Posts Tagged ‘Conor Friedersdorf’

Must-Reads of the Week: The IRA, Journalism, Unsavory Profits, Bipartisanship, and the Tyranny of New York

Friday, May 21st, 2010

1. Double Agents in the IRA. I recently came across an excellent article by Matthew Teague in The Atlantic about the British counterintelligence program and the IRA. It’s from 2006, but still engrossing.

2. Restoring Journalism. Maureen Tkacik talks about her life as a journalist, the nothing-based economy, and the future of journalism:

If journalism’s more vital traditions of investigating corruption and synthesizing complex topics are going to be restored, it will never be at the expense of the personal, the sexual, the venal, or the sensational, but rather through mastering the kind of storytelling that understands that none of those things exists in a vacuum. For instance, perhaps the latest political sex scandal is not simply another installment of the unrelenting narcissism and sense of invincibility of people in power. Most of the journalists writing about it have—as we all do—some understanding of the internal conflicts that lead to personal failure. By humanizing journalism, we maybe can begin to develop a mutual trust between reader and writer that would benefit both.

What I’m talking about is, of course, a lot easier to do with the creative liberties afforded a blog—one’s humanity is inescapable when one commits to blogging all day for a living.

The piece is long, and worth every word. (H/t to John Cantwell.)

3. The Papacy, Blumenthal, and Now Goldman Sachs. The New York Times took on Goldman Sachs earlier this week with a look at the perfectly legal but unsavory practices it uses to make money:

Transactions entered into as the mortgage market fizzled may turn out to have been perfectly legal. Nevertheless, they have raised concerns among investors and analysts about the extent to which a variety of Wall Street firms put their own interests ahead of their clients’.

“Now it’s all about the score. Just make the score, do the deal. Move on to the next one. That’s the trader culture,” said Cornelius Hurley, director of the Morin Center for Banking and Financial Law at Boston University and former counsel to the Federal Reserve Board. “Their business model has completely blurred the difference between executing trades on behalf of customers versus executing trades for themselves. It’s a huge problem.”

4. Erroneous Assumptions. Matt Yglesias concisely summarizes what left-leaning advocates of bipartisanship have found time and again:

Oftentimes people reach the conclusions that conservatives might support this or that by the erroneous method of pretending that conservatives believe in the stated reasons for their policy positions. It seems to me that private views of wonks aside in practice the conservative political movement simply opposes anything that would increase government revenue and/or be bad for rich people.

5. The Tyranny of New York (cont). Continued from last week, many voices around the interwebs weighed in on the conversation started by Conor Friedersdorf on the tyranny of New York in media and culture. There’s a lot of good pieces to read on this — but the 2 I will recommend are this response in the New Yorker by Amy Davidson and this follow-up by Friedersdorf himself.  Davidson, as an aside mentions an E. B. White essay “Here Is New York” that I now need to read:

(Friedersdorf mentions “living vicariously through” E. B. White, who once wrote that there were three New Yorks, that of the native, the commuter, and the newcomer from smaller American places, and that “Of these trembling cities the greatest is the last—the city of final destination, the city that is a goal…Commuters give the city its tidal restlessness, natives give it solidity and continuity, but the settlers give it passion.” But I’ve never really bought that, as matchless as many of White’s descriptions of the city are, maybe because, as a native, I feel no shortage of passion, and don’t much like being called solid. And, again, for many of the most interesting newcomers, this is an entry point to America, not the “final destination.”)

[Image by me.]

Must-Reads of the Week: SWAT, Google’s News Plans, MTA Motto, Peanuts, Tea Party Feminism, Republican Pravda, Fiscal Hangover, New York’s Tyranny, Brooks on the Military, and Facebook Backlash

Friday, May 14th, 2010

1. SWAT antics. Radley Balko does some follow-up reporting on the now infamous video of the SWAT team raid in Missouri in which 2 dogs were shot:

[D]espite all the anger the raid has inspired, the only thing unusual thing here is that the raid was captured on video, and that the video was subsequently released to the press. Everything else was routine… Raids just like the one captured in the video happen 100-150 times every day in America.

