Monthly Archives: April 2010

Public Apology

I’m sorry I used you as an outdoor office, Wonderland Ballroom.

Bike troubles forced me to commute on foot, and I was running late to get a call from this guy. When I was walking by the bar, pining for a cold beer, my phone started ringing. I had no choice but to grab one of your empty tables, open my laptop and start furiously taking notes. When a server came over to see if I needed something, I waved him off like an insane person.

And then, when I was done, I snuck off without even buying a drink! Not cool.

I know I’ve been down on your quality as a bar  lately — too goddamn crowded — but you saved my bacon yesterday. Plus, who can deny the beery nostalgia. You were always there for me in college, when Columbia Heights seemed like a distant and terrifying place.  It’s not right to use your tables and scarper.

My bad.

P.S. Nice blog.

Pic via, concept via.


How Senators Vote

For the day job, I’ve been spending quite a bit of time in the last few days watching Senators vote.  Unlike the House of Representatives, where electronic voting machines are deployed, Senators vote personally, flagging down parliamentary officials at the front of the chamber and indicating their support. They generally do it with a studied wave of the hand; the sheer variety in style suggests these American Solons take a certain amount of pride in the act. F’rinstance:

Republican Leader Mitch McConnell: The King of the Filibuster, McConnell was one of the first GOPers I saw vote to block a financial reform bill from coming to the floor. He strode straight to the podium from the door, stuck his right arm out straight from his body and pointed down emphatically in a way that I can only describe as gangasta. NAY

Democratic Senator Joe Lieberman: The Connecticut gadfly waves for attention, holds up a fist not unlike a black-power salute, waits a second — presumably to create suspense over whether he’ll stick with his caucus or not — before throwing out a straightforward thumbs up.  YEA

Republican Senator Tom Coburn: Known as Dr. No. Walks up to the podium, flags someone down and starts pointing at the ground repeatedly, pivoting lazily at the wrist, as if to say Of course I’m voting NAY.

Democratic Senator John Kerry: A Bill Clinton/Jack Kennedy-style thumbs up, with only the last joint of the thumb rising above the fist. YEA

Democratic Senator Robert Byrd: He’s brought to the floor in his wheelchair by a staffer, gives a brief thumbs up without looking up, and is promptly taken out of the chamber. YEA

Other variations include a variety of one, two- and three-fingered points up and down, hand-raising, and the occasional two-handed YEA or NAY from particularly enthusiastic members.


— Michael Sean Winters continues our discussion of Catholicism, scandal and politics. This was particularly interesting:

Put differently, I resist the reduction of religion to ethics, the replacement of the question about what makes us a Christian with the questions about how we live as Christians.

— I have a column up at TAPPED about watching some Senators grill Goldman Sachs executives. A sample:

More often than not, the senators confused themselves or simply made the unctuously polite bankers more sympathetic. No one’s private e-mails — or self-evaluations — make them look good when discussed in public. Imagine going through your own work e-mail on national television while being scolded by America’s wise men. It sounds excruciating, and I don’t engage in multibillion-dollar deals or refer to myself in the third person with an absurd nickname.

Picture via.

* I’ve always preferred to define remarkable erroneously, as anything able-to-be-remarked on.  Hence the the title of this little round-up.

Michael Sean Winters and the Mushy Middle

Michael Sean Winters didn’t enjoy his cameo in my Newsweek piece about Catholic politics in the wake of new revelations about sexual abuse scandals and their far-reaching cover-ups in the Church hierarchy. It’s a shame; I have read MSW for years and enjoyed his book.

But there a few things to think about.

One is that MSW loves to give Newsweek the agency of his criticism: “Newsweek Puts Me…” “Newsweek, in an article by Tim Fernholz, has accused me…” No, no.  Tim Fernholz, in an article published by Newsweek, has accused you of occupying the mushy middle. And my meaning should be pretty clear: MSW and Peggy Noonan are both playing against ideological type, with the lefty going to strenuous lengths to defend the Pope and the conservative calling for feminist(ish) revolution in the Church.

