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    Kneel before my slingshot, puny Earthling!

    Posted by Sean at 17:13, November 5th, 2008

    The Nikkei gives the Aso administration’s reaction to the election results:

    On 5 November, Prime Minister Taro Aso, having received word that Democratic candidate Obama had won the U.S. presidential election, stated, “The most important thing is to maintain, in cooperation with the new president, the relationship that Japan and the United States have both cultivated through more than fifty years.”

    Regarding discussions with Mr. Obama, he stated, “It’s not as if there were any need to meet with him immediately. It’s President Bush until 20 January of next year. I think this is a topic for after the president officially changes.” He was responding to the press corps at the prime minister’s residence.

    The same day, the prime minister released a statement: “I send my heartfelt congratulations. In cooperation with the next president, I want to strengthen the U.S.-Japan alliance even further, and exert all possible efforts toward solving issues that affect the whole of the global community, such as the global economy, terrorism, and the environment.

    Japan is officially in favor of peace and diplomacy and the Kyoto Protocols, and there’s been a lot of controversy over our military presence. I’m still not sure Tokyo is going to be all that happy if Obama’s preference for soothing diplomacy and cutting “wasteful” spending on defense involves going soft on China. Or Russia or North Korea.



    Interesting times

    Posted by Sean at 00:01, November 5th, 2008

    I’m a libertarian; I’m used to being unsatisfied with election results, even when the candidates I voted for win.

    I did not vote for Obama. I don’t agree with his policies, and I don’t sympathize with his view of the world. But most politicians, no matter what you think of them while they’re campaigning, have a way of turning into windsocks once elected. Time will tell what he does with the office. In a few months, he’ll be our president, and I wish him the best.

    Added on 5 November: I’m glad to see Connie and Dean posting them, but do people really need to be told these things? Reading the comments here, I guess so.

    A related point: I’m disturbed at the complaints that seem to imply that Obama was elected because of the media or his cult-creating mind rays. Yes, the media were shilling for him shamelessly. Yes, a lot of his most fervent admirers seemed to be working themselves into the sort of ecstasies that have no business surfacing anywhere outside church or a performance at the opera.

    But it’s our job as citizens to seek out information. Ours. Those who wanted to read his memoirs critically were able to do so. Those who wanted to find information about Bill Ayers and the Chicago Annenberg Challenge were able to do so. Those who wanted to know what the historical record says about social-democratic policy were able to do so. I’m not absolving CNN of its transgressions, only saying that it demeans our fellow citizens to imply that they needed to be spoonfed the truth. Some people are fully aware that Obama’s longer on charisma than on policy, and they hope that’s enough because they recognize that a lot of the most pressing issues of the day are going to have to go through congress anyway. Others decided that he would be the less deleterious choice in the long run despite disliking quite a bit of what he stands for. And finally, some people persist in believing that the Third Way will somehow work if we get it right this (twelve millionth) try.

    I don’t agree, but that doesn’t mean that large segments of the electorate were brainwashed by Wolf Blitzer and Andrea Mitchell. If we’re going to argue that people should be expected to earn their own way in society, surely we can expect them to use Google, on a terminal at the public library if necessary.

    Having now criticized my own side a bit, let me get back to the more fun project of criticizing the opposition. I agree that the election of a black president is a moving, historic moment. It was one thing to know that it was theoretically possible, because we all said that we were worried about policy and character and not skin tone. It’s another thing entirely to see America actually show that someone’s non-whiteness would not prevent his being voted in. It’s the difference between the hopeful belief that you’re good enough for your beloved and actually having your marriage proposal accepted. I get it. In and of itself, that’s a good thing. And this is an American election. so of course it’s American racial history that we’re using as context to judge it.

    At the same time, could we just every once in a while show some knowledge of the wider world here? Racism and ethnocentrism are the norm in human history, not some rebarbative Yankee aberration. The United States did not invent ethnic tensions, and it was not even the last country to outlaw slavery. To outsiders from nations that have traditionally been more ethnically homogeneous, our noisy, front-and-center conversation on race looks like unrest and a chronic inability to get along, but that’s exactly backwards. In America, arguing is what we do. Our periods of glazed-over gentility such as the 1950s tend to arise from external circumstances and be short-lived. American mouthiness and rough-and-tumble debate cause more immediate bruising, but they’ve helped us to advance organically through our racial and ethnic problems much better than the Europeans, Asians, and Africans that so many left-of-center people think we should be genuflecting to.


