The murmur of the snarkmatrix…

August § The Common Test / 2016-02-16 21:04:46
Robin § Unforgotten / 2016-01-08 21:19:16
MsFitNZ § Towards A Theory of Secondary Literacy / 2015-11-03 21:23:21
Jon Schultz § Bless the toolmakers / 2015-05-04 18:39:56
Jon Schultz § Bless the toolmakers / 2015-05-04 16:32:50
Matt § A leaky rocketship / 2014-11-05 01:49:12
Greg Linch § A leaky rocketship / 2014-11-04 18:05:52
Robin § A leaky rocketship / 2014-11-04 05:11:02
P. Renaud § A leaky rocketship / 2014-11-04 04:13:09
Bob Stepno § The structure of journalism today / 2014-03-10 18:42:32

Behold the Wonders!

Segway 2.0 is here. I predict new sub-genera of homo sapiens will develop merely to perfect its use. Entire new languages will sprout only to describe it. For one shining moment, all the fighting and the violence in the world will stop so all humankind can admire its life-giving gleam. And it will put an end to cancer and world hunger. Let me be the first to say, this thing is going to be bigger than God.

A little “Ginger” nostalgia.


I Wish This Debate Was Held in Miami Instead of the Last One So I Could Call This Post "Miami Vice"

All right. We’re here, we’re queer, we’re ready to blog. Aaaand, we’re already on the first question, so I’m just going to cut to it.

9:04 p.m.: Clearly, Dick Cheney is just going to bring it. In his first answer, already he’s restating that Saddam and Al Qaeda were connected. Which fact, I believe, was thrown into doubt last week by the CIA. And, er, Donald Rumsfeld.

9:06 p.m.: Johnny’s clearly going to bring it right back. We’ve lost more troops in September than we have in August, he says, More in August than in July, more in July than in June.

9:11 p.m.: Second Cheney answer, second doubtful assertion … The situation in Iraq is one where you’ve got terrorists and you’ve got all the weapons of mass destruction that [Saddam] had been building up, and you’re in danger of the two coming together. There’re those pesky WMD that don’t appear to exist. I think there were about 420-some pages on this in the New York Times this past Sunday, in fact.

9:15 p.m.: Cheney’s strategy, at this point, is clear. Screw the facts. Harsh? Absolutely. But come on. Third answer — third severely questionable assertion. Ten million registered voters in Afghanistan, almost half of them women. Oooor:

The tally of registered voters in Afghanistan, over 10.5 million in an overall population of 26 million, is now believed to be significantly inaccurate, the result of widespread multiple registration by voters. As explained here, pronouncements by Afghan and international officials boasting that 40 percent of registered voters are women ignores the likelihood that tens of thousands of women have been registered more than once (some believing their voting card would entitle them to benefits or food rations), and masks regional variation in the figures, including data from some southern provinces showing that less than 10 percent of those registered are women. Several election officials in Kabul acknowledged to Human Rights Watch in late September that the number of Afghans expected to vote on October 9 could range as low as 5 to 7 million.

That study came out like last week. It’s not like D.C. hasn’t seen it.

faceoff.jpg9:20 p.m.: Ya-ZOW! Cheney to Edwards: … random piece of legislation, yadda yadda … you probably weren’t there to vote for that, Senator. Da-HANG!

9:29 p.m. Johnny is a pitbull. This is the height of hypocrisy. ZING! I love it! These guys are, like, verbally all over each other. I would tell them to get a room, but them getting it on would actually be kind of gross, and Dickie might have a coronary.

9:34 p.m.: Gwen Ifill? LOVE her.

9:39 p.m.: D.C.: I could respond, Gwen, but I’ll need more than 30 seconds. *smug grin* Gwen: Well, that’s all you’ve got. (Beeyotch.) This woman is fierce. Whatever the pundits say, they’re wrong. Gwen Ifill won this debate.

9:44 p.m.: Sooo, it may seem somewhat discordant that Robin’s blogging in Pacific Standard Time and I’m blogging in Eastern Standard Time. And, also, odd, given that I’m currently in California, where it is in fact 9:45 p.m 6:45 p.m.. (Ahem.) But — I dunno — it seems wrong that an event that is clearly transpiring in prime time is somehow happening at 6 p.m.

