The Weekly Wrap

Andrew Sullivan —  Aug 3 2012 @ 10:30pm


By Christophe Simon/AFP/Getty Images

Today on the Dish, while Andrew ripped apart Romney advisor Glenn Hubbard's vague and reckless economic plans, The Daily Caller missed a few zeroes, though Jenna Jameson probably doesn't care – since being rich makes her a sudden Republican. Romney spokesman Eric Fehrnstrom was a hypocrite, and the Princeton Election Consortium showed that Bain is killing Mitt's odds. Stratfor called out America's love of bullshit, which the FCC probably didn't help when they built a crappy website to inform an America that barely understands what a Super PAC is. A chart put Obama's lousy job creation in perspective, and there were lots of reax to today's better-but-still-meh job numbers. Either way Stan Collender pointed out we actually still haven't stepped back from the fiscal cliff that is the Bush tax cuts mayhem.

Perry Link explained China's lack of charismatic leaders, and while we rounded up growing unrest in Mali, Instagram rounded up the unrest in Syria. In the Dish's continued look at the Olympics, Steven Walt and Alpha Abebe considered nationalism via the Games, while Michael Phelps beat out entire nations in the medal count and readers marveled at Gabby Douglas's achievement in the context of American history. Meanwhile David Sirota got high blood pressure from "U-S-A" chants, while Hampton Stevens shook his head at Middle East politics getting in the way of sportsmanship.

Readers weighed in on Amy Siskind's attack column and Andrew discussed the Dish's attempted balance with regards to women. While Christianists bucked the environment in NC, Megyn Kelly bucked the GOP on gay marriage and earned herself a Yglesias Award nomination. Simon Critchley lamented the modern university-as-dolt factory, and we once again considered the effect of cannabis legalization on minors. Jesse Walker and Andrew contemplated the sexual life of Mormon history, which Dishedly led to a remarkable FOTD. Lots of readers made it clear Mayor Bloomberg doesn't know breast when it comes to banning baby formula. Amazon made it clear that if they have to hand over sales tax, everyone does. 

We profiled the world's heaviest bony fish, which almost looks as weird as the mascots at the London Olympics, which almost look as top-heavy and gender-neutral as the mascots at the Beijing Olympics. But everything was OK, because beards proved useful yet again. What else is useful? Toilet paper – and the Dish explored its history. Oh and a Steelers fan memorialized his foreskin. Yes you read that correctly.

Alex Gibney pointed his lens at the rotten institution that is the Vatican, and Jim Holt shared his thoughts on the new generation of atheists. The NYT clarified Gore Vidal's sex and insult choices, while YouTube showed him, and TV, in fine form. It was a gorgeous Utah view from a reader's window. Wing covered Beyonce in our MHB. Christopher Middleton gave us a short and lovely poem.

– C.D.

The rest of the week after the jump:


Photo by Zach Klein

On Thursday, Andrew broke down the basics about taxes and deficits and then went after Romney's plan for totally ignoring them. He also took apart Amy Siskind's fatuous rant against his purported sexism and argued that Romney's position on defense is out of tune with reality. He also sided with Joe Klein on Romney's slurring of Palestinian culture and denounced the Vatican's silence on torture. The Obama administration may have slipped on torture themselves. And a reader got whiplash from Andrew's moodswings.

In the horse race, Obama hit an all-time high in the electoral college projection, his campaign launched a nine-state offensive against Romney's tax plan, and Paul Ryan continued to be full of it. While Jon Stewart skewered Reid, readers defended him – possibly because of their ethical double-standards. On the international scene, the slaughter continued in Syria, Vietnam began weighing legal protections for its LGBT citizens, and many "developing" countries graduated to first-world wealth.  Jerry Bremer's post-Iraq career segued into painting – for example, landscapes with subliminal cigarettes in them. And while Eugene Ulman found the "lost Jews" of Zimbabwe, David Brooks rooted for the Chosen gymnasts.

Speaking of the Olympics, the ancient Games involved sex, gore and sports, and despite its flatulence, Ann Romney's horse didn't offend the Brits. A reader added the much-needed women-loving-Megan Rapinoe perspective to the debate about objectifying female Olympians. Also in gay, readers reflected more on Gore, as did one of his close friends, while three books clarified Christianity's reaction to homosexuality. And straight couples thought Chief Justice Marshall's Goodridge decision had a deep-yet-secular ring to it.

