Tuesday, April 29, 2008

DC's Most Over-Rated Restaurants

According to Wonkette, via gridskipper. This is a two part list, and i totally agree with most of volume 2, which is copied here:

Our first post about overrated eating in the District was wildly popular. As a result, we're putting together a list of the rest of the worst in Washington. From the Old Ebbitt Grill to Circa at Dupont, it seems this city is filled with half-assed eats. (photo)

1900 Q St NW, Washington, DC 20009

Gridskipper readers reamed me for not including Raku on the first list, and I agree: it was an egregious omission. The restaurant draws crowds for having some prime outdoor seating. But the fun stops there. Reports of food sickness, overpriced meals and of being generally underwhelmed abound.

The Old Ebbitt Grill
675 15th Street, Washington, DC 20005
I really don't care if the crab cakes here are fabulous. This place is always so jammed with tourists, I'm convinced that the restaurant has some unspoken agreement with every hotel, guidebook and airline flying in and out of the area.

Circa at Dupont
We Dupont Circle residents waited so eagerly for this place to open. For months we speculated about what delightful treats it would serve. We imagined ourselves sun-drenched and beautiful, sipping wine on Circa's terrace. We were even foolish enough to claim that "this is exactly the place Dupont needs." We were wrong. Spongy calamari (a BIG no-no in my book), paired with terrible service and a side of Amy Grant, Celine Dion and John Mayer on the sound system is a recipe for utter disappointment.

1811 Columbia Road, Washington, D.C., 20009
I'm not sure why so many Gridskipper readers are hating on Perry's. I like their roof deck. And then there are the drag queens, of course. All that said, the lines that form outside this place might lead one to believe that the food inside is over-the-top amazing. I can safely say it's just fine.

Café Milano
3251 Prospect Street NW, Washington, DC 2007
Any restaurant that boasts on its web site how often it feeds celebrities (and I'm talking boring DC celebrities, like CNN anchors) has got to serve some pathetic food. As for me, I've never eaten there, but many Gridskipper readers say it's more than bleh

Sign of a Decline in Empire

The NYT had an article recently about Korean teenagers wanting to attend US ivy league schools. This reminded me of how in the waning days of the British Empire, all of the elites in the former colonies wanted to send their kids to Oxford and Cambridge. Is this yet another, albeit, subtle sign of an America in decline and the rise of Asia? This country deserves so much better leadership than it is currently getting.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Clueless in America

Herbert article here.

April 22, 2008
Op-Ed Columnist
Clueless in America
We don’t hear a great deal about education in the presidential campaign. It’s much too serious a topic to compete with such fun stuff as Hillary tossing back a shot of whiskey, or Barack rolling a gutter ball.

The nation’s future may depend on how well we educate the current and future generations, but (like the renovation of the nation’s infrastructure, or a serious search for better sources of energy) that can wait. At the moment, no one seems to have the will to engage any of the most serious challenges facing the U.S.

An American kid drops out of high school every 26 seconds. That’s more than a million every year, a sign of big trouble for these largely clueless youngsters in an era in which a college education is crucial to maintaining a middle-class quality of life — and for the country as a whole in a world that is becoming more hotly competitive every day.

Ignorance in the United States is not just bliss, it’s widespread. A recent survey of teenagers by the education advocacy group Common Core found that a quarter could not identify Adolf Hitler, a third did not know that the Bill of Rights guaranteed freedom of speech and religion, and fewer than half knew that the Civil War took place between 1850 and 1900.

“We have one of the highest dropout rates in the industrialized world,” said Allan Golston, the president of U.S. programs for the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. In a discussion over lunch recently he described the situation as “actually pretty scary, alarming.”

Roughly a third of all American high school students drop out. Another third graduate but are not prepared for the next stage of life — either productive work or some form of post-secondary education.

When two-thirds of all teenagers old enough to graduate from high school are incapable of mastering college-level work, the nation is doing something awfully wrong.

Mr. Golston noted that the performance of American students, when compared with their peers in other countries, tends to grow increasingly dismal as they move through the higher grades:

“In math and science, for example, our fourth graders are among the top students globally. By roughly eighth grade, they’re in the middle of the pack. And by the 12th grade, U.S. students are scoring generally near the bottom of all industrialized countries.”

Many students get a first-rate education in the public schools, but they represent too small a fraction of the whole.

