April 16, 2015

This may just be my fervent belief in the slow degradation of all things talking, but at this point I find it not inconceivable that all of our elections, from the school board to the President of These United States, are not just a little less scrupulous but just plain rigged from the get-go.   That's a very hard thing for an American to grasp onto, as the exceptionalism that has been drilled into us by our otherwise excellent public education has a component of truthfulness and honesty (fair play , dare I say) that makes wholesale corruption seem untenable, a fiction of movies and television, and one that is always punished in the end.  But take what you know of human nature, what you know of this system of oligarchs and the subsistence earners who work so hard to line the oligarchs' pockets, of institutional cruelty and discrimination and all those other devils that pop up now and again and make us gasp and cover our mouths, take that knowledge and ask yourself: why would fixing elections be so implausible?

These cheery thoughts are brought to mind because, in Virginia, a certain brand of electronic voting machines (AVS WinVote) were pulled from service by the Commonwealth.  Why?  Because they were comically insecure.

As one of my colleagues taught me, BLUF - Bottom Line Up Front. If an election was held using the AVS WinVote, and it wasn't hacked, it was only because no one tried. The vulnerabilities were so severe, and so trivial to exploit, that anyone with even a modicum of training could have succeeded. They didn't need to be in the polling place - within a few hundred feet (e.g., in the parking lot) is easy, and within a half mile with a rudimentary antenna built using a Pringles can. Further, there are no logs or other records that would indicate if such a thing ever happened, so if an election was hacked any time in the past, we will never know.

Time was, fixing an election was hard work — ask the ghost of Joe Kennedy how much it cost to buy West Virginia.  But since we've moved past those clunky, beautiful voting machines (which are impossible to tamper with without physical access) in favor of computers, computers with zero transparency, computers lobbied for by companies connected with politicians, you can fix an election with a few minutes of the tappity-tappity that hackers do in movies.

Motive?  Who can say?  I say of course.  But opportunity?   Opportunity has become a lot more opportune.

Posted at 10:34 AM

April 14, 2015

So David Brooks, who will soon be promoting a new book of his, the latest collection of David Brooks fan fiction entitled "Why Can't More People Be Like David Brooks?" continues to file his column for the NYT, which is as easy as thinking out loud?

This morning, David Brooks concedes that maybe body cams for cops is a good idea.  And yet... something about the whole thing just makes David Brooks a tad uncomfortable:

When a police officer is wearing a camera, the contact between an officer and a civilian is less likely to be like intimate friendship and more likely to be oppositional and transactional. Putting a camera on an officer means she is less likely to cut you some slack, less likely to not write that ticket, or to bend the regulations a little as a sign of mutual care.

Putting a camera on the police officer means that authority resides less in the wisdom and integrity of the officer and more in the videotape.

When making fun of David Brooks I usually try to be polite, after all, we are just gentlemen disagreeing over something, but the fucking guy has literally never fucking left his house since he was watching fucking Andy Griffith as a kid.  For fuck's sake.

Posted at 11:09 AM

April 12, 2015

You are perhaps familiar with my support of public school teachers everywhere.   I and all my genius friends are the product of public education, and some of my teachers affected me so much I am still friends with them, cough cough years later.

You are also aware of the war on the same public school teachers, conducted by people like my governor, Andrew Cuomo, who somehow think that Our Failing Schools are the fault of the teachers and not, oh, a thankless and underfunded system.  The Guv is a big fan of charter schools, which is an odd coincidence, because charter-school lovin' hedge fund executives poured money into the the Cuomo campaign.

But as Cuomo has failed in replacing the public school system with a privatized system that would enrich his donors, Cuomo has had to settle on making life as difficult as possible for teachers — taking away their tenure, for one, and evaluating them based on test scores of their students.  And I think that is ridiculous, but I find it difficult to explain why in words.

