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Unintentionally Funny Headline of the week.

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michelangelo david photo: Michelangelo david.jpg

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Spent a day in the 93-degree heat this weekend watching the 150th-anniversary reenactment of the Confederate assault on Gettysburg's Cemetery Hill (the temperatures were virtually identical to those experienced during the 1863 battle). The reenactor culture is a curious one, a huge travelling roadshow of Civil War memorabilia and pageantry delivered by white, middle-aged men (the audience is also overwhelmingly white and male; out of an estimated 30,000 visitors I counted seven African Americans and two Asians) trudging up and down grassy hills in full heavy cotton uniforms, carrying heavy rifles and packs, hauling cannons and managing rowdy horses.

Someone analyzed the political breakdown of Civil War reenactors and found the following:

67% of reenactors described themselves as Republicans; 92% of his sample was White; and 56% had not completed a college degree.
And there were some signs of this, some coded "Tea Party" innuendoes by the organizers, a few "Second Amendment" T-shirts, a grinning General Pickett in the authentic Confederate camp asking me if I liked my government and telling my son, "your Daddy knows what I mean by that" (Evidently he took me for someone else).

And the whole time I'm thinking, "this is a different culture."

So that's today's theme.

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Born-again Christian pop culture: Heaven exists, because I died and saw it?

Uhh, nope.

A book called Proof of Heaven is bound to provoke eye rolls, but its author, Eben Alexander, had space in a Newsweek story and on shows like of Fox & Friends to detail his claims. Read into those endorsements — and nearly 15 million copies sold — whatever you will, but in a big new Esquire feature, Luke Dittrich pokes large holes in Alexander's story, bringing into question the author's qualification as a neurosurgeon (which is supposed to legitimize his claim) and the accuracy of his best-selling journey
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For those unfamiliar with this book:

In his book, Alexander claims that when he was in a coma caused by E. coli bacterial meningitis, he went to heaven.
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Ironically, the self-styled "culture warriors" are usually the most clueless about other cultures:

For two decades, from 1972 to 1992, the Democratic Party agonized over its loss of support among whites, especially those in the working class. Over the next two decades, from the election of Bill Clinton in 1992 to the re-election of Barack Obama in 2012, the party slowly came to terms with its loss and learned how to win the presidency with a minority of white voters.

Now the white vote has become a Republican problem. White voters cast 72 percent of all votes in the Obama-Romney election of 2012 compared to 87 percent in the Nixon-McGovern contest in 1972. Should the Republican Party accept the fact that the white majority in the United States is getting smaller or should it bet on boosting Republican margins and turnout rates among whites to record levels?

The debate within the Republican Party on this fraught topic has provoked new levels of over-the-top rhetoric among the old guard on the farther right side of the Republican spectrum.

Thomas Edsall's New York Times column explores several strategic scenarios that Republicans hope will permit them to capture the White House in 2016 and beyond, from a "racial polarization strategy," to a "populism" or "downscale" ("Sam's Club") strategy (I kid you not!), to an all-out effort to woo Hispanic and Latino voters.  What it doesn't do is explain how Republicans can manage to overcome their racial prejudices and skewed economic policies in order to realistically pursue anything other than a "racial polarization" strategy.

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What kind of culture eliminates all jobs for teenagers? American culture, according to this report from PBS:

[I]f  you are a poor African-American high school teenage dropout, your likelihood of having a job is -- 5 percent.
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[A]mong the young, we began to observe the problem after 2001. When the boom ended in 2000, the labor market, like it always does, generated lots of job losses for young people. What was different this time was that when the economy recovered, it generated no net new jobs for teenagers. Then along comes the 2007-2009 Great Recession, and the labor market for young people is destroyed.

The sad thing is that since the nation began to add jobs in 2009, we've created about 5.2 million additional jobs for America's workers. Teenagers in the aggregate received none of them. Not one

Paul Solman: So, there are no more jobs for teenagers today than there were when the recovery started in 2009?

Andrew Sum: That's right. Not one.

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Then you have the rotten residue of really, really bad cultures:

Horticultural Hate: the Mystery of the Forest Swastikas

Over 20 years ago, a landscaper in eastern Germany discovered a formation of trees in a forest in the shape of a swastika. Since then, a number of other forest swastikas have been found in Germany and beyond, but the mystery of their origins persist.
The mysterious swastikas were discovered in 2002, by
Ökoland Dederow, who discovered the trees in 1992 as he was completing a typically thankless intern task: searching aerial photographs for irrigation lines.

Instead, he found a small group of 140 larches standing in the middle of dense forest, surrounded by hundreds of other trees. But there was a crucial difference: all the others were pine trees. The larches, unlike the pines, changed color in the fall, first to yellow, then brown. And when they were seen from a certain height, it wasn't difficult to recognize the pattern they formed. It was quite striking, in fact.

Where did they come from? The article examines the various theories.

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And finally, people who don't know jack about culture, but do their best to pretend they do.

david Brooks photo: David Brooks DavidBrooks1.jpg


 Is That What They Taught David Brooks at Radnor?

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Like a lot of Beltway pundits, Brooks is totally flummoxed by events in Egypt, where a military coup has just toppled the constitutionally elected president, Mohammed Morsi of the Muslim Brotherhood. That's because Brooks needs to choose between what he says -- that democracy is a virtue among all others -- and what he thinks, which is that you can throw out the rule-book to stop Islamic fundamentalism. His brilliant solution to his moral quandary? In so many words, Muslims are too dense for democracy. He writes:

Islamists might be determined enough to run effective opposition movements and committed enough to provide street-level social services. But they lack the mental equipment to govern.

Just a poor choice of words? Perhaps -- but Brooks goes on to add:

It’s not that Egypt doesn’t have a recipe for a democratic transition. It seems to lack even the basic mental ingredients.

I thought this kind of David-of-Arabia philosophy went out of fashion around the same time as poodle skirts. His Radnor High Hall of Fame (yes, that's a thing) bio says he was on the model UN -- what country could he have represented? Snoblandia? There are growing demands for Brooks to apologize for his racist tone - which would be an excellent first step.

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