Banal European Observations: I’ll soon be putting up some more of the columns I wrote from there, but here’s two minor things I noticed: 1) Paris looks more and more like ‘80s New York. Minus the pure menace. Packs of teens and young men move about in large obnoxious groups, shouting and bumming people out in a way that indicates that haven’t had anyone tell them to shut the hell up for a very long time. Cops no longer even go out to some “suburbs” (outlying housing projects filled with poor Arabs); car-burnings and violent crime are up country-wide by 10%, and people discuss the problem with the kind of defeatist tones I remember from the pre-Giuliani era. 2) Graffiti everywhere: There is more graffiti – or at least more noticeable graffiti, in downtown bourgeois Lyon than here in East Hollywood (a place Mike Davis referred to until recently as a “ghetto”). There is graffiti on 500-year-old churches, on pedestrian shopping streets, on apartment complex front doors. Switzerland? With all those German types? Full of graffiti, on historical buildings in downtown Lausanne and Bern. Budapest? Forget about it. More to come tomorrow.
1/12/2002 11:04:53 PM
Why We Criticize Our Own Government During Wartime: Some readers over the months have tried to trip me & my Ashcroft-bashing with a mutated version of Orwell’s old quote about Pacifists being “objectively pro-fascist” (i.e., by bashing Bush or Tom Ridge, we’re lending support to the enemies). I typically write something back about how centrally planned economies founder for lack of reliable information. As usual, Glenn Reynolds put it better, in a comment worth clipping and saving:
Organizations that succeed -- especially in wartime -- do so by ensuring that bad news gets to the top. Eisenhower made a big point of that in World War Two. The Vietnamese made a big point of it when they were fighting us. The suppression of bad news and the concealment of failure are the hallmarks of dysfunctional organizations.
1/12/2002 09:59:30 PM
Removing Guns From ET’s FBI: The very first local-TV news report I saw in a month was a bit, taken from the New York Post, about how Steven Spielberg was going to remove guns from the hands of FBI agents in a coming re-release of “ET – the Extraterrestrial,” in deference to star Drew Barrymore’s political aversion to guns. Nothing like artistic freedom and pride of authorship, eh?
1/12/2002 09:35:41 PM
McDo Update: If you haven’t already, go read Tim Blair’s observations from a few days back on the Great McDonald’s Menace. Took me back to those days in Prague, when the opening of the first Golden Arches (actually, it was a handsome two-story affair that fit nicely into a historical building) was met with a small protest … by a bunch of young Americans.
I go to McDonald’s about once a year in the States (awful food, really), but maybe once a week when I’m in Europe, for reasons of thrift (can’t find cheaper coffee in France, Switzerland or Austria), necessity (clean bathrooms, no one bugging you if you need to wait out a Vienna ice-storm for your busking permit to kick in), and amusement (enjoying the lavish burger-palaces of Central Europe, or sampling such localized delights as the McDaVinci and McBucek).
Anyways, the first McDo we saw on our European vacation, on Rue Saint-Denis in Paris, had been absolutely trashed by protesters and vandals, who were apparently upset because the franchise owner fired some managers after accusing them of stealing money. The windows were plastered with fliers and graffiti complaining of “slavery,” low wages, union-busting, hormones, whatever. I found it appalling. I find many things appalling these days.
The second McDo was a different experience, to put it mildly. We had just made the gorgeous Val-De-Travers border crossing from Switzerland to France, and were starving for a croque monsieur. Everything local was closed, though (it was Friday, after all), so we pulled into a parking lot shared by a McDonald’s and a French roadside grill-restaurant. We had a look at that first, but it was far more expensive, filled with smoke (and about one-third full). The McDo was absolutely stuffed with French parents and their kids (I was the only hegemon there). There was a tiny, ghettoized smoking room, and a cute playground outside. Emmanuelle ordered a salad with Roquefort, walnuts, non-iceberg lettuce and a tasty wine sauce. My McRoyal was a delicious burger (nothing beats those French cows), and the potatoes were yummy, too. Probably the best McDonald’s food I’ve ever had.
1/12/2002 03:08:15 PM
Card Him!: Got a nice note about my last WorkingForChange column from a guy named Matthew Yglesias. As is now normal, his e-mail signature contained an address for a blog. What’s not normal is how good it is … especially considering Yglesias is too young to drink (legally, that is – his hilarious bio is full of fuzzy odes to various Central European guzzling adventures). He’s also editor of the Harvard Independent, for which he wrote a terrific dismissal of an anti-war professor who whined about being “blacklisted” for appearing on some list of dopey anti-war professors:
His bizarre trivialization of the plight of the actual victims of the blacklist and his ignorance of major events in American history is made all the more appalling by the fact that one of the other things he is gainfully employed to do is to lecture on History and Literature. […] Keep an eye on this kid.
Perhaps this indiscriminate opposition to whatever the powers that be say and do is thought to be a mark of sophistication -- we, after all, are Harvard students, and of all the leaders cited above, only Bush has a degree from this institution, and that from the Business School. Nevertheless, when the united voice of the world's democratically-elected leaders is opposed only by groups that persist in relying upon distortions of the historical record and incredibly fallacious analogies, perhaps the sophisticated response is to stand in solidarity with those who are risking their lives to defend the freedoms all of us at Harvard enjoy.
1/12/2002 12:53:31 PM
Welcome Back, Blogger: Very first new item ... double-posted, & all weird in the editing process. Hope this one works....
1/11/2002 11:06:33 AM
I’m baaaaaaaaaaaack!: Hi everyone! Boy, do I prefer warmth to cold. It was a very very very interesting trip, of which more to come soon. First, here are the two things of mine published during the break:
Reporter’s Toolbox: Where to go for online info about the effects of sanctions on Iraq: This is a kind of raw data on the question/what it means for online journalism article; keep your eyes peeled for an upcoming Reason Magazine piece that delves more into the politics of bogus numbers.
The Power of ‘I’m Sorry’: How the U.S. apologizes for past misdeeds, and why we must force it to do more. Pretty self-explanatory.
1/11/2002 10:59:27 AM
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