But a public school teacher friend of mine pointed out this op-ed from another teacher on evaluations, and it explains perfectly why evaluating public school teachers is such a stupid idea.  And I try to avoid pullquoting such a large portion of someone's piece, but this is so good and apt and vital that I'm just gonna slap it in there.

It's a disgrace that members of the Assembly and Senate, who have no idea who my kids are or what they need, are charged with not only telling me what to teach, but also judging me on factors having nothing to do with whether or not I'm doing my job well.

I will not let a test tied to untested Common Core standards determine the future of my students. I will continue to teach them what they need. I will continue to do everything I deem necessary to make them share my love of the English language.

If Cuomo wants to fire me for that, he can go ahead. There are plenty of people who need to learn English rather than test-prep, and if teachers like me can't help the city's public schoolchildren, we'll help someone else. But when that happens, who will help city kids learn what they really need?

As my teacher friend, who pointed this out to me and who, like every other teacher I know, cares more about the kids more than I'll ever care about my job, says, "What are you gonna do, fire me?  Who else would want this job?"

Posted at 11:51 AM

April 7, 2015

I've been trying to keep an eye open for the next iteration of Foodie culture.  I mean, whether you're planting the flag with David Chang's Momofuko or at some other random point (I'd go a little before, but I'm n not sure what the inciting event is), whatever the collective term is for all the gastrohipsters grinding their own flour all over the country, the movement is fifteen years old, at the very least, and what starts as a cult soon becomes a fad and then pop culture subsumes it.  So I'm just wondering if there's going to be a moment when Foodie culture becomes incontravertibly genericized.  For example, the fact that Bushwick's crown jewel Roberta's has a line of supermarket pizzas, that could be one, or the fact that one of the seedier looking Chinese take-out joints is now making "Thai-style" chicken wings, which derive from the must-have wings at Andy Ricker's Pok Pok (which in turn derive from Thailand).  Those are close, but not there yet.

This little listicle, however, entitled Eight of the Most Ridiculous Foods To Eat On Baseball's Opening Day, might be the point of no return.  Fact: baseball food, while full of nostalgic appeal, has never been good.  Whether the dirty water dogs of long ago or the sad simulacrum of comfort food (nachos! pizza!) invariably cooked into beigeness by Aramark, the ball park is not where Lucky Peach is dispatching a reporter.  Fact: there may be no culture more American and main stream than ball park culture.  Ball park culture still likes Seven Mary Three; ball park culture thinks someday of growing his hair long.

And the eight ridiculous foods?  They are indeed ridiculous, and would be entirely at home on the menu of a little hotspot in Charleston, SC or the East Village.  They include such timeless favorites as Chicken-Fried Corn on the Cob (what it sounds like) and Pulled Pork Parfait (pulled pork and mashed potatoes duded up in a parfait glass).  None of them tout the sourcing of the components, and all of them are just the same mass-produced ick as hots and burgers, but from an alternate reality.  We are at Peak Foodie: all of the whimsy and (self-serious) care of the past fifteen years, ripped from any ethical context and reimagined as pot-free stoner calorie bombs, something that would fit right in with the bobble-heads on the desk of Mike & Mike (In The Morning).

Having said all that, Nachos On a Stick is something I could tuck into right about now.

Posted at 3:13 PM

April 3, 2015

Speaking of Tom Cotton, even though we've been laboring with the Iran nuclear talks in the background for some months now, I don't think I ever consciously thought that an actual, viable agreement would result.  And I know, there's still some hammering to be done, but the outline of the deal reached yesterday is pretty specific and ambitious, long-ranging and with actual teeth.  And now that I think of it, it has been so long since a major international situation was resolved with diplomacy rather than boots and bullets, I'm really unaccustomed to the feeling.  Was the last time something like this happened the Dayton Accords?  But, fuck yeah, diplomacy!

