry bailouts, but the problem applies more broadly to the stimulus: harm averted is benefit unseen.

As for systemic reform, the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, which Obama signed into law in July, 2010, tightened capital requirements on banks, restricted predatory lending, and, in general, sought to prevent abuses of the sort that led to the crash of 2008. Against the counsel of some Republicans, including Mitt Romney, the Obama Administration led the takeover, rescue, and revival of the automobile industry. The Administration transformed the country’s student-aid program, making it cheaper for students and saving the federal government sixty-two billion dollars—more than a third of which was put back into Pell grants. AmeriCorps, the country’s largest public-service program, has been tripled in size.
Obama’s most significant legislative achievement was a vast reform of the national health-care system. Five Presidents since the end of the Second World War have tried to pass legislation that would insure universal access to medical care, but all were defeated by deeply entrenched opposition. Obama—bolstered by the political cunning of the House Speaker, Nancy Pelosi—succeeded. Some critics urged the President to press for a single-payer system—Medicare for all. Despite its ample merits, such a system had no chance of winning congressional backing. Obama achieved the achievable. The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act is the single greatest expansion of the social safety net since the advent of Medicaid and Medicare, in 1965. Not one Republican voted in favor of it.

Obama has passed no truly ambitious legislation related to climate change, shying from battle in the face of relentless opposition from congressional Republicans. Yet his environmental record is not as barren as it may seem. The stimulus bill provided for extensive investment in green energy, biofuels, and electric cars. In August, the Administration instituted new fuel-efficiency standards that should nearly double gas mileage; by 2025, new cars will need to average 54.5 miles per gallon.
President Obama’s commitment to civil rights has gone beyond rhetoric. During his first week in office, he signed the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, which protects women, minorities, and the disabled against unfair wage discrimination. By ending the military’s ban on the service of those who are openly gay, and by endorsing marriage equality, Obama, more than any previous President, has been a strong advocate of the civil rights of gay men and lesbians. Finally, Obama appointed to the Supreme Court two highly competent women, Elena Kagan and Sonia Sotomayor, the Court’s first Hispanic. Kagan and Sotomayor are skilled and liberal-minded Justices who, abjuring dogmatism, represent a sober and sensible set of jurisprudential values.

In the realm of foreign policy, Obama came into office speaking the language of multilateralism and reconciliation—so much so that the Nobel Peace Prize committee, in an act as patronizing as it was premature, awarded him its laurels, in 2009. Obama was embarrassed by the award and recognized it for what it was: a rebuke to the Bush Administration. Still, the Norwegians were also getting at something more affirmative. Obama’s Cairo speech, that same year, tried to help heal some of the wounds not only of the Iraq War but, more generally, of Western colonialism in the Middle East. Speaking at Cairo University,* Obama expressed regret that the West had used Muslim countries as pawns in the Cold War game of Risk. He spoke for the rights of women and against torture; he defended the legitimacy of the State of Israel while offering a straightforward assessment of the crucial issue of the Palestinians and their need for statehood, citing the “humiliations—large and small—that come with occupation.”

It was an edifying speech, but Obama was soon instructed in the limits of unilateral good will. Vladimir Putin, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Bashar al-Assad, Hu Jintao, and other autocrats hardened his spirit. Still, he proved a sophisticated and reliable diplomat and an effective Commander-in-Chief. He kept his promise to withdraw American troops from Iraq. He forbade torture. And he waged a far more forceful campaign against Al Qaeda than Bush had—a campaign that included the killing of Osama bin Laden. He negotiated—and won Senate approval of—a crucial strategic-arms deal with the Russians, slashing warheads and launchers on both sides and increasing the transparency of mutual inspections. In Afghanistan, he has set a reasonable course in an impossible situation.

The unsettled situations in Egypt and Libya, following the Arab Spring of 2010, make plain that that region’s political trajectory is anything but fixed. Syria shames the world’s inaction and confounds its hopes of decisive intervention. This is where Obama’s respect for complexity is not an indulgence of intellectual vanity but a requirement for effective action. In the case of bin Laden, it was necessary to act alone and at once; in Libya, in concert with the Europeans; in Iran, cautiously but with decisive measures.

One quality that so many voters admired in Obama in 2008 was his unusual temperament: inspirational, yet formal, cool, hyper-rational. He promised to be the least crazy of Presidents, the least erratic and unpredictable. The triumph of that temperament was in evidence on a spring night in 2011, as he performed his duties, with a standup’s precision and preternatural élan, at the White House Correspondents’ Dinner, all the while knowing that he had, with no guarantee of success, dispatched Navy seal Team Six to kill bin Laden. In the modern era, we have had Presidents who were known to seduce interns (Kennedy and Clinton), talk to paintings (Nixon), and confuse movies with reality (Reagan). Obama’s restraint has largely served him, and the country, well.

But Obama is also a human being, a flawed and complicated one, and as the world has come to know him better we have sometimes seen the downside of his temperament: a certain insularity and self-satisfaction; a tendency at times—as in the first debate with Mitt Romney—to betray disdain for the unpleasant tasks of politics. As a political warrior, Obama can be withdrawn, even strangely passive. He has sometimes struggled to convey the human stakes of the policies he has initiated. In the remaining days of the campaign, Obama must be entirely, and vividly, present, as he was in the second debate with Romney. He must clarify not only what he has achieved but also what he intends to achieve, how he intends to accelerate the recovery, spur employment, and allay the debt crisis; how he intends to deal with an increasingly perilous situation in Pakistan; what he will do if Iran fails to bring its nuclear program into line with international strictures. Most important, he needs to convey the larger vision that matches his outsized record of achievement.

There is another, larger “counterfactual” to consider—the one represented by Obama’s Republican challenger, Willard Mitt Romney. The Republican Party’s nominee is handsome, confident, and articulate. He made a fortune in business, first as a consultant, then in private equity. After running for the Senate in Massachusetts, in 1994, and failing to unseat Edward Kennedy, Romney relaunched his public career by presiding successfully over the 2002 Winter Olympics, in Salt Lake City. (A four-hundred-million-dollar federal bailout helped.) From 2003 to 2007, he was the governor of Massachusetts and, working with a Democratic legislature, succeeded in passing an impressive health-care bill. He has been running for President full time ever since.

