The Transom

I get asked a lot how I do show prep for my radio show and to get ready for TV appearances. Honestly, i spend a lot of time on twitter and the RedState Morning Briefing is really indispensable.But I’ve got a new tool in the show prep arsenal — The Transom by Ben Domenech. It really is a well done daily email of things interesting and fascinating on the web. Ben puts a lot of solid effort into it and it has already proven itself useful. Curiously enough, back when I was starting the Morning Briefing, Ben suggested I use the name “Transom,” but it was too much of a fifty cent word for what I had in mind. The Transom itself is well worth more than fifty cents in style and content, but it is free.If you want to get a copy of it, go sign up here. So that you get a good sense of what you are in for, I’ve put today’s Transom below the fold. Oh, and because Ben did it, you can bet it looks “purty”.


August 22, 2011: Libya, Jackson Hole, Big Country, Strange New Respect, On Vodka, HP’s Shift, Walker Percy, L’Affaire Farewell   




Six months of conflict comes to a hinge point in Tripoli. Tripoli Post: NYT: LAT: Pic gallery at FP:


George Grant: “Last week the Times of London quoted an anonymous Benghazi-based diplomat warning that “catastrophic success” is “the phrase now being generally used in NATO. . . . And even if it’s not catastrophic it will be chaotic success because the opposition is not ready to govern and there will be a vacuum if Gadhafi goes.” This dismal prognosis is premature. A post-Gadhafi Libya can certainly succeed, and there is every reason to believe that what comes after Gadhafi will be a marked improvement over what existed during his 42 years in power. If the rebels abide by their plan to work with former regime figures and incorporate non-criminal elements of the existing security architecture into any post-Gadhafi settlement, a power vacuum is not inevitable.”


Elliott Abrams: “How quickly the ground has shifted in the Middle East. The apparent fall of Tripoli suggests that the Gaddafi regime will not last long, and this must send shivers down the spine of the cousins who run the Assad mafia in Damascus… Then attention will have to turn to the next act: the one in which we see, in Tunisia and Egypt, in Libya and Syria, if decent, stable, democratic governments can be built. It now looks as if the Arab Spring was the lead-in to a hot summer for the remaining tyrants. The issue we all face for the winter is what the United States can do to help avoid chaos or repression in those countries as they seek to build new political systems.”


RELATED: That debate about War Powers isn’t going away, even if Qaddafi does. Get ready for the oil price slip. MEANWHILE: Obama monitors the news, receives briefings, golfs. John Tamny: for your own sake, stay on vacation. Brookings’ Shadi Hamid on Twitter says this does not vindicate “lead from behind” strategy, but that’s what everyone’s going to write this week: “Two things happened: 1) Libya rebels won. 2) Obama opted for strategy of “leading from behind.” This does not mean 2 caused 1.” Big question: what comes next?




Bernanke preps for Jackson Hole on Friday. “The new, emerging narrative is that stiffer headwinds could restrain the U.S. recovery for longer than hoped—perhaps not enough to send it back into recession, but enough to keep growth painfully slow. Fiscal policy, for example, could be a drag on growth for years. Housing isn’t coming back quickly. Households are still trying to rid themselves of debt, and their wealth has eroded. Old relationships that have tended to drive recoveries might not have as much force as they used to. Household confidence, for example, has tended to rebound after unemployment peaked. This time, that’s not happening. Unemployment peaked in October 2009 at 10.1%. Confidence keeps sinking. The University of Michigan’s index fell in early August to its lowest level since 1980.”


RELATED: As investors get bit, states feel the pinch of lost revenue.  Layoffs sweep Wall Street. Goldman’s Jim O’Neill: is this 2008 all over again?




Andrew Ferguson on Rick Perry’s announcement. “In any case, the specific content of Perry’s prayer at The Response wasn’t the crucial point, politically. The mere fact of it, and of him, must seem to America’s liberals as an explicit and deliberate provocation — their worst nightmare come horribly to life. He’s a governor of Texas. He has a funny accent. He got lousy grades in school. He not only owns guns, he shoots them. He’ll soon be wearing cowboy boots again. He shows no sign of having read Reinhold Niebuhr. And he might win.”


Erick Erickson: From the archives, some hilarious pieces from 1980 on why Carter would love to run against that radical Reagan. Bonus Eleanor Clift cameo.


Arne Duncan has long received the plaudits of some of my more naïve friends, who find him perfectly charming at Aspen retreats, ignoring the lockstep partisan tool he’s been within Obama’s administration. This weekend, with his bizarre assault on Texas’ education policies, the mask finally slipped. Time pronounced the criticism “baffling.” Even Politifact, one of the most biased fact-checkers out there, finds his slight of Texas schools to be completely false. Duncan will almost certainly not apologize for his blatant lies about Texas’ educational outcomes, but who really cares – this just means he’s like any other cabinet secretary: he does the bidding of the folks in the White House, his reputation be damned.


