Slipping the surly bonds of Pittsburgh for Miami. Poor me--poolside blogging at The Standard.
Then again, Miami/Dade is one of those endless, freeway-linked urban agglomerations that bodes civilizational doom for we--what was that memorable phrase--"oil addicts."
So, I probbly won't add posts until tomorrow.
Thursday, March 30, 2006
Slipping the surly bonds of Pittsburgh for Miami. Poor me--poolside blogging at The Standard.
Wednesday, March 29, 2006
Jim VandeHei's "analysis" reads like lil' Jimmy showed up for the Received Opinion Gala in his cute 'lil Hickey Freeman tux and shiny new shoes, only to find that he was the only belle at the ball.
It is very, very easy to turn "the Iraqis" into a rhetorical set piece. Both pro- and antiwar factions do it.
We have destroyed these people's lives. It's important to remember that. Their lives should never be so foreign to us that we presume them to be incommunicably Other. They are human beings with families. They had livelihoods. They had homes. Even under a dictatorship, they woke in the morning, went to school, went to work, ate together, made love together, went to cafés together, read books, read newspapers, walked in the streets, went to market, were sometimes sick, were sometimes sad, were sometimes angry, got married, broke up, grew friendships, told jokes.
How much more will we take from them? A lot, most probably. In our typical, arrogant fashion we blundered into the house and said, "Ah, the plumbing is broken, we'll fix it." And then we tore down the whole house. And then we stood in the wreckage, sheepishly, and argued about whether or not it was a good idea to begin with.
Iraq is not an idea. Iraq is a place. Iraqis are not an idea. Iraqis are people.
As those of you who read this blog are probably aware, I'm a jokester by disposition, and doomsaying is just as deserving of mockery as every other form of human certitude.
Still, I confess that I damn myself every day for having failed to prevent this horror. I did what I could; I added my words, my name, and my presence to the fight. But we were too weak, or we compromised too much, or else . . . I don't know. I only know we lost, and because war isn't a game, we can't leave the field, and we can't demand a rematch.
Read that linked post again, and then consider this: It is very likely that "Riverbend" will die in this war.
Via blogoland via Josh Marshall, I find The Radio Blogger posting a transcript of Hugh Hewitt's interview with Michael Ware, an Australian reporter who's done yeoman's work reporting on the insurgency in Iraq. Anyway, everyone else has commented on Hewitt's claim to courage, which is that he works in a skyscraper. (No one else seems to note a certain prior occurence that adds to the irony.)
I'm more amused by the exchange just prior, though, where Hewitt all but calls Ware an Islamofascist or sumthin for "consorting with the enemy." Hewitt burps up some whacko line of questions about Allied reporters meeting with Nazis during the Second World War. Um, Hugh, meet William Shirer. Early in the war, granted, mais quand même . . .
So Andy is plugging Chuckles McNegrohater's newest turd on the wall of the monkeyhouse, In Our Hands : A Plan To Replace The Welfare State
Here ya go, kid, here's 10 grand. Don't spend it all in one place! But make sure you spend 30% of it on healthcare, and we strongly recommend you spend an additional 20% on retirement.
These guys are all like, "It'll reduce the bureaucracy," and maybe that's so, although I'm hard-pressed to believe that this sort of monetary distribution with stipulated spending categories would send the federal workforce packin' off to other-gainful-employment-land. Just who the fuck is going to track the couple of hundred million people to make sure they spend that 3 grand properly on healthcare. Or will it be a withholding? And won't that create bureaucracy?
Enough seriousness; back to the funnin' around. Here's the real question, Perfesser Murray: if those lazy niggers are so damn inherently inferior in intelligence, then why the hell are you gonna give them a free five grand, or whatever's leftover, to blow on crack, fancy rims, and fried chicken?
Dear Andrew Sullivan,Isn't that precisely the opposite of a Hobbesian "world" (sic)? I mean, Hobbes gets off his best line, or at least his most remembered, by describing the natural condition of mankind--ya know, "solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short." But the "common-wealth ecclesiasticall and civill" he proposes is rather the opposite of that, isn't it? I mean, if I get my name appended as a modifier, I'd like to think it'll be for something I prescribe rather than something I abhor.
What the hell are you talking about when you say, "Security everywhere and nowhere. The Hobbesian world Rumsfeld unleashed and refused to contain has yet to be reined in."
But maybe that's just me.
Can someone expalain to me why American neo-Nazis model themselves on the brownshirts? Because it seems rather odd to me that your desires for the glorious birth of a racially pure America would be, uh, sublimated to your desire for a violent, ignominious demise amidst a flurry of sodomitical accusations.