In the service of that ambition, Romney has embraced the values and the priorities of a Republican Party that has grown increasingly reactionary and rigid in its social vision. It is a party dominated by those who despise government and see no value in public efforts aimed at ameliorating the immense and rapidly increasing inequalities in American society. A visitor to the F.D.R. Memorial, in Washington, is confronted by these words from Roosevelt’s second Inaugural Address, etched in stone: “The test of our progress is not whether we add more to the abundance of those who have much; it is whether we provide for those who have too little.” Romney and the leaders of the contemporary G.O.P. would consider this a call to class warfare. Their effort to disenfranchise poor, black, Hispanic, and student voters in many states deepens the impression that Romney’s remarks about the “forty-seven per cent” were a matter not of “inelegant” expression, as he later protested, but of genuine conviction.

Romney’s conviction is that the broad swath of citizens who do not pay federal income tax—a category that includes pensioners, soldiers, low-income workers, and those who have lost their jobs—are parasites, too far gone in sloth and dependency to be worth the breath one might spend asking for their votes. His descent to this cynical view—further evidenced by his selection of a running mate, Paul Ryan, who is the epitome of the contemporary radical Republican—has been dishearteningly smooth. He in essence renounced his greatest achievement in public life—the Massachusetts health-care law—because its national manifestation, Obamacare, is anathema to the Tea Party and to the G.O.P. in general. He has tacked to the hard right on abortion, immigration, gun laws, climate change, stem-cell research, gay rights, the Bush tax cuts, and a host of foreign-policy issues. He has signed the Grover Norquist no-tax-hike pledge and endorsed Ryan’s winner-take-all economics.

But what is most disquieting is Romney’s larger political vision. When he said that Obama “takes his political inspiration from Europe, and from the socialist democrats in Europe,” he was not only signalling Obama’s “otherness” to one kind of conservative voter; he was suggesting that Obama’s liberalism is in conflict with a uniquely American strain of individualism. The theme recurred when Romney and his allies jumped on Obama’s observation that no entrepreneur creates a business entirely alone (“You didn’t build that”). The Republicans continue to insist on the “Atlas Shrugged” fantasy of the solitary entrepreneurial genius who creates jobs and wealth with no assistance at all from government or society.

If the keynote of Obama’s Administration has been public investment—whether in infrastructure, education, or health—the keynote of Romney’s candidacy has been private equity, a realm in which efficiency and profitability are the supreme values. As a business model, private equity has had a mixed record. As a political template, it is stunted in the extreme. Private equity is concerned with rewarding winners and punishing losers. But a democracy cannot lay off its failing citizens. It cannot be content to leave any of its citizens behind—and certainly not the forty-seven per cent whom Romney wishes to fire from the polity.
Private equity has served Romney well—he is said to be worth a quarter of a billion dollars. Wealth is hardly unique in a national candidate or in a President, but, unlike Franklin Roosevelt—or Teddy Roosevelt or John Kennedy—Romney seems to be keenly loyal to the perquisites and the presumptions of his class, the privileged cadre of Americans who, like him, pay extraordinarily low tax rates, with deductions for corporate jets. They seem content with a system in which a quarter of all earnings and forty per cent of all wealth go to one per cent of the population. Romney is among those who see business success as a sure sign of moral virtue.

The rest of us will have to take his word for it. Romney, breaking with custom, has declined to release more than two years of income-tax returns—a refusal of transparency that he has not afforded his own Vice-Presidential nominee. Even without those returns, we know that he has taken advantage of the tax code’s gray areas, including the use of offshore accounts in the Cayman Islands. For all his undoubted patriotism, he evidently believes that money belongs to an empyrean far beyond such territorial attachments.
But holding foreign bank accounts is not a substitute for experience in foreign policy. In that area, he has outsourced his views to mediocre, ideologically driven advisers like Dan Senor and John Bolton. He speaks in Cold War jingoism. On a brief foray abroad this summer, he managed, in rapid order, to insult the British, to pander crudely to Benjamin Netanyahu in order to win the votes and contributions of his conservative Jewish and Evangelical supporters, and to dodge ordinary questions from the press in Poland. On the thorniest of foreign-policy problems—from Pakistan to Syria—his campaign has offered no alternatives except a set of tough-guy slogans and an oft-repeated faith in “American exceptionalism.”

In pursuit of swing voters, Romney and Ryan have sought to tamp down, and keep vague, the extremism of their economic and social commitments. But their signals to the Republican base and to the Tea Party are easily read: whatever was accomplished under Obama will be reversed or stifled. Bill Clinton has rightly pointed out that most Presidents set about fulfilling their campaign promises. Romney, despite his pose of chiselled equanimity, has pledged to ravage the safety net, oppose progress on marriage equality, ignore all warnings of ecological disaster, dismantle health-care reform, and appoint right-wing judges to the courts. 

Four of the nine Supreme Court Justices are in their seventies; a Romney Administration may well have a chance to replace two of the more liberal incumbents, and Romney’s adviser in judicial affairs is the embittered far-right judge and legal scholar Robert Bork. The rightward drift of a court led by Justices Roberts, Scalia, Thomas, and Alito—a drift marked by appalling decisions like Citizens United—would only intensify during a Romney Presidency. The consolidation of a hard-right majority would be a mortal threat to the ability of women to make their own decisions about contraception and pregnancy, the ability of institutions to alleviate the baneful legacies of past oppression and present prejudice, and the ability of American democracy to insulate itself from the corrupt domination of unlimited, anonymous money. Romney has pronounced himself “severely conservative.” There is every reason to believe him.