I neglected to share my column at The Hill on Perry’s health care perspective: “Yet Perry’s personal experience with a recent back surgery also illustrates his perspective on health policy. His surgery involved the use of an adult stem cell therapy that is currently approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) only for bone marrow transplants. If Obama’s FDA has its way, doctors and others will be punished if they promote or advertise in any way the kind of therapy Perry received. Perry’s successful surgery shows the value of choice, the kind of choice the Obama administration opposes at every pass.” I was anticipating exactly this kind of criticism: comparison of Texas and Massachusetts is in the pipeline for this week.


RELATED: More from Jeff Jacoby on making Washington inconsequential. Mark Steyn: start by living like Coolidge. Tim Carney: The race-based attacks against Perry are White House-driven.




Michael Tomasky writes on Rick Perry, “King of the Know-Nothings.” Excerpt: “Bush—and it leaves me speechless that he’s starting to look reasonable by comparison with the current crop of GOP presidential hopefuls—was hardly apologetic about his political views. But he and Karl Rove did have the sense to know when they were throwing gasoline on the domestic fire, and they did it in smallish doses. You might be able to Google up the odd careless quote from Bush about something like global warming, but in general, and especially on the occasions when he knew his words were being very closely watched, he steered well clear of extremism.”


Michael Tomasky writes on George W. Bush, from the farflung archives of 10 months ago: “Haunted by a ruined economy and unfinished wars, President Bush will need more than a memoir to rescue his reputation.” All that he needed, it turned out, was Rick Perry!


I encourage enterprising Googlers to find something similar from Ana Marie Cox, who I confess I did not realize was still alive.


One additional note: I can’t stand people who do the face flip thing for their headshots, as if they’re perfectly symmetrical. The only person allowed to do that is Denzel. That’s it. That’s the list.




Per Jon Last’s recommendation, Vic Matus has a piece on America’s love affair with vodka:“As might be expected, America’s obsession with vodka has led to a certain pushback within the drinking community. The return of classic cocktails and the rise of craft bartending has meant a rejection of vodka and rediscovery of whiskey, gin, tequila, even absinthe. At the speakeasy lounge PX in Alexandria, Virginia, patrons are encouraged to try exotic concoctions such as Smoker’s Delight (tobacco-infused tea, honey, bourbon, lemon juice, water) and other libations involving house-made bitters. Tucked inside The Passenger bar in Washington is another, more exclusive, watering hole called the Columbia Room, considered by GQ to be one of the best cocktail bars in the country. It is run by “master mixologist” Derek Brown who, also according to GQ, makes one of the best martinis in America. A few months ago, on a Saturday afternoon, I sat with Derek in the Columbia Room and asked his thoughts on vodka. “To us,” he replied, “the important thing is that we make a great drink. And vodka is capable of that. But it is the chicken breast of cocktails. It is the most boring, least thoughtful, sort of one that you can mix with. For a craft bartender—someone who believes in humanity—this stuff is just a joke and will fade away.” Derek is respectful of customers who order vodka drinks—his bar carries only one brand, which he refused to reveal—but will find ways to steer them toward alternatives such as gin which, he says, “is just flavored vodka. It just happens to be a very good flavor of vodka.”


Couple of minor problems with Matus’s otherwise excellent piece. Most notably, I have to take issue with his elevation of craft vodkas, which are typically terrible in my experience (and I’ve had a lot). I don’t know what it is about this elevation of “craft”, but it is simply not an indication of quality in all things. What’s more, the piece implies that vodka is the one liquor where packaging overwhelms buyers to suggest quality where none exists. On the contrary, this is true of nearly all modern liquors. Additionally, I find the idea that vodka is “tasteless” – that potato based and grain/rye based vodkas are interchangeable – to be simply absurd. (Anyone whose palate can’t tell the difference between potato and rye has no business judging anything related to liquor or foodstuffs.) What’s really going on here, which Matus nods toward but does little to confirm, is the gender-driven shift away from bourbon and scotch. As more women began drinking hard liquor, so the appeal of an odorless versatile five tool player increased as a member of the bar. Would Olivia Palermo drink an Old Fashioned? Would Tinsley Mortimer be caught dead with a Sazerac? Of course not! So in this, as in so many things, the fairer sex’s sway has held. Thus: vodkas, and fruity flavors, galore.