And of course on the flip side, there is that weird unified front of the GOP (who will oppose anything Obama achieves reflexively) and the Netanyahu administration (whose political future is staked on belligerence towards Iran), who will not rest until they have somehow scotched this deal.  I understand the motivations even though I am dismissive of them.  Here's what I don't get: the alternative to a diplomatic solution is war.  Sanctions (in my limited recollection) have never caused a nation-state to capitulate, and to think they will is conceited and xenophobic.  Would the GOP/Netanyahu ever just give up because of crippling economic sanctions?   Then why would they expect anyone else to?

This somehow got lost in history, but after 9-11, the rhetoric from Iran had ratcheted down, the government was moderate, and they were making overtures to the U.S.  Then came the Axis of Evil bullshit, which sent everything back to the default antipathy.

I have a hard time that anyone could be openly wishing for war, and further destabilization of an already destabilized region, for whatever reason.  So this is fantastic news, and I am sick to think that anyone would try to kill this nascent agreement in the crib.

Posted at 10:24 AM

April 2, 2015

The Indiana Religious Freedom Restoration Act has given us so much, we should be grateful!  It has introduced Gov. Mike Pence to the national stage (which stage he promptly fell off of), and it launched Memories Pizza to media stardom, giving bigots the perfect martyr they were waiting for.

Maybe most importantly it coined the term "Big Gay," which was snarled in a tweet from notorious hater Bryan Fischer and then promptly appropriated and gleefully splashed all over the place.   (Props to Ana Marie Cox for doing the heavy lifting/splashing.)  Who knows if it will stick, or if it will be accepted, as people can be pretty prickly about things like words, but it would solve the problem of: What collective phrase should I use to describe gays/lesbians/etc,?  I usually end up going with LGTB, which is comprehensive yet inelegant.  Here's to hoping!

But no kerfuffle is complete without the thoughts of Sen. Tom Cotton, who has this to add:

"In Iran they hang you for the crime of being gay," he added. "They're currently imprisoning an American preacher for spreading the gospel of Jesus Christ in Iran. We should focus on the most important priorities that our country faces right now. And I would say that a nuclear armed Iran, given the threat it poses ... is the most important thing we could be focusing on right now."

Some patently offensive bullshit, followed by Nuclear Armed Iran.  Tom Cotton might be the only public figure that it's actually fair to wonder whether he can walk and chew gum at the same time.

Posted at 9:26 AM

March 31, 2015

Sure, this is one of those times (one!) where the world probably does not need my two cents, as the controversy surrounding the so-called "religious freedom" law enacted in Indiana has exploded in a way that one usually hopes this sort of this thing would.  You can't turn your head without noticing if not another impassioned essay decrying the situation or another business interest pulling out of Indiana, then at least a pal who you wouldn't think paid that close attention saying, "Hey you hear about that Indiana thing?  That's fucked up."

In fact a large portion of your media diet for the next couple of hours will consist of this, unless you are one of those people who actually work during the day.  And I'm sure much of it will be good!  (And some of it will be EWW.)  What I want to focus on is one little thing that Gov. Mike Pence (who is rightfully the focus of the backlash) said while appearing on "This Week With George Stephanopolous":

"The issue here is: is tolerance a two-way street or not?" Pence said. "There's a lot of talk about tolerance in this country having to do with people on the left. Here Indiana steps forward to protect the constitutional rights and privileges of freedom of religion for people of faith in our state, and this avalanche of intolerance that's been poured on our state is outrageous."

That first sentence out of Pence's mouth — well, nothing wrong with asking a question, I guess.  But the rest of those sentences are absolute garbage.  The answer to that question is NOT.  There is no give and take, no back and forth, in tolerance.  Tolerance is: one party is intolerant of the second party's behavior.  At some point, the first party realizes that such behavior is either monstrous (or agreed to be monstrous) and then ceases such behavior.  Viola!  Tolerance!  And the second party has no obligation to do a single thing but sit there and be tolerated.  There is no equivalent response to tolerance, and not even a thank you is required.

