basketball flickr politics



There's an inti­ma­cy in this that so res­onates with me. I mean, it's impos­si­ble to imag­ine that I wouldn't be charmed by the sub­ject mat­ter alone — a Pres­i­dent I great­ly admire, plus two NBA play­ers. But this moment is espe­cial­ly great, because I love Der­rick Rose's game and I will always appre­ci­ate that he OD'd on can­dy before the 2008 NCAA Final with Kansas. And I admire Joakim Noah's grit­ty post play and his seri­ous media game. And I love that there's gen­uine emo­tion in this shot. It has got a lit­tle bit of stagey-ness, but it also feels, like I said, inti­mate, like the pho­tog­ra­ph­er took this pho­to and emailed it to me, and said: "You'd appre­ci­ate this."

photo politics

A man with a shopping bag

The NYT's Lens blog recent­ly post­ed a cou­ple of great arti­cles about the pho­tog­ra­phers who cap­tured the Tien­an­men Square protests in 1989. The first offers four riv­et­ing oral his­to­ries from pho­tog­ra­phers who cap­tured the "Tank Man" in his moment of defi­ance, and the sec­ond adds a new twist: this amaz­ing image from street level.

Tank Man at street level - New York Times - Lens BlogDis­or­der. Peo­ple flee­ing. This was hap­pen­ing as the Tank Man, seem­ing­ly so calm, stood in the street. I also think it's inter­est­ing that all the men in the pho­to are wear­ing — as a com­menter on the NYT blog put it — "the same drab clothes." A true illus­tra­tion of how much has changed in Chi­na in the last 20 years.

The Roshomon-like details in all of the pho­tog­ra­phers' sto­ries are vivid and heart­break­ing: "Vehi­cles were smol­der­ing," "a line of stu­dents fac­ing a line of sol­diers and a col­umn of tanks," "anoth­er vol­ley of shots rang out from where the tanks were, and peo­ple began duck­ing, shriek­ing, stum­bling and run­ning," "some guy in a white shirt runs out in front," "a man wav­ing two plas­tic shop­ping bags," "wav­ing his jack­et and shop­ping bag," "remon­strat­ing with the tank dri­ver in an act of defi­ance," "he then dis­ap­peared into the crowd," "the PSB (Pub­lic Secu­ri­ty Bureau) grabbed him and ran away."

And then what happened?

Char­lie Cole: "I then placed the tank roll in a plas­tic film can and wrapped it in a plas­tic bag and attached it to the flush chain in the tank of the toilet."Stuart Franklin: "The film was smug­gled out in a pack­et of tea by a French stu­dent and deliv­ered to the Mag­num office in Paris."Jeff Widen­er: "I gave all my rolls of film to [some­one named] Kurt/Kirk who smug­gled it back to the A.P. office in his under­wear. The long-haired col­lege kid was wear­ing a dirty Ram­bo T‑shirt, shorts and san­dals." Arthur Tsang Hin Wah: "A col­league rode over on a bike and picked up the film."And Ter­ril Jones, the reporter who cap­tured the shot at street lev­el: "I nev­er pub­lished them, and only showed them to a few friends and fel­low reporters."And the rest is his­to­ry. That keeps unfold­ing, I guess.


These are our core beliefs

What I know about the inner-work­ings of pol­i­tics I learned in The Pow­er Bro­ker, and there­fore I don't claim to know much oth­er than the sausage-mak­ing involved in build­ing the Tri­bor­ough Bridge. Still, I was struck by the fol­low­ing pas­sage from Ryan Lizza's New York­er pro­file of Peter Orszag, the Direc­tor of the Office of Man­age­ment and Budget.