In assorted coverage, sharks made the cut for the horrific sex squad of the animal kingdom, Hanna Rosin stood up for non-breastfeeders, Jessica Valenti argued that elephant ears build character, and Alexis Madrigal asked folks to back off Jonah. Jay Rosen urged readers to check out Taibbi more often, academic dons got props, and Japan loved its fax machines. Slightly dirty water beat out the superclean alternative, lunar US flags got bleached, and Puff the Mutant Dragon broke down the chemistry of uppers. FOTD here, MHB here and VFYW here.

Screen shot 2012-08-01 at 2.13.13 PM

Wednesday on the Dish, Andrew observed that Obama's tax rationale is gaining traction – and that Romney's favorability is slipping. He then went after Obama for failing to form a debt reduction plan, pilloried the GOP for its cynical politics, and analyzed the plausibility of Harry Reid's Deep Throat at Bain. Romney went negative on Obama's auto bailout and encapsulated what's amiss with US-Israel relations.  He and Obama engaged in an app war, Boris Johnson became the Un-Romney – and got memed – and Obama endured more swift-boating. Jane Mayer and a reader explored the darker corners of outside spending, Mike Kelly compared the birth control mandate to Pearl Harbor and 9/11, Dick Morris was also cray-cray.

On the death of Gore Vidal, Andrew balanced repulsion and admiration for his work. In Olympics coverage, the blogosphere debated Ye Shiwen's spectacular performance, Egypt's football team advanced, and Michael Phelps pigged out. And while Olympics officials unfairly punished China's badmintoners, millennials had it out with NBC.

As the Drug War disproportionately hurt African Americans, Andrew defended his pot legalization position and acknowledged the accomplishments of some famous drug users. India failed its women in some horrific ways, Gustavo Sousa portrayed global inequality, and alcohol got cheaper for Brits. In other assorted coverage, Geoffrey Wheatcroft contemplated Churchill's literary efforts, Rob Dunn encouraged accuracy in paleo-dieting, Trevor Paglen prepared to immortalize human culture in space, and a reader served up some Emily Dickinson. Other readers disputed the Reddit-as-frat contention and reframed the Olympic sex appeal issue. A Korean hipped and hopped, VFYW here and Poseur Alert here. Lastly, Andrew stepped back and admired his creation.


Oilville, Virginia, 10:48 am

On Tuesday, a Romney aide revealed the campaign's press strategy when he told a reporter what he could kiss, the blogosphere went wild over Bain-style diplomacy, The Economist made the conservative case against Romney, and Rove worried about Obama's Electoral College lead. Michael Kazin compared Romney to a disastrous CEO-as-president, Hoover, while Gideon Rachman saw signs of Dubya. As Mitt cozied up to the oil industry, Craig Brown had a bit of a laugh at his expense. And in our Ad War, Romney drove a car and Obama gave himself money.

Looking abroad, West Bank checkpoint guards revealed their aversion to empathy and Netanyahu qualified as a leftist – by GOP standards. New Zealand's prime minister became another conservative leader in favor of marriage equality as a pro-lifer fell in love with Canadian healthcare. India lost (a lot of) power, China made things interesting with some old-fashioned military aggression, and a culture in Papua New Guinea ran on the power of boredom. On the homefront, things looked crummy for the US economy, Jeff Madrick deconstructed the numbers behind the Medicaid expansion, and DC got held hostage in a national culture war.

In Olympic coverage, vaulters kicked ass while swimmers got dressed to compress. Saudi female athletes sadly obscured more pressing issues back home while anti-doping faced an uphill battle. Though Muhammed Ali was again the greatest in our MHB, fencer Shin A Lam saw her hopes dashed. And Andrew picked on a poorly hung Eurostar ad.

