Via Neil Sinhababu, Rep. Tom Davis (R)’s twenty page strategy memo for Republicans observes that the Iraq War is “the ultimate cultural issue, fueling and giving oxygen to the cultural left, as well as planting doubts in many swing voters’ minds about the direction of the country.”
Of course it’s also an actual war in which over 100,000 Americans are risking their lives, in which tens of thousands of Americans have been wounded, millions of Iraqis displaced, many people killed, hundreds of billions spent, etc., etc., etc. But maybe that goes without saying?
Last Thursday, the House passed an amendment to the defense authorization bill mandating that the Defense Department and the GAO investigate the Pentagon’s propaganda program, which was first revealed by The New York Times on April 20. The Times reports today that the DoD inspector general has announced an investigation and GAO has already started one:
The inspector general’s office at the Defense Department announced on Friday that it would investigate a Pentagon public affairs program that sought to transform retired military officers who work as television and radio analysts into “message force multipliers” who could be counted on to echo Bush administration talking points about Iraq, Afghanistan, Guantánamo and terrorism in general. [...]
The G.A.O. said it had already begun looking into the program and would give a legal opinion on whether it violated longstanding prohibitions against spending government money to spread propaganda to audiences in the United States. [...]
The inspector general’s office said its inquiry would specifically look at whether special access to Pentagon leaders “may have given the contractors a competitive advantage.“
Meh. I liked the Vampire Weekend column. It’s just that while I almost always enjoy the “comic sociology” pieces that made Brooks famous, I wish they came with footnotes or something so we could learn whether or not there’s actual sociology to back up the stuff Brooks is saying. Is there real evidence that the rise of geek culture is politically relevant as he implies toward the end? It’s an interesting issue, which makes it an interesting column, but while I liked the joke about Barack Obama being the Prince Caspian of the iPhone set, I’d also kind of like to know the answer.
Tyler Cowen reports on an advance so awesome that I’m prepared to declare 21st century Japan the pinnacle of human culture — a glasses-cleaning machine that deals with the problem that the post-cleaning drying of the glasses tends to smudge them again. “I’ve never ever had my glasses so clean before,” reports Tyler.
And yet, this kind of miracle is never going to be properly accounted for in purchase power parity calculations.
Commenting on the decision on last night’s “Bill Moyers Journal,” legal scholar Jeffery Toobin explained that the “real agenda” behind voter ID laws is “to help Republicans”:
I thought it was a bad decision, but a predictable one because it was a very clear attempt by Republicans to stop Democrats from voting. I don’t think there’s any doubt about what the motivation was of that law. … The real agenda was to help Republicans.
Though the Court’s majority claimed the impact was nothing more than a “minor inconvenience” to voters, in fact there are as many as 21 million voting-age Americans without driver’s licenses. Thirteen percent of registered Indiana voters lack the documents needed to obtain state identification.
During the recent Indiana primary, a group of 12 nuns were turned away from the polls because they lacked a valid photo ID. One nun in Missouri said, “This is going to keep a lot of our loved ones from being able to vote.”
Moreover, the new law disenfranchised many out-of-state students attending private Indiana colleges, such as Notre Dame and DePauw, because “ID cards issued by private colleges don’t qualify under the state law.”
One thing I’m not sure most people realize is that unlike magazine articles, books don’t go through any kind of formal fact-checking process whatsoever. An author worried about inadvertent errors sneaking into his work (i.e., me) can hire someone out of pocket to check things, but there’s nothing stopping an unscrupulous writer from just passing off fabrications as true. Ben Mezrich’s Bringing Down the House (the basis for 21), for example “is not a work of “nonfiction” in any meaningful sense of the word.”
So it’s no surprise to see that Mezrich’s proposal for a tell-all book about the true story behind Facebook seems to have some questionable sourcing. But some of this stuff is just sloppy — Mezrich talks a bunch, for example, about a Facebook predecessor that he thinks was called “FaceSmash” but was in fact called “FaceMash.” They have a campus newspaper and everything that covered this when it happened.
EW reports: “90210 spinoff casts Tristan Wilds of The Wire“. This is all wrong. What they ought to do is make a Wire spinoff that’s also an update of The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air in which Wilds, as Michael, moves in with rich Southern California relatives. In fact, I would pay good money just to watch David Simon’s facial expression upon hearing that pitch.
This weekend, John McCain is hosting a group of vice presidential contenders at his estate in Sedona, Arizona, for a backyard barbeque. Reporters — who will not attend — are giddy over the event. They’ve been referring to McCain as a “legendary grillman,” praising his ability to cook baby-back ribs, and characterizing him as “just another grandpa at the grill.” Watch a video compilation:
Much of Emily Gould’s article about her life as a professional blogger doesn’t seem similar at all to my life, but her description of the odd phenomenon of quasi-fame that comes from being a blogger has some resonance with me:
I started seeing a therapist again, and we talked about my feelings of being inordinately scrutinized. “It’s important to remember that you’re not a celebrity,” she told me. How could I tell her, without coming off as having delusions of grandeur, that, in a way, I was? I obviously wasn’t “famous” in the way that a movie star or even a local newscaster or politician is famous — I didn’t go to red-carpet parties or ride around in limos, and my parents’ friends still had no idea what I was talking about when I described my job — but I had begun to have occasional run-ins with strangers who knew what I did for a living and felt completely comfortable walking up to me on the street and talking about it. The Monday after my disastrous CNN appearance, as I stood in line at Balthazar’s coffee bar, a middle-aged man in a suit told me to keep my chin up. “Emily, don’t quit Gawker!” a young guy shouted at me from his bicycle as I walked down the street one day. If someone stared at me on the subway, there was no way to tell whether they were admiring my outfit or looking at the stain on my sweater or whether they, you know, Knew Who I Was.
It’s a pretty weird phenomenon, though since I’ve been doing this blog for over six years now (over 22+ percent of my life!) I’ve gotten used to it. People sometimes come up to me in bars, Metro stations, etc. and introduce themselves as if I were a real celebrity which is always flattering but then again it makes me worry that I’m somehow not living up to the blog persona or something.