Sunday Bloody NYT Sunday: Kinetic Action, Dead Saints, And Less ISIS Than You Might Think
Good morning, ye Wonkers! Today's top story is that Yr Doktor Zoom is once again breathing through both nostrils. You may have thought that ISIS or Syria or sportsball scandals or something was big, but that is merely because you Lack Perspective. Sadly, your Sunday New York Times has completely ignored the press release we sent them, so we will just knuckle under and let them dictate what counts as "news" -- this stubborn insistence on top-down story selection, by the way, is why their medium is dying.
Besides, the big featured news stories are horrible. ISIS beheaded another hostage, David Haines, a British man who offended the insane fundamentalists by being an aid worker in Syria. Mr. Haines was taken hostage in Syria after a career of working for several different international charity groups. There's also a breaking story that several Arab countries have offered to drop bombs on ISIS -- or in the bizarre language of a U.S. official speaking anonymously, the unnamed countries have made offers of "taking more aggressive kinetic action," which is one hell of a euphemism. Rightwing bloggers who insist that all Muslims are basically the same as ISIS are unlikely to be impressed by this development. And there's also a piece on Barack Obama's decision-making process in developing a policy on ISIS, emphasizing that he is not a hothead. And that's about all the War Stuff we want to bother with today, thank you.
Lengthy analytical pieces? Sure, that's what the Sunday NYT is for! There's a piece on the shifting makeup of the federal appellate courts, where Obama administration appointees are starting to make a difference:
Democratic appointees who hear cases full time now hold a majority of seats on nine of the 13 United States Courts of Appeals. When Mr. Obama took office, only one of those courts had more full-time judges nominated by a Democrat.
Go read that and have a Policy Wonkgasm, 'kay?
Also on the Big Issues beat, there's a pretty cool article on the growth of wind and solar power technologies, which are -- surprise! surprise! -- providing a pretty good return on investment as countries like Germany scale up their reliance on clean tech. China is responding to the demand and equipment costs are dropping. And this is making some/many utility companies with a vested interest in fossil fuels very nervous:
Electric utility executives all over the world are watching nervously as technologies they once dismissed as irrelevant begin to threaten their long-established business plans. Fights are erupting across the United States over the future rules for renewable power. Many poor countries, once intent on building coal-fired power plants to bring electricity to their people, are discussing whether they might leapfrog the fossil age and build clean grids from the outset.
Not that it's going to be easy, especially given that the current economic model for selling and distributing electricity doesn't play well with the greener generation. The transition will be "wrenching," we are told, which probably translates in American politics to more talk of a War on Coal and the indisputable fact that all the world's scientists are conspiring to make Global Warming seem real. Even so, this piece left us cautiously optimistic, and it looks like one of those articles that's going to end up being bookmarked and referred back to a lot. Especially by people who have uncles who insist that wind and solar are just hippie fads.
You may also want to check out this so-weird-it-has-to-be-true story on the theo-politico-bureaucratic difficulties the Catholic Church is having in a movement to declare famous teevee inspirationalist Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen a saint. With a TV ministry whose ratings sometimes rivaled Milton Berle's, Sheen helped make Catholicism seem a bit less freaky to the easily panicked Protestant masses in the 1950s, and also he killed Stalin, maybe. And the Diocese of Peoria, Illinois, which is leading the push for Sheen's beatification, has also "documented several potential miracles by him and compiled a dossier on his good works for the Vatican," so sure, make him a saint. Except there's one itty-bitty problem that has thrown all the plans into disarray: the Diocese of Peoria wants to have Sheen's body in a big ol' tomb that would be the centerpiece o f a shrine, but the holy bones are interred at Saint Patrick's Cathedral in New York, and Cardinal Timothy Dolan ain't giving 'em up. It's a good ol' Medieval relics hootenanny, and if Kevin Smith is looking to do a sequel to Dogma, here's his starting point.
And then, in Sportsball, since the big story is too fucking depressing for words, we will leave it aside for now (we'll come back to it) and mention this little oddment about the strange informal deal in 1947 that led to Donald Duck becoming the official mascot for the University of Oregon Ducks, where the critter is just The Duck. What happened was that Oregon's athletic director back then was a personal friend of Walt Disney, who said, sure, mang, use Donald, just keep it tasteful, OK? And "good taste" was a pretty broad directive in those days, considering that the studio had just released Song of the South in 1946. The university and Disney only signed a formal licensing deal in 1973, and it restricts sales of items with the Duck to the Portland-Eugene area; the rest of the country has to buy stuff with just the big yellow "O." Interesting stuff, although we were disappointed the piece didn't mention one odd permutation of The Duck that we remember from the 1970s: Afro Duck!
These were the only two examples of Afro Duck that we could find on the web, and apart from one short news piece from 1971 ("The Oregon University Fighting Duck mascot now has a soul brother..."), just about the only discussion we could find of the character was of the "Hey, remember when Oregon had a black Duck with an Afro? The seventies rocked, man" variety.
You People have come to expect us to write about the Style section, and so we will, damn you. Fashion Week in London: Exposed Midriffs for Spring! And there's another New York Fashion Week after-Party slideshow! There is an advice piece on homework (multitasking is a myth, it's OK to help, and your child may or may not need a desk; the kitchen table is still a time-honored option). Also, Barbra Streisand, who either is or has A Voice To Be Reckoned With (maybe both!). She has a collection of duets coming out, and is Doing Publicity at an apartment owned by her pal Donna Karan. Also, we have a hard time believing that this can possibly be real:
A member of Ms. Karan’s staff walked in, and Ms. Streisand called her over to compliment her on the cucumber sandwiches. “What do you put in them?” Ms. Streisand said.
