Comments: Week of June 29, 2009

1. In her short tenure as New York’s junior senator, Kirsten Gillibrand has been something of a political kickball, as Stephen Rodrick notes in his profile of her (The Reintroduction of Kirsten Gillibrand,” June 15–22). That only continued in the comments section, where antagonists antagonized and supporters supported, if a little more tepidly. Readers expressed their doubts about, among other things, her political sincerity. “It’s obvious she’s hardworking, diligent, and ambitious,” said one critic. “It’s equally obvious that she doesn’t have much in the way of core values.” Not so harsh, but try this: “If you think that her work for Big Tobacco should not count against her, then you probably think that none of the ‘Good Germans’ should have been found guilty at Nuremberg.” The kinder comments tended to be like this: “Long on personality, short on policy, but a person would have to be a fool not to recognize Kirsten Gillibrand as a formidable force in future politics.” Some simply thought Gillibrand deserves a break: “The fact is she represented an upstate district that rarely backed a Democrat. She helped turn it blue, and now she’s adapting to representing an entire state.” Another spoke to her personableness: “Let her opponents dream about notional ads about guns, immigration, and work she did long ago in private practice. She will be working on the No. 1 issue—the economy, stupid—and meeting more voters every weekend, winning the vast majority of them over.”

2. Our survey of over 200 recent graduates, from fifth grade to grad school (Class of ’09,” June 15–22), revealed a lot of optimism and high hopes. Which brought out a lot of grousing from readers about how these whippersnappers need a reality check. “I have a suspicion that their sense that everything’s gonna work out fine is an extension of this generation’s overinflated sense of self-worth,” wrote one commenter. “ ‘I’m a perfect little snowflake!’ You aren’t. So wipe those foolish smirks off your faces. It’s hard out here.” Another sneered at respondent Tommy Fagin’s description of the generation that precedes his (“They were just pursuing a false sense of well-being through possessions they didn’t actually need”). “If little Tommy Fagin’s parents hadn’t fallen prey to the ‘pathetic’ nature of an obsession with material possessions—including cold, hard cash—I wonder if Fagin would even be enrolled at Friends Seminary.” In spite of the gloom, plenty of people made it clear that the kids are all right. “I absolutely love the fifth-graders’ answers!!!” gushed a commenter. Another felt inspired: “Even if their responses tended toward exaggeration, the sentiment of and enthusiasm for change was uplifting.”

3. Readers swooned over Brooklyn artist Swoon’s garbage boat at the Venice Biennale (Barging Into Venice,” June 15–22). One commenter even found a dash of international intrigue, noting, “She is on the cusp of a critical political/environmental firestorm. Italy, with the help of misnamed Energy Solutions, has been trying to send its nuclear waste to the Utah desert. I love the idea that an American artist is making her own delivery of waste.” And, as always, there’s one curmudgeon, who said of the band of artists: “If only they could power their ridiculous vessel with their sense of self-satisfaction, it would travel the world.”

4. Jonah Green’s video interviews on’s Daily Intel blog of the people protesting David Letterman for his joke about Sarah Palin’s family became a hit on the Web, racking up a million views. It also racked up plenty of appreciative comments. Said one poster, “That was hilarious. I think those people are far more offensive than David Letterman.” The site approved: “This video is so funny it almost makes up for the whole stupid Palin publicity stunt.”

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Comments: Week of June 29, 2009