“Duncan Black”:http://www.eschatonblog.com/2008_07_06_archive.html#858626388020530189 links to Amity Shlaes at the Washington Post “telling us”:http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2008/07/11/AR2008071102543.html?hpid=opinionsbox1 that Americans _are too_ whiners. As he says, having people like Shlaes and Gramm mouthing off is a public service in a general election (if only McCain would nominate David Bernstein as a senior surrogate, my happiness would be complete). But talk of Shlaes reminds me of her notorious 2005 “FT column”:http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/73ac2964-50fa-11dd-b751-000077b07658.html?nclick_check=1

It is early to be getting partisan about New Orleans. …Iraq has not caused the US to botch Katrina – either the preparation or response. On the contrary, the fact that the country and President Bush personally were already mobilised for disaster has saved lives.

the US was prepared for Katrina. All the old and new federal offices worked together and confronted the storm early. Nearly two days before Katrina hit New Orleans, the president made millions available to Louisiana by declaring the state an official disaster area. In a press conference on Sunday morning, he instructed the country to listen for any alerts – and warned straightforwardly that he could not “stress enough the danger this hurricane poses to Gulf coast communities”. On Sunday too, Alabama and Mississippi received access to cash when they in turn were declared disaster areas. Citizens of New Orleans with special needs were instructed to go to the Superdome.

Very shortly after writing this appalling piece of hackery, Ms. Shlaes ceased to be a columnist at the _Financial Times._1 I don’t think that it’s _at all_ unwarranted to surmise that the column and Ms. Shlaes’ rapid departure were connected.

So we may possibly have some idea of what it would take to get a columnist fired at the FT. I’d be interested to know what it would take to get a persistent vendor of mendacious and malignant tripe such as, say, Charles Krauthammer, fired from the _Washington Post_? By the man’s own admission, his credibility is problematic. A few months ago, we passed the fifth anniversary of his “statement”:http://www.aei.org/events/filter.,eventID.274/transcript.asp that

Hans Blix had five months to find weapons. He found nothing. We’ve had five weeks. Come back to me in five months. If we haven’t found any, we will have a credibility problem.


1 A “search”:http://search.ft.com/search?sortBy=gadatearticle&queryText=%22amity+shlaes%22&aje=true by date suggests that Shlaes produced one more column (which tried to blame the Katrina shambles on the Evils of Federalism, directly contradicting what she had said the previous week), a piece for the wealth section, and a book review over the next couple of weeks, and was then gone forever.

Don’t Stop Destroyin’ This Heart Of Glass

by John Holbo on July 13, 2008

Quiet around here so I’ll keep up the weekend nonsense posts.

I really like Ladytron’s “Destroy Everything You Touch”. It’s a great single and a fun video. However, it is disconcerting to me, on some level, that the song is basically a cross between Blondie’s “Heart of Glass” and Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believing” all runway cold and post-electropunk. I think that a mash-up of those three songs would be great, if anyone wanted to go to the trouble.

Furthermore, I would like to inquire: what do you think of The Talking Heads? I’ve been listening to a lot of old Heads and I’m puzzled. The first big concert I ever went to was the Heads on the Stop Making Sense tour. It was very early in the tour and Byrne didn’t even have the big suit yet. I would sort of like to be able to claim that this very influential band somehow defined a musical moment, and I was there. But, on reflection, they don’t seem to have had all that much lasting influence. It seems like they matured from a spare, NY-style art rock outfit into a pretty good disco band, sound-wise, with Byrne as flamboyant nerd-showman. But there’s only one David Byrne, so it’s not as though subsequent bands have copied that. And it’s not as though indie music subsequently went the pretty good disco band route. So they were, oddly, an evolutionary dead-end. Am I just talking nonsense?

Good Stuff

by John Holbo on July 13, 2008

Three unique books by Taro Gomi (that’s a link to the author’s site): Squiggles: A Really Giant Drawing and Painting Book [amazon]. Then click around to find the companion volumes, entitled Scribbles and Doodles. Each page gives the kid a partial, starter-scribble and an assignment. ‘Draw the flag of the bunnies’. Or ‘add water’ to a picture of a bunch of fire fighters. Or ‘add some leaves’ to a page of bare trees. Or a simple line of stairs with ‘draw people walking down, some of them falling!’ The books are big – 350+ pages. Not expensive. Good for trips. (I just sent my kids state-side with Belle, each armed with a Gomi book.)

The books do a great job of providing lots of great ideas for kid art without the instructions becoming bossy and boring, a happy balance struck in virtue of the author/illustrator’s talent for whimsical, back-to-basics simplicity.

Gomi is author of the immortal Everybody Poops