Bill Gates, the founder of Microsoft, offered a brutal critique of the nation’s high schools a few years ago, describing them as “obsolete” and saying, “When I compare our high schools with what I see when I’m traveling abroad, I am terrified for our work force of tomorrow.”

Said Mr. Gates: “By obsolete, I don’t just mean that they are broken, flawed or underfunded, though a case could be made for every one of those points. By obsolete, I mean our high schools — even when they’re working as designed — cannot teach all our students what they need to know today.”

The Educational Testing Service, in a report titled “America’s Perfect Storm,” cited three powerful forces that are affecting the quality of life for millions of Americans and already shaping the nation’s future. They are:

• The wide disparity in the literacy and math skills of both the school-age and adult populations. These skills, which play such a tremendous role in the lives of individuals and families, vary widely across racial, ethnic and socioeconomic groups.

• The “seismic changes” in the U.S. economy that have resulted from globalization, technological advances, shifts in the relationship of labor and capital, and other developments.

• Sweeping demographic changes. By 2030, the U.S. population is expected to reach 360 million. That population will be older and substantially more diverse, with immigration having a big impact on both the population as a whole and the work force.

These and so many other issues of crucial national importance require an educated populace if they are to be dealt with effectively. At the moment we are not even coming close to equipping the population with the intellectual tools that are needed.

While we’re effectively standing in place, other nations are catching up and passing us when it comes to educational achievement. You have to be pretty dopey not to see the implications of that.

But, then, some of us are pretty dopey. In the Common Core survey, nearly 20 percent of respondents did not know who the U.S. fought in World War II. Eleven percent thought that Dwight Eisenhower was the president forced from office by the Watergate scandal. Another 11 percent thought it was Harry Truman.

We’ve got work to do.

Smiths -- This Charming Man


Life in a Northern Town -- Dream Academy

Hit That Perfect Beat -- Bronski Boys

What Have I done To Deserve This

With the Great Dusty Springfield

Monday, April 21, 2008

More Jacoby

From LA Times, here.

Finding an Apartment in NY

This is a great article about finding your first apartment in NY.

Michael Kinsey on Charlie Rose

Kinsey has some great perspective on the election. I had no idea he had Parkinson's.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Mid-East Oil Demand

Oil demand in the mid-east is helping to fuel (ahem) prices.

Also, the weak dollar---oil is priced in dollars---has also contributed to oil prices rising (you need more ...weak... dollars for the same barrel of oil.

There is also alot of mid-east tension premium (ie. Iran worries) built into the oil market.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Tom Shales Slams ABC

The whole debate was shameful. ABC needs to look at BBC News to see what real journalism can be.

In Pa. Debate, The Clear Loser Is ABC

By Tom Shales
Thursday, April 17, 2008; C01

When Barack Obama met Hillary Clinton for another televised Democratic candidates' debate last night, it was more than a step forward in the 2008 presidential election. It was another step downward for network news -- in particular ABC News, which hosted the debate from Philadelphia and whose usually dependable anchors, Charlie Gibson and George Stephanopoulos, turned in shoddy, despicable performances.

For the first 52 minutes of the two-hour, commercial-crammed show, Gibson and Stephanopoulos dwelled entirely on specious and gossipy trivia that already has been hashed and rehashed, in the hope of getting the candidates to claw at one another over disputes that are no longer news. Some were barely news to begin with.

The fact is, cable networks CNN and MSNBC both did better jobs with earlier candidate debates. Also, neither of those cable networks, if memory serves, rushed to a commercial break just five minutes into the proceedings, after giving each candidate a tiny, token moment to make an opening statement. Cable news is indeed taking over from network news, and merely by being competent.

Gibson sat there peering down at the candidates over glasses perched on the end of his nose, looking prosecutorial and at times portraying himself as a spokesman for the working class. Blunderingly he addressed an early question, about whether each would be willing to serve as the other's running mate, "to both of you," which is simple ineptitude or bad manners. It was his job to indicate which candidate should answer first. When, understandably, both waited politely for the other to talk, Gibson said snidely, "Don't all speak at once."

For that matter, the running-mate question that Gibson made such a big deal over was decidedly not a big deal -- especially since Wolf Blitzer asked it during a previous debate televised and produced by CNN.

