- The Washington Times - Monday, February 15, 2010

Thought gap

“There remains … an astonishingly gaping absence in [John Kenneth] Galbraiths worldview. While he is perfectly able to see the defects of businessmen — their inclination to megalomania, greed, hypocrisy, and special pleading — he is quite unable to see the same traits in government bureaucrats. It is as if he has read, and taken to heart, the work of Sinclair Lewis, but never even skimmed the work of Kafka.

“For example, the chapter entitled ‘The Bureaucratic Syndrome’ in his book ‘The Culture of Contentment’ refers only to bureaucracy in corporations (and in the one government department he despises, the military). Galbraith appears to believe in the absurd idea that bureaucrats administer tax revenues to produce socially desirable ends without friction, waste, or mistake. It is clearly beyond the range of his thought that government action can, even with the best intentions, produce harmful effects. For Galbraith, a dollar spent on, say, public education results in a dollars worth of educated person, virtually without deduction. Troubling evidence to the contrary — for example, the fact that Britain spends nearly $100,000 per child on public education, and yet a fifth of the population is unable to read with facility or do simple arithmetic — does not figure in his work; he always writes as if all would be well if only $200,000 were spent.”

Theodore Dalrymple, writing on “The Galbraith Revival,” in the winter edition of the City Journal

Money gap

“HBO’s ‘How to Make It in America’ … dives straight into the eternal hellfire of a self-promoting universe without apology, and, bewilderingly enough, does so with a scruffy, scattered, early-30-something dude who can’t seem to decide if he’d rather pass out business cards or pass out from drinking too many vodka shots at a loft party in Williamsburg. Our hero Ben (Bryan Greenberg) faces that timeless dilemma: follow another pipe dream, or pass the pipe?

“Befitting a man who’s half stuck in the past — drinking too much and waking up in unfamiliar apartments — and half stuck in some dingy present he never anticipated, Ben wears a haunted look of ambition and dread and hope and self-hatred. Even when he tells you his next big plan, there’s a wavering in his voice that asks, ‘Will I ever make anything of myself or am I just a big loser?’

“This makes the half-hour dramedy ‘How to Make It in America’ a little bit like ‘Entourage,’ except without the money, the fame or the hot girls. … Well, no, there are hot girls here, too, but they won’t sleep with these guys, because they’re obviously not friends with a big-time movie star. Yes, as annoying as it is to watch Drama and Turtle harvest lip-glossy sea donkeys with their flaccid pickup lines, it’s even more disturbing to watch guys not get the girls because they’re not well-connected.”

Heather Havrilesky, writing on “Hanging with the have-nots,” on Feb. 13 at Salon

Safety gap

“U.S. figure skater Johnny Weir says he received threats from anti-fur activists that made him fear for his safety, causing him to scrub any plans to stay at a hotel while in Vancouver for the Olympics. ‘I felt very threatened,’ he said Saturday. ‘I’m not allowed to say how everything got through, but my agent got letters and faxes and e-mails. I got letters at the ice rink, somebody found my phone number.’

“‘All these crazy fur people. Security-wise, to stay in a hotel would be very difficult. There have been threats against me. I didn’t want to get hurt.’ Weir is sharing a suite with U.S. ice dancer Tanith Belbin in the Olympic village. The longtime friends have their own bedrooms and bathrooms. …

“Weir was criticized by animal-rights activists after he donned a costume in nationals with white fox fur on the shoulder. He said after the event that he would wear faux fur in the Games, but has since changed his mind.”

ESPN staff, writing on “Weir on threats: ‘I didn’t want to get hurt,’” on Feb. 14 at the ESPN Web site

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