Wednesday Potpourri: Norms, Place Names, Republican Air Force, Omidyar

"The Senate Republicans became basically like an Air Force, dive-bombing the House Republicans and conservatives."

It turns out that collating and formatting all 17,000+ words of email from the Atlas Shrugged Guy is incredibly labor-intensive and slow. It was underway until very late last night and will appear.

In the meantime:

1) I mentioned recently that since it was virtually impossible to change the (flawed) structural rules of American politics, it was all the more important to re-institute norms of acceptable partisan behavior.

If you'd like to see an example of what that means, listen to yesterday afternoon's NPR interview with Scott Rigell (right), a Republican congressman from Southern Virginia who came in as part of the Tea Party wave. He voted repeatedly against Obamacare but was an early voice for compromise, orderly procedure, and an end to hostage-taking in the current showdown. It's probably the kiss of death for someone like me to say it, but this is the kind of Republican argument and tone that could attract support beyond the (actuarially shrinking) base.

2) My wife Deb did a very nice item yesterday about the odd conventions of waypoint-naming in the national airspace system. I know that she has received lots of elaborations and background info, which she will share very soon. For the moment, here is an illustration of a waypoint sequence I had not been aware of—because it is practically impossible for normal civilian pilots to fly into Washington, D.C.'s National Airport any more. (I did some memorable night-flight training down the Potomac, over National, and out along the Anacostia in the 1990s. That will not happen again.) It's the sequence of points on the FRDMM TWO arrival sequence from the west to National airport. You'll get the idea

You can click here for the original, if you can't read what's on the chart. Or, as a spoiler, the waypoints are: HONNR, BRVRY, COURG, PLDGE, WEWIL, NEVVR, FORGT, SEPII, ALWYZ. 

3) Back to norms and rules: Senator Ted Cruz has been remarkable through this whole process, but never more so than last night. On Fox News, he told Sean Hannity "Senate Republicans became basically an Air Force, dive-bombing House Republicans and conservatives." You can see it between about times 5:00 and 5:40 in the clip below.

I would love to hear Cruz explain to a revivified Ronald Reagan how his approach squares with one of Reagan's most famous norms -- his "Eleventh Commandment" about public squabbling within the party. The Gipper, The Cruzer: One of their examples will prevail.

4) When Jeff Bezos bought the Washington Post, I noted the sadness of the moment for the Graham family and for a certain kind of journalism. But with trademark chipperness I said: "Let us hope that this is what the sale signifies: the beginning of a phase in which this Gilded Age's major beneficiaries re-invest in the infrastructure of our public intelligence. We hope it marks a beginning, because we know it marks an end.

Pierre Omidyar (whom I know slightly—I've never met Bezos) is a contrast to Bezos in many ways, and his decision to bankroll a new venture with Glenn Greenwald also differs from Bezos's undertaking at the Post. But let's hope this is another marker in the same direction.

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James Fallows is a national correspondent for The Atlantic and has written for the magazine since the late 1970s. He has reported extensively from outside the United States and once worked as President Carter's chief speechwriter. His latest book is China Airborne. More

James Fallows is based in Washington as a national correspondent for The Atlantic. He has worked for the magazine for nearly 30 years and in that time has also lived in Seattle, Berkeley, Austin, Tokyo, Kuala Lumpur, Shanghai, and Beijing. He was raised in Redlands, California, received his undergraduate degree in American history and literature from Harvard, and received a graduate degree in economics from Oxford as a Rhodes scholar. In addition to working for The Atlantic, he has spent two years as chief White House speechwriter for Jimmy Carter, two years as the editor of US News & World Report, and six months as a program designer at Microsoft. He is an instrument-rated private pilot. He is also now the chair in U.S. media at the U.S. Studies Centre at the University of Sydney, in Australia.

Fallows has been a finalist for the National Magazine Award five times and has won once; he has also won the American Book Award for nonfiction and a N.Y. Emmy award for the documentary series Doing Business in China. He was the founding chairman of the New America Foundation. His recent books Blind Into Baghdad (2006) and Postcards From Tomorrow Square (2009) are based on his writings for The Atlantic. His latest book is China Airborne. He is married to Deborah Fallows, author of the recent book Dreaming in Chinese. They have two married sons.

Fallows welcomes and frequently quotes from reader mail sent via the "Email" button below. Unless you specify otherwise, we consider any incoming mail available for possible quotation -- but not with the sender's real name unless you explicitly state that it may be used. If you are wondering why Fallows does not use a "Comments" field below his posts, please see previous explanations here and here.


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