A month or two ago I saw the video of Obama roasting Donald Trump at the Correspondent’s Dinner in 2011, and I felt sorry for Trump. Even though he had orchestrated the utterly cynical campaign against Obama and his birth certificate.
That’s how good Barry was.
But it’s hard to watch this and not see the Donald formulating his revenge.
Not that he’s earned it, but it appears a not small percentage of us thinks he has. Wow. Let’s try to convince them otherwise.
Arthur C. Brooks is president of the American Enterprise Institute, a conservative think tank. In this past Sunday’s New York Times he takes on the problem of polarization in the United States. This leads him from an old joke about two comedians in a boat, to the Dalai Lama, and a call for warmheartedness.
It’s well worth a read. I couldn’t agree with him more.
Spurlock does all the things a good and enterprising reporter might do. He follows his trash from house to truck, then to the transfer station, and on to the dump. He investigates what happens to all the plastic in the ocean. He works a shift with his local Department of Sanitation workers, looks at a recycling MRF, explores electronic waste issues, and even talks to members of the zero-waste movement. Though there is no indication he visits a Prolerizer, which is something I would like to see, these are all fine topics for discussion.
Spurlock was an enterprising documentarian while making Super Size Me, about eating McDonalds only, and POM Presents: The Greatest Movie Ever Sold, about product placement, and has made many other films and TV shows, including one about One Direction, so he’s likely to do a fine job on the same story in a different medium. We’ll see.
Elizabeth is philosophical. One can’t own a topic, of course. Still it’s hard to read through the list of topics in Spurlock’s show and the reportorial approach and not think of recycling.
Richtel’s story is a reminder that our government gave up on a conscripted army after the Viet Nam war because it was an inefficient and politically troublesome way to wage war, especially unpopular wars that go on for a long time. Something our military seems to be very good at.
And our volunteer veterans are the citizens who face the consequences of this perpetual war, including deployment and redeployment, life and death risk, debilitating injury, and the prospect of facing a lifetime being reminded that service ends up being a democratic dividing line rather than an adhesive.
Richtel makes this point more lucidly than I ever could by telling the story of a hand shake, and what came after.
David Carr, who died last week, was a writer about media at the New York Times in recent years, which is a highly visible beat, but before that he had a colorful life as a journalist and editor and knucklehead and fuckup. Ta-Nehisi Coates met Carr when Coates was a knucklehead and Carr was an editor, an editor who hired him and who made a profound difference in the young man’s life. In this tribute Coates explains why, and also explains something deep and abiding about growing up and becoming a writer, explains the power of David Carr’s vision of journalism and reporting, and gives the George Polk award he won this week for his powerful reported story, The Case For Reparations, to Carr in honor of all his former editor taught and gave him. Beautiful.
One of the challenges when thinking about this week’s terror in Paris was that much of the work of Charlie Hebdo was offensive, not in the least likable or defensible on anything but the broadest grounds.
Another, as Teju Cole points out in the New Yorker, is the asymmetry between our hand-wringing about this assault on our liberty, and our indifference or silence about the actions of our governments taken in our names. He writes:
“Rather than posit that the Paris attacks are the moment of crisis in free speech—as so many commentators have done—it is necessary to understand that free speech and other expressions of liberté are already in crisis in Western societies; the crisis was not precipitated by three deranged gunmen. The U.S., for example, has consolidated its traditional monopoly on extreme violence, and, in the era of big data, has also hoarded information about its deployment of that violence. There are harsh consequences for those who interrogate this monopoly. The only person in prison for the C.I.A.’s abominable torture regime is John Kiriakou, the whistle-blower. Edward Snowden is a hunted man for divulging information about mass surveillance. Chelsea Manning is serving a thirty-five-year sentence for her role in WikiLeaks. They, too, are blasphemers, but they have not been universally valorized, as have the cartoonists of Charlie Hebdo.”
There is a little bit too much in Cole’s piece of the This-was-a-horrible-event-but sort of rhetoric, but he rightly shines a light on our preference for short-term reactions to events that present themselves as personal rather than engage in the formidable struggle to change the behaviors of governments. Of course he also scolds rather than point to an effective action to take.
But maybe there really isn’t a different course, an effective action, at least not until enough of us are suitably maddened about the way our governments make us complicit in their abominable actions in defense of our so-called liberties.