    Posted by Sean at 07:52, November 4th, 2008

    Just voted for the first time in twelve years that I didn’t use an absentee ballot–very exciting. I was in line by 6:05 and out of the booth by 6:30, but there were already signs that the monitors and police were surprised by the crowds. (Things were a bit confusing, but I don’t really blame them. The space is tight, and it was probably hard to work out exactly what traffic flows would be until they started.) This is probably familiar to anyone who hasn’t lived abroad for a while, but I found it oddly touching to be standing in line to vote in a school corridor, harangued from all sides by posters about punctuality and attendance and ordering class rings.

    Like a lot of people, my first experience of democracy was our mock vote in first grade for governor of Pennsylvania, complete with cigar box and squares of lined paper. (Dick Thornburgh was running against some guy named…Flaherty? Flannery?) I hope Miss Cramer’s happy that the lesson stuck. The church I was brought up in–if I haven’t mentioned this–frowned on voting in national elections. God has plans for the United States and the world, see, and you could be voting against Him.

    Just imagine trying to explain your way out of that one on Judgment Day.

    Polls are often wrong, but if they’re right, I won’t be happy with the results today. That’s the way these things go. Both viable presidential tickets well and truly bit this year, but fortunately, Washington is not largely controlled by the president alone, and the states are not largely controlled by Washington alone. Whoever wins is unlikely to wreck the republic. It just remains to see who it is.

    The way he makes me feel

    Posted by Sean at 10:44, November 2nd, 2008

    I’m late on this, having spent the last day or so with the stomach flu, trying to edge ginger ale and saltines down my throat unnoticed.

    Anyway, Reason has a round-up of thoughts by libertarian thinkers on the Obama candidacy. (I’m sure a parallel post about McCain is coming today.) While I have to say that Deirdre McCloskey gets off the best line…

    Since I live in Chicago, and anyway am a rational economist, I’m going to vote Libertarian, as usual. After all, why throw away my vote?

    …it will doubtless shock you to hear that I most like Virginia Postrel’s take. How felicitous for her that the Obama campaign came along not long after she’d turned her culture-critic’s eye to the workings of glamour!

    If elected, [Obama] will have not a policy mandate but an emotional one: to make Americans feel proud of their country, optimistic about the future, and warmly included, regardless of background, in the American story.

    A President Obama could deliver just the opposite. He might stumble badly abroad, projecting weakness that invites aggression (think Jimmy Carter) or involving America in a humanitarian-driven war at least as long and bloody as Iraq (think Sudan). As for inclusiveness, you can get it two ways: by respecting individual differences—-however eccentric, offensive, or hard to control—-or by jamming everyone into a conformist collective. Obama’s New Frontier-style rhetoric has a decidedly collectivist cast. NASA is great, prizes for private space flight are stupid, and what can we make you do for your country? A guy who thinks like that will not worry about what his health care plan might do to pharmaceutical research or physicians’ incentives.

    Obama’s campaign draws enormous power from his rhetoric of optimism-“hope,” “change,” and “Yes, we can.” But the candidate’s memoir betrays a tragic vision. In Dreams from My Father, almost everyone winds up disappointed: Obama’s father, his stepfather, his grandparents, the people he meets in Chicago. Only his naive and distant mother keeps on pursuing happiness. Then she dies of cancer. … Hope is audacious because, at least in this world, it’s futile and absurd. Faceless “power” is always waiting to crush your dreams.

    Before anyone starts screeching that McCain also has Daddy issues and that he’s also obsessed with strong-arming people into “national service” and that Obama has too proposed specific policies–yes, I know. So does Virginia, whose piece about McCain is likely, if anything, to be even more cutting when it appears.

    The things she’s talking about still matter. Obama talks a lot about hope, but his view of America is actually pretty dour: we need to be shaken from our complacency (by him and his fellow travelers) and change our ways–not because we’re a society made up of human beings that doesn’t always get it right, but because we’ve got loads of fundamental sins to atone for. As Melanie Phillips wrote last week:

    [T]he only way to assess their position is to look at each man in the round, at what his general attitude is towards war and self-defence, aggression and appeasement, the values of the west and those of its enemies and – perhaps most crucially of all – the nature of the advisers and associates to whom he is listening. As I have said before, I do not trust McCain; I think his judgment is erratic and impetuous, and sometimes wrong. But on the big picture, he gets it. He will defend America and the free world whereas Obama will undermine them and aid their enemies.

