The postman always rings twice

Here’s a few good longish-to-long reads for this Sunday afternoon:

1. Why it’s unfortunate that so many people take Malcolm Gladwell seriously (I can’t decide if it’s worse than people reading David Brooks….Gladwell’s assertions are less transparently stupid but maybe that means more people take him seriously).

2. Jay Rosen on Neil Postman, a mentor of Rosen’s. Great title “A civilized man in a century of barbarism”. I think many here would like to think of themselves that way.

3. A classic aimai rant (and I mean that in the best possible way). She’s filling in for SteveM this week.

What have you read lately that’s interesting?

32 replies
  1. 1
    Rob in Buffalo says:

    I read about John Boehner lying on national TV (“The votes are not in the House to pass a clean debt limit.”)

  2. 2
    Ben Franklin says:

    Finally… saving face takes back seat. Seppuku?

  3. 3
    aimai says:

    I’m touched, Doug. Thanks for the link. I’m filling in for SteveM and also cross posting at my own blog where I think that rant scans a little better because the formatting is different. If people want to read it at I Spy With My Little Eye they can just click on the link at my name.

  4. 4
    MomSense says:

    Has anyone read the front page NYT story about Edwin Meese, the Koch brothers and a bunch of conservative groups who started plotting the defund ObamaCare by govt. shutdown back in January?

    I’m only halfway through the article and I’m already spitting mad.

    Check it out. A Crisis Months in the Planning.

  5. 5
    aimai says:

    @MomSense: Yup, I read it. I wasn’t surprised but I was sickened. That seems to be my normal state these days. Hey, is everything going ok for you right now?

  6. 6
    Baud says:

    @Rob in Buffalo:

    If only there were a way we could be sure….

  7. 7
    Elizabelle says:


    We need to get that NYTimes article out to people we know. Facebook away.

    Here’s the Tea Party Patriots’ Defunding Obamacare Toolkit for Activists pdf, linked to in NYTimes article.

  8. 8
    MattF says:

    Instead of my saying something intemperate about Gladwell, here’s xkcd:

  9. 9
    kc says:


    I just read that. I’m bookmarking it so I can whip it out every time some winger blames Obama for the shutdown.

  10. 10
    Davis X. Machina says:

    In 35 years of mostly- public school teaching, I have never seen a situation arise where, out of a series of alternatives, the industry — and it is an industry — hasn’t picked the one Postman said was doomed to fail.

    And he hasn’t been wrong much, either.

    Amusing Ourselves to Death is one of the most important books on anything that came out in the last 40-50 years.

  11. 11
    Kay says:


    I’m glad because it is nonsense that Cruz single-handedly created this.

    Sane Republicans would like it if that were true, but it’s obviously not true, and it was obvious since they took the House in 2010.

    They have been running against Obamacare since the day it was passed. they have absolutely nothing else to throw the Tea Party to keep them engaged, and without the Tea party, they have no “base”.

    Koch and other professionals might have a broader plan, a broader goal, but Cruz’s tactic is completely consistent with what they’ve been doing for years on Obamacare and the base.

    There is no “Tea Party” in Ohio without opposition to Obamacare. That’s why they couldn’t expand Medicaid. Their base would defect. They know they have to keep them hanging on thru another cycle.

  12. 12
    Kay says:


    If they had believed “entitlement reform” was enough to bring along their base, they would have shut the government down over that instead of fleecing the base, again, just as they did in 2012, with a promise to repeal the health care law.

    I don’t know if they can successfully distract them with some bullshit on the medical equipment tax and move them over to giving a shit about “entitlement reform” in the context of the debt ceiling but if they don’t repeal Obamacare, they are going to have to explain why. At some point it’s time’s up.

  13. 13
    MomSense says:


    I just finished reading your rant and it was great.

    Things are well. Work has settled so I didn’t have to pull extra duty this weekend. Just enjoying putting around the house, and football. Took a nice walk to the playground with my youngest and watched him climb all around and then a nice walk home with him.

    Oh and we have chipotle beef cooking very, very slowly for burritos tonight so life is good!

  14. 14
    dmsilev says:

    @kc: The story is from “the liberal media” so any true wingnut KNOWS it is doubleplus untrue.