In assorted commentary, Jonah Lehrer resigned over his journalistic sins, Redditors proved geekily sexist, and Jim Holt pondered some existential angst. Capote revealed "The Best-Kept Boy in the World", Cord Jefferson made a point about moral hyperbole with some racy Roman graffiti, "Planet of the Snail" followed a handicapped Korean couple, and readers reflected on the power of rape. Tracy Clark-Flory investigated love affairs, forcing the Dish to mention Kristen Stewart, while flies risked death to have sex.  An eagle-eyed reader clarified scatological hiring principles, Anatoly Liberman traced the linguistic origins of "fart", and bike commuters tried to take a shower. We also figured out why watermelons can be seedless and highlighted a new movie that might make us go whoa, man. Readers nailed another VFYW contest while there was peaceful summer seating in today's VFYW.


Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images

On Monday, Andrew made the conservative case for Obama, called Romney's Israel positioning a victory for the Israeli far right, and characterized the candidate as a "$250 million virtual dictator in his own bubble for decades." Andrew also reflected on the humor of London's opening ceremony, hailed Ron Unz's IQ hypothesis as a "breath of (liberal) fresh air," and noted Romney's hypocrisy in praising Israel's healthcare system. And his income and tax rate vis-a-vis previous presidents was astonishing.

In Olympics coverage, Ye Shiwen's stunning performance raised eyebrows, Michael Phelps glummed out in this FOTD, and bloggers offered more thoughts on the IOC's gender verification policy. The DNC embraced marriage equality, David Sessions made the case for voting with your stomach, and Eli Lake spun Dennis Ross' departure. While John McCain essentially called Dick Cheney a war criminal, Liz Cheney earned a Hathos Alert. Jane Mayer explained the sneakiest form of campaign finance, Shane Ferro argued that the masses aren't as financially outmatched as conventional wisdom holds, and David Morgan explained what one artist's popularity with the Tea Party says about American views on church and state. On the ad war front, neocon forces went after Obama's foreign policy.

In other assorted coverage, a new documentary on Ai Weiwei explored the source of his resolve to fight oppression, Charlotte Shane argued that rape is not always the ultimate horror, and Jamie Kirchick argued in favor of Germany's Scientology ban. Scientists controlled monkey behavior with light, termites exploded, Kyle Wiens praised grammarians, and a former McDonalds exec aimed to make food not just fast but healthy. Dr. Mike Drayton failed the Rorschach test, vocal acoustics did not vary by race, and this post augured the end of the airport bottle ban. Nano-napping beat out other slumber strategies, the sleep industry took off, and companies subliminally marketed to stoners. Fear undergirded Batman's political philosophy and Jerry Jones longed for … a glory hole. MHB here and a Southeast Asian VFYW here.


Photo by Claudia Rogge

Saturday and Sunday on the Dish, we explored the varieties of religious experience: John Updike believed that faith was like being in love, Christopher Beha thought of conversion as the beginning of new struggles, Martin Amis reminded us of our inevitable decline, and Colin Dickey contemplated the relationship between mourning and magic. We featured a BBC documentary on Mitt Romney and Mormonism, showed the similarity between religious books and erotica, and discovered that, if you are searching for a guru and considering Anthony Robbins, you might get burned. And if all this seems too serious, Jim Holt shared his favorite religious (and atheist) jokes with us.

We also pondered human creativity: John Banville praised James Joyce's celebration of the ordinary, Adam Kirsch asked if evolution can account for art, Claire Kelley held that running can spur epiphanies, and Bruce Springsteen attributed his creativity to self-loathing, while others found that their best work springs from love. As always, we drew attention to two examples of creative effort – read Saturday's poem here and Sunday's here.

Love and sex were on our mind as well, which isn't surprising given that we are entering peak porn-watching season. Jesse Bering reminded us that asexuality is complicated, Tom Jacobs established that we like our female Olympians scantily clad, and we realized we should be grateful that we don't have sex like bed bugs. Readers further engaged the ethics of being able to find out who signed an anti-same-sex marriage petition in Maryland.

In assorted coverage, Brian Hoffstein provided perspective about our time on earth, Morgan Meis probed the ambiguities of Epicureanism, Douthat compared gun control to Prohibition, Eli Lehrer wondered if doctors are overpaid, Farhad Manjoo reviewed the latest in fake meat, Tim Doody profiled an LSD pioneer, and Jay Rosen tried to answer why Sunday political shows are so bad. MHBs here and here, FOTDs here and here, VFYWs here and here, and the latest window contest here.