    Here’s why. McCain believes in protecting and defending America as it is. Obama tells the world he is ashamed of America and wants to change it into something else. McCain stands for American exceptionalism, the belief that American values are superior to tyrannies. Obama stands for the expiation of America’s original sin in oppressing black people, the third world and the poor.

    Obama thinks world conflicts are basically the west’s fault, and so it must right the injustices it has inflicted. That’s why he believes in ‘soft power’ — diplomacy, aid, rectifying ‘grievances’ (thus legitimising them, encouraging terror and promoting injustice) and resolving conflict by talking. As a result, he will take an axe to America’s defences at the very time when they need to be built up. He has said he will ‘cut investments in unproven missile defense systems'; he will ‘not weaponize space'; he will ‘slow our development of future combat systems'; and he will also ‘not develop nuclear weapons,’ pledging to seek ‘deep cuts’ in America’s arsenal, thus unilaterally disabling its nuclear deterrent as Russia and China engage in massive military buildups.

    My biggest problem with Obama is his instincts. I don’t think that he hates classical liberals (via Eric), any more than I think Sarah Palin hates those of us who live in blue cities.

    What I do think is that he believes, like a lot of liberals who approach things from an academic background, that human relations can be fixed in some ultimate way. We talk until we find common ground, we all make some compromises, and then we all go home partially happy and make the best of it. That means that those of us who believe that ideological conflict is inevitable, that in some conflicts there will inevitably be distinct winners and losers, and that competition among ideas is not only inevitable but frequently salutary, are spoiling the party. As Virginia implies, it’s hard to champion both conflict-avoidance and “diversity.”

    Hold a chicken in the air / Stick a deck chair up your nose

    Posted by Sean at 16:14, October 27th, 2008

    Eric and M. Simon link to this masterwork of scintillating ninnyism by, not to put too fine a point on it, the sort of person I vowed I would never, ever become when I left the Lehigh Valley. I will leave aside the ha-ha-but-I-really-kind-of-mean-it argument that white people should be banned from voting. Whatever thesis it was in service of, Jonathan Valania’s conclusion would be an insult to everyone referred to:

    By this point, you either think I am joking or are calling me an elitist. I assure you I am neither. OK, maybe a little of both. But it wasn’t always like this. I come from the Coal Belt, from that Alabamian hinterland between Pittsburgh and Philadelphia, as per James Carville’s famous formulation.

    I am, in fact, just two generations out of the coal mines that blackened the lungs of my grandfather, leaving him disabled, despondent and, finally, dead at the ripe old age of 54.

    So, understand that I am saying all this for the good of the country and, in fact, for the good of those hard-working white people that Hillary used to pander to.

    I know those people, I come from them. They are not some shameful abstract demographic to be brushed under the rug of euphemism by Wolf Blitzer and his ilk.

    I have broken kielbasa with those people. I went to school with their children. I have gone to Sunday Mass with a deer-hunter hangover with those people. They are bitter with good reason, and they are armed because they are scared. They mean well, but they are easily spooked.

    I fear for what is to become of them after the campaigns leave town for the last time, and Scranton and Allentown and Carlisle go back to being the long dark chicken dance of the national soul they were before the media showed up.

    I am, in fact, just one generation away from the steel mills of Bethlehem that sent my father to the hospital with second- and third-degree burns one day when I was a child, have chronically aggravated his psoriasis, and have dinged him up with joint problems.

    But you know something? Much as I adore my parents and many of my elder relatives, I have no idea what it’s like to be a plant worker. Therefore, when the discussion turns to their lives, I generally trust them to know themselves at least as well as I do.

    That’s not to say that I don’t disagree with them on policy frequently…though my disagreement, I imagine, runs in the opposite direction from Valania’s. To my mind, people who claim not to need the government to take care of them are far too ready to embrace further distortions of economic decision-making through changes to the tax code, protectionism, and support for national health care–as long as they’re pitched as “relief for Pennsylvania families.” I think they’re wrong to support such policies, and I wish they didn’t. But no one is required to adhere to my wishes when prioritizing which political values they’re going to use their vote to optimize. If a free society is to work, we have to be ready to accept other people’s choices even if we think they’re bad.