The choice is clear. The Romney-Ryan ticket represents a constricted and backward-looking vision of America: the privatization of the public good. In contrast, the sort of public investment championed by Obama—and exemplified by both the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act and the Affordable Care Act—takes to heart the old civil-rights motto “Lifting as we climb.” That effort cannot, by itself, reverse the rise of inequality that has been under way for at least three decades. But we’ve already seen the future that Romney represents, and it doesn’t work.

The reelection of Barack Obama is a matter of great urgency. Not only are we in broad agreement with his policy directions; we also see in him what is absent in Mitt Romney—a first-rate political temperament and a deep sense of fairness and integrity. A two-term Obama Administration will leave an enduringly positive imprint on political life. It will bolster the ideal of good governance and a social vision that tempers individualism with a concern for community. Every Presidential election involves a contest over the idea of America. Obama’s America—one that progresses, however falteringly, toward social justice, tolerance, and equality—represents the future that this country deserves. 

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

The buck stops here

Apparently, I am, in part, the cause for the security failures in Benghazi.  Yes, it is true.  That article has to be  one of the most inane and nonsensical pieces of garbage I have seen in a long while.

He Lays in the Reins

One more drink tonight as your gray stallion rests
Where he lays in the reins
For all of the speed and the strength he gave

One more kiss tonight from some tall stable girl
She's like grace from the earth
When you're all tuckered out and tame

One more tired thing the gray moon on the rise
When your want from the day
Makes you to curse in your sleep at night

One more gift to bring we may well find you laid
Like your steed in his reins
Tangled too tight and too long to fight
-Iron & Wine, Calexico "He Lays in the Reins"

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Sunday, October 21, 2012


Great letter to the editor in today's WaPo on Teddy's recent string of victories.  I am worried about the Curse of Teddy myself....

The Only Way Teddy Could Win

The baseball world is among the most superstitious in sport. Watching the Washington Nationals’ Michael Morse in the on-deck circle, you appreciate that routine is important to success. With puzzlement, I have read scores of articles trying to explain the Nats’ Division Series Game 5 defeat. All of that analysis has missed the point. The real reason we couldn’t retire the side with two outs and two strikes in the ninth is because Teddy Roosevelt cheated and now the Nats are cursed [front page, Oct. 4].

After losing 525 consecutive Presidents Races, Teddy cannot have legitimately won four consecutive contests against otherwise healthy opponents. Was it steroids? Was it doping? Was it an illegal distribution of campaign money (who knows what remained in the Bull Moose war chest)? Given the gravity of the situation, circumstances call for the appointment of a special prosecutor (think of Dick Cheney with a license to use enhanced interrogation techniques) to get to the bottom of Teddy’s sudden string of victories.

If, as I expect, it is determined that Teddy’s wins were ill-gotten, he should be stripped of his “victories.” If Lance Armstrong can have his wins expunged, so can Teddy. Wouldn’t you rather have the Nats open spring training next year with Teddy sporting a record of 0-529 instead of 4-525? With justice, the curse dissolves.
-Garry R. Boehlert, Washington

Something wicked this way comes

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Humus for Peace

Gastrodiplomacy to bring Israelis and Palestinian Jerusalemites together through food.  Toda & shukran Abba!


I was chatting with my Aunt Phyl, who lives in LA.  She was marveling about the Endeavor passing through the streets in Los Angeles.  She was gushing about it like a school girl, not words I would often associate with my aunt.  She just kept exclaiming how cool it was, as she described how it slowly lurched through the streets of the Angels.  She spoke of the poignant emotions she felt seeing it. She spoke of how the throngs of people came out to see it, and all the excitement among all those on hand.

I can remember the excitement here in DC when the shuttle passed over the capital, and how such excitement was echoed in New York.

Therein lies the paradox.  The space shuttle still excites us, and yet NASA watches its budget whittled away.  The problem is that the space program became disconnected from the public.  The only time flights were national stories seemed to be when something went wrong (See under: The Challenger, The Colombia).  The space shuttle ceased to be a tangible excitement.

The brilliance and beauty of Felix Baumgartner is that he brought us back to the edge of excitement, and made space tangible again.  NASA forgot how to do this, and the space program has been shelved.

 Yet, what if NASA had a better PD sense- a bit of Barnum to match its science smarts.  If I ran NASA, I would send shuttles across the highways of the America to let the American people see what it is really about.  Give them a tangible taste of the flight to space.  I can guarantee that if NASA sent the space shuttle inching down Route 66, they would never see their budget cut again as the throngs great it along its way.

The way we were

My dad and I were laughing about Dogs against Romney, and letting Mitt wear the "Cone of Seamus."  He told me about how in 1964, he and his family were moving the day after elections.  He told me about how his father remarked to the movers that if Goldwater won, to move their stuff to Israel.  Story number 57.

If Romney won, I'm not sure I would move to Israel.  Bibi is like an Israeli Goldwater.  And Romney is his good buddy.  Made friends in the vulture capital days.

My father went to school with Ben Netanyahu.  In Cheltenham, PA. As I have said before, Sen. Netanyahu (R) of PA. He showed me some old pictures from the high school yearbook.  Of Ben Netanyahu on the soccer field, dribbling around.  My dad said that Ben was aloof but intelligent.  Somethings never change.  He showed me some pics of them on a JV soccer team.  Bibi's face looked serious and sullen amid the rest of the teens jovial grins.

                                  (Can you guess which is Bibi?  One shekel for correct answers.)

Benjamin Netanyahu grew up in America, and so understands the value of a #2 pencil and the SAT.  That the Palestinians in Ramallah were forced to have the SAT cancelled because Israel wouldn't allow testing materials through was probably not on account of any particular orders of Bibi, but I blame him nonetheless. The willful and capricious nature of the Occupation has infected Israel with a security syndrome that is a cancer.  It is not healthy.  And rather than work towards ending the cancer of the Occupation, Bibi lets it metastasize. 