“It absolutely tastes like butter,” Ms. Streisand said. “It’s incredible, Susie.”
Somewhere, Mike Myers just plotzed. Barbra wants you to vote for Hillary, too.
Advice Columnist Guy fields a question from parents who are frustrated that their 20-something son blogs and social medias about his life but just doesn't talk to them. Advice Guy says maybe they should try reading his bloggy posts, and maybe have a weekly Skype session with the lad so he can feel they speak his language. Swag! Also, a pregnant woman has not yet announced her pregnancy to the office because she fears she may yet have complications (although her waistline has been leaving hints. She's upset that co-workers have asked her boss about whether she is preggers; her boss has said nothing, because confidentiality:
But I’m upset that people asked about my confidential medical information. It feels bad to know that co-workers are talking behind my back, even if their gossip isn’t meant maliciously. How can I turn my thinking around on this?
We are actually rather pleased with the way that question came out. She is asking how she can change her own thinking, which is the only thing she has any say over. Shouldn't she be asking how to make everyone else do and think different things? This is a remarkably self-aware advice column letter! Advice Guy notes that her boss was right not to reveal info, but adds it would have been better if boss had also told coworkers to knock off the gossip. His advice follows along similar lines:
when you feel comfortable sharing your news, consider saying (at the inevitable cupcake party): “Thanks, guys. But before I knew this pregnancy was healthy, it was really stressful to know that you were whispering about it. We should keep that in mind for the next person.” It won’t eliminate the gossip, but it may help how you feel about it.
We are pleased. There is also a terrible question from someone who is in a tizzy because their therapist cuts off sessions at 45 minutes, not 50, "and lately, she stops five minutes early to collect my co-pay and schedule our next session." Advice Guy suggests she politely ask about this without losing her shit.
On to the columnists, those banes of our Sundays together: with no Nicholas Kristof or even any Frank Bruni blandness to leaven them, we have only the Three Terribles this week. Modo, Friedman, and Douthat. Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani?
There are three things in life that you should never do ambivalently: get married, buy a house or go to war. Alas, we’re about to do No. 3. Should we?
President Obama clearly took this decision to lead the coalition to degrade and destroy the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, or ISIS, with deep ambivalence. How could he not? Our staying power is ambiguous, our enemy is barbarous, our regional allies are duplicitous, our European allies are feckless and the Iraqis and Syrians we’re trying to help are fractious. There is not a straight shooter in the bunch.
Other than that, it’s just like D-Day.
Apparently, if Obama were just more resolute, those problems wouldn't matter? We really can't imagine Freidman is saying we should do nothing ... right? Happily, the Great Systematizer sees a way for intervention against ISIS to end well: All that has to happen is for Arab players to find a way to end the Syrian and Iraqi civil wars so that "a foundation is laid for decent governance and citizenship." Oh, nice. And in the meantime, what we should do is ... not start a war of choice in 2003, maybe?
Ross Douthat actually has a pretty digestible analysis of why Ted Cruz made a big fool of himself in front of a group of middle eastern Christians last week. Those terrible people didn't recognize that, as Christians, their primary duty is to be like American evangelicals and to agree with everything Israel does, so that the Holy Land will be ready for the Second Coming. Cruz was booed off the stage for insisting that middle eastern Christians "have no greater ally than the Jewish state," and accused the crowd of hating Israel for booing him. Sez Douthat:
Many conservatives think Cruz acquitted himself admirably, and he’s earned admiring headlines around the right-wing web. There is a certain airless logic to this pro-Cruz take -- that because Assad and Hezbollah are murderers and enemies of Israel, anyone who deals with them deserves to be confronted, and if that confrontation meets with boos, you’ve probably exposed anti-Semites who deserve to be attacked still more.
But this logic shows not a scintilla of sympathy for what it’s actually like to be an embattled religious minority, against whom genocide isn’t just being threatened but actually carried out.
Thing is, Israel has done some stuff that Palestinian and Lebanese Christians don't really seem to think were all that great for them, and it is in fact possible to criticize Israel for that without joining up with Hamas:
Israel is a rich, well-defended, nuclear-armed nation-state; its supporters, and especially its American Christian supporters, can afford to allow a population that’s none of the above to organize to save itself from outright extinction without also demanding applause for Israeli policy as the price of sympathy and support.
Ross Douthat keeps sounding like he makes sense to us. When he goes over the edge, and he will, it's sure to be a doozy.
And finally, Maureen Dowd. What is it this week, another story of how a Hollywood TV series explains why Obama is weak? Ah, no, it is something about Roger Goodell and why he and the NFL team owners are bad for ladies, and it starts with Nixon in Vietnam. Dear god, that is the sort of connection only Maureen Dowd could make, now isn't it? Ah, we see -- Goodell's father, as a U.S. senator, bravely tried to thwart Nixon in Vietnam, while Goodell the NFL commissioner "is acting more like Nixon, the man who covered up crimes, than like his father, who sacrificed his career to save lives." Finewhatever. Modo isn't actively terrible, and she wants Goodell out, because even Maureen Down recognizes that the NFL has problems that are criminal. Excellent call, and by some miracle she didn't even find room for a slur on Bill or Hillary Clinton.
Doktor Zoom's real name is Marty Kelley, and he lives in the wilds of Boise, Idaho. He is not a medical doctor, but does have a real PhD in Rhetoric. You should definitely donate some money to this little mommyblog where he has finally found acceptance and cat pictures. He is on maternity leave until 2033. Here is his Twitter, also. His quest to avoid prolixity is not going so great.