The boyish Stephanopoulos, who has done wonders with the network's Sunday morning hour, "This Week" (as, indeed, has Gibson with the nightly "World News"), looked like an overly ambitious intern helping out at a subcommittee hearing, digging through notes for something smart-alecky and slimy. He came up with such tired tripe as a charge that Obama once associated with a nutty bomb-throwing anarchist. That was "40 years ago, when I was 8 years old," Obama said with exasperation.

Obama was right on the money when he complained about the campaign being bogged down in media-driven inanities and obsessiveness over any misstatement a candidate might make along the way, whether in a speech or while being eavesdropped upon by the opposition. The tactic has been to "take one statement and beat it to death," he said.

No sooner was that said than Gibson brought up, yet again, the controversial ravings of the pastor at a church attended by Obama. "Charlie, I've discussed this," he said, and indeed he has, ad infinitum. If he tried to avoid repeating himself when clarifying his position, the networks would accuse him of changing his story, or changing his tune, or some other baloney.

This is precisely what has happened with widely reported comments that Obama made about working-class people "clinging" to religion and guns during these times of cynicism about their federal government.

"It's not the first time I made a misstatement that was mangled up, and it won't be the last," said Obama, with refreshing candor. But candor is dangerous in a national campaign, what with network newsniks waiting for mistakes or foul-ups like dogs panting for treats after performing a trick. The networks' trick is covering an election with as little emphasis on issues as possible, then blaming everyone else for failing to focus on "the issues."

Some news may have come out of the debate (ABC News will pretend it did a great job on today's edition of its soppy, soap-operatic "Good Morning America"). Asked point-blank if she thought Obama could defeat presumptive Republican contender John McCain in the general election, Clinton said, "Yes, yes, yes," in apparent contrast to previous remarks in which she reportedly told other Democrats that Obama could never win. And in turn, Obama said that Clinton could "absolutely" win against McCain.

To this observer, ABC's coverage seemed slanted against Obama. The director cut several times to reaction shots of such Clinton supporters as her daughter, Chelsea, who sat in the audience at the Kimmel Theater in Philly's National Constitution Center. Obama supporters did not get equal screen time, giving the impression that there weren't any in the hall. The director also clumsily chose to pan the audience at the very start of the debate, when the candidates made their opening statements, so Obama and Clinton were barely seen before the first commercial break.

At the end, Gibson pompously thanked the candidates -- or was he really patting himself on the back? -- for "what I think has been a fascinating debate." He's entitled to his opinion, but the most fascinating aspect was waiting to see how low he and Stephanopoulos would go, and then being appalled at the answer.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Lieberman Strikes Again

Lieberman said this apparantly.

Embarrassed I'm Surprised
04.14.08 -- 10:52PM By Josh Marshall
There must be something wrong with me that I can still be surprised at how low Joe Lieberman (Joe-CT) can sink. Via Think Progress, Joe getting interviewed on Fox ...

NAPITALIANO: Hey Sen. Lieberman, you know Barack Obama, is he a Marxist as Bill Kristol says might be the case in today's New York Times? Is he an elitist like your colleague Hillary Clinton says he is?
LIEBERMAN: Well, you know, I must say that's a good question. I know him now for a little more than three years since he came into the Senate and he's obviously very smart and he's a good guy. I will tell ya that during this campaign, I've learned some things about him, about the kind of environment from which he came ideologically. And I wouldn't...I'd hesitate to say he's a Marxist, but he's got some positions that are far to the left of me and I think mainstream America

Monday, April 14, 2008

tpm on bitter

You Bitter?
I've gotten asked by a lot of readers what I make of this whole "bitter" controversy. So a few thoughts.

In cases such as this I think it is always crucial to distinguish in our own minds between what we find offensive and what we've been conditioned to believe that others will find offensive. And perhaps even more importantly, what others will be able to twist and distort into something that other people will find offensive.

Each of those categories is important. But I find the exercise marvelously clarifying in thinking about how to understand these blow-ups when they happen.

In this case, I didn't think what he said was offensive. Of course, I don't live in a small town or in rural America. But then again, neither do any of the other people I've heard sound off on this topic. So I'm in good company. (This has been one of the more comedic aspects of this 72 hours -- watching a cavalcade of extremely wealthy pundits, editorialists and political operatives from New York and Washington tell me how rural Americans won't stand for this.) My understanding is that Obama was answering a question from someone who planned to go canvass for him in Pennsylvania and what they should expect since it's portrayed as being unfriendly ground for him. And what I understood him to be saying is that years of economic abandonment have left many communities in middle America even more reliant on community, tradition, their religion, etc. -- and from a political standpoint very protective of it.