9:50 p.m.: I don’t even see Johnny rifling through papers. How does he remember all these FACTS?? Don’t get me wrong, Cheney also has an impressive grasp of boatloads of info, but Edwards is like frickin’ Tron.

10:01 p.m.: Gay marriage, blah, blah, blah. Oh wait, hold on, was that a tender moment between Messrs. Eddie and Chen-Chen? Dickie’s all, Thanks, Johnny. That was really sweet, you know, what you said about Mary. *batting of eyelashes, exchange of long, loving glance*

Don’t be afraid to speak your love, guys. We all know Don’t write discrimination into the Constitution is just pol-speak for J.E. + D.C. 4evr.

10:10 p.m.: Oooh, yeah, speak health care to me, Johnny. Fifty years old, Matt. FIFTY. YEARS. OLD.

10:14 p.m.: Gwen to Johnny: You have no experience. Why are you here? Johnny: Ummm … look into my eeeeyes. Am I not beautiful? Is my jawline not perfect? Does the 1950s part in my shiny, gorgeous hair not convince you of my earnestness? Don’t question me, Argwentina.

Good answer.

10:19 p.m.: Cheney: Wait, Gwen, you want to know why I’m different from John Edwards? Whoa, I’m totally not. I’m, like, the son of a mill worker. And I’m prettier than he is.

10:21 p.m.: Edwards: How am I not like Cheney? Well, let’s see, I’m actually John Kerry. What??

10:26 p.m.: Kevin Drum think Johnny sounded too negative in the foreign policy part of this debate. I’d disagree, and not just because he’s hott. Not hot. Totally un-hot. Old enough to be my father. OK, well, maybe partially because he’s hott. Really, harsh criticism coming from him sounds completely un-harsh.

10:36 p.m.: Oh, snap. John Edwards started his final statement by thanking Gwen and Cheney. Cheney, somewhat pointedly, I thought, started his statement with, Gwen, I want to thank you. *Thudding silence.* No nookie for Johnny-boy tonight.

Pre-spin closing thoughts: I actually thought this debate was really interesting in the foreign policy segment, then faltered off as domestic policy took over. Not only were the two men quite snarky to each other at first, but they were engaging in a substantial back-and-forth on the merits of the policy and the strengths and weaknesses of its execution. Facts (and, yes, largely unfounded assertions) were flying left and right, and it was meaty and absorbing, I thought.

It wasn’t that either of them started doing worse as the debate wore on, it just kind of ground down into predictable ruts when it got to domestic policy. (Cheney: Look at all the great stuff we’ve done. Edwards: Look at all the great stuff we’ll do.) That’s partially because the domestic situation is just murky right now — could be better, could be worse. A lot of scathing criticisms could be made of the situation on the homefront these past four years, but there’s nothing there quite as shimmeringly catastrophic as Iraq.

All Edwards had to do was sit there and be charismatic. And he did, but he was sharp about his facts and his logic, too, so he definitely did well. Cheney, sadly lacking the charisma chromosome, did the best he could against such an opponent. I don’t think either won or lost this one, but Edwards may have continued the momentum Kerry earned last week, while Cheney didn’t quite reverse the falling fortunes of his set, I’d imagine.*

Now, onto the real fight. Will Laguna Beach’s L.C. wrest Stephen from the wily arms of her competitor Kristin? We’ll find out at 10:30 p.m. / 9 p.m. Central.

*Although I still think his set is going to win.


Debate Dilemmas

Tomorrow’s Democracy Deathmatch pits Johnny “Dreamboat” Edwards against Dick “STFU” Cheney. This is the fight we’ve all been waiting for — if “we all” means me, Xtina (thanks, Tim!), and New York Times election correspondent Todd Purdum.

A week ago, I couldn’t believe the fateful matchup was almost upon us, and I couldn’t wait to see it. Edwards vs. Cheney! It’s like matter vs. antimatter! Fire vs. ice! Will Smith vs. Tommy Lee Jones! It’s the bout of the century.

But then, a week ago, I hadn’t seen “Laguna Beach.”

Yeah. You heard me. The real O.C.

When I read this fawning NYT review of the show, I was morbidly curious. By the first commercial break at 10:38, I’d already changed my desktop wallpaper and bidded on a leather I Heart Talan iPod case on eBay.

