The Post has got one of those notorious trend stories, this time one that explains how girls now outpace boys--or maybe they've been "catching up" for 20 years?--in smoking and drinking and so forth and so on. I'm not as quick to dismiss articles like this as "anecdotal." Didion made me skeptical of that distinction when she noted how the political class uses the word to dismiss that which is experienced in real life by actual people. That said, the article's choice of a few binge-drinkers is awfully thin evidence. Speaking, um, anecdotally, I don't recall any particular underrepresentation of chicks in druggie circles, and if the statistics are ticking up, it's probably because someone is for the first time asking the question specifically of les jeunes filles. I am, in an event, all in favor of the development if it turns out that my criticism is off-base. "Life is better with a buzz." Amen, sister.
Saturday, February 09, 2008
I think I've said it before, but since Yglesias is feeling predictive, I'll say it again: Clinton is it. Of course, I thought Willard was going to win on the Goopster side. It would've been better if he had. McCain is going to get torn the fuck up.
Friday, February 08, 2008
Okay. I am so in the wrong profession. If I'd sucked it up, so to speak, and gotten a finance degree, I could right now be reassigning my gender, just for the fun of it! For free! And then back again. Personally, I'd do it on a weekly basis, just to keep things interesting. All that transhumanist nano-god robot-Ubermensch bullshit that Glenn Reynolds is always prattling on about is totally going to come true. The next time you see an invincible, shape-changing, hermaphroditic superman flying down Fifth Avenue, suspended by the universe-defying power of his mind, you can be pretty sure that it works for these guys.
Crusader AXE of the Lost Causes turns his gaze to one of the many Lost Causes that he so assiduously gathers to his bosom, kisses on both cheeks, and knifes through the throat for a swift, quiet end to their suffering. Ratboy Romney, the department-store mannequin-manqué of this election year's early festivities, went out with the warning that America, unless properly fortified, will turn into la douce France, partie deux. Eh bon ? Vachement ? C'est grave. C'est past juste, ça. As noted by the AXE, the US hardly seems suited for the Gallic model of the decommissioned global empire. I tend to agree, but you know, there is a part of me that can imagine just such a future, sitting on the antique concrete veranda of a lovely old Panera Bread, beside a gracefully aging highway-side parking lot, nibbling for hours on a pastry the size of la Tour Eiffel, refilling my paper cup again and again from the charming push-top thermoses. Personally I think the contracted US is going to look a lot more like Putin's Russia than anything, which is fine by me: the drinks are cheap and the smack plentiful.
What's interesting is how Romeny's worry was repackaged in his notorious CPAC speech. That's the one where he promises to make human sacrifice to the gods of war each month upon the waxing of the full moon, dressed in only a loin cloth, bare chest revealing the bloody brand of his ancient masters, carved daily into his flesh with a plastic butter knife. After pausing for a moment to explain how the Massachusetts Supreme Court actually forced him to have an incestuous gay orgy with his sons while his wife was tied to a chair and forced to read wedding vows over the ruckus, Romney says:
Conservatism is a belief in strength. It is because of America's strength that we don't all speak German and that our kids don't all speak Russian. And it is because of America's strength that our grandchildren will not have to speak Farsi or Arabic or Chinese.It is conservativisms most strongly held belief that we must preserve our linguistic patrimony. Yes! No! Why! That he went out of his way to include Farsi . . . it's a little boggling. I mean, I think that you can be perfectly able to believe that the evil Persians are going to set off a nuke in Manhattan without also convincing yourself that they're actually going to conquer America--actually occupy the continental United States, Hawaii, and Alaska--and are going to hold onto it for the, what, two generations necessary to replace one predominant language with another. That's probably overgenerous. Hell , the Medieval Muslims held al-Andalus for how many centuries and the Spanish managed to stick with their Latin derivatives. Even if we're overrun by the Eastern Hordes, I'm willing to bet that, like, we'll still totally be, like, speaking American, that, you know, like, great expression of our, you know, national character. You know what I'm sayin'?