The first bud­get, [Robert Nabors, an OMB vet­er­an] told me, "was being designed with an eye toward what do we need to do to put the econ­o­my back on a more sus­tain­able path? What do we need for eco­nom­ic growth? And what do we need to do in order to trans­form the coun­try? Those were our over­ar­ch­ing prin­ci­ples." The bud­geteers took a hyper-ratio­nal approach, attempt­ing to deter­mine pol­i­cy and leave the pol­i­tics and spin for lat­er. He went on, "One of the things that would prob­a­bly sur­prise peo­ple is that this wasn't an effort where any­body cre­at­ed a top-line bud­get num­ber and said, 'This is the num­ber that we have to hit, and that's just that, and we'll fit every­thing else in.' Or, 'We can't go high­er than x on rev­enue,' or, 'We can't go high­er than y on spend­ing.' It was more of a func­tion­al bud­get than any­thing else: 'This is what we need to do. These are our prin­ci­ples. These are our core beliefs. And as a result this is what our bud­get looks like.'"

This is prob­a­bly the kind of thing that gives night­mares to the teabag­gers, but I love the idea of goal-ori­ent­ed bud­get cre­ation. Why not try to keep your eyes on the prize of actu­al tan­gi­ble out­comes like sus­tain­ble eco­nom­ic growth when you're wran­gling the world's most com­pli­cat­ed spread­sheet into submission?

lit politics



Con­fu­cius: To know that we know what we know, and that we do not know what we do not know, that is true knowl­edge. Don­ald Rums­feld, for­mer Sec­re­tary of Defense, aka "Rums­fu­cious:" As we know, there are known knowns. There are things we know we know. We also know there are known unknowns. That is to say: We know there are some things we do not know. But there are also unknown unknowns, the ones we don't know we don't know. — Feb. 12, 2002, Depart­ment of Defense news brief­in­gTh­ore­au cites Con­fu­cius dur­ing a dis­cus­sion of self-knowl­edge in Walden, and it remind­ed me of Ol Rum­my. Looks like he was on to some­thing deep­er after all. I thought he was talk­ing about intel­li­gence, but he was real­ly get­ting at "true knowl­edge." Per­haps the US gov­ern­ment should cre­ate a Cen­tral True Knowl­edge Agency? Speak­ing of true knowl­edge, the entire­ty of Walden is online.

flickr photo politics

Not a bad idea

Renaming Bush Street - San Francisco - Pranksters after the inauguration

Okay, one last polit­i­cal thing. In the wee hours before yesterday's inau­gu­ra­tion, a genius prankster named Alex Zec­ca report­ed­ly cov­ered every "Bush" street sign from down­town to the Mari­na with a stick­er that said "Oba­ma." I heard about it when I got into work, but missed the chance to see it for myself. Luck­i­ly, Vanes­sa Nay­lon saw it hap­pen. Awesome.

photo politics

Obama's inauguration, seen from space

Obama inauguration - Washington Mall

It appears to have been attend­ed pri­mar­i­ly by ants. Thx, Chris. From Geo­Eye.


Rev. Lowery's "stemwinder"

Jesse Jack­son men­tioned that he had expect­ed Rev. Joseph Low­ery to end the bene­dic­tion with a "stemwinder." What's a stemwinder? Well, appar­ent­ly, it's a old-timey term used to describe "a rous­ing polit­i­cal speech." (Jesse was right, too).

Lord, in the mem­o­ry of all the saints who from their labors rest, and in the joy of a new begin­ning, we ask you to help us work for that day when black will not be asked to get in back, when brown can stick around, when yel­low will be mel­low, when the red man can get ahead, man; and when white will embrace what is right.

Per­son­al­ly, I thought this was a nice way to play­ful­ly deflate the pomp, and to test the stric­tures of polit­i­cal cor­rect­ness, but the folksy tone seems to have tweaked the guys I watched on Fox News a few min­utes ago.1 It's prob­a­bly worth­while to note that Low­ery was ref­er­enc­ing (at the very least) an old blues stan­dard, Big Bill Broonzy's "Black, Brown, and White" — though the lyrics of the song like­ly have roots and ref­er­ences elsewhere. 