And it wasn’t just Laguna Beach last Tuesday, either. Starting at 7 p.m., 9 p.m. Eastern Time, I was fastened to my couch as MTV treated me to the pilot of the glorious Gilmore-Girls-meets-CSI splendor of UPN’s “Veronica Mars.” By 8 p.m., I was already MTV’s love-monkey, during the back-to-back eppies of “The Real World: Philadelphia,” featuring TRW’s first ever gay black hottie castmate. Double the drama in half the time. Then, at 9, it was over to UPN to catch the next episode of Ronnie Mars, which finished just in time to watch the new Real World, and the Laguna Beach pilot.

The point is, teenstervision’s getting good. Bunim-Murray Productions has assembled a legitimately interesting cast for this year’s Real World. The trashy teen dramas are getting better scripted every season — unless they’re not scripted, in which case they’re better yet. Mark my words, we’re truly coming upon a golden age of bad television.

Whatever. Laugh now. Turn on “Veronica Mars” tomorrow night and give it two commercial breaks. You’ll come crawling back here, looking for links to the Television Without Pity discussion forums. And I’ll be waiting.

As for the debate, it starts at 9 p.m. Eastern Time. If I lived on the East Coast, there’d be a problem. But as it is, by the time that sassy blonde Veronica Mars utters her first boiling retort, Dick Cheney will be picking little bits of poor Johnny Edwards’ neck out of his teeth. And I’ll be here, blogging it.



Lord of the Swings

If you’ve been watching MTV this campaign season, you’re by now used to having your shows abruptly stop while the network cuts to the heartfelt pleadings of celebrities and their ilk that you rock the vote this Election Day. I mean, I’m a fan of democracy or whatever, but I’m not trying to have my “Room Raiders” interrupted to hear Malcolm X’s daughter tell me about my civic duty.

Actually, that’s not my main objection to the MTV vote-mongering. Clearly, someone behind the scenes at MTV desperately wants young people to get out and vote. This has been an MTV hobbyhorse for a few years now, but I don’t ever remember them actually cutting away from shows to send the message.

All of this is an oblique byway to my argument. So MTV’s doing a lot of serious cheerleading for democracy. But they fail to bring their Generation-Q acolytes any understanding of the issues at play in the election. The celebs make vague references to “issues” that concern young voters, but there’s been no substantial programming that says, “Here’s what’s at stake.” I don’t want a horde of little Avril wannabes and Kutcher clones going to the polls without any sense in their heads, voting for the first thing that looks their way.

Over and over again, you hear the suggestion: more voters equals better democracy. Ten million people have signed up to vote in Afghanistan! they cry.

Conveniently brushing past evidence like this:

The tally of registered voters in Afghanistan, over 10.5 million in an overall population of 26 million, is now believed to be significantly inaccurate, the result of widespread multiple registration by voters. As explained here, pronouncements by Afghan and international officials boasting that 40 percent of registered voters are women ignores the likelihood that tens of thousands of women have been registered more than once (some believing their voting card would entitle them to benefits or food rations), and masks regional variation in the figures, including data from some southern provinces showing that less than 10 percent of those registered are women. Several election officials in Kabul acknowledged to Human Rights Watch in late September that the number of Afghans expected to vote on October 9 could range as low as 5 to 7 million.

Which brings me to the swing voters. (I’m sorry, I’m not even trying to make a proper segue.)

I could understand the concept of an undecided voter in October of 2000. Everything was shiny, people had jobs, the government was flush, and it didn’t seem to really matter that much who was presiding over it all. The biggest issue was whether or not we could trust our Fearless Leader not to get nookie in the Oval O. Good times.

But come on now, people. You have a collected 24 years of political history between these two men on which to base your decision. How can anything that happens in the next month possibly affect your vote? November 2nd, as well as being Election Day, will mark the year-and-a-half anniversary of the official end of “major combat operations in Iraq.” If Iraq’s the issue most important to you, you’ve got an endlessly simple question to ask yourself: Do I like the way things have gone in Iraq over the last year-and-a-half, or do I think things could have been better-executed? If health care’s the most important issue, you’ve got two vastly different plans to choose from. Taxes? Take your pick between Taxy McTaxalot and Supply Side International. Abortion? Gay marriage? Over the last 4 and 20 years respectively, Bush and Kerry have made their minds clear on all these matters. Over and over and over again. What on God’s green earth can you people be waiting for???!