  15. 15
    aimai says:

    @MomSense: I’m cleaning the house to get ready to host all the 9th grade parents at my daughter’s new highschool for a potluck, and watching fringe to keep me focused on cleaning instead of blogging or reading. Its not working.

  16. 16
    MomSense says:


    Ha! It’s amazing how the computer calls while doing chores.

    I just made a couple pairs of felted slippers and am about to throw them in the washer.

  17. 17
    Batocchio says:

    Cool! I wrote a long piece riffing on Neil Postman a few years back, and aimai’s piece is excellent and should be widely read.

  18. 18
    Keith P. says:

    @MomSense: Does it theorize at all what’s the underlying motivation for hating Obamacare this much? I know there’s the usual ideas, like it would prove government can be good or it’ll bring Dems votes or it’s something anti-Obama. But given the power players who are pushing the opposition so hard as to attempt to ruin the world economy over it, there has to be some kind of financial reason that is not being covered well (like they’ve got vested interests in hospitals overcharging Americans or the insurance industry has super-secret lobbyists on this).

  19. 19
    MomSense says:


    I think the discussion has moved on to the next thread, but I do wonder what else the tea party has to organize around without ObamaCare. They do face a problem in that the Republicans have done so much fear mongering about what essentially is access to group health plans with subsidies. If people realize they have been played will they be angry? Hard to say since it seems the media are doing their best to mitigate the damage.

  20. 20
    MomSense says:

    @Keith P.:

    No, it doesn’t really say why they hate it so much.

  21. 21

    @Keith P.: See, as I said before, I think it’s a mistake to think this is some kind of rational greed-based thing. I think many of the very rich are just plain crazy, and will destroy themselves for ideology and resentment.

  22. 22
    aimai says:

    @MomSense: There is some woman fighting with me down at the bottom of the gnarly thread on my tipping post. I think her perspective is what is driving the incoherence of the Tea Party demands at the top line. She basically doesn’t care about the logic of what they are doing–it all makes her happy. She is as concerned about stopping gay marriage, preventing florists from having to serve gay couples, stopping abortion, and ending the iniquity of people having to pay the mandate under Obamacare as she is about the debt or the credit limit or anything else. Its all the same to her. Where we see the Republicans flailing and trying to find a new enemy to attack (remember when it was going to be ecoterrorists?) she just sees a consistent pattern of good intentions, the intention to wage war against the evils of democratic big government.

    So I was at first expecting that when they lose on Obamacare they will have a hard time finding a new enemy but I don’t think it matters as much to their followers as it matters to us. Consistency or logic is not there thing. Its a feeling, a drama, a mythic struggle and they are happy as long as their representatives appear to be waging it on their behalf. They don’t even notice that Boehner et al slipped from defunding obamcare to “fixing” its inequities (the ones they caused by preventing medicaid expansion). They just aren’t paying that kind of attention.

  23. 23

    Obama has nerves of steel and he hasn’t yet revealed his hand, the tea-party loons are looking more and more desperate and crazy. They are revealing who they really are. It is doesn’t look to me like they are winning, false bravado != Winning.

  24. 24
    Keith P. says:

    @Matt McIrvin: I’ve always had the impression that it started out as just a “this is Obama’s signature achievement, so we must oppose it,” but it’s gotten to be the kind of thing where it’s the hill they’re willing to die on, and it’s hard for me to fathom that. Do they really hate Obamacare just because it’s Obama’s (now) so much that they’re willing to risk losing the House? Just because they despise Obama? That’s pretty amazing if that’s all there is to it, because normally, they pull through at the end to do whatever will keep them in power. But here, they’re willing to shut down the government and ruin the world economy….over universal health care. I guess for people who are now pitching a fit because national parks of all things are closed down, it kind of makes sense (that’s another weird one…they’re trying to move the earth so veterans can visit parks rather than, say, fund cancer research or the DEA. They really expect the nation to be outraged because The Greatest Entitled Generation can’t see a memorial this week?)

  25. 25
    James E. Powell says:


    They have been running against Obamacare since the day it was passed.

    Opposing Obamacare is just the convenient way of standing up to that [insert racist epithet]. Read the survey from Democracy Corps. They are who we thought they were!

    We see Obama and the Democrats as constant appeasers, compromising in advance, putting Social Security cuts on the table!!! They see Obama as a Sauron-like wizard who repeatedly causes the cowardly Republicans to agree to another step on the road to Obama being declared Marxist Muslim Dictator for Life!!!