So those sentences that follow?  How people are being intolerant of the other side?  Well duh.  Hide behind the Bible all you want, but intolerance is intolerance, and you don't get to pretend to be right because you end every sentence with "freedom" or some other dog whistle.  The context of the passing of this law, whether anyone will say it out loud or not, is to protect Evangelical bakeries from having to bake cakes for gay marriages.  That's it, that's all!   The language of the law has been altered to differ it from all the religious freedom acts passed in the 90s to weaponize it in a way as to enable discrimination against LGBT interests.

I was wondering if this was another example of that weird GOP self-justification of heinousness on the grounds of infallibility, but given Pence's inability to answer the direct question of whether this law will be used to defend prejudice against LGTB, it's pretty obvious that he is a prevaricating coward, with the guts to sneak an unconstitutional bill through to throw red meat to his base but unable to own up to it to a reporter.

But he's giving a press conference in a little more than an hour.  Let's see if he owns up, or goes with some variation of, "Oh, I meant to get my head stuck in the banister and like it very much."

Posted at 10:11 AM

March 30, 2015

I'm back from staycation!  (Ha.)  And it was everything you'd ever want from a staycation: got some stuff done but not half what I planned, good times, bad times.  Not so many bad times, but a dear friend moved away, and I'm never good with those sorts of things.  And I was trying to get this very interesting interview I did transcribed, and my little dog decided that she is okay with everything I do in the apartment, unless that thing I am doing is transcribing, in which case she climbs up on a little shelf under my desk and stares at me dolefully.  No I did not get as much transcribing done as I'd hoped.

But hey it's a new week and let's start it off on the right foot and recommend something good you may not know about.  You know how the more respectable (lazy?) or our Internet media properties take the weekends off?  Well, the foremost of these, The Awl, has started running an advice column on Saturday mornings.  I know, advice column.  But this column is written by Choire Sicha, who is a writer that our admiration for him is only exceeded by his reluctance to ramp up his output.

And he is literally one of two people in that peculiar industry that I would humbly approach for advice, so not only do we get an extra dose of Choire to read while we're watching Saturday morning cartoons, we are also getting the benefit of his wisdom in a prescriptive fashion.

So treat yourself!  (Here is this week's.)  Now let's go fight crime.

Posted at 10:09 AM

March 24, 2015

My Facebook is pretty politics-free, and by design.  There are more appropriate venues for that type of foolishness (like this one).  But there is one friend whose posts attract the biggest flamewars imaginable on a daily basis.  I think I don't mute it just so I have at least a little window into the phenomenon.  But yesterday, after the whole Ted Cruz announcement, my friend wondered out loud why it is that the swarming movements, the ones with self-identity and litmus tests and general rancor (like say, the Tea Party) emerge from the left and not from the right in the United States?

Now the easiest answer is this: the right owns both herd mentality and assholery.  These are character traits of the conservative mindset, and no it's not fair at all but that's just the way it is.  (See also: why aren't conservatives funny?)  Mix the two up and you get an awful lot of stupid, plus also torches and pitchforks.  This is simple and reductive but I've never seen it disproven, only disagreed with.

But there's also the harder answer, and I don't know if the hard answer is one that I understand yet.  The right and the left are similar in that they both are pretty certain in the correctness of their ideology, but the right is different in that they also have a need to impose their will on everyone else, to validated in their correctness.  Hell, to remake the world in their own image.  And maybe it's this ambition that gets them to gel together, to become a cohesive force with discipline and fervor.  Of course I totally disagree with them in general, be they Movement Conservatives or Supply-Siders or Tea Party dingbats, but you have to give them credit: they get shit done.

Well, they don't get everything done — women can vote now, we have labor laws and civil rights laws and a social safety net — but when they set their minds to converting some daydream narrative into consensus, like say Welfare Moms In Cadillacs or Soft On Crime Technonerds, consensus doesn't really stand much of a chance.