Friday, October 19, 2012

Act of Congress & Beauty of Twitter Brevity

"It was probably the most amazing experience we’ve ever had" @Act_of_Congress back from @USAmusicabroad tour in Thailand, Philippines, Palau & East Timor: Birmingham News

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Mullah Radio

If ever there ever was a case-in-point of why Voice of America needs more, not less, funding: Mullah radio 


RT Michael Moore: If u think America's "post-racial," imagine what would happen if Barack Obama had a son who talked about wanting 2 physically attack Romney.

The 3 Ring Plan

So my friend Anna Dawson, who was earnestly supply shopping, pointed this out on facebook.  Read the binder reviews and pics for the Avery binder.  Amazing.

The irony in all this is that Bain Capital owned Staples. Maybe this was Romney's real plan, to increase office supply sales....

And the side convo:

Kia Hays: Ahhh I can see it now.. Mitt and team, pre-debate: "okay men, binder sales are at an all-time low. Someone come up with a plan incorporate them into the debate."
Me: 5 point plan
KH: ...3 ring plan?
Kia for the win!

Absurdistan Airways

Have you ever heard of a airline that doesn't accept credit cards?  Like really only takes cash.  In plastic bags.  Ok that last line I am kidding about.  Absurdistan, here I come.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Bork, Bork, Bork Gastrodiplomacy!!

Apparently Nordic countries are banding together to conduct a joint gastrodiplomacy initiative to promote Nordic cuisine!  

Draw Thy Self

An artist basically ingested every form of drug known to man (and unknown to me, never thought I was so sheltered as I do right now) and drew himself.  CRAZY.

After mushrooms:

After salvia

After 200 mg valium

Which reminded me of a fascinating story I heard on NPR about Ketamine's effects on depression and reconnecting damaged brain connections

Hebrew-Arabic Calligraphy from God's Own Country

I have a new article up on Thoufeek Zakriya's calligraphy in the HuffPo, including a great slide show in the article. Usually I am terrified by comment sections on websites, but there are some really the positive notes that people left.

Hebrew-Arabic Calligraphy in God's Own Country

Down in the heart of "God's Own Country," as the Indian state of Kerala is affectionately known, an Indian Muslim calligrapher is using his skills in the art of the ink flourishes to bridge Jewish and Muslim communities. Thoufeek Zakriya is an Indian Muslim from the city of Cochin who does calligraphy in a number of languages, including Arabic, Samaritan, Syriac and Sanskrit. More interestingly, he is a Muslim who does masterful Hebrew calligraphy.

While studying in madrasa, he learned that the Jewish people were considered by Islam to be ahl al-kitab ("People of the Book"), which sparked a curiosity in him to learn more about this religious community. His curiosity led him to find a copy of the Gideon's Bible, which had a page with prayers in 23 different languages. He decided to find what encompassed the Hebrew word for God, so using the page as his "Rosetta Stone" he was able to decipher what letters entailed the Hebrew name for the Lord.

Thoufeek became more interested in Judaism and Hebrew calligraphy, and reached out to the tiny yet historic Jewish community in Cochin. Thoufeek purchased some Hebrew texts he found at a streetside book shop and he went about learning the Hebrew alphabet. His studies in Hebrew led him to begin crafting calligraphy of Jewish prayers such as the Birkat haBayit (prayer for the home) in golden resplendent brilliance.

Thofeek even began creating calligraphic replicas of the Torah.

More importantly, Thoufeek does something very unique: he has crafted Hebrew calligraphy in the ancient Kufic Arabic script.  Such work is a rarity in the calligraphic world, and his innovations in the Kufic/Hebrew calligraphy has brought Thoufeek accolades from admirers from all over the world. Zakriya has been commissioned as far away as Ukraine and the United States to create works that combine Arabic calligraphy with Jewish prayers.

Thoufeek's work and his dedication to study Jewish history and culture led to a close friendship between him and Cochin's Jewish community, including his warm friendship with the community's matriarch Sarah Cohen. Cohen has hosted Thoufeek for Passover seders and other Jewish holiday celebrations.

I met Thoufeek at Sarah Cohen's embroidery shop, where she stitches yarmulkes and other Jewish-Indian embroideries. As we sat sipping tea and eating watermelon squares and black helwa (sweets), she remarked that she considers him to be like a grandson and a real mensch.

Thoufeek Zakriya is a wonderful symbol of India's legendary tolerance for religious communities. "At a time when Jews and Muslims are sadly seen as natural adversaries, Thoufeek's Hebrew calligraphy emerges as yet another example of Muslim-Jewish amity from India," says Dr. Navras Aafredi, an Assistant Professor in the School of Humanities & Social Sciences at Gautam Buddha University. Professor Aafredi studies Jewish communities of India, and noted that Zakriya is the only known Muslim Hebrew calligrapher in India.

"Thoufeek's work shows us that the way to peace is through the exploration of each other's culture and the commonalities between them," says Dr. Aafredi, "His work is a reminder of the shared cultural and religious heritage of Jews and Muslims, which definitely needs to be brought into sharper focus in such a manner that it overshadows the disputes, conflicts and differences."

Tuesday, October 16, 2012



I have long loved Sarah Silverman, but now I love the whole Silverman family.  Read why.

140 character points on the debate

RT @BorowitzReport #Romney: "Jeremy, if you are illegal, you can get a job working at my house." #debate

RT @rudepundit Romney's natural dickishness is breaking through. Push him, Obama.

RT @PrinceTommen Mitt Romney is a Frey.

RT @tyleroakley If you wonder how Romney would treat women during his presidency, just look at how he treats Candy Crowley during the #HofstraDebate.

RT @AdamSerwer Change from the first debate: Obama making the case for his first term rather than apologizing for it.

RT @greenfield64 I believe "Binders full of women" is from "Fifty Shades of Grey."

RT @GlenAllenWalken Bill Clinton also had binders full of women. #debate

RT @MJayRosenberg Romney epitomizes every asshole I ever knew my whole life.

RT @mattyglesias LOL to this plan where Mitt makes sure my wife can leave work in time to cook me dinner and calls that equality.