2. Google’s News Plans. James Fallows discusses how Google is trying to save the news industry.

3. If you see something… Manny Fernandez in the New York Times discusses the impact and coinage of the ubiquitous phrase, “If you see something, say something.”

It has since become a global phenomenon — the homeland security equivalent of the “Just Do It” Nike advertisement — and has appeared in public transportation systems in Oregon, Texas, Florida, Australia and Canada, among others. Locally, the phrase captured, with six simple words and one comma, the security consciousness and dread of the times, the “I ♥ NY” of post-9/11 New York City. [my emphasis]

4. Artful Grief. Bill Waterson — creator of Calvin & Hobbes — reviewed a biography of Charles Schultz for the Wall Street Journal a few years ago — writing on the ‘Grief’ that Made Peanuts Good. It’s several years old but well worth reading.

5. Tea Party Feminism. Hanna Rosin of Slate evaluates the Tea Party as a feminist movement. And her reporting surprised me at least.

6. Republican Pravda. Jonathan Chait collects a few Weekly Standard covers to illustrate the changing right-wing portrayal of Obama over the past year. He identifies the passage of the health care bill as a turning point:

Now that Obama has won his biggest legislative priority and is closing in on at least one other important win, the tone is change. The hapless patsy has become the snarling bully. The lack of Republican support for Obama’s agenda, once a credit to Republican tough-mindedness, is now blamed upon Obama’s stubbornness. Here is a recent cover of Obama–the nefarious, but powerful, overseer…

7. Fiscal Hangover. Gillian Tett of the Financial Times explains the successful approach the Irish are taking to their fiscal crisis: treat it like a hangover.

8. The Tyranny of New York. Conor Friedersdof complains about the tyranny of New York — but I will excerpt his praise:

Even if New York is a peerless American city, an urban triumph that dwarfs every other in scale, density, and possibility; even if our idea of it is the romantic notion that Joan Didion described, “the mysterious nexus of all love and money and power, the shining and perishable dream itself;” even if you’ve reveled in the fact of the city, strutting down Fifth Avenue in a sharp suit or kissing a date with the skyline as backdrop while the yellow cab waits; even if you’ve drunk from the well of its creative springs, gazing at the Flatiron Building, or paging through the New York Review of Books on a Sunday morning, or living vicariously through Joseph Mitchel or E.B. White or Tom Wolfe or any of its countless chroniclers; even if you love New York as much as I do, revering it as the highest physical achievement of Western Civilization, surely you can admit that its singularly prominent role on the national scene is a tremendously unhealthy pathology.

Despite the rent, the cold, the competition, the bedbugs, the absurd requirements for securing even a closet-sized pre-war apartment on an inconvenient street; the distance from friends and family, the starkness of the sexual marketplace, the oppressive stench of sticky subway platforms in the dog days of August; despite the hour long commutes on the Monday morning F Train, when it isn’t quite 8 am, the week hardly underway, and already you feel as though, for the relief of sitting down, you’d just as soon give up, go back to Akron or Allentown or Columbus or Marin County or Long Beach — despite these things, and so many more, lawyers and novelists and artists and fashion designers and playwrights and journalists and bankers and aspiring publishers and models flock to New York City.

I don’t quite get Friedersdof’s complaint to be honest. What would be improved if there were more sitcoms taking place in Houston?

9. Military Flow Chart. David Brooks analyzes the military’s adaptation of counterinsurgency as a case study in the flow of ideas in entrenched organizations.

10. Facebook Backlash. Ryan Singel of Wired has one of many pieces in the past week fomenting the growing Facebook backlash:

Facebook has gone rogue, drunk on founder Mark Zuckerberg’s dreams of world domination. It’s time the rest of the web ecosystem recognizes this and works to replace it with something open and distributed.

[Image by me.]