This article in the Post reads like a Hammacher Schlemmer catalogue with copy by some second-rate Orwell. It is full of expensive machines of questionable functionality that broadly share a capacity to break often and expensively. (Personally, I'm sticking to the hydrofoil water scooter, a bargain if I ever fucking saw one at a mere 500 bucks.) Our government is desperate to deploy ever more preposterous devices in order to prevent another 9/11 by detecting dangerous items that have nothing to do with the way 9/11 was carried out. Turns out that only required locks on cockpit doors, which means that we could have avoided the TSA and Homeland Security and the thousand perversions of this late, security-state, global-gulag America for the cost of a Lowe's gift card. Think on that, if you will.
Thursday, February 07, 2008
I once had a professor who loved three things in ascending order: his wife, poetry, and birdwatching. His wife was delightful, and I am a fan of poetry, even his own, but birdwatching? I like birds and all, but mostly for eating. Nevertheless, I once accompanied him on a birdwatching jaunt through the woods around the local reservoir. He was, for all his enthusaism and persistence in this hobby, not especially skilled at it. Personally I can't tell a titmouse from an ostrich, but I'm fairly accurate when it comes to discerning the pews from the congregants in the bare ruined choirs. What I mean to say is: Prof, I'm pretty sure that's just a branch, a rock, a drifting cloud, an errant eyelash. Well, I wasn't going to rain on his evident joy in tromping through the woods and trying to confirm wheter that pine cone over there was a bluejay or a kingfisher or a bald eagle. Keep in mind this was Ohio at about the time of year we're at now, which makes anything other than crows in a field a rarity. Anyway, he would haul a gazillionth-edition Audobon a million pages thick from his donnish satchel and try to identify that bush over there. I was reasonably certain there were better guides out there, but once again, the sheer, visceral pleasure he took from the tome struck me as far too lovely and unaffected for any of my bullshit humor. So, we had a nice day in the woods, and afterward he made me some nice tea and his wife gave me a scone.
Innocent pleasure aside, the experience comes back to me every time I stroll over to Goldberg's Liberal Fascism blog, which is a skein of unceasing self-flattery the likes of which the world has never seen. There, witness the tireless efforts of the Goldbergian legions descry the fascisti among the winter brambles. Nothing escapes the long arms of their eyes and eyes of their arms. There isn't a blade of February grass that they can't misidentify not only by species and genus but, hell, by kingdom as a whole. The only true thing that Freud ever said was sometimes a cigar's just a cigar. That point is lost on Jonah G.--fortunately to hilarious effect. I advise getting stoned before you sling your binoculars around your neck and head into the woods, but I definitely recommend it as an hour well spent some bright, chilly afternoon.
If it weren't for intrepid local reporting, I'd've never known that:
Upper St. Clair School Superintendent Patrick O'Toole said this morning that district officials and Upper St. Clair police are investigating "allegations of a very serious nature" that have been made against a student at the high school.I'm guessing it's a sex thing.
Dr. O'Toole said the the allegations involve an incident that occurred at the high school that was brought to the attention of school officials on Tuesday. Neither the superintendent nor Upper St. Clair Police Chief Ron Pardini would provide details of the allegations until the investigation into them is complete.
Dr. O'Toole could not say what day the incident occurred because "part of the investigation is what day it occurred on." He said the student against whom the allegations were made is not in school and that "our students are safe."
He said the allegations are against only one student, but that there are several students "who have information" about the incident.
Chief Pardini said detectives were continuing to interview students today.
I find the word "restoration" rather hilarious in this context. Haggard's restoration is "incomplete." Does that mean that they never got around to applying the clear coat?
. . . is how these Charlie-Brown yahoos can just keep kicking.
Since I was bashing CATO the other day, I feel positively altruistic in suggesting this essay, which makes the commonsensical--and therefore, pace Voltaire, uncommon--point that grandpa doesn't really need the Lipitor.
On a related note: the time, effort, anguish, and expense we spend keeping people who ought to die from dying is insane. Aren't Americans supposed to be deeply religious and full of convictions of an afterlife? Hell, I'm a dirty atheist, but spare me my decrepitude, please. When it's my time, it's my time. Put my ashes in a coffee can and return me to the bosom of the ocean, which I loved so well.