I think he said much the same thing in this interview from 2004 which I published over the weekend. He said it more artfully, probably less apt to being spun out of control in a campaign echo-chamber.

So, with the obligatory, yes, he could have worded it better, do I think it was offensive and condescending? No. I don't. Do I think it can be spun into something offensive and condescending? Sure. That was obvious right off the bat. And how effective will it be against him or damaging to him? I'm not certain. From recent, bitter experience we all know of many instances where someone has been badly damaged politically for remarks which while inoffensive or explainable in themselves, nonetheless get spun and eventually received in a damaging way. So in a very real way, what's 'fair' in these cases is beside the point.

I'm skeptical that this will be as damaging to Obama as a lot of people seem to think. But who knows? We'll know in a few days.

What I do know is that this basic thought, often expressed in much less charitable ways, is commonplace in Democratic policy and political circles. And I have little doubt they've been expressed many times by both of the Clintons and her advisors. So speaking for myself I've spent too much time over, what, 15 years now? ... defending both Clintons from similarly ginned up nonsense to have much energy left to help out as they pull the same puffed up outrage act against another Democrat. I guess I'm just not feeling it.

With the Wright business and now with this, the more nuanced version of the Clinton line has been that what 'we' think is not really the point. It's what Republicans will do with it in the fall. And that's a real concern that I definitely have. I won't deny it. I've never thought Obama was a perfect candidate. But as we get deeper into the primary calendar, increasingly so, this 'what the Republicans will do' line has become more of a simulacrum, or a license, if you will, to do what Republicans actually do do. That is to say, to grab for political advantage by peddling stereotypes about Democrats and liberals that are really no less offensive than the ones we're talking about about Americans from small town and rural America.

And seeing Hillary go on about how Obama has contempt for folks in small town America, how he's elitist, well ... no, it's not because I think she's either. I never have. But after seeing her hit unfairly with just the same stuff for years, it just encapsulates the last three-plus months of her campaign which I can only describe as a furious descent into nonsense and self-parody. Part of it makes me want to cry. But at this point all I can really do is laugh.

--Josh Marshall

Frank Rich on Iraq

Frank Rich arguing that Americans just do not want to hear about Iraq and tuning out the suffering there.

Friday, April 11, 2008

More on Soros

Article here.

“I consider this the biggest financial crisis of my lifetime,” Mr. Soros said during an interview Monday in his office overlooking Central Park. A “superbubble” that has been swelling for a quarter of a century is finally bursting, he said.

. . . The more Mr. Soros learned about the crisis, the more certain he became that he should rebroadcast his theories. In the book, Mr. Soros, a fierce critic of the Bush administration, faults regulators for allowing the buildup of the housing and mortgage bubbles. He envisions a time, not so distant, when the dollar is no longer the world’s main currency and people will have a harder time borrowing money.

Mr. Soros hopes his theories will finally win the respect he craves. But, ever the trader, he hedges his bets. “I may well be proven wrong,” he said. “I would say that I’m the boy who cried wolf three times.” . . .

George Soros on Chalie Rose

Faux News, Part 2

Even Better than Part 1:

Faux News, part 1

A Daily Show Classic:

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Petreus / Crocker Hearings

I really like both Petreaus and Crocker. Here is a summary of the Hearings.

Standout senators include Biden, Hagel, Cardin, Obama, Webb, and Lugar. I adore biden and cardin.

woo hoo.

Monday, April 7, 2008

Yale Money Whiz

David Swensen is very astute.

Friday, April 4, 2008

Steve Coll

I saw Steve Coll today at Tabard Inn. I wish I would have gone up to get his autograph.

Mormons & Muslims

LA Times Article Here.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

US Citizens Views of Islam

From the LA Times. Article Here.

Winning hearts and minds -- the Bush administration, foreign policy wonks, even the U.S. military agree that this is the key to any victory over global terrorism. Yet our public diplomacy program has made little progress on improving America's image. Few seem to recognize that American ignorance of Islam and Muslims has been the fatal flaw.