Via the always informative Juan Cole over at Informed Comment, I came across this interview with Eric Haney, one of the founders of the army's very covert and very elite Delta Force. His assessment is damning, to say the least, although he ends on the obligatory "the American people come around" trope, which strikes me as a bit of an overestimation of Joe O'Protectme out in the heartland.
He does stick it to Cheney, though, which is good for a disgusted laugh or two. And despite his hopeful conclusion, he isn't particularly sanguine about the wisdom of the American people. Money quote:
So we destroyed whatever credibility we had. ... And I say "we," because the American public went along with this. They voted for a second Bush administration out of fear, so fear is what they're going to have from now on.
Tuesday, March 28, 2006
. . . that the outgoing White House Chief of Staff, Andy Card, chose rather inpropitiously to quote from Ecclesiastes upon his resignation?
There are two possibilities as I see it:
1) He knows even less about the Bible than his ascriptural born-again former boss and was actually quoting Seeger;
2) He knows plenty about the Bible and was getting in a totally bitchin' dig at his history-will-vindicate-me, ascriptural, born-again former boss.
1:9 The thing that hath been, it is that which shall be; and that which is done is that which shall be done: and there is no new thing under the sun.
1:10 Is there any thing whereof it may be said, See, this is new? it hath been already of old time, which was before us.
1:11 There is no remembrance of former things; neither shall there be any remembrance of things that are to come with those that shall come after.
Congratulations are in order. I know we live in a world full of meaningless professional plaudits, but still.
Art Rooney is a stand-up guy. Like his dad. And his grandfather, whom Pittsburghers still call the Chief. They were and are good, honest, kind, decent men who run a great business and a great sports team, who obviously respect their employees and their fans, who've steadfastly resisted the urge to remake their team and its image except to try to build a better football team. I didn't love the new-stadium boondoggle in Pittsburgh, but even still. These are good, unpretentious men, and though you'd hear plenty of folks cursing Bill Cowher when we lost the division, I don't think there's a person in Pittsburgh with a bad word for the Rooneys. They're the sort of men that the jackass who wrote Manliness would do well to pay attention to.
And if you want to know why I so despise George W. Bush, it's because he's everything the Chief was not, though he affects to be otherwise. He is snipish, impatient, unkind, rigid for the sake of rigidity, condescending to those he considers his social inferiors even as he dresses up in his regular-guy-ness. He's a faker. If you've ever met a real stand-up guy, you can always tell.
Whoa. So Lindsey Graham and John Kyl stayed up late blowing lines and writing their little screenplay, and then they sent it to the Supreme Court in an amicus brief?!
This reminds me of the time that I got bored and substituted a photocopied script of Huis Clos for some contract negotiation minutes.
You know the funny thing? I didn't really do that. But they did! Oh, oh, Lindsey . . .
The American press’ coverage of the French general strike and mass protest against the CPE (contrat première embauche) is full of all the usual cultural myopia with which Americans view the world, and then some. Reading it is a strange exercise for me, because while I’ve been a media skeptic for as long as I’ve watched the news and read the paper, it was living in France as a college student that demonstrated to me just how incontrovertibly incapable of accurate international reporting are the American news media. (And that was an important realization, because if our journalists can’t be trusted to report on another Western nation with centuries of shared history and diplomacy and culture, then how the hell can they report on, say, Iraq with even a modicum of accuracy?)
As with most reporting on Western European political economy, the coverage is full of American economyspeak, a mumbo-jumbo of half-baked devotion to free markets (a black-is-white codeword for a semi-planned corporate welfare state) in which social democracy must be doomed because so many of its protections tilt toward workers and away from employers. In the U.S., we speak only in the broadest terms of such-and-such number of jobs being created, as if Ben Bernanke or George Bush spake “Let there be . . .” and there they were. We have an obscenely limited economic catechism. What is necessary for growth? Flexibility. And what is flexibility? The ability to hire and fire at will; the ability to lower labor costs by cutting benefits. And what prevents flexibility? Unions. How? By being ossified.
And on and on. Now I am no tremendous fan of the Western European economic model, although I do admire and envy the efficiency and quality of French health care in particular, but I find it telling and deeply disturbing that Americans and their media mouthpieces view citizens making demands of their government as more-than-a-bit-crazy. “There go those Frogs, marching in the streets again, asking for something they probably ought not to have.” Well, what the French have is a culture of political responsibility totally lacking in the U.S. Their government acted in contravention of their interests, and they collectively declare “We will not allow this.” And they are willing to back that up with mass action. That doesn't mean that their perceived self-interest is entirely congruent with future economic success, growth, and stability for their nation; it probably isn't. It's to say, rather, that they don't just swallow government pap about what economic rights citizens should and shouldn't possess. The only people who seem to retain that spirit in these-ah-here United States are the Latinos.