I went to an employ­ment office,Got a num­ber 'n' i got in lineThey called everybody's number,But they nev­er did call mineThey said, "if you was white, should be all right,If you was brown, could stick around,But as you black, hmm broth­er, get back, get back, get back"I hope when sweet victory,With my plough and hoeNow i want you to tell me brother,What you gonna do about the old jim crow?Now if you was white, should be all right,If you was brown, could stick around,But if you black, whoa broth­er, get back, get back, get back

Con­sid­er­ing that Rev. Low­ery has been there since the begin­ning of the Civ­il Rights Move­ment — he helped to lead the Mont­gomery Bus Boy­cott — I think he's earned the ben­e­fit of the doubt (at the very least) when it comes to wind­ing stems. (And as I was writ­ing this, his Wikipedia entry was updat­ed to note that the con­clud­ing words were "part of a civ­il rights chant that Low­ery has includ­ed in many speech­es over the years," link­ing to a cou­ple of speech­es in which he has used the same con­clu­sion). 1 Also, some peo­ple are peev­ed about "white will embrace what is right;" most seem to inter­pret an insult­ing insin­u­a­tion that "white" has not done so yet. I assume these peo­ple are them­selves white. And that they take every­thing very, very personally.

ideas politics

The quiet force of progress

Obama personal responsibility

Pres­i­dent-elect Obama:

Our chal­lenges may be new. The instru­ments with which we meet them may be new. But those val­ues upon which our suc­cess depends — hard work and hon­esty, courage and fair play, tol­er­ance and curios­i­ty, loy­al­ty and patri­o­tism — these things are old. These things are true. They have been the qui­et force of progress through­out our his­to­ry. What is demand­ed then is a return to these truths. What is required of us now is a new era of respon­si­bil­i­ty — a recog­ni­tion, on the part of every Amer­i­can, that we have duties to our­selves, our nation, and the world, duties that we do not grudg­ing­ly accept but rather seize glad­ly, firm in the knowl­edge that there is noth­ing so sat­is­fy­ing to the spir­it, so defin­ing of our char­ac­ter, than giv­ing our all to a dif­fi­cult task.This is the price and the promise of citizenship.…So let us mark this day with remem­brance, of who we are and how far we have trav­eled. In the year of America's birth, in the cold­est of months, a small band of patri­ots hud­dled by dying camp­fires on the shores of an icy riv­er. The cap­i­tal was aban­doned. The ene­my was advanc­ing. The snow was stained with blood. At a moment when the out­come of our rev­o­lu­tion was most in doubt, the father of our nation ordered these words be read to the people:"Let it be told to the future world…that in the depth of win­ter, when noth­ing but hope and virtue could survive…that the city and the coun­try, alarmed at one com­mon dan­ger, came forth to meet [it]."America. In the face of our com­mon dan­gers, in this win­ter of our hard­ship, let us remem­ber these time­less words. With hope and virtue, let us brave once more the icy cur­rents, and endure what storms may come. Let it be said by our children's chil­dren that when we were test­ed we refused to let this jour­ney end, that we did not turn back nor did we fal­ter; and with eyes fixed on the hori­zon and God's grace upon us, we car­ried forth that great gift of free­dom and deliv­ered it safe­ly to future generations. 

Read the whole dang thing. It's just as impres­sive in text as it was in voice.

lit politics

My heart wanted to stab things but didn't have arms

(The title is from a poet named Tao Lin in a col­lec­tion called this emo­tion was a lit­tle e‑book).The Inter­net is like a small town, espe­cial­ly when there's some­thing to dis­agree about. Recent­ly, some of my favorite Inter­net cit­i­zens got into it over Obama's deci­sion to have poet­ry at his inauguration.I've always liked George Pack­er, the New Yorker's man on the ground in the ear­ly days of Iraq. I devoured his book about the first year of the occu­pa­tion, The Assas­sins' Gate. It tells the sto­ries of a few Iraqis who put their necks on the line to sup­port us when we arrived in 2003, and it comes to mind when­ev­er a con­ver­sa­tion turns to the need to find a way out of Iraq. I also read his blog, Inter­est­ing Times. He's the kind of jour­nal­ist who always does his home­work, which made it all the more puz­zling when he some­what flip­pant­ly crit­i­cized Barack Obama's deci­sion to ask Eliz­a­beth Alexan­der to read a poem at his inauguration:

