Special “special” edition

by Michael Bérubé on April 2, 2009

While I was at LSU talking about disability and stuff, a graduate student asked me about Obama’s “Special Olympics” gaffe on <i>The Tonight Show</i>.  I said more or less what you’d expect: that it was a stunningly foolish and thoughtless remark, and something of a bitter irony that the United States’ first African-American president had become the first president to use “Special Olympics” as a laugh line.  Guess we didn’t see <i>that</i> coming!

Now, of course I know the joke was supposed to be self-deprecating.  But there are much better ways to be self-deprecating!  Obama could have mocked his bowling skills by saying “I brought my Z game,” which would have been Very Funny because it would have been a play on the sports-cliché of bringing one’s A game, you see, and it would not have offended any Z-Americans, since they have notoriously generous senses of humor.

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Catechism of Cliches: Irish Economic Collapse Edition

by Henry Farrell on April 2, 2009

“The NYT”:http://egan.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/04/01/the-orphans-of-ireland/

the island of saints and scholars … The next parish over, they say … is Boston … the wellspring of poets and balladeers as advertised: those emerald fields, those ruddy-cheeked fishermen warming pub seats, a land of stone and cold wind that produced a lyrical people and a music embraced more than ever by the young. … Every village that had seen nary a rock wall or a cottage window unchanged suddenly had a cul de sac of insta-homes and a half-dozen O’Mansions. Anyone with a mortgage could get rich in little more time than it took for a head of Guinness to settle. … wonderfully brooding town, where David Lean filmed “Ryan’s Daughter,” the sod was peeled back for the worst kind of Southern California housing developments. … beer-soaked backwater … “I left a godly land of broke but merry alcoholics and came back to a place where people who used to dig potatoes were buying luxury apartments sight unseen and driving Porsches.” … marvel at a people burning peat to stay warm against blustery Atlantic winds. … empty new homes tell a story of greed.

Fill in the blanks yerself. In all fairness, a couple of the choicer phrases were quoted by the author from other people’s articles, but others weren’t. I suspect that the author of this piece was especially proud of ‘O’Mansions’ and the Guinness-head-settle as a unit of duration. He shouldn’t be.

Random email of the week

by Eszter Hargittai on April 2, 2009

I get contacted fairly often by students at other institutions to help them with their assignments. The message I received yesterday was unlike the usual request though:

Hello Eszter,
my name is [Firstname Lastname]
I’m a [nationality] student in [Country]
It will be really great if you could help me !
Im doing a work about your paper “Second Level Digital Differences in people’s online skills ”
I need to criticism your method of research and your conclusion and I really don’t know how to start..

Waiting for your answer , Thank you very much ….


Since I got this on April 1st, I wasn’t sure if it was a joke, but somehow I don’t think so. (BTW, the title of the paper is misquoted.)

The Cutest Fallacy In The World

by John Holbo on April 2, 2009

An excerpt from my daughter’s math homework:momsaidso1

Discuss. (Her answer is, after all, perfectly true.)

Procedural Reform

by John Holbo on April 2, 2009

Steve Benen complains about the filibuster. Yes, very true.

it’s hard to fix problems like this because objections to procedural stupidities are weak compared to perceptions of present partisan advantage. No one is going to fight for filibuster reform while in the minority. And fighting for filibuster reform while in the majority is always going to look partisan. How, then, do you get what ought to be a non-partisan no-brainer reform?

Would this work? Pass sensible procedural reform, but significantly post-date it? Abolish or significantly de-claw the filibuster, starting in, say, 2012? Presumably the Republicans aren’t planning on being in the minority forever. You could do the same for other procedural problems, like clogged confirmation pipes. Fixing problems several years from now is better than not fixing them ever, if that’s the only way you can do it (Then again, it may be that Republicans are planning on being in the minority forever.)