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The Bootblack Stand

Of Winning Chaps and Wagging Dogs

By From the July/August 2014 issue

Mr Plunkitt—

We beat the gormless bastards! At last a taste of victory has passed our lips, with a great, stonking win for UKIP! The night results were announced was one for the history books. Everyone at the party was decked out in purple. I must’ve had fifteen bacon rolls, six or seven cartons of fags, and at least twenty pints. We were beyond pissed, beyond blotto, beyond squiffed—I do believe we were quite positively trolleyed.

I know, I know…what are a few more European Parliament seats? It’s not as if we’ve chased the EU’s wispy gremlin of a president, Herman Van Rompuy, into hiding, or even so much as marked the datebook for a referendum on membership. Nothing, at bottom, has yet been achieved. But can you blame us for celebrating? This is the most nothing we’ve accomplished in twenty years of arduous labour!

Nigel Farage
United Kingdom Independence Party


Mr. Farage—

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Current Wisdom

Current Wisdom

By From the June 2014 issue

New York Review of Books NYR BlogOn the rant page of the revered NYRB, Garry Wills sounds quite plausible for a change:Obamacare is now, for many, haloed with hate, to be fought against with all one’s life. Retaining certitude about its essential evil is a matter of self-respect, honor for one’s allies in the cause, and loathing for one’s opponents. It is a religious commitment.(April 22, 2014)The NationUsing the most esoteric readings of chicken entrails and more advanced techniques of sociological observation, Miss Astra Taylor, yes that is Astra Taylor, discerns what some readers might call A Great White Plot: The Web is regularly hailed for its “openness” and that’s where the confusion begins, since “open” in no way means “equal.” While the Internet may create space for many voices, it also reflects and often amplifies real-world inequities in striking ways.
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Public Nuisances

The Press Never Calls

By From the June 2014 issue

WASHINGTONMy telephone is not ringing off the hook. No intriguing or inquiring emails have arrived on my computer. Yet on Friday a document drop from the Clinton Library revealed that years ago, in the 1990s, I was at the very heart of the “vast right-wing conspiracy.” Now here we are almost a week later, and still no journalist, much less a historian, has called to ask me if I really was actively conspiring with the British press, select American newspapers, obscure right-wing political operators, and, who knows, possibly foreign powers to create the gossamer of scandal over the Clinton White House. All this was reported in the documents.It has always struck me as curious how news stories are reported in America or not reported. What standards must be met to land a story on the front page or even to decide that it is a story worth reporting at all.
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Economics

The Growth Gap

By From the June 2014 issue

If Ronald Reagan will be forever known as the “Great Communicator,” Barack Obama is on track to go down in history as the “Great Divider.” His single-minded message over the last several years—and especially in recent months—has been highlighting the gap in wealth or in income between different groups of people. One week he obsesses over the gap between rich and poor. The next he talks about the gaps between races. And that is followed by the gap in earnings between the sexes. What next? Tall versus short? Lefties versus righties? There’s a good possibility that this preoccupation with our differences is meant to divert attention from the real enduring economic legacy of Mr. Obama’s presidency: Just about everyone is doing worse. For the middle class, incomes have fallen by almost $3,000 since Obama was sworn into office and almost $2,000 since the recovery began.
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Buy the Book

Flash Noise

By From the June 2014 issue

Flash Boys: A Wall Street RevoltBy Michael Lewis(W.W. Norton, 288 pages, $27.95)Michael Lewis is one of America’s most successful storytellers. But the bombastic conclusions in his new book, Flash Boys, a superficial one-sided discussion of High Frequency Trading, and his repeated pronouncements that the stock market is “rigged” and a “fraud,” are as harmful as they are overstated.
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Feature

The Ad Man Goes to War

By From the June 2014 issue

Imagine if you’d turned on your TV a few months after 9/11 and seen a car ad that showed a man in a uniform, tossing the keys to his girlfriend while the announcer intoned the copy: “He’s been called up. He thought he might. He’s looking forward to the day when he comes home, knowing he did his part to make sure Islamist terrorism doesn’t threaten the world anymore. He’s imagining turning the key and hearing that motor purr. Sure, it’ll run. No doubt. Ford and America: Built for the long haul.”
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The Bootblack Stand

The Bootblack Stand

By From the June 2014 issue

P—Yes, a few weeks ago, I did tell the U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce that the president has basically put me in charge of the Western Hemisphere. And yes, I did tell the annual conference of the National Association of Dental Hygienists that in a past life I was a Mexican professional wrestler named Trucho Graciarse. And yes, I did announce on Meet the Press that Democrats should abide by the line of succession and recognize John Boehner as president in the event that Barack and I get raptured. And you know what else? You can’t stop me. Biden’s gonna say what Biden’s gonna say. The DNC can set up a trebuchet and fling two hundred sweetlegs PR floozies over the Naval Observatory fence, but ain’t nothing gonna change one fact: The Bidenmobile’s on a roll. Choo! Choo! Next stop, 2016-ville. Keep your arms and legs inside the compartment. And remember: In the event of a water landing, you can use me as a flotation device, America.
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Odds & Ends

Odds and Ends

From the June 2014 issue

Tom Bethell’s essay on “The Divided States of America” (TAS, April 2014) reminds us once again of the primordial differences in attitudes toward government and freedom in this country.In his book Albion’s Seed, David Hackett Fischer outlined the cultural assumptions of the four main ethnic groups that settled the American colonies. What’s important for our politics is their different ideas about freedom. The South had two groups intensely jealous of their own rights but rather blasé about the rights of others. Puritan New England was settled by people who believed in controlling themselves and their neighbors, intricately regulating their communities, and cherishing the right of local government to do this. Between were the Quakers who were more mutual, believing that rights must be the same for all, and trying to govern by consensus.
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The Continuing Crisis

The Continuing Crisis

By From the June 2014 issue

April turns to May, and all of a sudden things have become very perilous for Vice President Joseph Biden. In the beginning of the month he was addressing the traditional Democratic groups—for instance the Women With Splitting Headaches International and the Stupid Students Society of Bull Snort, Georgia—and joshing it up in his incomparable way. Then inexplicably President Barack Obama sent him to UKRAINE! Not to North Korea, not to Somalia, not even to Chicago’s South Side on a Saturday night. Joe Six Pack was sent to Ukraine, there to threaten President Vladimir Putin and to eat Ukrainian cuisine whether he likes it or not. All the time he was there Joe seemed edgy. No jokes about Indians working at the local 7-Elevens, not a word about Mrs. Sarah Palin. He shied away from open second-story windows. He kept his Secret Service detail away from strong drink. And one had to wonder: Why did the president send gaffable Joe to Ukraine just as Russian troops were rumbling along the border and Russian goons were amok within its borders?
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About This Month

Coarse Correction

By From the June 2014 issue

Another month, another step in our public degeneration. In his listless performance before the White House Correspondents’ Association, our president casually uses the verb “piss off” without a moment’s hesitation. No one notices, not that anyone would object. As the evening’s comedian observed, he remains in the top fifty of our nation’s greatest presidents. 

Is his power waning? One sign it just might be is that his brother-in-law has been fired as head basketball coach at Oregon State University, a public institution reliant on federal funds. Though he had a losing record in a six-season run that coincided with this president’s tenure, the AP report made sure to note that at 94-105 he is the “fourth-winningest coach in school history.” The rest of his contract has been bought out for $4 million. Good news for the taxman, but can such buyouts also be applied to winning politicians with losing records?

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