Wednesday, February 06, 2008
This, of course, leads to a deeper question as to whether the USA is actually a serious society or just a nation of hopeless, greedy clowns? Are we even capable anymore of distinguishing between purposeful activity and the art of the grift?Follow the link to see what specifically he's talking about.
It seems to me that the answer is pretty obvious. What's behind Door Number 2? I mean, public provision in American basically amounts to redistributionist economics by way of progressive taxation and tax-code manipulation. This, I guess, ideally serves the ultimate purpose of bringing the Underclass into the Debtor Class, which we call the middle class, which is currently in foreclosure in the Phoenix Metro. Meanwhile, as Kunstler points out, the question is: Does investment in "infrastructure" mean that I'm going to get rail service from Pittsburgh to Cleveland, or does it mean that financial institutions are going to create--oh, what might they call it--High-Yield Bundled Transit Securities in which the potential future assets--the current debts--of a someday-to-be-revitalized rail line are collateralized, tranched, repackaged, re-lent, ad inf., all while the Amtrak serves gas-station sandwiches in the dining car and runs eight hours for a 200-mile trip? Does it mean that the streets in Pittsburgh are going to get resurfaced, or does it mean that some new highway interchange is going to be built at the cost of fifty miles of light rail out in the middle of who-knows-why-or-how?
I personally support some kind of Mutualist plan to raze all the soon-to-be-foreclosed, fallow exurban housing and highway retail property, instituting a new Homestead act, and re-agriculturating the again-arable land, but that doesn't really answer the question of whither Phoenix? Or greater LA, for that matter. I've seen Chinatown, you know? That shit's the desert.
This is all a roundabout way to say that "serious society" and "continental empire with huge overseas committments" do not each other equal, ever or at all.
Tuesday, February 05, 2008
This Times story is interesting because it actually shows how in the world the "Aos, with $50,000 in income, owe a total of $607,000 on mortgages for two houses they bought since they moved to the Phoenix area about two years ago." The emphasis is mine. They also have a $14,000 in credit card balances. Assuming that's their total current debt, they owe nearly twelve-and-a-half times their annual income. Clearly the rational step would be to declare bankruptcy, but that's become conveniently . . . difficult. Curiously, new restrictions on personal bankruptcies were passed at exactly the teetering crest of the housing-market wave-break. I'm sure that was just a coincidence, though.
For some additional Schadenfreude:
And while the region counts the aerospace company Honeywell International and computer chipmaker Intel among its largest employers, housing is the biggest component of the local economy, with construction accounting for nearly one in 10 jobs, or about 50 percent more than the national average.A classic pyramid scheme is "the biggest component of the local economy." Well, there's always Amway.
"Our economy out here is based on residential growth. That's our engine," said William A. Gosnell, a principal in Lee & Associates, one of Phoenix's largest commercial real estate firms. But with housing inventories and foreclosures up and prices down, residential construction slowed to a crawl, crippling the overall economy in the process.
I am going to propose, contre the consensus judgment of everyone who isn't still huddled in the Führerbunker plotting pincer moves and breakouts, that the so-called Surge in Iraq has achieved its political ends. How, you ask, could anyone make such a jarringly, obviously false claim? After all, there has been no "reconciliation" in Iraq. The Kurds retain their secessionist hopes and continue to angle for sole control of Northern oil revenues. The "de-Baathification" process is a shambles, and the impending consequence of failure in this arena is the undoing of the delicate alliances between the United States and Sunni Tribes of the "Anbar Awakening." Last week witnessed some of the most horrific, large-scale attacks on the civilian population that Iraq has seen in quite a while--excluding, of course, the re-escalating American air war which has routinely caused similar civilian casualties (not to mention far more substantial damage to infrastructure) over the past several months at least. Indeed, the apparent necessity of our mass bombing of urban Iraq would seem to undercut even the argument that despite failing politically, the Surge has achieved some sort of military victory: it has simply shifted civilian casualties off the balance books, since anyone killed by Americans is obviously a terrorist, and it, combined with our proxy use of Sunni tribesmen, has somewhat removed American ground forces from direct confrontation with "the enemy," whomever that happens to be on any given Sunday.
