From “Understanding Obamacare,” in the December 2009 Harper’s Magazine
The idea that there is a competitive “private sector” in America is appealing, but generally false. No one hates competition more than the managers of corporations. Competition does not enhance shareholder value, and smart managers know they must forsake whatever personal beliefs they may hold about the redemptive power of creative destruction for the more immediate balm of government intervention. This wisdom is expressed most precisely in an underutilized phrase from economics: regulatory capture.
When Congress created the first U.S. regulatory agency, the Interstate Commerce Commission, in 1887, the railroad barons it was meant to subdue quickly recognized an opportunity. “It satisfies the popular clamor for a government supervision of railroads at the same time that that supervision is almost entirely nominal,” observed the railroad lawyer Richard Olney. “Further, the older such a commission gets to be, the more inclined it will be found to take the business and railroad view of things. It thus becomes a sort of barrier between the railroad corporations and the people and a sort of protection against hasty and crude legislation hostile to railroad interests.” As if to underscore this claim, Olney soon after got himself appointed to run the U.S. Justice Department, where he spent his days busting railroad unions.
In an article published in the February, 2010, issue of Guns & Weapons for Law Enforcement (a print magazine not available online), Donald J. Mihalek argues that suspected criminals in the United States should be treated the same way “insurgents” are in Iraq. “With violent crime increasing in many American cities,” writes Mihalek, “it is easy to think of criminals as an ‘insurgency’…. This growing insurgent behavior includes shootings of civilians, a growing trend of gang violence and an increase in narcotics related kidnapping. The trends point to a need for a renewed strategy to fight violent crime.” Mihalek suggests cops borrow from General David Petraeus, who formulated an eight point counterinsurgency plan to deal with elements in Iraq opposed to the occupation of their country…. U.S. COIN doctrine includes psychological warfare (planned use of propaganda and other psychological actions) and information warfare (spreading of propaganda or disinformation to demoralize the enemy and the public). Psychological and information warfare are currently used against the American public (for instance, the US Army 4th Psychological Operations Group was active at both NPR and CNN, while the CIA’s Operation Mockingbird compromised a large segment of the corporate media beginning in the early 1950s). For COIN to work domestically, the United States will need to be turned into a police state under military occupation. Think Fallujah and the so-called “Strategic Hamlets” of Vietnam. Think Gestapo, Stasi and secret police. –“Law Enforcement Magazine Argues for Counterinsurgency Against Americans,” Kurt Nimmo, Infowars
Is the strategy to bring stability to Afghanistan so absurdly complex that it forces Thomas Friedman to think of the country as a “special needs baby”? And what to make of the fact that the two most important Americans in Afghanistan can’t find “their happy place?”? It’s enough to drive one to drink, (perhaps a fine Japanese beer brewed with interstellar barley)
Nothing about Châteauneuf-du-Pape is sleek or polished. It’s a rough-and-tumble wine, sometimes ungainly and fierce, but just as often warm, open, generous and full of pleasure. It can be intense and complex— it’s not at all simple. Yet it sometimes can be as friendly as a big good-natured dog. Occasionally, it’s too friendly…. Personally, I prefer more focused and angular Châteauneufs, like the 2004s, which balance spicy fruit flavors with earthiness, minerality and whiffs of flowers and herbs. Even Châteauneufs that I’ve had from 2003, the heat-wave year in Europe, managed to balance concentrated fruit flavors with the sort of earthy, herbal, leather and tobacco character that I have always enjoyed in Châteauneuf…. I still love Châteauneuf, though I don’t drink it all that often. When I think of some of the best bottles I’ve had— the fresh purity of Château Rayas, the almost otherworldly beauty and complexity of Henri Bonneau, the meat, leather and what’s politely referred to as “barnyard” aromas in Beaucastel— I know I’ll be back for more.–“Châteauneuf That’s Easy on the Jam,” Eric Asimov, New York Times
The “slendering” of America’s unnecessarily-famous chefs will still not result in anyone taking nude photos of them in nightclub bathrooms; related: the re-rise of Moneyball as cinema
Zombies stalked the streets of Galway, Ireland while Michigan Whirl-marters confronted consumers with the proverbial question: What would Jesus buy? From Xalapa, Mexico to Valletta, Malta and New York, USA to Kyoto, Japan, people across the globe took part by simply opting out of the annual consumer spectacle. Some devoted the day to small personal challenges, while others joined Reverend Billy at the memorial for Jdimytai Damour, the man trampled to death at Wal-Mart last year in a bargain-hungry Black Friday crush. To all those who participated in this year’s observance, we commend you for taking a stand against the consumer culture that is killing our world. –“Buy Nothing Day…Buy Nothing Xmas,” Adbusters
The ethical ambivalence of short fiction on Kindle, as stated by Christopher Buckley: “Sure, ideally, I would like it printed on archival paper and bound in red morocco with gold embossed for a limited edition and signed by the author…[but if it] “grabs some eyeballs— and I guess grabbing eyeballs is what the Internet is all about— then I’m all for it.”; the unexpected commercial success of Mennonite In A Little Black Dress; the end of America’s highways: photos and descriptions
Ratio of children’s emergency-room visits for injuries related to fireworks last year to those related to “desk supplies”:
The ecosystems around Chernobyl, Ukraine, are now healthier than they were before the nuclear disaster, though radiation levels are still too high for human habitation.
The Islamic State opened two new theme parks featuring a Ferris wheel, teacup rides, and bumper 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.”