For many decades Amer­i­can poet­ry has been a pri­vate activ­i­ty, writ­ten by few peo­ple and read by few peo­ple, lack­ing the lan­guage, rhythm, emo­tion, and thought that could move large num­bers of peo­ple in large pub­lic set­tings … [Ed.: Ouch.] … Obama's Inau­gu­ra­tion needs no height­en­ing. It'll be its own his­to­ry, its own poetry.

Ouch. A blan­ket dis­missal? The activ­i­ty of "a few peo­ple?" I start­ed writ­ing a response to this, but Ta-Nehisi Coates of The Atlantic beat me to it. His blog rules. He called out Pack­er for being pre­ma­ture­ly judg­men­tal, and sug­gest­ed that per­haps hip-hop lyrics were suit­ably rhyth­mic and emo­tive for the occa­sion. Yes.Lo and behold, Pack­er just post­ed what amounts to an apol­o­gy, and he does so in the best way, com­par­ing the cur­rent poet­ry scene to the NBA in the 1970s: 

Con­tem­po­rary Amer­i­can poet­ry has too many man­sions to be summed up under a throw­away phrase like "pri­vate activity.†Its mul­ti­tude of schools and forms is like the N.B.A. in the nine­teen-sev­en­ties, when there was no dom­i­nant team but a con­fused con­test of war­ring tribes. And I should have read more of Alexander's work than appears on her Web site, and more care­ful­ly, before express­ing skep­ti­cism that she'll be equal to the occa­sion on Jan­u­ary 20th.

So, the real ques­tion is: Who will be the David Stern of 21st cen­tu­ry Amer­i­can poet­ry? Chris Fis­chbach, I'm look­ing at you.

ideas politics

A good meltdown is hard to find

Incom­ing White House chief-of-staff Rahm Emanuel recent­ly dis­cussed the next administration's approach to the finan­cial cri­sis, telling the Wall Street Jour­nal, "You nev­er want a seri­ous cri­sis to go to waste." Link­ing pol­i­tics, cri­sis and oppor­tu­ni­ty, Emanuel's sen­ti­ments evoked either Mil­ton Friedman's Cap­i­tal­ism and Free­dom or Nao­mi Klein's The Shock Doc­trine, depend­ing on your lev­el of paranoia/distrust of the fed­er­al government.I'll admit that I've only skimmed Fried­man, but Klein's book is a provoca­tive inter­pre­ta­tion of social cri­sis and the ways in which cor­po­ra­tions ben­e­fit (and peo­ple are exploit­ed) in the wake of a dis­as­ter. She holds Fried­man account­able for the rise of "dis­as­ter cap­i­tal­ism," and she iden­ti­fies his philoso­phies as the ori­gin of numer­ous crises pre­cip­i­tat­ed by gov­ern­ments around the world in the past fifty years:

This is how the shock doc­trine works: the orig­i­nal dis­as­ter — the coup, the ter­ror­ist attack, the mar­ket melt­down, the war, the tsuna­mi, the hur­ri­cane — puts the entire pop­u­la­tion into a state of col­lec­tive shock … Like the ter­ror­ized pris­on­er who gives up the names of his com­rades and renounces his faith, shocked soci­eties often gives up things that they would oth­er­wise fierce­ly protect. 

Any­way, what's espe­cial­ly inter­est­ing about Emanuel's invo­ca­tion is that (I sus­pect) at least some of the new administration's poli­cies will reverse the dereg­u­la­tion that Fried­man rec­om­mend­ed and that his acolytes imple­ment­ed. Also, like Fried­man, Emanuel is from Chica­go. Iron­ic? Deeply.