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Thank God for partisan gerrymandering. I owe my many terms as your member of Congress to the fact that our beloved district is rigged. After the 2000 Census, members of my party in the state Legislature drew the borders of my district to avoid the neighborhoods of people likely to vote against me, with limbs going out to rope in likely voters. The district goes down the highway, veers away at a right angle, wriggles through a parking lot and down an alley, flares out to take in an apartment complex and then shrinks again to avoid a suburb. Some people think the district looks like a boa constrictor that swallowed a porcupine. Others think it looks like Bart Simpson squashed by a steamroller. I think it’s beautiful. I’m writing you now, my dear constituents, because, after the 2010 Census, my friends in the state Legislature, if they retain the majority, have promised to redraw the lines of our beloved district to give me an even safer seat, if that can be imagined. Some of you will be assigned by the Legislature to other newly gerrymandered districts. Not that I’ll notice. Unless you’ve given me more than $10,000, I wouldn’t know you from Adam.–“Dear Nobodies: a congressman writes to his constituents: ‘Thank God for gerrymandering,’” Salon
Also by Michael Lind: “Washington Meal Ticket: How to buy a senator’s smile,” in the August 1998 Harper’s (subscriber only); nausea, queasiness, and the contradictions of American politics: Jim Shea, Hartford Courant: “If you think you are sick of Joe Lieberman now just wait until you get sick”; Joe Klein, Time, 2009: “The war in Vietnam was based on lies–the Tonkin Gulf incident–and a false premise, the notion that Vietnam would be the next domino to fall in a communist campaign to conquer Asia….Afghanistan is different”; Joe Klein, Time, 2008: “The war in Afghanistan — the war that President-elect Barack Obama pledged to fight and win — has become an aimless absurdity….a slow bleed against an array of mostly indigenous narco-jihadi-tribal guerrilla forces that we continue to call the ‘Taliban.’” (Are we all just baboons at war? the video evidence)
It is fitting that the hidden costs of fame should be exacted from Mr. Woods almost precisely 50 years after the publication of a book, “Celebrity Register,” that presented a new picture of social standing in modern America, one in which talent and achievement had been subordinated to publicity. In order to record this transformation, the project’s editor-in-chief, Cleveland Amory, put a team of 20 researchers and writers to work, and four years later they fashioned a colossal volume; its 864 oversize pages were divided into two columns of names, each with a photo and a mailing address (usually a home address)— 2,240 celebrities in all, beginning with the baseball slugger Hank Aaron and ending with the ballet dancer Vera Zorina. “The word ‘Celebrity,’ in our present ‘Celebrity Society’ covers a multitude of sins,” Mr. Amory wrote in a prefatory note. “It does not mean, for example, accomplishment in the sense of true or lasting worth— rather it often means simply accomplishment in the sense of popular, or highly publicized, temporary success.” –Sam Tanenhaus, The New York Times
In a city as sprawling and as proud of its architectural grandeur as Chicago, such an emphasis on size seemed only fitting. Everything surrounding my father’s office was big, and the men working with him rested in that shadow. The office was on the second floor of a two-storey building, just around the corner from a fast-food Greek takeout restaurant and a strip mall better suited to the suburbs, and yet less than a quarter of a mile away stood the Sears Tower and a dozen other skyscrapers whose shadows were literally cast over the office and road every afternoon. Size was paramount in a city like that, and if the immigrant men working with my father had to share only one word in common, it would have certainly been ‘big’. What else could they say about the city they now found themselves in and about their dreams, and all the things that threatened to derail them, except that they were big?–“Big Money,” Dinaw Mengistu, Granta
For the past three years my dosimeter had sat silently on a narrow shelf just inside the door of a house in Tokyo, upticking its final digit every twenty-four hours by one or two, the increase never failing — for radiation is the ruthless companion of time. Wherever we are, radiation finds and damages us, at best imperceptibly. During those three years, my American neighbors had lost sight of the accident at Fukushima. In March 2011, a tsunami had killed hundreds, or thousands; yes, they remembered that. Several also recollected the earthquake that caused it, but as for the hydrogen explosion and containment breach at Nuclear Plant No. 1, that must have been fixed by now — for its effluents no longer shone forth from our national news. Meanwhile, my dosimeter increased its figure, one or two digits per day, more or less as it would have in San Francisco — well, a trifle more, actually. And in Tokyo, as in San Francisco, people went about their business, except on Friday nights, when the stretch between the Kasumigaseki and Kokkai-Gijido-mae subway stations — half a dozen blocks of sidewalk, which commenced at an antinuclear tent that had already been on this spot for more than 900 days and ended at the prime minister’s lair — became a dim and feeble carnival of pamphleteers and Fukushima refugees peddling handicrafts.
One Friday evening, the refugees’ half of the sidewalk was demarcated by police barriers, and a line of officers slouched at ease in the street, some with yellow bullhorns hanging from their necks. At the very end of the street, where the National Diet glowed white and strange behind other buildings, a policeman set up a microphone, then deployed a small video camera in the direction of the muscular young people in drums against fascists jackets who now, at six-thirty sharp, began chanting: “We don’t need nuclear energy! Stop nuclear power plants! Stop them, stop them, stop them! No restart! No restart!” The police assumed a stiffer stance; the drumming and chanting were almost uncomfortably loud. Commuters hurried past along the open space between the police and the protesters, staring straight ahead, covering their ears. Finally, a fellow in a shabby sweater appeared, and murmured along with the chants as he rounded the corner. He was the only one who seemed to sympathize; few others reacted at all.
Number of U.S. congressional districts in which trade with China has produced more jobs than it has cost:
Young bilingual children who learned one language first are likelier than monolingual children and bilingual children who learned languages simultaneously to say that a dog adopted by owls will hoot.
An Oklahoma legislative committee voted to defund Advanced Placement U.S. History courses, accusing the curriculum of portraying the United States as “a nation of oppressors and exploiters.”
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“He could be one of a million beach-bound, black-socked Florida retirees, not the man who, by some odd happenstance of life, possesses the brain of Albert Einstein — literally cut it out of the dead scientist's head.”