Obviously this is a bigger topic, if not an over-arching theme, but hey, I never want to walk away from a chance to remind you that Ted Cruz looks like a shifty Joe McCarthy.

Posted at 10:34 AM

March 20, 2015

Here, let's find another example of the how-can-I-be-bad-when-I-know-I'm-good fallacy, one removed entirely from politics.

So no doubt you've heard that a Penn State frat got busted for having a private Facebook page that may have had some useful purpose but contained enough photos of naked/drunk co-eds posted without their consent.  A member of the page blew the whistle, entire world noticed, and the university rightfully booted the frat for a year.

This is probably the point where I should say out loud that we all can agree that posting pics of naked/drunk co-eds without their consent, even on a private board, is wrong wrong wrong — in fact, some would say: indefensible.

Well an enterprising reporter from Philadelphia magazine found a member of this frat that agreed to (anonymously) defend the frat.  And it goes about as well as one would expect, and the tone of the whole thing is truly Oh Sure Keep Digging!  But this is how the bro excuses the behavior of the frat:

KDR member: It was a satirical group. It wasn't malicious whatsoever. It wasn't intended to hurt anyone. It wasn't intended to demean anyone. It was an entirely satirical group and it was funny to some extent. Some of the stuff, yeah, it's raunchy stuff, as you would expect from a bunch of college-aged guys

It was satire!  Naturally.  And just as naturally, the reporter (Holly Otterbein) follows up, as the secret board meets no human's definition of satire.

Philly Mag: You said the page was funny. What was funny about it?

KDR member: It's not funny. Funny's not always the right word. It's satire. There's a certain stereotypical Greek life culture and, as you see in movies, people try to live up to that and people try to kind of incorporate those elements, but it's like, you know what Snapchat is?

Philly Mag: Yes.

KDR member: Yeah, like you get a Snapchat, and people send like raunchy Snapchats all the time. ... It's not a malicious type of thing ... Everybody's ... saying, "Oh, there's pictures of passed-out girls," and making it seem out to be such a malicious thing. It's like, yeah, girls pass out or fall asleep all the time and somebody takes a Snapchat or picture and, like, it's not that it's funny. But it's just satire. ... Nobody's sitting there like, "Oh ... how are we going to victimize these people?" ... Go on a site like totalfratmove.com [where they post things like] the girl of the day or ... like the swimsuit model of the day ... it's just, you know, fooling around.

Mild attempt to hide behind "everyone else is doing it!" notwithstanding, dudeman has absolutely no idea of anything other than how wrong the page was, and he innocent he and his brothers are in any event, and the attendant confusion causes him to babble on and on like, oh, maybe, some dumbass teen-bro after too many kegstands.

It is not even a remotely sophisticated moral question, and can be answered with the brief application of the consideration of whether you would be happy to have shots of your passed-out naked sister in such a forum, but the insistence of virtue is just too strong for this jerk to get past.

Posted at 10:43 AM

March 18, 2015

It's March 18, 2015, for the record, and I don't know if it's the world or it's just me (probably a combination of both) but today's read of the newspaper was DECIDEDLY NOT FUN.  And I've engaged in reckless cataloguing of shit that sucks in the past and I'm not convinced of its utility, but let's just say that when you're certain that there's no way for the planet to further let you down, then some murderous kleptocrat retains office on a "The darkies are voting!" plank, or some thugs kill a bunch of people in an art museum or OKAY OKAY I'll stop.

So instead this, which was a delight to me when I read it last week — a nice quick chat between author Neal Stephenson and the editors of World Policy Journal.  Stephenson I guess can be an acquired taste, but I've acquired it, and the topic of the chat, the future, is immensely interesting and a topic in which Stephenson is sort of an expert.