MSW goes on to say that there is no ideology in this fight, but that doesn’t conform to my reporting. Morna Murray, who MSW cites from my article, also told me she thought people were falling into pretty standard ideological roles in response to the crisis; in fact, everyone I spoke to for the piece generally agreed with that sentiment.

But I was not trying to determine who is more outraged over the horror and tragedy of these scandals, as MSW misreads my piece. I was curious to see whether differing responses to the crisis from different factions within the Church, coming a time of great political division within the laity, would affect the political manifestation of Catholic ideas, and that’s what I wrote about.

Then there’s the whole question of the apparently very offensive subhed on the article, which I indeed did not write and would have worded somewhat differently: “The Catholic left hopes to disentangle Catholic morality from the church hierarchy.” MSW makes this into a battle of theological first principles:

The editors at Newsweek* may try and conflate the failings of Christians with the authority of the Church, but they misunderstand the source of authority in the Church. There is no ideological spin to place upon the acute fact of the empty tomb.

My first response to that is, well, obviously.  The fact of faith and the resurrection are not changed by this scandal. We don’t believe in Christ because we think the Pope is so great or so terrible.

But, my God, MSW is missing the point in such a huge and terrible way that my heart aches. The Church and its hierarchy, the Pope especially, are Christ’s representatives in the world today. Their failings certainly reflect on the Church as an institution, if not in MSW’s eyes, then in the eyes of non-Catholics around the world and, I would posit, a significant and growing bloc of the laity.  If MSW wants the Church to grow and thrive and live the Gospel, this should concern him, and greatly.

“It is our confidence in the fact that our sins are forgiven that makes us holy,” MSW writes.  Is it also this confidence that made the hierarchy so callous and unrepentant about these scandals? This is not a discussion of what makes us Christian, this is a discussion of how we live as Christians.  That, to my view, demands much firmer moral clarity about what has gone so wrong in our Church.

*There’s probably a whole other post to be written on this idea of Catholic media victimization; “The editors at Newsweek” didn’t write this article, a believing Catholic did.

Busy Week

So I haven’t posted much of late because I’ve been slammed in the trenches.  Two pieces from this week:

The Catholic left hopes to disentangle Catholic morality from the church hierarchy.

TAP: The New Maverick
Sen. Bob Corker had broken with Republicans on financial regulation. Will it last?

I’ve also got two, well, two-and-a-half pieces in the June issue of the American Prospect’s Physical Paper Anachronism edition, which closed yesterday. One on the Federal Reserve, one on the problem of the unbanked (it’s actually really good!) and a dialogue with Ann about morality taxes. Because that is apparently what we’re qualified to comment on.

More posts on weird beats, Barack Obama, humidity and other sundry topics forthcoming. That’s a promise.

pic via Brady.

A Financial Reform Mix Tape: Gold(man) Soundz

Operating under the moniker The DJ Euro Stoxx 50, my partner-in-crime Bailey and I  put together the following mix, Gold(man) Soundz, inspired by the financial crisis and whatever reforms may be forthcoming.

We were just really excited about the Goldman Sachs/SEC story. We didn’t have time to get all DJ Khaled and shout over every track, though.*

Gold(man) Soundz, The DJ Euro Stoxx 50:

The Knux – Fuck You
Spoon – Who Makes Your Money
The Beatles – You Never Give Me Your Money
The New Pornographers – Hey, Snow White
Radiohead – Karma Police
Future of The Left – Adeadenemyalwayssmellsgood
Wu Tang – C.R.E.A.M.
Super Furry Animals – The Man Don’t Give a Fuck
Thin Lizzy – Silver Dollar
Blur – Bank Holiday
The Flying Lizards – Money
Warren G – Regulate
Johnny Cash – The Man Comes Around
LCD Soundsystem – New York I Love You

Hopefully, there will be more The DJ Euro Stoxx 50 mix tapes forthcoming.

* I bet DJ Khaled could make a lot of money yelling “WE DA BEST” at Goldman Sachs functions.


Over at the Prospect, I’ll be joining some colleagues in a weekly discussion of the new David Simon HBO series, Treme, which tells the story of post-Katrina New Orleans. Check out the first installment here. Photo of actual New Orleans musicians via.