    The right-wingers, the base not the leaders, don’t really have policy preferences based on probably outcomes. To them politics is for the expression of one’s identity, one’s id. It has almost nothing to do with reality.

    For the Republican leaders and the corporations that own them, the goal is pretty much the same as it was during the Clinton administration: destroy the president, destroy his ability to govern, and make damn sure that neither the president nor the Democrats are seen or understood to be successful. A significant chunk of Republican support comes from voters who believe that Republicans are more competent, on the economy, on foreign affairs, on military matters. The evidence does not support that, but the beliefs have been pounded into Americans’ heads. A two-term Democratic president, particularly a black president, who is generally regarded as successful goes a long way toward refudiating the whole Republican narrative.

  26. 26
    The Bobs says:

    I posted this over at aimai’s article as well, but I’ll put it here so that others may watch this. If you are skeptical that there are people who self-define as “punishers”, watch this film about the Indian caste system.

  27. 27
    Lyrebird says:

    Just read this:
    ..and it made me want to go contribute some more moolah to BJ and to Wonkette, in “honor” of Milbank.

  28. 28
    Sly says:

    I can’t decide if it’s worse than people reading David Brooks….Gladwell’s assertions are less transparently stupid but maybe that means more people take him seriously

    Gladwell : Social Science :: Friedman : Geopolitics

    Gladwell may not be as shitty a writer as Friedman, but he trades in the same kinds of gross oversimplifications that can’t help but paint an incorrect picture to an uninformed reader.

  29. 29

    Speaking of goodish-to-long reads, I finally posted about “Love Me Tonight”:


    Sorry for the long delay — I could barely get to my computer last weekend.

  30. 30
    Applejinx says:

    Meh. I enjoy Gladwell. I’m not gonna write essays on him, or try to use him as a reference.

    The most important thing you can know about Gladwell is that at a newspaper, he first made a game out of introducing the phrase ‘raises new and troubling questions’ into articles, but when that was way too easy, attempted and SUCCEEDED in getting the phrase ‘perverse and often baffling’ into the paper.

    Most things aren’t perverse (!) and those that are, aren’t baffling, and if they were they’d be always baffling, not ‘often’ baffling. Truly a god-mode challenge for a Loki-like character and player with words.

    I ‘learned’ from him that if I crank away at stuff real hard, I’ll get to the point where I’m good enough at it that people begin to behave like the things I make are special, through quick snap judgements that used to go all wrong for me. I got a lot of spontaneous haters, and now some things I do get spontaneous fans. This is cool (though maybe no great revelation) and Gladwell’s stuff makes it tangible on days where things seem discouraging.

    I’m autistic and have paid an awfully high price for some of the skills I’ve got. You’re god-damn right I’m buying this new book of his. If I’m lucky, it’ll ‘tip’ the balance toward cheering me up on tough days, and I’ll get on with my work at the ‘11,000th’ hour making new kinds of things that people ‘blink’ and find appealing through untrustworthy snap judgements.

    I hope he doesn’t just make shit up (I doubt it, he’s more than clever enough not to have to) but it sounds to me like he knows exactly what he is and what he does. Long may he do it.

    Oh- and there’s a book called ‘Cradles of Eminence’, old book, making much the same points Gladwell makes about damaged people rising to greatness. Might be more suitable for folks who like rigor.

  31. 31


    Gladwell’s 10,000 hours thing seems to be at least somewhat bogus in that it assumes you can become an expert in anything if you just work at it for that number of hours. IMO, people will only put those 10K hours of work into something they find interesting or have some innate skill towards. In theory, I could probably force myself to learn calculus if I put in the work, but I never will, because I don’t have any interest or talent in that direction.

    Also IMO, Gladwell mistook the chicken for the egg, if you will. He assumed that people became proficient because they put in the work rather than realizing that they were able to put in the work and become proficient because they were working towards something that interested them. Does that make sense?

  32. 32
    Tehanu says:

    Read the first couple of sentences and almost had a stroke. These bastards ought to be tried and hanged for treason. At the rate they’re going, they may instead be hanging from lampposts, but that will be after they’ve managed to destroy what’s left of democracy in this benighted country. Somehow I don’t think their richly-deserved comeuppance will make up for all the destruction and evil they’ve spread.

Comments are closed.