Friday, August 13, 2010
The Times weighs in. The Occupation of Afghanistan is causing too much anxiety and confusion. In America.
Thursday, August 12, 2010
Why not start with an egregious insult? Is there anything more absurd than a moral colloquy on the ideal of heterosexual marriage conducted by a fat, sloppy virgin and a celibate Catholic dyke? It's like getting a real estate seminar from a Phish fan who lives out of his van and a schizophrenic homeless woman who lives under a bridge. Their combined, speculative insight on the unique good produced through religiously and legally exclusive heterosexual lifetime monogamous pairbonding has all the moral and scienfitic weight of that kid in third grade who informed you with hushed, wide-eyed certainty that babies come out of moms' butts. (Ross Douthat, I have on good authority, still believes that to be true. Eve Tushnet can neither confirm nor deny what she thinks, and I am told that she wears at all times a large, inverted Elizabethan collar around her waist so as not to accidentally catch a glimpse of an unapproved body parts.)
Anyway, it's good for a few chuckles. Douthat keeps saying that the virtue of his argument is that it's "thick." You can say that again, brother.
Wednesday, August 11, 2010
Meanwhile, a country that once amazed the world with its visionary investments in transportation, from the Erie Canal to the Interstate Highway System, is now in the process of unpaving itself: in a number of states, local governments are breaking up roads they can no longer afford to maintain, and returning them to gravel.American declinism is a fetish of mine, but regular readers will note that although I pine for it like a masochist pines for the discipline of the firmly wielded crop, I expect our fat, ugly empire to bump and grind its way through at least another depressing century. But Krugman, one of the leaders of the latter-day NewDealers, is convinced that our bags are stowed, seats upright, tray tables locked, and the handbasket express is headed straight to hell. Turn off the lights, tear up the streets, that's all she wrote. The failure of Though, Bama to pursue a quinzillion dollars of direct domestic federal expenditure instead of the paltry javillion spent to-date consigns us to the dustbin of history, which has got to be getting awfully crowded for a dustbin, what with the rate that peoples, places, things, and ideas are getting swept into it these days.
-The Krug Man
America is overpaved. I grew up in Fayette County, Pennsylvania, and there isn't a holler on Laurel Ridge that hasn't got its own asphaltized state route, even if it only sees one beat-down Chevy every decade. The doomed Mon-Fayette expressway is a four-lane, controlled-access turpike that, literally Joe Biden, goes from nowhere to nowhere. Pennsylvania's second-most-famous groundhog, Ed Rendell, keeps burping up "report cards" warning that, literally Joe Biden, every single bridge in Pennslyvania is a fart and a hiccup away from total structural collapse, and yet it is unthinkable and unimaginable to propose that perhaps we have too many bridges, too many roads. Every major city in America is surrounded by peripheral highways which are in turn surrounded by more. Cleveland, OH, a city with a population of three retired steel workers, a black guy, and a rat has a highway system as elaborate as Paris'.
Colorado is turning out streetlights? Bully! Modern streetlighting is obscenely wasteful. The pure and unnecessary expenditure of megawatts, light dumped futilely into outer space, is a travesty.
Hawaii is shortening the school year? Oh no. We might fall behind Japan! Or South Korea! Or Burkina Faso. We might not be competetive.
Liberals are the most egregious American exceptionalists, and they are the most avaricious preachers of the gospel of expansion. America could suffer a substantial economic contraction and still remain far and away the richest society the earth has ever known. I regret that this is true, because so long as we can afford it, it's gonna be faster, pussycat, kill, kill for the engine of empire. Nevertheless, a bit of municipal belt-tightening around the country is hardly the sacking of Rome.
But what's dangerously myopic about going ballistic as Gibbs did in his statements is that just 10 years ago we had a little event in which only a tiny portion of the base went with a third party bid from the left --- and the consequences were catastrophic. Democrats, of all people, should remember that every vote matters.Dangerously myopic! Terrifyingly farsighted! Horrifically astigmatic! Every vote! Thanksralph!
What the events of the last ten years have demonstrated is that a drawly Southern Republican and a clipped Northern Democrat will substantively govern in the same manner, engage the same means, and pursue the same ends. If Barack Obama, a man with a modest-yet-demonstrable history as something resembling a liberal, embraces aggressive war, the surveillance state, and the necessary eradication of social security, how the hell do they imagine that Al Gore, one of the most conservative and staunchly pro-military Democrats in the modern history of the party would've governed? You think one of the architects of the decade-long collective punishment of Iraq and America's official policy of "regime change" would've overlooked the opportunities of nineleven? Because . . . because in the alternate future history in which we're living the Norse Dynamite Commission gave him a Best-in-Show award? They gave that shit to Obama, too. I'll say this, for Al. At least he resisted the temptation to address the dignitaries from atop that monstrous pile of Afghan skulls and weeping Pakistani women.