    I’m not trying to dodge the simple fact that people often make judgments based on prejudice; my point is just that you can’t tell from someone’s ballot how he or she decided whom to vote for. We’re a gigantic country in a gigantic global economy, and all of us deal with daily torrents of signals. Not even trained social scientists concur on policy, for heaven’s sake, and they’re the ones who spend their working lives poring over the data. How difficult should it be to accept that ordinary citizens, trying to make the most sense of the fragmentary information they have, don’t all agree with you or your candidate? (It might also be pointed out that Allentown is in the 15th Congressional District, which went for Gore in 2000 and Kerry in 2004. Yes, it’s a notorious swing district, and the margins were narrow; and as a registered Republican, I’m not pointing these things out as some kind of point of pride. I just think that someone who’s going to bitch about white people’s voting the wrong person into office in one paragraph and then cite Allentown in another should have a surer hand with the numbers.)

    Middle PA has its fair share of born hotheads and sourpusses, but so do Tokyo and New York. What does that prove? I have relatives who hunt. They like hunting, and they like guns. They go to church regularly and like the people in their congregations. Most of them take pride in their jobs, even if everyone has plenty of stories about being screwed by bureaucratic bossiness or the idiot colleague everyone else has to carry. The economic dislocations of the last few decades have been painful, and people can certainly get riled up over what they see as betrayal by the government. But bitter in the all-around sense? I just don’t see it. And if you want to see easily spooked, just try announcing in a group of gay guys here in New York that you’re voting for McCain.


    I know that this is not a new point, but the best way to approach people with opposing beliefs is to argue with them. Maybe you have something to teach them, or maybe they know as much as you do but have drawn different conclusions. Vigorous disagreement is built into the American experiment, but it can’t work if we’re all busy accusing each other of voting based on our hang-ups.

    Oh, and I’m not even going to go after that “broken kielbasa” nonsense. Well, except to say that, as an incoherent metaphor and in combination with the reference to the chicken dance, it put me in mind of “The Chicken Song,” which, while no more logical than Valania’s piece, at least is as funny as it intends to be.

    Added on 29 October: Happy Diwali (that’s the greeting?) to our Indian friends. And thanks to Eric for the link and the kind words as always.

    Added on 30 October: Thanks to Eric for pointing out that Valania’s confirmation bias and lefty-from-central-casting cultural and economic illiteracy go back at least a half-decade. Check out this piece that, among other things, contrasts two Philadelphia-based businesses that are owned by former partners. The founder of Urban Outfitters is now, at least to a degree, a conservative. His retail chain is described like this:

    The interior of the flagship store at 17th and Walnut streets is stylized to evoke what can only be described as janitorial chic: exposed brick, scraped plaster walls and low-hanging ventilation ducts. Everything is illuminated by the soft glow of warehouse loft light fixtures. All the merchandise is displayed against pegboard backdrops faintly reminiscent of ye olde family rec room or dad’s workshop. And piped in over the sound system is the jarring electro clatter of Peanut Butter Wolf’s oh-so-appropriately titled album Badmeaningood.

    His former paramour is still gratifyingly liberal, so her enterprises are characterized thus:

    “Hi, this is Judy in the woods,” says the voice on the answering machine at the Poconos summer home of Judy Wicks, owner and operator of the White Dog Cafe, a homey restaurant/bar in University City, and of the adjoining artsy gift shop called the Black Cat. Wicks is a prominent local businesswoman and a diehard liberal activist.

    Judy went on to open the highly successful White Dog Cafe, where she would host and coordinate countless social and community activist campaigns, while Dick went on to build the Urban Outfitters empire out of the humble beginnings of Free People.

    If you don’t know Philadelphia, you may not know how laugh-aloud hilarious it is to see the White Dog depicted as “homey.” I don’t think that there’s anything inherently wrong with its carefully cultivated shabby-genteel atmosphere, but it’s a joke to try to argue that the place is any less pretentious than, like, Le Bec Fin. (That goes double for the bibelots at the Black Cat.) Here’s an item from the White Dog’s current dinner menu:

    Pulled Duck Confit on Chickpea Panella
    coco agro-dolce and an arugula, radish, and zucchini flower salad

    Just like Mom used to make, huh?