Now, from my perspective, nearly anything vodka-based makes for a skeletal cocktail, something designed to be purely functional, not savored. But it still has its place, particularly in summer, and there is no shame in it: the Moscow Mule was the most popular cocktail in Hollywood in 1942, and that was a dang good year for Hollywood. Amis, a famed drinker if there was one, swears by his cucumber-based Lucky Jims (as if to confirm the above politically incorrect gender bias, Amis explicitly describes his concoction as a way to get the shy young ladies to shed their inhibitions). you do, just don’t drink it the way the Russians do.


Finally, a sin of omission: one of the great transitional moments in American history is arguably the following memo from the late 1960’s, at the ad agency J. Walter Thompson, which read as follows:


“To all employees: If you must drink during lunch, please drink whiskey. It is much better for our clients to know that you are drunk rather than think you are stupid.”


Please apply this rule in your own life, ladies and gents.


RELATED: Vodka taste tests at NYT. And Slate.




Walter Russell Mead: Poor, poorly educated atheists are overrunning the U.S.


George Will: Chris Christie, American Caesar. RELATED: A “de facto pact”? Really now. My friends in Christie’s camp are loudly denying this, and I hear two of the people who would be top tier in any Ryan campaign are about to move to other campaigns. There are some fundamental family issues as well. Threat level: skeptical.


The White House faces a dilemma: do we want our health care law ruled unconstitutional before the election, or after?, after, obviously. RELATED: Obama’s HHS is caught campaigning for Democrats. taxpayer dollars, no less. ALSO RELATED: Alana Goodman: Did you realize Verizon’s strike is because of disagreements over Obamacare? Because it is.


John Hinderaker: Darrell Issa sticks it to the New York Times. details thirteen separate errors in the front page story – to date, the Times has corrected exactly one.


Larry Ross writes on how Christian Dominionism is a myth. Did the Daily Beast run this because they got so many factual complaints about Michelle Goldberg’s piece?


Joel Klein reviews Steven Brill and Terry Moe on the clash over union influence and education reform, between naïfs and realists.


Why won’t the WaPo identify Perry’s protestors as professional activists? Well, that’s quite irrelevant, you see.


“Huntsman is as handsome as Ms. Al-Assad is beautiful.” RELATED: DNC’s new television surrogate: Jon Huntsman!


Death rattle: Verizon strike ends with nothing gained by union.


The Swiss Franc’s strength has created problems down the line.


CRS Report finds that ten years after 9/11, vast majority of intelligence sharing problems remain.


Panetta issues gag order on Super Committee and Defense cuts.


Gorbachev’s naivete.


On reforming the patent system.


John Graham: How Medicare cutbacks will translate to the prescription drug market.


NYT: “My husband is now my wife.”




Iran jails hikers for eight years. from Elliott Abrams. We shall write them a stern letter from Martha’s Vineyard. But first, the 78th round.


Michael Totten: The Id of Mesopotamia, reviewed.


Harper Lee: There’s no such thing as a free lunch.


Film restoration: Saving the Hitchcock nine.


Maud Newton:blame internet syntax on David Foster Wallace.


Ah, capitalism.


Washington, DC attracts men with high levels of estrogen. This explains both the growing hipster menace and the growing hordes of desperate single women.


Roundtable: What took the NCAA so long to clean up their act?


Colts owner Jim Irsay tweets that he’s in Hattiesburg, Mississippi, which just happens to be Brett Favre’s abode. Worldwide Leader’s attention sparked, take time to appreciate just how insane Irsay’s Twitter feed is. This guy owns an NFL team. Really.




Cianfrocca on HP’s decision to move away from the PC market.




“Now, I am perfectly willing to believe Flannery O’Connor when she said, and she wasn’t kidding, that the modern world is a territory largely occupied by the devil. No one doubts the malevolence abroad in the world. But the world is also deranged. What interests me is not the malevolence of man — so what else is new? — but his looniness. The looniness, that is to say, of the “normal” denizen of the Western world who, I think it fair to say, doesn’t know who he is, what he believes, or what he is doing.” – Walker Percy




Farewell: The Greatest Spy Story of the Twentieth Century, by Sergey Kostin and Eric Reynaud, AmazonCrossing. $9.49 for Paperback, $4.99 for Kindle.


Find this and more recommendations at The Transom’s Amazon Store:


This collection of news and notes from around the web is edited by Benjamin Domenech, research fellow at The Heartland Institute, co-host of the daily Coffee & Markets podcast, and editor in chief of The City, a journal on faith, politics, and culture published by Houston Baptist University. The views and opinions expressed within are his alone, and do not necessarily represent the views of his employers. If you like The Transom, by all means share it with friends, who can subscribe at:


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