Though of course since the topic is the future it's not super-cheery, and in fact when reading this, for the first time I realized that there's no more talking about stopping climate change, only mitigating it, or dealing with the changes.  Sez Stephenson:

I sat down with some people a few years ago to try to think about carbon sequestration and what it would take to extract a significant amount of carbon back out of the atmosphere, and the numbers were just insane. Effectively you're talking about taking every coal mine and every oil well and every natural gas well that has ever existed, and running it backwards full tilt for centuries to take the carbon out of the air.

See not cheery at all!  But it's good to read smart people talking about things that aren't just stoopid, like, say, arming ISIS.

Back to the coal mine!

Posted at 11:53 AM

March 13, 2015

This is my working understanding of the racism of the Republican Party (as evinced by, say, Rudy Giuliani).  And this is not to be yet another The Other Guys Suck! or at least I hope it doesn't come out like that, because we've lived through a generation of that so far.

And granted I am totally the wrong guy to talk about racism, and I get that.   I am lily white, and I was born in a place and time in which N-bombs were heard with regularity, and never directed at me.  But there is a little, I don't know, rhetorical? delusional? device in play here, and I think it is interesting.

So (and let's just say Rudy as the stand-in for the straw-man I'm carefully building here, for convenience), Rudy is an educated man, and not a dumb man, and presumably not without charity, kindness, etc.  And Rudy is not unaware of history, and would happily tell you stories of the racist past of the United States, how deplorable it was and how awesome it is that it's largely a thing of the past.  Maybe even some of his best friends are black, or Latino, or otherwise non-Caucasian.  Rudy is a man who knows that racism is bad.

And yet at the same time, Rudy is willing to espouse some opinions that are, on the face of it, racist.  Rudy thinks that the victims of police misconduct in marginal communities deserve it because of their behavior.  R Rudy thinks that his criticism of a black president is not possibly racist because the black president has a white mother.  Rudy thinks that the poor are poor because of fundamental character defects, and in fact are the recipients of all sorts of free stuff.  Rudy thinks that the black president should emulate the behavior of a famous comedian, who also happens to be black.

So, of course, to Rudy we say, "There are racist things that you say and believe in.  Accordingly, you are a racist."

And then Rudy thinks to himself.  Well, he thinks, I know that racism is bad, and a racist is nothing I want to be.  And I have a working knowledge of how racism works, etc.  Hmm.  What is up with this?

And then Rudy has a revelation!  But I am inherently not bad.  I am virtuous, I am good.  Therefore, my acts, my thoughts, my words, they are also good.  Racism is bad.  Therefore, it is impossible that I have said racist things, or am a racist.  In fact, how can I even take seriously these accusations, as I know myself to be a not-racist?

It is an impenetrable veneer of infallibility, and a pathological reluctance to look in a mirror.  It's also closely related to truthiness, or insisting that something counter-factual is true based on feelings.  Maybe they come from the same place?  But it is the frustrating aspect of trying to find common ground: not only do we not speak the same language, but I'm starting to think that our brains don't work in the same way.

Posted at 11:30 AM

March 11, 2015

My goodness but I like when Jeb Lund gets all worked up and starts saying what to some could be construed as mean things about people.   Like this bit on Bill O'Reilly.  Yeah, I know, enough about O'Reilly, but come on:
[There] is no shortage of online strategists and sages who will tell you not to bother going after O'Reilly and Fox for the same reason that people tell you, "Don't feed the trolls." Fuck that. This chickenshit attitude ultimately lets trolls like O'Reilly win by default. They win when they attack you, they win when you attack them, they win when you go silent. It's the same line of thinking that tells feminist writers threatened by online rapists that they should just delete their accounts and hope their profiles go away for long enough to no longer be provocative to scum.

What consequence is there for real journalistic organizations anymore when it comes to going after O'Reilly? They get called attackers? O'Reilly calls them attackers merely for reporting facts inconsistent with his epistemic bubble. His fans aren't going to watch or read those other sites or channels? They don't already. By this point, O'Reilly has trained his audience to consider digesting independent news an act of race treason on par with slaveowners letting negroes learn to read.