    As I say, I think it’s great that Wicks found a marketable business model that helps fund causes she supports. There’s nothing immoral about combining peasant-y ingredients in a fashion formulated to appeal to the Mother Jones set, but I don’t see how it’s any more inherently forthright an enterprise than Urban Outfitters. And Valania never seems to get around to noting that Richard Hayne’s company, having grown so large, has helped create wealth and employment across the globe. (He’s busy decrying “sweatshops” while giving short shrift to potential arguments about what their employees’ lives would be like if factory work weren’t an alternative.)

    Words get in the way

    Posted by Sean at 16:07, October 26th, 2008

    Heather MacDonald has a characteristically smart piece in City Journal about Sarah Palin (via Amy Alkon).

    I know, it’s elitist to expect a candidate for president or vice president to speak like an adult. Sure, there are parents out there battling the “like” epidemic who might not appreciate having someone in the White House validating their 15-year-olds’ speech habits. But, hey: “Total role reversal here.” (Palin, of course, can sound adolescent even when she uses the right verbs, as when she disingenuously denied her snarky put-down of Joe Biden’s age while lauding herself as “you know, . . . the new energy, the new face, the new ideas.”) It’s even more elitist to expect a vice president to put together sentences that cohere into a minimally logical progression of thought. There was a time, however, when conservatives upheld adult standards—such as clarity of speech and thought—without apology, even in the face of the relentless downward pull of adolescent culture. But now, when a vice-presidential candidate talks like a teenager, mugs like an American Idol contestant, and traffics in syntactical dead-ends and non sequiturs, we are supposed to find her charming and authentic.

    Nevertheless, Palin’s verbal hodgepodge may say nothing about her qualifications for the vice presidency. Judgment and political acumen could well rest on different mental capacities than the ability to order thoughts into smooth sentences. But the inability to answer a straightforward question about economic policy without becoming tangled in words suggests either ignorance about the subject matter or a difficulty connecting between ideas. Neither explanation is reassuring.

    The Palin nomination has unleashed among Republican pundits and voters a great roar of pent-up rage against liberal elites, much of it warranted. But the conservative embrace of Palin comes at considerable cost to conservative principles. The populist identity politics that Republicans are now playing with such gusto may come back to haunt them in the future.

    Liberal hypocrisy on Palin’s family dilemmas has matched the conservative turnaround with perfect symmetry, of course. And perhaps both sides will blithely and unapologetically switch places yet again as soon as circumstances allow. Still, the conservative position on the family happens to be the right one. So, too, was the erstwhile conservative defense of articulateness, knowledge, and uncommon achievement. It’s a shame to have sacrificed these ideas, even temporarily, in the quest for political advantage.

    I, too, wonder how the backing and filling is going to play out when Republicans start making rigorous classical standards of education one of their favorite topics again. I’m a bookish man who gravitates toward bookish people and lives in a bookish city, but I recognize that Palin has good instincts and has held her own in terms of hands-on achievement in office.

    What worries me is that she doesn’t give any indication of having been exposed to Matthew Arnold’s “the best that has been thought and written,” which you can do at the University of Idaho as surely as you can at Amherst if you’re of a mind to. I spent the first half of the ’90s as a comparative literature major at Penn, so believe me, I am well aware of the limits of cutesy verbal game-playing. That she’s not more honey-tongued in the lawyerly sense we’ve gotten used to since the Clintons is not something I hold against her.

    But that doesn’t change the fact that much of the history of mankind is stored in language, and Palin doesn’t seem to think or talk like someone who’s been absorbing the lessons of the past from the Founding Fathers or Orwell or even Margaret Thatcher. Palin’s “you know” and “like” don’t bother me as much as the fact that her phrasing makes ideas squishy and the connections between them unclear. Isn’t the point of exalting folksiness usually to prize blunt, fearless truth-telling?


    Posted by Sean at 19:56, October 23rd, 2008

    Well, I was all set to post a translation of an autumn poem; then I did a search on a hunch and–naturally–I’d already posted it a few years ago. Darn. Guess I’ll just have to hunt high and low for some other Japanese poem about autumn.

    Okay, I’ve put up a bunch of poems by Saigyō, but I don’t think I’ve gotten around to this one. When I was in grad school and we got to this one, Donald Keene (whose Shinkokin-shu seminar I was fortunate enough to be able to take) broke into a broad, frank grin: “It’s rare and moving to see Saigyō write a poem with such warmth and humor.”



    oyamada no/iho chikaku naku/shika no ne ni/odorokasarete/odorokasu kana

    saigyou houshi

    Just outside my hut
    nestled in a mountain field
    the cry of a deer
    has jolted me right awake
    I think I’ll jolt him right back

    The Priest Saigyō

    “See how he likes it!” the sleepy Saigyō seems to say. The notes from my edition say that his plan is likely to use a clapper or noisemaker, rather than to lean out the door and tell the deer to shut up already so decent folk can get some sleep. Deer make disconsolate noises that are considered fundamental to the lonely, aching beauty of autumn.

