Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Too cool for shul

I haven't been meaning to neglect the Sage of Cleveland Park, but to tell the truth he hasn't been all that inspiring of late.
Image from Jewlicious.
So what if he argues that Obama is caught in a Cascade of Brutality from which he can only escape by starting a Friendship Circle with the Republican Caucus of Common Sense? Little did I know that Obama was going to take Brooks's advice and have a stag party of Republican senators at Plume in the Jefferson Hotel, with Tom Coburn as a human shield.
we do know that of the 16 people seated in the hotel’s private Parlor Boardroom (including the 12 senators and presumably a handful of staffers), there were six orders of the filet, five of the Colorado lamb açaí, four Lobster Thermidors, and one special-ordered vegetarian plate. Dessert options included peanut butter crumble, heart of guana chocolate tart and iced Tahitian vanilla and praline bar.

The president had arranged for the $85 per person tab (not including tax or tip) to be billed directly to the White House. The hotel was sworn to secrecy on the question of whether or not wine was ordered or consumed. (Washington Post, March 7, 2013)
Le tout-Washington was feverishly speculating, of course, as to who that vegetarian Solon might be. I'm hoping it's Chambliss. As to whether the Brutality stops here or not, stay tuned. Apparently the Republicans were much startled to learn that Obama had proposed cutting Medicare and Social Security growth; it seems McConnell has been hiding it from them, though you'd imagine they'd have been able to find out on their own, say by asking their clear-eyed young staffers to read the newspapers for them.

And then Brooks went on a tour of darkest Midwood, Brooklyn, where the Applebee's has two salad bars, one meat and one dairy. Just kidding. But I'll bet you can find a Whitefish Thermidor. The natives there, Modern Orthodox Jews, spend their lives figuring out how to live exactly like everyone else—wired, overweight, and amused to death—without violating the laws of kashrut, thus illustrating Brooks's principle that life is better when you live by a code and all your fundamental decisions are made for you.
Much of the delight in life comes from arguing about the law and different interpretations of God’s command. Soloveichik laughingly describes his debates over which blessing to say over Crispix cereal, which is part corn, but also part rice....
All of us navigate certain tensions, between community and mobility, autonomy and moral order. Mainstream Americans have gravitated toward one set of solutions. The families stuffing their groceries into their Honda Odyssey minivans in the Pomegranate parking lot represent a challenging counterculture. Mostly, I notice how incredibly self-confident they are. Once dismissed as relics, they now feel that they are the future.
No word on when Mr. and Mrs. Brooks are going to give up Saturday driving and start begetting those 14 kids. Oh wait, I forgot that they practice Brooksian Exceptionalism, in which there is an advanced condition known as too cool for shul.
Image from Heeb magazine.
Speaking of the future, that turns out to be located on the Axis of Tedium that extends through the plains from North Dakota to Texas and then veers eastward (bypassing New Orleans) to the Atlantic, where it sweeps northward through South Carolina, framing America's new growth area where our country is growing (backwards) into a commodity economy based on tar sands, soy beans, and shale gas. Really! Our Brooks is challenging no less a thinker than Thomas P. Friedman, better known as Thomas L. Friedman, the Mustache of the Thinkable, who has insisted for years that we are heading toward an economy of pure thought!

One of the approximately two interesting things about this column is the resurfacing of a character we've met before (just last November) in Brooksland, noted urban futurist Joel Kotkin of Chapman University, Orange County, California, previously spotted lamenting the decline in religion, fascism, and male managers, which is leading to inadequate rates of reproduction (at least outside Midwood). Today he has a new webpage for the Manhattan Institute arguing the existence of these new growth corridors where a new class of "material boys" are going to totally kick China's ass by burning more fossil fuel than was previously thought to exist so they can grow more corn and soy so they can raise more pigs and cows so the entire country can die of heart disease before it starts dying of thirst in the desert of the 22nd century. Or whatever. He makes Friedman seem like a model of perspicacious thoughtfulness.

In fact Brooks cites Joel Kotkin an awful lot. He has been citing him since Pearl Harbor Day, 2004, when he noted Kotkin's theory that people (i.e., Republicans) in the exurbs of the Plains and the South have more babies than the selfish materialists of the coasts and the Rust Belt and Europe. He mentioned Kotkin in passing in a column on compassionate conservatism and Katrina to the effect that
Immigrants were flowing across the land in search of opportunity, but as Joel Kotkin has observed, few were interested in New Orleans
(a statement, then and now, as false as it is pointless). In January 2006, Brooks referenced Kotkin's concept of the "New Suburbanism", of
an ''archipelago of villages'' -- a new sort of landscape that is neither city nor sprawl. It's all kind of amazing: market-tested cohesive institutions to counteract the segmenting and niche-ifying forces of the age. It's not anti-suburbia; it's go-go suburbia growing up.
And in December 2008, it was the "New Localism" of the reviving downtowns of Charlotte and Dallas.

In April 2010, he took up Kotkin's thesis that America was on the verge of a population surge to fill up those suburbs with the young and enterprising. That September,  Kotkin was Brooks's authority for asserting that California had been wrecked by environmentalists, rich people, and government workers (in fairness, he acknowledged that anti-tax fever might have a share in the responsibility).

It's as if Kotkin were Brooks's PR client, or maybe his reclusive Smarter Brother. Every time he opens his mouth, it seems, Brooks is on top of it. As he worries these themes back and forth, while the birth rates and employment patterns and migration go up and down, and the Kotkinian future swims in and out of focus, Brooks is reporting every move. What's this about?
From JaysAnalysis.

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