RT @SCClemons Obama: Flow of illegals across border lowest in 40 yrs. Slow US economy and aging Mexico population are factors. We will miss illegals soon

RT @AlyssaRosenberg You know who had married parents? The Columbine killers. Seung-Hui Cho. Jared Lee Loughner. #debate

RT @tadfriend: Obama is better when he gets angry, as he did on the LIbya question. Romney is worse.

RT @antijokeapple I bet Mitt Romney was the kid in class that reminded your teacher you had homework last night.

And for the win:

RT @RomneyBinders
Candy Crowley is absolutely being removed from Romney's Binders tonight #Binders #Debate

If you like it then you shoulda put three rings on it. #bindersfullofwomen

The Self Destruction of the 1 percent

A fascinating article from the NYTimes on Sunday on the demise of Venice based on the 1 percent entrenching their riches.

The Self Destruction of the 1 percent
by Chrystia Freeland

IN the early 14th century, Venice was one of the richest cities in Europe. At the heart of its economy was the colleganza, a basic form of joint-stock company created to finance a single trade expedition. The brilliance of the colleganza was that it opened the economy to new entrants, allowing risk-taking entrepreneurs to share in the financial upside with the established businessmen who financed their merchant voyages.

Venice’s elites were the chief beneficiaries. Like all open economies, theirs was turbulent. Today, we think of social mobility as a good thing. But if you are on top, mobility also means competition. In 1315, when the Venetian city-state was at the height of its economic powers, the upper class acted to lock in its privileges, putting a formal stop to social mobility with the publication of the Libro d’Oro, or Book of Gold, an official register of the nobility. If you weren’t on it, you couldn’t join the ruling oligarchy.

The political shift, which had begun nearly two decades earlier, was so striking a change that the Venetians gave it a name: La Serrata, or the closure. It wasn’t long before the political Serrata became an economic one, too. Under the control of the oligarchs, Venice gradually cut off commercial opportunities for new entrants. Eventually, the colleganza was banned. The reigning elites were acting in their immediate self-interest, but in the longer term, La Serrata was the beginning of the end for them, and for Venetian prosperity more generally. By 1500, Venice’s population was smaller than it had been in 1330. In the 17th and 18th centuries, as the rest of Europe grew, the city continued to shrink.

The story of Venice’s rise and fall is told by the scholars Daron Acemoglu and James A. Robinson, in their book “Why Nations Fail: The Origins of Power, Prosperity, and Poverty,” as an illustration of their thesis that what separates successful states from failed ones is whether their governing institutions are inclusive or extractive. Extractive states are controlled by ruling elites whose objective is to extract as much wealth as they can from the rest of society. Inclusive states give everyone access to economic opportunity; often, greater inclusiveness creates more prosperity, which creates an incentive for ever greater inclusiveness.

The history of the United States can be read as one such virtuous circle. But as the story of Venice shows, virtuous circles can be broken. Elites that have prospered from inclusive systems can be tempted to pull up the ladder they climbed to the top. Eventually, their societies become extractive and their economies languish.

That was the future predicted by Karl Marx, who wrote that capitalism contained the seeds of its own destruction. And it is the danger America faces today, as the 1 percent pulls away from everyone else and pursues an economic, political and social agenda that will increase that gap even further — ultimately destroying the open system that made America rich and allowed its 1 percent to thrive in the first place.

You can see America’s creeping Serrata in the growing social and, especially, educational chasm between those at the top and everyone else. At the bottom and in the middle, American society is fraying, and the children of these struggling families are lagging the rest of the world at school.

Economists point out that the woes of the middle class are in large part a consequence of globalization and technological change. Culture may also play a role. In his recent book on the white working class, the libertarian writer Charles Murray blames the hollowed-out middle for straying from the traditional family values and old-fashioned work ethic that he says prevail among the rich (whom he castigates, but only for allowing cultural relativism to prevail).

There is some truth in both arguments. But the 1 percent cannot evade its share of responsibility for the growing gulf in American society. Economic forces may be behind the rising inequality, but as Peter R. Orszag, President Obama’s former budget chief, told me, public policy has exacerbated rather than mitigated these trends.

Even as the winner-take-all economy has enriched those at the very top, their tax burden has lightened. Tolerance for high executive compensation has increased, even as the legal powers of unions have been weakened and an intellectual case against them has been relentlessly advanced by plutocrat-financed think tanks. In the 1950s, the marginal income tax rate for those at the top of the distribution soared above 90 percent, a figure that today makes even Democrats flinch. Meanwhile, of the 400 richest taxpayers in 2009, 6 paid no federal income tax at all, and 27 paid 10 percent or less. None paid more than 35 percent.

Historically, the United States has enjoyed higher social mobility than Europe, and both left and right have identified this economic openness as an essential source of the nation’s economic vigor. But several recent studies have shown that in America today it is harder to escape the social class of your birth than it is in Europe. The Canadian economist Miles Corak has found that as income inequality increases, social mobility falls — a phenomenon Alan B. Krueger, the chairman of the White House Council of Economic Advisers, has called the Great Gatsby Curve.

Educational attainment, which created the American middle class, is no longer rising. The super-elite lavishes unlimited resources on its children, while public schools are starved of funding. This is the new Serrata. An elite education is increasingly available only to those already at the top. Bill Clinton and Barack Obama enrolled their daughters in an exclusive private school; I’ve done the same with mine.

At the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, earlier this year, I interviewed Ruth Simmons, then the president of Brown. She was the first African-American to lead an Ivy League university and has served on the board of Goldman Sachs. Dr. Simmons, a Harvard-trained literature scholar, worked hard to make Brown more accessible to poor students, but when I asked whether it was time to abolish legacy admissions, the Ivy League’s own Book of Gold, she shrugged me off with a laugh: “No, I have a granddaughter. It’s not time yet.”

America’s Serrata also takes a more explicit form: the tilting of the economic rules in favor of those at the top. The crony capitalism of today’s oligarchs is far subtler than Venice’s. It works in two main ways.