Khamenei, Palestinian Classical Music, Waterboarding Pro-Life Terrorists, and the Renegade Boy Guru

Friday, June 5th, 2009

Here – for the first time in two weeks thanks to a hosting problem on the blog and a week off – is the list of best reading material for the weekend:

How Khamenei Took and Asserts Power. Mehdi Khalaji writes in Real Clear World about an aspect of Khamenei I have not previously seen – about how he was able to take such significant power in Iran. As Khalaji writes:

During his twenty years in power, Khamenei has managed to overcome his initial obstacles and transform the conventional house of religious authority into a bureaucratic powerhouse. As a result, Iranian decision-making is no longer shared, as it was in the last years of Khomeini’s life, especially with regard to war. The house of the leader makes the main decisions today, whether political or military, domestic or foreign policy related, and Khamenei is the principal decisionmaker.

Young Palestinians Take to Western Classical Music. Daniel J. Wakin had a fascinating piece in the New York Times this past Sunday about how the younger generation of Palestinians seems to have a strong interest in classical music. Wakin focuses on anecdotes – so I’m not sure if there is a discernible movement of young Palestinians becoming interested in classical music, but there is something beautiful about the idea:

The flute, [Dalia Moukarker, 16] said later, “takes me to another world that is far away from here, a more beautiful world. Because it is not a beautiful place here. It is an ugly place.”

Dalia is one of a new generation of Palestinians who have been swept up in a rising tide of interest in Western classical music in the last several years here in the Palestinian territories, but especially the West Bank. The sounds of trills and arpeggios, Bach minuets and Beethoven sonatas, are rising up amid the economic malaise and restrictions of the Israeli occupation.

Waterboarding Pro-Life Terrorists. Hypocrisy is not confined to any political movement (or even to politics.) But Conor Friedersdorf asks a basic question of those he terms the “War on Terror hawks”:

Would these predominantly conservative officials, commentators and writers be comfortable if President Obama declared two or three extremist pro-lifers as “enemy combatants”? Should Pres. Obama have the prerogative to order the waterboarding of these uncharged, untried detainees? Should he be able to listen in on phone conversations originating from evangelical churches where suspected abortion extremists hang out? The answer is probably that different “War on Terror hawks” — anyone have a better term for this? — would react differently, but as a matter of law, it seems to me that if they’d gotten their way during the Bush Administration, President Obama would have the power to take all those steps and more, a prospect that is terrifying to me, not because I think our Commander in Chief is looking for a pretext to round up innocent pro-lifers, but because it doesn’t take many violent attacks before Americans start clamoring for a strong executive response, a dynamic that tends to erode liberties in previously unthinkable ways and spawn mistakes whereby innocents are made to suffer.

Michelle Malkin tried to make similar charges of hypocrisy against those to her left in a column about the Tiller murder. I almost included her on this reading list – as her claims seemed plausible – that islamist domestic terrorists were identified as “lone shooters” while christianist domestic terrorists were identified with the larger christianist movement – and that in general, the attention paid by the media and politicians to the attacks on military recruiters has been undercover while this Tiller case has been explosive. But after investigating some of the claims she made, I don’t think I can recommend her article be read – except as a representative right-wing propaganda piece. For example, Malkin writes:

Politically and religiously motivated violence, it seems, is only worth lamenting when it demonizes opponents. Which also helps explain why the phrase “lone shooter” is ubiquitous in media coverage of jihadi shooters gone wild…but not in cases involving rare acts of anti-abortion violence.

She lists three specific people: Mohammed Taheri-Azar, Naveed Haq, and Hesham Hedayet. My brief Google searches for all three along with the term “lone shooter” turn up ZERO (0) news results (except for various conservative sites citing Malkin) – which is somewhat less than ubiquitous. Malkin also tries to say that the term “hate fuck” means to rape – which it does not. Urban Dictionary lists 10 definitions of the term – none of which imply it is rape. If the two easiest facts to check in her article are more than misleading – and are actually outright false – it’s hard to trust any of the harder to to fact check statements such as the comparisons between the degrees of media coverage of the events and the degress of administration response.

The Renegade Boy Guru. The Dalai Lama chose Osel Hita Torres “as a reincarnation of a spiritual leader” named Lama Thubten Yeshe when Osel was a baby. He lived his entire life isolated – but now has quite the monastic life. The Guardian story by Dale Fuchs is short and interesting. Here’s one nugget:

At six, he was allowed to socialise only with other reincarnated souls – though for a time he said he lived next to the actor Richard Gere’s cabin.