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The New York Times worries that Rome is burning while Nero fiddles.

There are thousands of faltering sewage plants... across the country, staffed by operators who dread rainy days. Civil engineers in every state are monitoring ominous cracks in roads and bridges that carry freight and school buses. And millions of transit commuters are awaiting new equipment and long-deferred maintenance on systems that are reliable only when the sun is shining.

The need for investment in public works, never more urgent, has become a casualty of Washington’s ideological wars. Republicans were once reliable partners in this kind of necessary spending. But since President Obama spent about 12 percent of the 2009 stimulus on transportation, energy and other infrastructure programs, Republicans have made it a policy to demonize these kinds of investments.

Ross Douthat comes to praise, not to bury, Jim DeMint.
His party’s only problem, DeMint promised, was insufficient ideological commitment. ...

This comforting perspective quickly became the official conventional wisdom on the post-Bush right, mouthed with varying degrees of conviction by politicians, pundits and Tea Party activists. But DeMint wasn’t content with rhetoric. He decided to put theory into action and throw his support behind primary candidates who fit his vision of a more authentically conservative Republican Party. ...

DeMint’s zeal gave his party’s leadership headaches, and his support for no-hopers like Christine O’Donnell helped cost Republicans seats they might have won. But his crusade also succeeded in making the Republican Senate caucus much more interesting — thinning the ranks of time-servers, and elevating rising stars like Marco Rubio and idiosyncratic figures like Rand Paul.

More important, DeMint — and the larger Tea Party wave he rode — also succeeded in making Republicans more serious about limited government than the party had ever been under Bush.

Ah, yes. DeMint and the Tea Party made the Republican Party more "interesting" and "serious." Perhaps in the same way as, say, Ebola is interesting and serious.

Dana Milbank next takes the podium in praise of DeMint, but keeps a shovel at hand.

At first blush, there is something delightfully dada about Jim DeMint being named president of the Heritage Foundation.

The senator, a tea party hero from South Carolina, is a smart guy and a good politician. But running a think tank? It is the scholarly equivalent of appointing Michael Moore to head the Brookings Institution, or Ted Nugent to the Cato Institute, or Roseanne Barr to the Council on Foreign Relations, or perhaps Donald Trump to the American Enterprise Institute.

But think about it some more and the choice of DeMint begins to look brilliant. He is, arguably, the perfect candidate to run a post-thought think tank.

Any thinking the Republicans needed was done long ago. New thinking is heresy.

Paul Krugman looks at the serious, interesting new empire that DeMint is taking over.

...if the doctrine Heritage was pushing to oppose fiscal stimulus were true — namely, that government borrowing always crowds out an equal amount of private spending — then the fiscal cliff could not be a problem. Hey, the government is going to borrow less, which will automatically and necessarily lead to an equal rise in private borrowing, so total demand can’t be affected, right?...

So if you think the fiscal cliff matters, you also, whether you know it or not, believe that a whole school of macroeconomics responded to the greatest economic crisis since the Great Depression with ludicrous conceptual errors, of a kind nobody has had a right to make since 1936 at the latest.

Lydia Millet muses sadly on the decline and fall of the natural legions... as seen in a child's toys.
Children depend mightily on animals for comfort, inspiration, imagination and art. And parents have long recognized this. We read our children stories starring elephants and monkeys and bears to teach them about nobility, curiosity and courage, to warn them against selfishness and stubbornness. ...

Which makes me wonder: What of the children of the future? When the polar bears and penguins are gone, the gorillas and elephants and coral-reef clown fish like Nemo — what diverse and lovable army will be their close companions?

...

A future mother will most likely say, when asked if her child will meet a polar bear: No, dear. The polar bears lived a long time ago, when ice still floated on the Arctic seas. The last elephants trumpeted out their calls in Africa and India before you were even born. You have nothing to fear from a prowling lioness. Nothing at all. The army fell, she may think to herself. In the end, there were no more reinforcements to send.

Maureen Dowd strolls through the ruins.
Too bad the Republican Party didn’t have my mom to keep it on its toes. Then it might not have gone all Apocalypto on us — becoming the first civilization in modern history to spiral the way of the Incas, Aztecs and Mayans.

The Mayans were right, as it turns out, when they predicted the world would end in 2012. It was just a select world: the G.O.P. universe of arrogant, uptight, entitled, bossy, retrogressive white guys.

Just another vanishing tribe that fought the cultural and demographic tides of history.

That's right, I included Maureen Dowd in the round-up. Decide for yourself whether this is a sign of impending doom.

Carl Hiaasen invites the Republicans to remain in the history books.

Based on the grim exit polls, you’d think Republican leaders would comprehend the futility of sucking up to the beet-faced Limbaugh fringe and pushing an agenda that most Americans viewed as extreme, exclusive and intrusive.

That tone had been set in the primaries by the lamest, flakiest set of candidates in modern memory. The only one who ever stood a chance was Romney, who veered so hard to the right that he couldn’t ever find his way back.

Want a sure-fire recipe for blowing another national election?

1. Keep badmouthing the poor, and bowing to the rich. This is an especially clever strategy while the country is clawing out of a recession.

2. To drive away as many women voters as possible, keep talking about banning abortions and cutting off funds for birth control.

3. Another brilliant campaign topic: Outlawing gay marriage. Keep that one on the front burner if you’re keen on alienating millions of highly motivated voters.

4. Don’t forget to bash big government every chance you get — just pray that a major hurricane doesn’t hit, and the whole country doesn’t get reminded of the importance of FEMA, the National Guard, the Army Corps of Engineers and other tax-gobbling slackers.

5. Finally, keeping pushing for laws that would allow anyone who looks vaguely Hispanic to be pulled over in their cars and frisked for citizenship documents. This is how you keep your “base electorate” fired up, your base being angry, white, old and dwindling by the day.

Lawrence Downes journeys in search of an oracle, but not exactly Delphi.
Thirty years and 300 leagues separate me from that wintry day and place, yet how well I remember. Wearing a blue goose-down jerkin over my doublet, and boots, I descended the stairs to a library chamber and beheld with my own eyes the grave and thrilling history of Middle-earth, in its earliest form — page after page of the words, runes and drawings of J. R. R. Tolkien, the original texts, with corrections and annotations in his own spidery hand. How long I tarried there I do not know, yet even a scant minute would have justified my long journey across barren prairies to the city of men beside the Great Lake where the precious hoard had come to rest.

Milwaukee.

So if you're planning a Hobbit pilgrimage, there's no need to go all the way to New Zealand to commune with Middle Earth. Just go to the Middle West.

So, just as I was grumbling off to write this morning, Dr. Greg was kindly stepping in to pinch-hit. And naturally, I finished, feeling virtuous and with only slight coffee heartburn, just in time to see that Greg had answered my plea and taken care of the problem.  So I offer this up as... Yet Another APR

The things don't exactly have a long shelf life.

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