The first is to channel the state’s scarce resources in their own direction. This is the absurdity of Mitt Romney’s comment about the “47 percent” who are “dependent upon government.” The reality is that it is those at the top, particularly the tippy-top, of the economic pyramid who have been most effective at capturing government support — and at getting others to pay for it.

Exhibit A is the bipartisan, $700 billion rescue of Wall Street in 2008. Exhibit B is the crony recovery. The economists Emmanuel Saez and Thomas Piketty found that 93 percent of the income gains from the 2009-10 recovery went to the top 1 percent of taxpayers. The top 0.01 percent captured 37 percent of these additional earnings, gaining an average of $4.2 million per household.

The second manifestation of crony capitalism is more direct: the tax perks, trade protections and government subsidies that companies and sectors secure for themselves. Corporate pork is a truly bipartisan dish: green energy companies and the health insurers have been winners in this administration, as oil and steel companies were under George W. Bush’s.

The impulse of the powerful to make themselves even more so should come as no surprise. Competition and a level playing field are good for us collectively, but they are a hardship for individual businesses. Warren E. Buffett knows this. “A truly great business must have an enduring ‘moat’ that protects excellent returns on invested capital,” he explained in his 2007 annual letter to investors. “Though capitalism’s ‘creative destruction’ is highly beneficial for society, it precludes investment certainty.” Microsoft attempted to dig its own moat by simply shutting out its competitors, until it was stopped by the courts. Even Apple, a huge beneficiary of the open-platform economy, couldn’t resist trying to impose its own inferior map app on buyers of the iPhone 5.

Businessmen like to style themselves as the defenders of the free market economy, but as Luigi Zingales, an economist at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business, argued, “Most lobbying is pro-business, in the sense that it promotes the interests of existing businesses, not pro-market in the sense of fostering truly free and open competition.”

IN the early 19th century, the United States was one of the most egalitarian societies on the planet. “We have no paupers,” Thomas Jefferson boasted in an 1814 letter. “The great mass of our population is of laborers; our rich, who can live without labor, either manual or professional, being few, and of moderate wealth. Most of the laboring class possess property, cultivate their own lands, have families, and from the demand for their labor are enabled to exact from the rich and the competent such prices as enable them to be fed abundantly, clothed above mere decency, to labor moderately and raise their families.”

For Jefferson, this equality was at the heart of American exceptionalism: “Can any condition of society be more desirable than this?”

That all changed with industrialization. As Franklin D. Roosevelt argued in a 1932 address to the Commonwealth Club, the industrial revolution was accomplished thanks to “a group of financial titans, whose methods were not scrutinized with too much care, and who were honored in proportion as they produced the results, irrespective of the means they used.” America may have needed its robber barons; Roosevelt said the United States was right to accept “the bitter with the sweet.”

But as these titans amassed wealth and power, and as America ran out of free land on its frontier, the country faced the threat of a Serrata. As Roosevelt put it, “equality of opportunity as we have known it no longer exists.” Instead, “we are steering a steady course toward economic oligarchy, if we are not there already.”

It is no accident that in America today the gap between the very rich and everyone else is wider than at any time since the Gilded Age. Now, as then, the titans are seeking an even greater political voice to match their economic power. Now, as then, the inevitable danger is that they will confuse their own self-interest with the common good. The irony of the political rise of the plutocrats is that, like Venice’s oligarchs, they threaten the system that created them.

MA Earthquake

God has officially punished Massachusetts for delivering Mitt Romney upon us.

Do you do that?

I think my brother Harry gets the award for greatest facebook update ever. He works in a college admissions office, and visits college fairs at high schools:

"York College Fair
Girl 1: Hi! I'm really interested in your business administration program. Can you tell....
Girl 2: (Cutting in) I'm interested in filming... adult films... pornography. Do you guys do that?
Girl 1: (blushing) They are just trying to embarrass me. Don't worry about...
Girl 3: I see you have sports, like lacrosse, I like sticks and balls.
Me: Well, I recommend both of you looking at schools in the San Fernando Valley..."

The Social Media Election

Thanks to Sarah from for sharing. Social Media Election
Created by

Sunday, October 14, 2012

St. Louis Highlights

While i have been pretty much cooped up doing work here in St. Louis, I have had a little time to explore the city.  Cardinals notwithstanding, I do like the city and find it quite interesting.  It has historic red brick charm from an affluent era, and while it had some hard times in the recent past, it seems to be fighting to reinvent itself in a positive fashion.

Last sunday, I went to the Cathedral Basilica of Saint Louis.  St. Louis is unique in that it is the only city in North America to have two basilicas, the other being the Old Cathedral located downtown.  The Basilica is a beauty, with a towering green tiled dome complete with Romanesque windows below.  The dome is framed with two medieval style granite spires.

But the real beauty comes from the mosaics inside.  The church is home to the world's largest mosaic; from the minute you enter, you are surrounded with resplendent tiled beauty.  I walked silently under the effulgent tiles, smelling the frankincense that filled the open halls.

The mosaics come in two styles, Greek (Roman?) and Byzantine, and the mosaics museum below does a nice job of explaining the difference.  There was also a nice quote about the difference between Gothic and Byzantine architecture:

"Gothic architecture, with its pointed arches and spires, reaches toward heaven.  But Byzantine architecture, with its splendid dome, brings heaven down to earth."
-Archbishop Coleman of St. Louis

This week, my exploring took me to the World Chess Hall of Fame, located in the tonyed district of the Central West End.   Home to the world's largest chess piece (taller than a giraffe as pointed out), the museum showcases the history of shahmat in pieces and design.  Alas, the main floors were closed for upcoming re-installation (presidents and chess, sounds interesting) although there was a cool mural.  I will have to return.

I meandered about in the afternoon, taking it nice and slow.  I regrouped at Marc's house, where they were eating cheap, greasy Chinese food.  On the menu, I spied the St. Louis original "St. Paul Sandwich" and quickly drove over to try it.  A St. Paul Sandwich is a Chinese-American concoction of an egg foo young patty covered with dill pickles, lettuce and mayo on white bread.  Such is what passes for "Chinese" in Middle America.
 But it was actually tasty, in a comforting, greasy Chinese fashion.  The white bread sopped up some of the grease, and the sandwich was actually pretty good.

