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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
Number of free condoms handed out by the Brazilian government in advance of Carnival this year:
The best way to measure happiness is simply to ask people how happy they are.
Following three weeks of clashes between protesters and government forces that killed at least 17 people, Venezuelan president Nicolás Maduro announced a two-day extension of Carnival. “Happiness will conquer the embittered,” he said during an appearance at a recreation center.
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“American politics has often been an arena for angry minds.”