The political goal of the Surge was not to provide the calm requisite for political bargaining within the Iraqi government. There is no Iraqi government. Conciliatory bargaining, even if it were possible at the parliamentary level--a doubtful proposition in and of itself--would have no measurable effect on the various civil conflicts in Iraq. In any case, the equitable or proportional distribution of wealth, political access, and territory within the traditional borders of Iraq is an invention of the American imagination. Iraq is not going to look like Switzerland. That's a fact. The main purpose of the Surge was to remove the Occupation from its position as the preeminent issue in domestic American politics during an election year. The bipartisan architects of this policy understood that the press, by dint of its own reified ideology of "fairness," would feel constrained and compelled to report favorably on any "reduction in violence" in Iraq, and that any reports on the "failure of the Surge to achieve its political ends" would likewise be contextualized as a failure atop a kind of success. In this regard, the press was entirely predictable, and consensus Washington made a solid bet. Although Iraq remains at the fringes of political debate, with Republican candidates vaguely promising a continuation of the Occupation with gradual troop reductions and Democratic candidates vaguely promising . . . a continuation of the Occupation with gradual troop reductions, it has been displaced from the center of American politics by a number of domestic concerns that the press refers to categorically as "the economy." Consequently, an entirely traditional election narrative has developed, despite the supposedly revolutionary presence of a man of color and a person of gender on the Democratic side. The Republican candidates promise, in the words of John McCain, to "unleash the forces of the market," whatever on Earth that's supposed to mean, and Democrats promise a kind of bowdlerized Keynsianism, neither of which--needless to say--addresses the fundamental perversions of the American economic system or has the slightest chance of altering the structural defects of American State Capital. Meanwhile, the Imperial Consensus for permanent occupation continues unabated, and the strength of public opposition, for what little it was ever worth, is further sapped by the manufactured perception that our wars are undergoing modest improvements in fortune that will render them meaningfully finite.
Monday, February 04, 2008
So here's what I don't get about McCain. The thing that makes the press love him and call him a maverick and the Conservative establishment hate him and call him an apostate is Campaign Finance Reform. And there has been a great deal of talk about whether it is or is not liberal, whether it is or isn't an attempted restriction on free speech, whether it does or does not signal ideological dissent of some kind. What no one seems to mention is that it didn't work. Campaign finance wasn't reformed. The capacity of large organizations to give tremendous amounts of money wasn't diminished. The cost of campaigns was not curtailed. The length of the election season was not reduced. The manner in which campaigns are run and funded wasn't substantially altered. It's a dead-letter law, a non-reform. Everyone updated their Excel templates and went on exactly as before.
So aside from the fact that he's a senescent psychopath who imagines America as a New Sparta but without quite so much pedersasty, there's the fact that the signal achievement of his legislative career was pretty much the New Coke of politics. For what it's worth.
The Terrorists' War on Us.
Brad DeLong seems to have missed the fact that A.O. Scott has gone totally insane over the past decade, his brain reduced to the dessicated animal bone-meal that they use to make film stock. As in: "God, this Rambo movie totally sucks! I love it! Thumbs up!" Q.E.Muthafuckin.D. Otherwise, I will see his praise of the film version of The Devil Wears Prada and raise him one or two. I actually read the source book one day off the rack in a Kinko's while I was waiting for the moron to ruin some documents for me, so believe me when I tell you that though the film was certainly no masterpiece, it represents to single greatest qualitative improvement from book to movie in the history of filmmaking. The book is almost unutterably bad--its characters are drawn with all the skill of a toddler scribbling on a paper placemat with Bob Evans' complimentary crayons. It has no setting, although the place-names may remind you of a tourist map of New York. Its villainess has all the depth of Skeletor. The narrator, with whom we're meant to empathize or something, is catty, unlikeable, and largely incoherent.
