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18 March 2010


Matins: Fault lines deepen in America as the "Tenther" movement gains traction. Joe Jervis reports on gun-law nullification in South Dakota, while the Times considers the reactionary movement more generally.

Alabama, Tennessee and Washington are considering bills or constitutional amendments that would assert local police powers to be supreme over the federal authority, according to the Tenth Amendment Center, a research and advocacy group based in Los Angeles. And Utah, again not to be outdone, passed a bill last week that says federal law enforcement authority, even on federal lands, can be limited by the state.

“There’s a tsunami of interest in states’ rights and resistance to an overbearing federal government; that’s what all these measures indicate,” said Gary Marbut, the president of the Montana Shooting Sports Association, which led the drive last year for one of the first “firearms freedoms,” laws like the ones signed last week in South Dakota and Wyoming.

In most cases, conservative anxiety over federal authority is fueling the impulse, with the Tea Party movement or its members in the backdrop or forefront. Mr. Herrod in Utah said that he had spoken at Tea Party rallies, for example, but that his efforts, and those of the Patrick Henry Caucus, were not directly connected to the Tea Partiers.

Lauds: New York's City Center, built as a Shrine in the Twenties and repurposed in the Forties, is about to be freshened up by Polshek Partnership. (NYT)

In the 1940s and ’50s, City Center served as a popular, affordable alternative to Broadway theater, the Metropolitan Opera House and Carnegie Hall. New York City Opera and New York City Ballet were founded there before moving to Lincoln Center. Actors including Paul Robeson, Orson Welles and Tallulah Bankhead performed on its stage; Bob Fosse and Walter Matthau appeared there in popular revivals of Broadway musicals.

After the opening of Lincoln Center, the building became underused and threatened with demolition. It was saved in the 1970s when the theater was rededicated as a home for dance and given landmark status, and the City Center 55th Street Theater Foundation was formed to manage the complex.

Prime: At the Columbia Journalism Review, Ryan Chittum notes (somewhat testily) that the new Lehman Brothers scandal — the firm was cooking its books while the regulators looked, or could have looked, over its shoulders — has received more comprehensive (and ongoing) coverage in the leading market blogs than in the mainstream prints.

Somehow the Times thought more people would care about Sorkin’s scoop on a $3 billion deal for Tommy Hilfiger or that it was more important than an auditor approving accounting fraud. They don’t and it’s not.

Look, I know that Lehman collapsed a year and a half ago, but this is a major story—one that finally gets awfully close to putting the crimes in the crisis. I’ll go ahead and say it: If you’ve wanted to know about the Valukas report and its implications, you’ve been better served by reading Zero Hedge and Naked Capitalism than you have The Wall Street Journal or New York Times. This on the biggest financial news story of the week—and one of the biggest of the year. These papers have hundreds of journalists at their disposal. The blogs have one non-professional writer and a handful of sometime non-pro-journalist contributors.

Tierce: At PsyBlog, a review of eight studies of cognitive fluency. A tricky piece.

Fluency also affects the way we make decisions.

Broadly speaking our brains have two systems for reasoning. The system we are consciously aware of is slow and analytical, while the one that operates below the level of conscious awareness is quick, effortless and automatic. That's our intuition.

When thinking about something that is easy to process, we tend to reason quickly and effortlessly (Alter et al., 2007). This isn't necessarily a good or a bad thing, but one standard effect of automatic thinking is that we tend to go for the default option.

On the other hand disfluency kicks the mind into an analytical reasoning mode, making it more likely our decision will go off-piste.

We're pretty sure that we don't consider intuition as a kind of thinking. There's an awful lot of fudge here, but the page is worthy of a look.

Sext: A French monoblog devoted to crunches at the Étoile: 2m40 is the height limit for the tunnel that runs beneath the traffic circle. (via MetaFilter)

Just a few meters from Place Charles de Gaulle, better known as Place de l'Etoile, at the bottom (or top, depending on your direction) of the Champs Elysées, there's the entrance to a tunnel, called Tunnel de l'Etoile, which passes under the square, to relieve the 6-lane roundabout (or, ronde-point) from some of the traffic. Everything's ok except for one small detail: the entrance is just 8 feet high, and van drivers zipping across Paris apparently don't have much of a feeling for signage.

Nones: In a truly stinky-cheese move, Montenegro has granted (sold?) citizenship to Thai troublemaker Thaksin Shinawatra. Now everybody's happy? (BBC News)

Mr Thaksin was removed in a 2006 coup. He faces a jail sentence if he returns to Thailand, after being convicted on a conflict of interest charge.

His supporters have been holding mass street rallies in Bangkok.

They are demanding the resignation of the current government and immediate elections.

Mr Thaksin has been in self-imposed exile since 2006 - mostly in London or Dubai.

Montenegrin officials have not publicly commented on how Mr Thaksin obtained the country's citizenship.

Vespers: Far from being a recluse, J D Salinger appears to have been a man who, having written what he had to write, simply retired to normal life. Normal for 1950, that is, not for now. (Speakeasy)

“I think there was a sort of mistaken belief was that [Salinger] was someone mentally unbalanced,” says the exhibition’s curator, Declan Kiely. “He was certainly deliberately isolated but he doesn’t seem to be impaired mentally… this is someone who had a great capacity for friendship.” In some letters, Salinger makes self-deprecating comments about his habit of womanizing, including one where he jokes about proposing marriage to “anyone who passes by my window.” In another, however, he hints at either a fractured relationship with his family or perhaps just a tendency to dropped by unannounced: he travels England to visit his college student daughter who it turns out, is in Boston visiting her boyfriend when Salinger arrived.
“I’m sure Salinger would be aghast if he saw his letters on display,” admits Kiely. “He was about as far from the Facebook generation you can get. The ultimate oxymoron would be the J.D. Salinger Facebook page.”

Compline: Jeffrey Toobin on John Paul Stevens, in The New Yorker.

Stevens’s ninety-page dissenting opinion in Citizens United (the longest of his career) was joined in full by Ginsburg, Breyer, and Sotomayor, and was a slashing attack on the majority, laden with sarcastic asides. “Under the majority’s view, I suppose it may be a First Amendment problem that corporations are not permitted to vote, given that voting is, among other things, a form of speech,” he wrote.

To make his displeasure clear, Stevens read his dissent from the bench. Justices usually read pared-down versions of published opinions, but Stevens prepared a twenty-minute stem-winder. When the moment came, however, he stumbled frequently, skipped words, and, at times, was hard to understand. (As when he said, “As the corp, court has long resembled . . .”) For the first time in public, Stevens looked his age.

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