How much do Americans know about the views and beliefs of Muslims around the world? According to polls, not much. Perhaps not surprising, the majority of Americans (66%) admit to having at least some prejudice against Muslims; one in five say they have "a great deal" of prejudice. Almost half do not believe American Muslims are "loyal" to this country, and one in four do not want a Muslim as a neighbor.

Why should such anti-Muslim bias concern us? First, it undermines the war on terrorism: Situations are misdiagnosed, root causes are misidentified and bad prescriptions do more harm than good. Second, it makes our public diplomacy sound like double-talk. U.S. diplomats are trying to convince Muslims around the world that the United States respects them and that the war on terrorism is not out to destroy Islam. Their task is made infinitely more difficult by the frequent airing of anti-Muslim sentiment on right-wing call-in radio, which is then heard around the world on the Internet.

Finally, public ignorance weakens our democracy at election time. Instead of a well-informed citizenry choosing our representatives, we are rendered vulnerable to manipulative fear tactics. We need look no further than the political attacks on Barack Obama. Any implied connection to Islam -- attending a Muslim school in Indonesia, the middle name Hussein -- is wielded to suggest that he is unfit for the presidency and used as fuel for baseless rumors.

Anti-Muslim sentiment fuels misinformation, and is fueled by it -- misinformation that is squarely contradicted by evidence.

Starting in 2001, the research firm Gallup embarked on the largest, most comprehensive survey of its kind, spending more than six years polling a population that represented more than 90% of the world's 1.3 billion Muslims. The results showed plainly that much of the conventional wisdom about Muslims -- views touted by U.S. policymakers and pundits and accepted by voters -- is simply false.

For instance, Gallup found that 72% of Americans disagreed with this statement: "The majority of those living in Muslim countries thought men and women should have equal rights." In fact, majorities in even some of the most conservative Muslim societies directly refute this assessment: 73% of Saudis, 89% of Iranians and 94% of Indonesians say that men and women should have equal legal rights. Majorities of Muslim men and women in dozens of countries around the world also believe that a woman should have the right to work outside the home at any job for which she is qualified (88% in Indonesia, 72% in Egypt and even 78% in Saudi Arabia), and to vote without interference from family members (87% in Indonesia, 91% in Egypt, 98% in Lebanon).

What about Muslim sympathy for terrorism? Many charge that Islam encourages violence more than other faiths, but studies show that Muslims around the world are at least as likely as Americans to condemn attacks on civilians. Polls show that 6% of the American public thinks attacks in which civilians are targets are "completely justified." In Saudi Arabia, this figure is 4%. In Lebanon and Iran, it's 2%.

Moreover, it's politics, not piety, that drives the small minority -- just 7% -- of Muslims to anti-Americanism at the level of condoning the attacks of 9/11. Looking across majority-Muslim countries, Gallup found no statistical difference in self-reported religiosity between those who sympathized with the attackers and those who did not. When respondents in select countries were asked in an open-ended question to explain their views of 9/11, those who condemned it cited humanitarian as well as religious reasons. For example, 20% of Kuwaitis who called the attacks "completely unjustified" explained this position by saying that terrorism was against the teachings of Islam. A respondent in Indonesia went so far as to quote a direct verse from the Koran prohibiting killing innocents. On the other hand, not a single respondent who condoned the attacks used the Koran as justification. Instead, they relied on political rationalizations, calling the U.S. an imperialist power or accusing it of wanting to control the world.

If most Muslims truly reject terrorism, why does it continue to flourish in Muslim lands? What these results indicate is that terrorism is much like other violent crime. Violent crimes occur throughout U.S. cities, but that is no indication of Americans' general acceptance of murder or assault. Likewise, continued terrorist violence is not proof that Muslims tolerate it. Indeed, they are its primary victims.

Still, the typical American cannot be blamed for these misperceptions. Media-content analyses show that the majority of U.S. TV news coverage of Islam is sharply negative. Americans are bombarded every day with news stories about Muslims and majority-Muslim countries in which vocal extremists, not evidence, drive perceptions.

Rather than allow extremists on either side to dictate how we discuss Islam and the West, we need to listen carefully to the voices of ordinary people. Our victory in the war on terrorism depends on it.

John L. Esposito is an Islamic studies professor at Georgetown University. Dalia Mogahed is executive director of the Center for Muslim Studies at Gallup. They co-wrote "Who Speaks for Islam? What a Billion Muslims Really Think."