In the film, par contre, Anne Hathaway plays a serviceable character in a decent coming-of-age role. Stanley Tucci is genuinely touching as her brother-father-homo-mentor figure. Emily Blunt manages to make her elder-assistant character's meanness feel--almost--like genuine overcompensation for personal insecurity. And Meryl Streep plays editor Miranda Priestly less as Anna Wintour than as Marquise Merteuil, which is really quite an accomplisment. The Devil Wears Prada is not Dangerous Liasons, needless to say, but it's worth watching for the following primer on the economy of choice:
MIRANDA PRIESTLY: [Miranda and some assistants are deciding between two similar belts for an outfit. Andy sniggers because she thinks they look exactly the same] Something funny?Anyway, the film is a gumdrop, but a tasty one in my estimation.
ANDY SACHS: No, no, nothing. Y'know, it's just that both those belts look exactly the same to me. Y'know, I'm still learning about all this stuff.
MIRANDA PRIESTLY: This... 'stuff'? Oh... ok. I see, you think this has nothing to do with you. You go to your closet and you select out, oh I don't know, that lumpy blue sweater, for instance, because you're trying to tell the world that you take yourself too seriously to care about what you put on your back. But what you don't know is that that sweater is not just blue, it's not turquoise, it's not lapis, it's actually cerulean. You're also blithely unaware of the fact that in 2002, Oscar De La Renta did a collection of cerulean gowns. And then I think it was Yves St Laurent, wasn't it, who showed cerulean military jackets? And then cerulean quickly showed up in the collections of 8 different designers. Then it filtered down through the department stores and then trickled on down into some tragic casual corner where you, no doubt, fished it out of some clearance bin. However, that blue represents millions of dollars and countless jobs and so it's sort of comical how you think that you've made a choice that exempts you from the fashion industry when, in fact, you're wearing the sweater that was selected for you by the people in this room. From a pile of stuff.
Wow. Eli Manning. And you thought Ben Roethlisberger was tough to sack.
I didn't hate the Patriots and I didn't care about the Giants, so I picked the Giants because I'm from Pittsburgh and we like the underdog. Three boring quarters were definitely rewarded. I pity the poor jerks who left before the fourth.
Sunday, February 03, 2008
Listening to Mittens and the Senator from Hanoi bicker about who is or isn't really a Conservative is like sitting as a spectator to a cheap-ass Inquisition. It's obscurantist; conversion isn't necessarily creditable; the holy writ is written in a language that the congregants don't understand and the priests, frankly, don't know it quite as well as they'd want you to think. Say what you will about the ineffectual Democrats, they've at least got a theme of sorts. All that uplift and hope and change talk may be insipid, but you gotta figure the jingles will at least move a little merchandise. The Republicans, on the other hand, appear to be running on the idea that, No, it really is your father's Buick.
Lee Siegel, the former The New Republic critic and perennial contender for the title of World's Prissiest, has written a book about how the internet is bad because it makes people angry and lonely. All such theses--and there are plenty these days--are tendentious. I like the internet just fine. Got a MySpace profile. Got colleagues on LinkdIn. Watch the YouTube. Have this here blog, and have even made some decent buddies here. Yet, in the words of the philosopher, I still jerk off manually.
Now, I'm not especially interested in Siegel or his book, but I did read the Times review this morning, and I was struck by it's closing:
The fact that a man as smart as Siegel came to put Lonelygirl15 and Iraq into the same train of argument is a sign of the Internet’s power to make people lose all sense of perspective. The ramped-up affect of “Against the Machine,” its air of haste and its ad hominem quality are uncomfortably reminiscent of the blogs Siegel so dislikes. There are moments when it seems that Siegel is baring psychic wounds in public, and the reader comes to suspect that he was much more troubled by his bruising experience with the blogosphere than he is willing to let on. Why is so much to do with the Internet — so much of what’s said on it, and so much of what’s said about it, by its advocates and its detractors — so angry? “Against the Machine” doesn’t solve that mystery. But at least Siegel signs his arguments with his own name.I admit: it seems to me that the internet produces principally a confusion in the minds of otherwise literate adults between anonymity and psuedonymity, and it seems to me that if the latter was good enough for The Federalist Papers, it's probably going to work out just fine for Joe Blog.