Afterwards, Alan (AV Iraqi Scholarship student in StL) and I went to the immaculate City Museum.  The City Museum is built is an old warehouse, and is basically a giant imagination museum for kids of all ages (adult kids included).  It consists of intricate mazes, slides and tunnels amid giant whale statues and other strange sculptures.

Alan and I tunneled through corrugated iron shafts, and ran up, down and around giant human half pipes.  We found our way into a beatnik cafe serving PBR with old pinball machines and freak show oddities about.

We found our way outside to a giant hulking ball pit and proceeded to have the mother of all dodgeball battles with a group of teenagers.  We climbed and slid about, and I marveled at the genius in making such a place.  Truly an "if you build it, they will come."  It was kinda like a giant Imagine That!! on acid.  It was fun for kids and adults, and really spoke to the genius that is human creativity unleashed.  But I can only imagine what the insurance is like.

Anyway, we paid the fee to get to the roof, and rode around on a giant old ferris wheel overlooking the whole of downtown St. Louis.  The view was spectacular.  There was also a school bus to climb in that hung over the edge.

The City Museum is an absolute treasure, and a can't miss spot in St. Louis.  If I had kids, I would genuinely consider traveling to St. Louis just to take them to the place.  It was one of the most unique, otherworldly, brilliant, fun places I have ever been to in the United States.  It really speaks to what can be accomplished if you allow imagination to run wild and free.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

The AP Scam

Something I have long felt: that AP classes are not equivalent to college courses and are a bit of a scam (Yohuru Williams' AP U/S/ History class notwithstanding).

Brought to you by the letter H

For hypocrisy.  Mitt Romney breaking ground at NPR station WGBH Boston when he was governor.  Nice find, Mother Jones.

Poignant Saditude

One of the best essays on the Nats, baseball and life.  Thanks Abba, this helps takes the sting away.

The Fan In The Arena

“It breaks your heart. It is designed to break your heart. The game begins in the spring, when everything else begins again, and it blossoms in the summer, filling the afternoons and evenings, and then as soon as the chill rains come, it stops and leaves you to face the fall alone. You count on it, rely on it to buffer the passage of time, to keep the memory of sunshine and high skies alive, and then just when the days are all twilight, when you need it most, it stops.”

These are the words of A. Bartlett Giamatti, from his classic essay “The Green Fields of the Mind,” which warrants a full read, whenever you are ready to digest the entirety of the end of the baseball season.

Even if you are not ready, though, not ready for baseball to come to such a sudden, screeching halt after riding an express train into October, do not run from it, do not abandon your feelings. Own this moment, as it is now an inescapable part of your team’s history, one that will, over time, earn you respect from fellow Nationals fans and opposing fans who have been through the same. It will make you stronger next year, and the in the years after that. When the champagne comes again, it will taste sweeter.

The 2012 season was the beginning of an era for the Washington Nationals.

More so, remember the many other aspects of this season that will define it more than the final inning. In a season that began with modestly hopeful predictions, the 2012 Nationals won the most games in baseball. In the fever of the pennant race, that fact was reflected in home-field advantage, but some of its impact was no doubt overlooked in the moment.

As a young, hungry team and fan base, our time began on Opening Day and continued all summer long, as the Nationals held down first place longer than any other division winner, exceeding even the most optimistic of expectations. When the year began, Mike Rizzo explicitly stated that his goal this year was “to play meaningful games in September.” Instead, he and Davey Johnson guided the team into October.

The Nationals played, by far and away, the three most meaningful games in the history of the young franchise in Washington this week, and went toe-to-toe with the defending World Series champions in front of over 135,000 rabid, red-clothed fans. The city and the fan base showed a National audience that they have arrived, that baseball in Washington is a force to be reckoned with.

Fans ignited their NATITUDE well before this week, though, as crowds averaged over 30,000 per game for the first time since baseball returned to the Nation’s Capital in 2005. Nationals fans proudly took back the park in May during a pivotal series vs. the Phillies. And though the division rival fans to the north chirped mightily all season long, the Nationals came through on the field, wresting the division crown away from the five-time division champs.

In a season full of signature moments (which we will relive in more thorough detail throughout the coming weeks), the division clinch during the season’s final series may not have been the most dramatic, but it was certainly the most meaningful, representing a shift in the NL East balance of power.

Any opposing fan who believes this was a one-year fluke is, at best, blissfully oblivious to what has been built in Washington. With a roster overflowing with young talent just beginning to grow into itself, this is merely the end of chapter one, with many volumes remaining to be written in the coming years. So wear your Curly W’s proudly today and hold your heads up high throughout the winter. Baseball will spring anew again next year, and we will all be a year wiser, a year stronger, and ready to – in the words of Teddy Roosevelt – strive valiantly once again.

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”

PS: Boswell is brilliant too. 



‏RT @UNH09
This is the darkest day in this town since Marion Barry got caught with a crack ho! #saditude

...and turns to ashes in my mouth

Get me the fuck out of St. Louis.  Fuck Stan Musial.  Fuck Lindbergh.  Fuck St. Louis.  Get me out of this red brick hell.

#saditude.  I am going to go pee on the arch.

Tuesday, October 09, 2012

On life and kitchens

Claude Bernard on experimental physiology in An Introduction to the Study of Experimental Medicine (Henry Copley Green translation).
It has somewhere been said that true science is like a flowering and delectable plateau which can be attained only after climbing craggy steeps and scratching one’s legs against branches and brushwood. If a comparison were required to express my idea of the science of life, I should say that it is a superb and dazzlingly lighted hall which may be reached only by passing through a long and ghastly kitchen.


Korean Nation Branding, Gangnam Style

Taking on our enemies wherever they nest!

On Passports

"Passports are only good for annoying honest folks, and aiding in the flight of rogues."
-Jules Verne, "Around the World in 80 Days"

And Phileas Fogg didn't visit Absurdistan.