The Daily Show, of course, says this much, much better than I ever could.

One comment

Last Thoughts on Debate #1

All right, now that I’ve been saturated in the radioactive glow of post-debate media analysis, a few more thoughts.

First, read the Slate analyses. Dem guys always do a good job. Except Mickey Kaus. No link fa you.

Also, do catch Tim’s comment on last night’s post, where he makes the point that Kerry actually got much better as the night went on, and Bush got worse. And other points of salty goodness.

Looking over the transcript of last night’s t


Debate Blogging! Whoo-hoo!

OK, after a few technical difficulties, I’m up and ready for the blogging of the debate. By the way, nothing in the debate is going to match Jim Lehrer on the pre-debate C-SPAN feed telling the audience he’s going to break out the whoop-ass if they make a squeak. And then doing a Mickey Mouse impression.

9:10 p.m.: First mention of Osama bin Laden by John Kerry. One shot!

9:11 p.m.: Wait a second, Dwight Eisenhower endorsed Kerry from beyond the grave? “Just yesterday, General Eisenhower endorsed me.” Ohhhh, John Eisenhower. Wait. Who?

9:13 p.m.: Oh snap. G-dub just pulled out the “my opponent looked at the same intelligence I looked at” line. OK, but wait, all of a sudden, “Saddam Hussein was never going to disarm.” He was armed? Fossilized vials of sarin gas from when Iraq was called Mesopotamia don’t count.

9:25 p.m.: Uh-oh. Lehrer just asked the “when would you be ready to leave Iraq” question, and Dubs just had several very painful moments of sputtering consonants, scrambling to find an answer (which, btw, he didn’t). He looked as though he were in actual pain during this one.

9:30 p.m.: Umm, Senator Kerry, sir. You’re allowed to listen to the question before you answer. Lehrer just asked something to the effect of, “Are soldiers dying in Iraq right now for a mistake?” Before he could finish, Kerry cut him off with “No.” Soooo … Iraq’s not a mistake now? This is why you confuse people, John.

9:32 p.m.: My opponent says we don’t have allies in this war, says Dubs, what’s he say to Tony Blair? What’s he say to Aleksander Kwasniewski, of Poland? Sorry, G, when you have to specify the country, you get no coalition-of-the-willing points.

9:36 p.m.: Awwww, G sounds so earnest! “And there’s going to be a summit! And — and — Mr. Annan’s helping!”

9:39 p.m.: Behind the scenes at Kerry’s debate coaching… “OK, see, Mr. Kerry, sir, you can’t actually ever say the word ‘lying.’ You may use ‘beguile,’ ‘dissemble,’ ‘misrepresent,’ ‘forswear,’ and ‘prevaricate.’ But you may not use ‘lie,’ or any form of the verb thereof.”

Jim Lehrer in a question said STTEO (something to the effect of, for future reference), “Mr. Kerry, you’ve accused Bush of lying about Iraq.” Kerr-Kerr actually said, “Well, I never used the Harshest Word, as you just did.” The “Harshest Word.” The man is whupped.

9:46 p.m.: Behind the scenes at Kerry’s debate coaching… “OK, umm, Mr. Kerry, sir, the word ‘Vietnam’ is verboten. A no-no. You may refer to it as ‘The War in which I fought,’ ‘The conflagration that took place in the nation-state abutting the nation formerly known as Campuchea,’ or, even, ‘The War that continues to justify my political career,’ if you want to be candid about it. But never ‘Vietnam.'”

9:48 p.m.: Prez-by’s refrain this entire debate so far is, “You can’t say _____ when you’re the Commander-in-Chief! The troops will be demoralized!” As in, “You can’t criticize the actions of the Commander-in-Chief when you’re the Commander-in-Chief! The troops will be demoralized!” See, it doesn’t work that way, G. I imagine, were Kerry to become President, he’d probably be much less inclined to call into question the actions of the President. Which debate coach came up with this line of argument?

9:54 p.m.: Wow. Bush. SSTEO: “I never wanted to commit troops, and when I had the debate in 2000, I never thought I’d have to. But the enemy attacked us!” What? These words in this order make no sense in our language.

9:58 p.m.: Kevin Drum, I am your DADDY.

