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14 January 2015 @ 05:55 am
-- Equal in Paris - Thomas Chatterton Williams, n+1, Jan. 13, 2015

"IN THE FIVE YEARS that I have lived in France, I have more than once been welcomed into well-furnished rooms where I have been left to silently puzzle over colonial detritus—Sambo-like dolls and figurines, thick-lipped, bug-eyed, disembodied brown porcelain heads—cavalierly displayed on illuminated shelves and marble tabletops. The first few times I saw these mementos I was jarred, though it is also possible for me to talk and laugh and drink in such spaces, because I am with friends, and I am comfortable in my status as an American who has made his home in Paris but is always free to leave. And yet, I would be lying if I denied that there is some small part of my consciousness still tender with ancestral ache, which cannot ever allow me to lose sight of these outlandish trophies and souvenirs. They seem to somehow comfort or amuse my hosts, reminding them of nothing at all or of some far less complicated and stressful past, and fit smartly in the décor alongside equestrian prints, layered “oriental” rugs, and grandfather’s antelope heads from Africa mounted on the wall."

-- Why History Will Be Very Kind to Obama - Jonathan Chait, New York Magazine, Jan. 11, 2015

"The president’s infuriating serenity, his inclination to play Spock even when the country wants a Captain Kirk, makes him an unusual kind of leader. But it is obvious why Obama behaves this way: He is very confident in his idea of how history works and how, once the dust settles, he will be judged. For Obama, the long run has been a source of comfort from the outset. He has quoted King’s dictum about the arc of the moral universe eventually bending toward justice, and he has said that “at the end of the day, we’re part of a long-running story. We just try to get our paragraph right.” To his critics, Obama is unable to attend to the theatrical duties of his office because he lacks a bedrock emotional connection with America. It seems more likely that he is simply unwilling to: that he is conducting his presidency on the assumption that his place in historical memory will be defined by a tabulation of his successes minus his failures. And that tomorrow’s historians will be more rational and forgiving than today’s political commentators."

-- Why History Will Eviscerate Obama - Christopher Caldwell, New York Magazine, Jan. 11, 2015

"Obama may wind up the most consequential of the three baby-boom presidents. He expanded certain Bush ­policies — Detroit bailouts, internet surveillance, drone strikes — and cleaned up after others. We will not know for years whether Obama’s big deficits risked a future depression to avoid a present one, or whether the respite he offered from “humanitarian invasions” made the country safer. Right now, both look like significant achievements. Yet there is a reason the president’s approval ratings have fallen, in much of the country, to Nixonian lows. Even his best-functioning policies have come at a steep price in damaged institutions, leaving the country less united, less democratic, and less free."
Current Location: Paris
Current Music: 36 Crazyfists - Bloodwork
10 January 2015 @ 06:06 pm
-- James Baldwin's Paris - Ellery Washington, The New York Times, Jan. 17, 2014

"In “Giovanni’s Room” Baldwin describes Les Halles as a place with “choked boulevards and impassible streets, a place where leeks, cabbages, oranges, apples, potatoes, cauliflowers stood gleaming in mounds all over, in the sidewalks and streets in front of metal sheds.” The restaurants, bars and cheap workmen’s cafes that Baldwin spoke of with such joy were demolished and replaced in 1977 by an underground transportation hub and shopping district — a modern monstrosity of metal and mirrored glass whose underground tunnels connect an intricate series of Métro and suburban train lines, while housing a subterranean shopping center. The extensive transportation and shopping options have allowed Les Halles to remain one of the most ethnically diverse neighborhoods in Paris, much like Downtown Brooklyn’s Fulton Street Mall — in terms of daily traffic, at least, in spite of the planners’ intentions to draw more exclusive retail and dining to the area. Still, the cost of living in the center limits the neighborhood’s actual diversity."

-- The Cynic and the Lame Duck President - Charles P. Pierce, Esquire, Jan. 8, 2015

"The cynic remembered his first impressions of Barack Obama, six years earlier, how his Catholic instincts had warned him that Obama was making a mistake in offering the country absolution without demanding penance from it for abandoning its responsibility of self-government and thereby allowing all the sins that the previous administration had committed, which was the biggest sin of all because it fell on all of us. In December, right before Christmas, the Senate released the executive summary of the report produced by its investigation of the American way of torture, a document that made clear, in detail, that any concept of American exceptionalism based on something as fragile as the rule of law—in fact, any concept of it based on anything except brute force—had been rendered a disgraceful farce. The country would pay no penance."
Current Location: Paris
Current Music: RL Grime feat. Big Sean - Kingpin
25 August 2012 @ 10:43 pm
A friend of mine works as a Production Assistant at MSNBC, and put me on to this, which is actually one of the best things I've seen on cable news (on the internet), ever.

The entire panel is just so much intelligent and human goodness that it almost hurts. It really does feel like watching an All-Star basketball game, only instead of playing basketball, the players are discussing arguably the most important issue in American politics since the War for Independence.

EtA: Charles Pierce over at Esquire has an interesting piece on the future of the nation, a future which hangs in the balance here and has the potential to respond very profoundly to the conflict that divided the nation at Gettysburg and so many other battlefields of that war. Every inch of this country has indeed become a new kind of battleground, but I think the central conflict is deeper even than that, than denialism and us vs them, and trouncing the Republicans so badly that they are forced to reconsider their ways. That, I don't think, will restore the good faith that allowed for congressmen of opposite parties to come together on legislation that resulted in an interstate highway, civil rights that struck down Jim Crow, and funding a program that put a man on the moon.

As long as the battlefield is our principal metaphor for what will happen this fall and the prelude to it, everyone is destined ultimately to lose.
Current Music: upright fan

Mr. President, why are you so awesome?
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