Monday, October 08, 2012

Pakistan-Israel Dialogue Cont.

More on the dialogue I helped initiate between Israel and Pakistan.

International Golden Arches

Foreign Policy has a cool spread on best McDonald's dishes you can't find in American golden arches.  I would add the McAloo Tikki (potato burger), the Chinese McDonald's hamburger with egg and the Filipino McFried Chicken with spaghetti.  Also, the Chinese taro pie and the Southeast Asian chili sauce for fries.  Gets back to my gastrodiplomacy dream of opening an international McDonalds that serves only foods that McDonalds serves abroad.

Sunday, October 07, 2012

The week that was

'Twas a busy week indeed.  I ended the two month stint in Brooklyn, lamenting at the irony that I finally found a place where I wanted to stay put and yet my peregrine way made that impossible.  I left my sublet behind and hopped the bus back to Bethesda.  I am officially homeless.

Monday I was up and out early to pick up Act of Congress on their way back from their American Music Abroad tour.  They were back from Thailand, the Philippines, Palau and East Timor, and they were a bit exhausted.  They were back in DC for a brief de-brief, and some wrap-up programs.

On Tuesday, Act of Congress had their debrief back at State, then headed over to American University to play and discuss their tour with Prof. Hayden's Applied PD class.  The class was keen on the show, and enjoyed chatting about their tour.  We also discussed how the AMA program under American Voices stewardship differed from previous iterations of the tour.

On Wednesday, we took Act of Congress back out to College Gardens Elementary school, where they had played for the kiddies on their departure.  As we arrived to the lunch room, some of the kids greeted them (Hi, Act of Congress!).  They played a few songs and talked about the strange places they visited.  The kids were curious how they were able to communicate in places where they didn't speak the language, and they explained the universality of music.

We were starved so on our return to Arlington, I took the crew to Ray's Hell Burger, which had been the site of some culinary diplomacy between Obama and Medvedev.  I had been told that Ray's Hell Burger had some of the best burgers in the country.  My curiosity trumped my vegetarianism, and I opted to try the famous burger.  Medium, with lettuce, tomato, grilled onions and sherry-sauteed mushrooms.  The burger was good, but a little undercooked for medium and not so amazing that I would reconsider my veggie ways.

Wednesday was the night of the debate, and I don't think I watched the same debate as the chattering classes.  While I will concede that Romney may have won (perhaps, if you suspend all factchecking), I don't think Obama lost badly.  I thought Obama gave a solid enough performance.  Romney had been such a caricature that all he had to do was show up and be personable and he would exceed expectations.   I objected to Romney's tack-back to the center, as if we should forget his hard-right campaigning.  I am also surprised he didn't get more flak for steamrolling Lehrer, which I thought was poor form.  But apparently no one agreed with me.

Thursday John and I had an initial meeting at State about our upcoming Sudan program, then I headed out to St. Louis.  I had two puddle jumper planes that took me by way of Pittsburgh to St. Louis.  Once in StL, I hopped the metrolink in town.  I love getting the opportunity to try out public transit in different cities.  The train took me into town.

Friday was busy but ended nicely, first with some home-cooked Kurdish dinner from the AV scholarship student Alan.  He made a sumptuous dinner of rice, bamiya (okra stew) and tenderloins that I passed on.  After dinner, I took our 2 Iraqi scholarship students to pick up some Chinese girls who Alan is studying with.  Quite a mix of cultural exchange.

We then headed on to the symphony at the immaculate Powell Hall to see the St. Louis Symphony perform Mahler's 3rd Symphony.  It was beautiful but a bit long.

Saturday we had a strategic planning meeting for American Voices that went the better part of the day.  After a nap, I stopped over at my favorite place in St. Louis: Jay's International Market.  Jay's International Market is the place to go when you are looking for ackee or mango pickle or soy bean milk.  I picked up some Ting and Chinese sandalwood soap, but really just enjoyed walking through the aisles of sights and smells.

Lost in Translation

Since I am in St. Louis, I have the opportunity to drive again.  With driving brings the chance to listen to NPR.  There were two I heard tonight on Snap Judgement's Lost in Translation episode, first gave me chills, the second left my eyes watery.  Have a listen.


C'mon Nats! I am in ST. Louis and I want to talk smack real bad.

Saturday, October 06, 2012

The Tiger's Tail to Taiwan

I was pushing for this a few years back: better connections between India and Taiwan.  I blogged about it and spoke about it on Radio Taiwan International.  What remains is better public diplomacy connections between India and Taiwan.

American Voices new website

It has been a long slog, but American Voices has a new website:

Big thanks to Peter Tran of Mice & Pen and KulovCommunications.

Find your understanding

I don't usually post commercials, but I found this poignant.


What smart advertisers are learning these days is that it is the oblique way to sell.  This commercial is truly in Bernaysian fashion in that it speaks to the emotional, irrational connection.  It doesn't push the product, but lets the story speak with an underlying connection and gains credit therein for the poignancy.   

Friday, October 05, 2012

Negilah Diplomacy

American Voices' Iraqi Scholarship student Alan is playing and singing "Hava Negilah" in the kitchen.  That is the beauty of cross-cultural exchange.

Game of Last Supper

Monday, October 01, 2012

The Kurdistan creep

Inch by inch. Let it be so.  Viva Kurdistan Libre!

Grand Old Paradox

Fareed Zakaria has a great monologue on the Elephantine Tragedy that is the Romney candidacy: it's the fanatical base, stupid.  The problem is the Republican base who will flay Mr. Mitt if he gets near uttering any practical suggestions, so he is reduced to uttering vacuous doctrinaire statements.  I almost feel bad for the straightjacketed Mitt.  The man I lived under when he was Governor of Massachusetts is not the man running today.  He couldn't possibly be, because a pragmatic conservative who can get himself elected as governor of Mass couldn't possibly win the Republic nomination or get any support once he has wrested that crown.  Good find JohnnieTalker.