10:03 p.m.: OMG. President Bush is doing. So. Badly. He’s had several severe sputtering moments, total deer-in-headlights madness. Sample Prez-by response (thanks, WaPo!):

LEHRER: New question, Mr. President, two minutes. You have said there was a, quote, “miscalculation,” of what the conditions would be in post-war Iraq. What was the miscalculation, and how did it happen?

BUSH: No, what I said was that, because we achieved such a rapid victory, more of the Saddam loyalists were around. I mean, we thought we’d whip more of them going in. But because Tommy Franks did such a great job in planning the operation, we moved rapidly, and a lot of the Baathists and Saddam loyalists laid down their arms and disappeared. I thought they would stay and fight, but they didn’t. And now we’re fighting them now. And it’s hard work.

I mean … WHAT?!

In order to simulate his actual response, you have to insert a lot of faltering moments of dawning realization that these sentences, when strung together, miraculously lose all meaning. Prez-by also seems very kind of sad and stressed and tired.

10:09 p.m.: Kerry’s doing an excellent job of keeping this a referendum on Bush, I would say. As long as the President has to stay on defense, I think Kerry’s succeeding.

But the President is really almost worryingly inarticulate tonight. He is actually having trouble getting words out. Every time he speaks, I’m thinking, “Is he going to make it through this?”

10:15 p.m.: “I fully agree that one should shift tactics. And we will, in Iraq.” First debate acknowledgment by Bush so far that the current tactic in Iraq iis wrong? And when exactly does that tactic shift happen? I mean, it’s been a year-and-a-half.

10:17 p.m.: Kerry says G-Dub has secured less nuclear material in the two years since 9/11 than we had secured in the two prior. That’s one I hadn’t heard, but a great sound byte, if it’s as it seems. I want to see more reporting on this. From somewhere other than ChronWatch.

10:22 p.m.: Dubs is totally on a first-name basis with Vladimir Putin. I don’t know what that means exactly; it’s definitely neither positive nor negative, it’s just so weird to hear.

10:26 p.m.: Kerry’s closing statement. “I believe our best days are ahead of us. Because I believe our future lies in freedom, not in fear.” Meh. Could have been better.

10:28 p.m.: Bush’s closing statement. “If America shows uncertainty or weakness in this decade, the world will drift toward tragedy.” “We’ve climbed the mountain, and I’ve seen the valley below and it’s a valley of peace.” (Don’t metaphorical mountains typically symbolize success, and valleys typically signify defeat?)

My immediate impressions, pre-media spin: Before this debate, I was highly skeptical of the theories James Fallows cited in the Atlantic that President Bush has actually developed some neurological handicap that increasingly prevents him from speaking with articulation. Now, I could almost be convinced. I’ll rewind and transcribe one of his answers as accurately as I can, with pauses, falters, and hesitations. Each ellipsis is a pause of approximately a second, sometimes more.

Uhh actually we’ve increased uhhh funding for … umm … uh … f-for uhh … dealing with nuclear proliferation. By about 35% since I’ve been the President. And secondly, uhh, we’ve s-set up what’s called the … well, first of all, I agreed with the … my opponent that the … biggest threat facing this country is weapons of mass destruction in the hands of a terrorist network. And that’s why … we’ve … put proliferation as the … one of the centerpieces of a multi-prong strategy to make the country safer. Umm … My administration started what’s called the Proliferation Security Initiative-ves-s. Over 60 nations involved with … disrupting … umm … the trans-shipment of information and/or … uh … weapons of mass destruction materials.

Listen for yourself, if you’d like. That was a typical sample of his speech quality the entire night. The transcription would be entirely invalid if not for the fact that if I attempted a similar transcription on Kerry, it would be entirely free of ellipses, logically structured, and generally near-flawless.

An argument could be made that any normal person would have had the exact same difficulties. I mean, I definitely sound more like that than like Kerry when I talk in public. But I’ve never been coached on this stuff, and I’m not the President of the United States of America.

It was almost difficult to pay attention to the substance of what each person was saying, after being completely distracted by the contrast between Kerry’s dead-on, pauseless diction and Bush’s shuffling rhetorical catastrophe.

But on the matters of substance, I’ll stand by what I said before. Bush was kept on the defensive the entire evening. Kerry deftly swatted aside the one criticism Bush predictably and ceaselessly kept making — that he flip-flopped on the war — essentially only answering it once, toward the end of the debate. And given the good quality of the answer he gave, it was the only time he needed to.