By the way, the natural counterpart to thanksralphery is wouldyouprefermccaineration. The implication, apparently, is that in place of the blood-drinking crocodilian overlord we got, we could've gotten one who was also snippy . . . and old! How crazy would he have been? Whew, really dodged the bullet! I am increasingly convinced that this alternative isn't merely counterfactual, but wildly so. Now, you can argue that Barack Obama won the election because people were tired of Gee-dub, or because Obama ran a masterful political campaign, or simply because the economy crashed at exactly the right moment, but the reality is that Obama won because the system whereby American political parties select their candidates is weird and the Republicans ended up with McCain, a truly lousy contestant, a lurching, senescent grouch with a whiny voice and shaky hands who selected as a running mate a pneumatic PTA chief whose hee-haw antics offended the professional class. He never had a chance. If, on the other hand, the Republican party had produced a reasonable establishment candidate--let's call this hypothetical character Ritt Momney--with good hair, a ready smile, and a program of technocratically plausible, bureaucratically feasible empty promises, and if that grinning Gorgon had picked as a partner some sort of reassuringly homey, vaguely Christian backslapper--let's call him, oh, I don't know, Huck Mikeabee--then that candidate very well might've beaten back the challenge of the guy with the funny name, the windy style of speechifying, and the poor debating skills. And Ritt Momney, well, a guy like that, presumably, would've done, uh, what now? Would've largely continued the policies of his predecessor, even as he deplored certain rhetorical excesses and sought a more competently business-like demeanor to paste over the operations of the empire? Sounds familiar, nay?
The "activist base" . . . oy, you've got to love this self-conception: the scurrying loyalists of a top-down factional hierarchy perceiving themselves as engaged in activism, like the catering staff considering themselves titans of industry because they lay out the water bottles before a meeting of the board of directors. The "activist base" persists in believing that The Obama is An Historic Candidate who was handed An Historic Moment and is in the process of squandering it, when plainly Obama is a very ordinary administrator at a fairly ordinary moment doing an entirely ordinary job. Empires get embroiled in simmering conflicts in the provinces. Recessions happen. The imperatives and inertia of the empire are larger than the current emperor. He'll probably get drummed out after this term, and the next guy will probably benefit from a modest economic recovery that will ensure him eight years, even if he's got bad table manners. You heard it hear first. The motto of this blog bears repeating: plus ça change, motherfuckers.
Tuesday, August 10, 2010
In order to prevent the coming caliphate, we must imitate a pseudo-monarchical Islamic state. Further confirmation of my theory that from top to bottom, what our terror warriors really suffer is the silver medalist's envy.
Monday, August 09, 2010
Oh no! It's "The right's ingenious campaign to turn one billion people into our sworn enemies." Whaddarewegonnadooooo?
It occurs to me that Our President, a man of the putative American left, is actively engaged in the ongoing murder of thousands of Muslims. But, uh, yeah, I'm sure the casual racists of a rump nationalist political party are doing the real damage with their handwritten signs and zoning board challenges.
Whenever and wherever a human does something of which the Times is not certain it approves, the grey lady turns to psychology, like an eleventh-grader with a collection of Capote stories and a looming term paper deadline. The wounded loner narrative is thus their second most popular plotline, a whisker behind the fake trend story. It is marvelously elastic; I've read it regarding murderers, lefty politicians, preachermen, domestic terrorists, stand-up comedians, indie actors, and small-label musicians. And now Pfc. Bradley Manning.
As is usually the case in the venerable rag, newsgirl Ginger Thompson seeks to portray Manning's convictions as symptomatic of an implicitly flawed personal character. Gay computer-nerd loser is the pathology, and revealed government secrets is how it presents clinically. That Manning's convictions and willingness to act upon them might in fact reveal the core of his character does not occur to her; I suspect it would only frighten her if it did. Early episodes in which Manning defends his beliefs and principles despite the social opprobrium and unpopularity it brings him are inverted and reinterpreted as a lonely child acting out.
At school, Bradley Manning was clearly different from most of his peers. He preferred hacking computer games rather than playing them, former neighbors said. And they said he seemed opinionated beyond his years about politics, religion, and even about keeping religion out of politics.Even about keeping religion out of politics. Hallelujah. We've got a gen-u-wine weirdo.
The Times throws in the usual soupçon of sexual confusion, even though Manning does not appear to be sexually confused in the slightest, and ties up the package neatly with a strongly implied motive of self-aggrandizement, ascribing an "inflated sense of purpose" to the young private, before--and this is why we can be glad that the Times appears to be run and edited by illiterates--dropping in a damning quote that makes exactly the opposite point it was plainly included to make.
“I wouldn’t mind going to prison for the rest of my life, or being executed so much,” he wrote, “if it wasn’t for the possibility of having pictures of me plastered all over the world press.”Well, a negative statement followed be a negative subordinate clause is a little hard to parse. Either Thompson and her editors sought to undermine the entire thesis of the story in its ultimate paragraph, or else, far more likely, they misread the quotation and thought they'd caught out Manning proclaiming that he did it for fame.