    Added on 25 October: I think I’m a moron, but (unusually) it’s not entirely certain. I took 小山田 as a place name and had in some shadowy, inaccessible synapse a memory of having been instructed to render it thus twelve years ago; however, the edition I use almost invariably gives a note for each place referred to that tells where it would be in contemporary Japan, and there’s nothing like that here. Also, 山田 can just mean “mountain paddy,” anyway. So I’m playing Ministry of Truth (真実省? But at this point it probably would have merged with the Ministry of Posts and Telecommunications in the 2001 restructuring, so maybe…okay, focus, Sean) and changing it above.


    Posted by Sean at 13:13, October 22nd, 2008

    Today’s lead editorial in the Nikkei is headlined “Accounting improprieties by regional governments cause trouble with separation of powers.”

    After the Board of Audit conducted a nationwide investigation of 12 prefectures, it came to light that federal subsidies exceeding 500 million yen had been used improperly. Cases in which slush funds were eked out through fabricated orders to suppliers were also discovered. Each entity should, at the same time as it returns the misappopriated portion of funds to the federal government, do its own thorough investigation that includes how the slush funds were used.

    The accounting improprieties indicated by the Board of Audit are largely of two types. One was the MO of “deposit,” in which orders for purchasees of office supplies and things were fraudulently generated, and the capital accumulated in the account of the relevant supplier. Because subsidy money left over must be returned to Tokyo, the method was to move it into suppliers’ accounts at the end of the fiscal year, and from the next year on, to make payments from that account when goods were actually purchased.

    Another was the allocation of subsidies. There were cases in which temporary employees hired for the work of allocating subsidy money were rotated to other jobs, and funds for their business travel were obtained from subsidies that were unrelated to it.

    Increasing the transparency of administration and use of public funds is one of the minimum conditions for moving forward with regional separation of powers. Even those entities that were not subjects of the current investigation should do their own investigations and clear out all the corruption [“drain out all the pus,” in the evocative Japanese phrasing–SRK].

    That accounting improprieties were left unattended in each prefecture until the Board of Audit pointed them out is also a problem. Even if we allow that the tricks used were clever, what on earth were the prefectural assemblies and the auditing committees, which were supposed to verify budgeting and book-closing, doing? We call on everyone from the employees of the regional entities to the audit committees to do some hard soul-searching.

    Aichi Prefecture apparently took (the biggest slice of) the cake, with diverted subsidies and dodgy expenditures totaling 130 million yen. Bear in mind that only a quarter of Japan’s prefectures were studied, too.

    The “separation of powers” part is, of course, the longstanding argument over what and how much Tokyo should be giving back to prefectural (and municipal) governments. I can see the point that giving more power to regional governments that are busy creating slush funds is a bad idea. On the other hand, the sense of assurance that Tokyo is far, far away and not looking too hard makes it easier to get crafty. And pouring so much tax and revenue from around Japan into one federal pool makes the resulting funds seem to come from big, abstract Tokyo rather than living, breathing taxpayers in local officials’ own communities. It’s inexcusable that they regard the subsidy system as an open tap, but it’s not really hard to see how they get that way.


    Posted by Sean at 21:25, October 15th, 2008

    Yes, because I also know which pronouns are singular and plural.

    And they complain about Sarah Palin’s intelligence.

    Added at 21:26: “Are each of you willing to…?”

    Added at 23:00: May I just say…I will never agree with Hillary Clinton on policy, but she’s come a long way in terms of her public persona. Good on her.

    In the neighborhood

    Posted by Sean at 16:02, October 10th, 2008

    Wow. Looks like a fire behind our building–on 39th, I think, just east of Park. There’s been smoke pouring out of a building for the last twenty minutes. Murray Hill’s mostly residential, especially on the Streets (as opposed to the Aves.), so the probability is well over 50% that it’s someone’s house or apartments…though it’s close enough to 100 Park that I can’t tell. Here’s hoping there are no injuries and that property damage is minimized. FDNY seems to be there.