Get Your Debate On

First, excellent:

(from the New Yorker‘s “Rules of Engagement”)

Paragraph Seventeen A: Bodily fluids-Perspiration.

Debate sponsors shall make every effort to maintain comfortable temperature onstage. Candidates shall make reasonable use of underarm deodorant and other antiperspirant measures, subject to review by Secret Service, before the debates. In the event that perspiration is unavoidable, candidates may deploy one plain white cotton handkerchief measuring eight inches square. Handkerchief may not be used to suggest that opponent wants to surrender in global war on terrorism.

Second, sad:

(from NPR’s “Top 10 Secrets They Don’t Want You to Know About the Debates”)

(5.) All members of the studio audience must be certified as “soft” supporters of Bush and Kerry, under selection procedures they approve.

“It’s not enough to rig the debate — they have to rig the audience, too? The contract reads: ‘The debate will take place before a live audience of between 100 and 150 persons who… describe themselves as likely voters who are soft Bush supporters or soft Kerry supporters.’ We should crash this charade and jump up in the middle to declare ourselves hard opponents of this Kabuki dance.”

(4.) These “soft” audience members must “observe in silence.”

“Soft and silent… In what I’m calling the Silence of the Lambs Clause of this absurd contract, the audience may not move, speak, gesture, cough or otherwise show that they are alive and thinking.”

Third, sniff:

(from Slate’s article, “Daydreaming about Dean”)

A Dean general-election campaign would have contrasted Dean’s record with Bush’s in three ways: Dean being against the war versus Bush being for it; Dean’s record of balancing the Vermont budget while providing health care versus Bush’s largest deficits in history with no health care; and a new wrinkle that was only hinted at during the primaries, Dean’s mysterious, infrequently mentioned “tax reform” vs. Bush’s irresponsible tax cuts. Yes, Dean would have repealed the entire Bush tax cut, the senior adviser said, but he would have proposed replacing it with some Dean tax cuts, including the elimination of payroll taxes on the first $20,000 of income. The message: Bush cuts taxes from the top down, but Dean cuts them from the bottom up. Why didn’t Dean introduce this during the primaries, when his tax-hiking ways made some Democrats think he would be an electoral disaster, the second coming of Walter Mondale, in the fall? He wanted to wait until after the Feb. 3 primaries because “he didn’t want people to think he was pandering,” the adviser said.

Read more…

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The Revolution Will Not be Oklahoman

This is the wrong category for this post, but whatever.

Sensational piece of writing by my personal journalistic demi-goddess, Anne Hull. It’s a portrait of a naive, gay, 17-year-old boy and his equally naive mother. But I think it’s especially about the rest of us — the worldly, jaded, cosmopolitan, secular, sexxxtacular, post-post-bohemian creative-class-holes who think we know everything — who have to grapple with the exact same thoughts that seem so unformed coming out of the minds and mouths of Michael and Janice Shackleford:

Michael tried sending his mom a clue about his sexuality early on. He took her to a Cher concert in Tulsa, but she failed to make the connection.

“Apparently a lot of people don’t know she has a gay following,” Janice says, defensively. “The guys at work said how neat it was that I was going.”

She pauses, thinking back. “I have to say, it was a fantastic concert.” 

Here’s part two.

Part three and four will be along next Sunday and Monday.

If you wanted to get a taste of the worldly and cosmopolitan, try a little Lance Arthur. Especially the Gay Agenda.


The Hypocritical Critic, &c.

Sorry, Jack Shafer. Your column today in Slate, calling for an end to White House background briefings, is not allowed. You gave up your right to complain about anonymous sources on Monday, Sept. 20, 2004, when you included this sentence in your column:

Sources inside the [New York] Times tell me that the paper’s leadership worried that excavating and analyzing the WMD stories would damage the institution.

Harsh? Tough. No, after your months of railing against anonymous sources, you do not get the luxury of throwing a few willy-nilly into article that wasn’t even about the New York Times, or WMD, or anything close. Sure, I agree with your main point, but when you totally undermine it, you live with the consequences.

Read more…


The Columnist Did Lose His Marbles…

You heard it here first, folks.

David Brooks? Crazy.