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From “Achievetrons,” by Lewis H. Lapham, in the March 2009 Harper’s
President Barack Obama’s Christmas shopping for cabinet officers in
December of last year prompted the national news media to rejoice in
the glad tiding that his campaign slogan, “Change you can believe in,”
was just and only that, a slogan. Instead of showing himself partial
to “closet radicals” who might pose some sort of deep downfield threat
to the status quo, Obama was choosing wisely from the high-end, happy
few, dispensing with “the romantic and failed notion” that individuals
never before seen on the White House lawn could provide the “maturity”
needed “in a time of war and economic crisis.” David Brooks assured
his readers in the New York Times that the incoming apparat, its
members “twice as smart as the poor reporters who have to cover them,”
embodied “the best of the Washington insiders.” “Achievetrons . . .
who got double 800s on their SATs,” said Brooks, taking pains to list
the schools from which they had received diplomas (Columbia, Harvard,
Wellesley, Harvard Law, Stanford, Yale Law, Princeton, etc.) attesting
to the worth of their wise counsel. Karl Rove, former advance man for
President George W. Bush, informed the Wall Street Journal that Tim
Geithner (Dartmouth, Johns Hopkins) as secretary of the Treasury and
Larry Summers (M.I.T., Harvard) as director of the National Economic
Council were “solid picks,” both investments rated “reassuring” and
“market-oriented.” Max Boot, contributor to Commentary and visiting
fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, advised the wandering
spirits in the blogosphere that “only churlish partisans of both the
left and the right” could quarrel with the naming of Hillary Clinton
(Wellesley, Yale Law) as secretary of state and Robert Gates
(Georgetown) as secretary of defense, appointments that “could just as
easily have come from a President McCain.”
So the banks were too big to fail and now, apparently, health care is too big to fix, at least the way a majority of people indicate they would like it to be fixed, with a single payer option. President Obama favors a public health plan competing with the medical cartel that he hopes will create a real market that would bring down costs. But single payer has vanished from his radar. Nor is single payer getting much coverage in the mainstream media. Barely a mention was given to the hundreds of doctors, nurses and other health care professionals who came to Washington last week to protest the absence of official debate over single payer. — “Bill Moyers: How Can We Expect an Industry That Profits from Disease and Sickness to Police Itself?” by Bill Moyers and Michael Winship, AlterNet.org
Harper’s Luke Mitchell on why America won’t get the health-care system it needs (on video); Paul Krugman: “You see, we actually have a real live case of impressive cost control in health care: the VA system”; the “Canadian rationing canard”
She came, she cut, she ate— and now, after gobbling seal heart raw, Governor General Michaelle Jean is tasting the inevitable wave of political indigestion. “Neanderthal” and “blood lust” were some of the phrases animal-rights campaigners used today to describe Jean’s cultural encounter in Rankin Inlet, Nunavut, in which the Queen’s representative sliced off and sampled a piece of seal heart from the dripping carcass of a freshly slaughtered seal. “It amazes us that a Canadian official would indulge in such bloodlust,” said Dan Mathews, senior vice president of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals. “It sounds like she’s trying to give Canadians an even more Neanderthal image around the world than they already have.” — “Row erupts over Governor General’s seal taste,” Mitch Potter, The Star
Dean Baker: “The economy is continuing to contract rapidly”; GE predicts $25 billion in green revenue in 2010, about 25 times what it spent from 1990 to 2007 “addressing PCB-related issues” in the Hudson River and elsewhere (see also)
The “Lawsuit Zeus,” also known as “Johnny Sue-nami,” filed a lawsuit this week in federal court seeking an injunction to stop the Guinness Book of World Records from naming him as the person who has filed the most lawsuits in the history of mankind. Jonathan Lee Riches, aka Irving Picard, filed his latest legal fight this week in the Richland office of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Washington, although he is incarcerated in the Federal Medical Center in Lexington, Ky. Riches alleges that Guinness is planning to print false information about the number of lawsuits he has filed, which he says is more than 4,000 worldwide. And he objects to the names Guinness intends to call him, including: “The litigator crusader,” the “duke of lawsuits,” “Johnny Sue-nami,” “Sue-per-man” and the “Patrick Ewing of suing.”
I recently spent a semester teaching writing at an elite liberal-arts college. At strategic points around the campus, in shades of yellow and green, banners displayed the following pair of texts. The first was attributed to the college’s founder, which dates it to the 1920s. The second was extracted from the latest version of the institution’s mission statement:
The paramount obligation of a college is to develop in its students the ability to think clearly and independently, and the ability to live confidently, courageously, and hopefully.
Let us take a moment to compare these texts. The first thing to observe about the older one is that it is a sentence. It expresses an idea by placing concepts in relation to one another within the kind of structure that we call a syntax. It is, moreover, highly wrought: a parallel structure underscored by repetition, five adverbs balanced two against three.
Percentage of Britons who cannot name the city that provides the setting for the musical Chicago:
An Australian entrepreneur was selling oysters raised in tanks laced with Viagra.
A naked man believed to be under the influence of LSD rammed his pickup truck into two police cars.
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“Shelby is waiting for something. He himself does not know what it is. When it comes he will either go back into the world from which he came, or sink out of sight in the morass of alcoholism or despair that has engulfed other vagrants.”