I agree.  And I would add that we've been shrugging egregious shit off for so long that it has become the default response.  The fact that Bill O'Reilly is a self-aggrandizing liar is in fact a reasonable appraisal of O'Reilly's career, and not the opinion of an extremist.  It's objectively true — the motive is of course unknowable, but the facts are there in the open.  There's no reason to allow O'Reilly and his network suck all of the air out of the room on this one (and everything else).

Ultimately this story will eventually wither and die (it already has?) because in the end, you can prove over and over again how many times O'Reilly has prevaricated and bloviated and committed loathsome acts of self-adoration and it will have no effect on O'Reilly or his audience.  They are en-bubbled, and they have a no more than casual relationship with reality.

Posted at 11:05 AM

March 3, 2015

I don't wanna make any more fun of NJ Gov. Chris Christie for being a bully or arrogant or less than an Olympic caliber athlete or even for having a presidential campaign whose chances plummet with each passing day.  I just want to lay these three fact out.

First of all, in 2014, when Christie was chair of the Republican Governors Association (which provides campaign cash to GOP guv candidates), ExxonMobil gave the RGA $750,000.  This may not sound like a lot of money in the long run, but it was enough to make ExxonMobil the 15th largest contributor, with only thirteen contributors giving a million dollars or more.

Second of all, over the weekend the NYT reported that a long-standing environmental suit between ExxonMobil and the State of New Jersey had reached a settlement (yet to be submitted to or approved by the judge).  The State had been seeking $8.9 billion in recompense for the contamination of 1,500 acres of wetlands, and the lawsuits had been ongoing under the last four administrations.  In fact, ExxonMobil had admitted culpability, and all that was left was to agree on the amount of damages.  Somehow and without fanfare, the Christie administration landed on a figure that was a little less than three percent of the amount originally sought.  Good deal for ExxonMobil!

And finally, come to find out, in the 2014 NJ state budget there was a provision inserted by the Christie administration that allows the executive branch to apply environmental lawsuit recoveries into the general fund, where it would be used to pay for the state budget and not the purpose for which it was originally recovered.  Accordingly, can apply everything over $50mm from a recovery to the general fund.

Odd bunch of coincidences, when you look them all together, wouldn't you say?

Posted at 1:44 PM

February 27, 2015

I know that I'm supposed to talk about the llamas and the dress, or at least talk about the phenomena of everyone talking about the llamas and the dress, but this is just so good that it takes precedence.

So maybe amid all the hoopla you heard that three men from Brooklyn were arrested for attempting to fly to Syria and join ISIS?  Well I had heard that they were Uzbeki or Kazak, and my personal neighborhood in Brooklyn is one of those everyone likes to describe as the Most Diverse Zip Code In America, so I was mildly curious if maybe any of these guys were from around the way.

So then the NYT runs its deep dive into the three would-be Islamic extremists, and I trip across this passage:

But before he could go off to wage war, he needed to get his passport back from his mother.

He worried about this, confiding in his friend Abdurasul Hasanovich Juraboev.

Week after week, Mr. Juraboev, 24, had worked alone in a dank basement beneath the Gyro King on Foster Avenue in Brooklyn, chopping vegetables for 10 hours a day, six days a week.

And that is the part where the little tiny invisible hat jumped straight up off my head of its own volition.

This specific Gyro King is around the corner and down the street from my apartment building.  That Gyro King is a place I go at least once a week to pick up a lamb on rice.  In fact, they know me well enough that they're heavy on the veggies that they load on top.

That Gyro King is delicious and awesome.  And employed a dude that wanted to go fly off and behead some infidels.

If that is not a perfect snapshot of Life In These Modern Times, it is at least a very good one.  Business as usual, a busy corner in a vibrant tapestry of a Kings County neighborhood, and then an Oh My God What Just Happened?

Please none of you tell my mom.  She would freak out.

Posted at 10:26 AM