I won’t remark on the politics of the CPE, nor how Dominique de Villepan screwed himself and the already-fragile center-right government by refusing to negotiate the law in advance, so unlike his political rival Sarkozy, who spearheaded a very similar law applicable to small businesses not even a year ago. That isn’t the point. Nor do I have much to say on the specific merits of the law, except that American commentators yapping about French youths’ ridiculous demands for security have no clue how rigorous an educational system they had to pass through, how many unpaid internships, how many short-term, contract jobs for tiny stipends. Bref, these young people have already passed through a series of short-term employments with no benefits or compensation, and now they seek the protections afforded to all other adult workers. You may believe that the system in general is overgenerous, but the youth aren’t making untoward demands for broadly undeserved security. They only want what everyone else has, and they reject economic martyrdom for the sake of helping the center-right achieve its Liberalizing goals.
The more significant point, though, is that the French are demonstrating how to turn disapproval of policy into countervailing action, and if the general strike continues, they’ll succeed. This should be an object lesson to Americans, who, despite the “economy is robust” newspeak, have been conned into believing simultaneously that our economy is an unbearably fragile thing that will explode into a zillion pieces if some machinist at US Airways gets to keep his pension.
Monday, March 27, 2006
The first post on this blog dealt with the government's fantastically inept prosecution of Zacarias Moussaoui, a man for whom the term "death wish" is insufficiently connotative of delusionally suicidal anomie. Now, despite as impressive a record of screw-ups as any prosecuting team has managed to amass in recent memory, they get the head on the platter because the attorney for the defense failed to keep his whacko client from mounting the witness stand and claiming his place as the most fearsome Muslim warrior since Saladin, or something.
Yep, just him and Richard Reid, the shoe bomber.
These two are like the Groucho and Harpo of international terrorism, and the idea that, in Moussaoui's words, he was "supposed to pilot a plane to hit the White House," and that Richard Reid was, "one definite member" of his crew" is on its face absurd. Was he going to blow up the hijacked aircraft with his shoe prior to reaching its Executive target? Inquiring minds want to know.
So we're going to execute this buffoon, and the authorities will call it a victory in the war on terror, and the news will just eat it up as Judge Brinkema pronounces the verdict. I will mention only in passing that there are startling parallels between this prosecution and that of Timothy McVeigh, right up to the last-minute, self-martyring own-up, and probably going on until the syringe empties into his arm. Conspiracy theories use the material of narrative to account for randomnity in human affairs, so when human affairs acquire the parallelisms through which good narratives create meaning out of disparate happenings and characters . . .
Well, suffice to say, for now, that I find this an unsurprising turn of events.
So Jim Sensenbrenner, a man who has inherited a fortune based largely on Kotex feminine hygiene products, wants to, uh, stem the flow of illegal immigration? The joke writes itself.
My question. Here's a guy who, along with his supporters, wants us to believe that illegals are crashing the border and sucking at the public teat, eating up money for education and health care and whatever the hell else. His solution? Throw them, their families, their employers, and their priests in jail. That will apparently reduce their total economic burden on society in the same way that the "Bush" "Economic" "Policies" will save our nation from its crushing debt--by adding to it. Never let it be said that these gentlemen aren't imaginative in their policy prescriptions, though a more colloquial locution might be to say that they are totally fucking crazy, every goddamn last one of 'em.
Meanwhile, a very serious question: What jails?
I think that Snooky McPebbles, or whatever his name was, who used to run the Sharks or the Jets or whoever, instead of talkin' all that shit about writing kid's books and finding Jesus to avoid execution, he should've just told the judge that he totally denied any of that bad shit ever went down, and besides, he was acting "in an advisory capacity only."
Convicted Gang Leader Pleads for Reduced Sentence
Los Angeles - At today's sentencing hearing, Snooky McPebbles defended his conduct in court and asked for lenience.
"Snookly ain't nevah killed nobody," Mr. McPebbles said.
He continued, "I was just showin' them othah niggahs how I roll."
Oh, lordy. These men are U.S. Senators . . . and doing a bang-up job representing our nation in China with all the skill and sophistication of a couple of Midwestern Rotarians demanding the non-smoking section at a Parisian café and telling their austere server (who does indeed par-lay-vooz Ahng-glaysh) that they don’t eat that horse meat.
Did Tom Coburn really tell a group of University students that "a man by the name of Jesus" was his model for leadership? It’s difficult to ignore that he’s claiming, in essence, to adopt as a model for political leadership an itinerant preacher with a rag-tag collection of societal cast-offs as disciples. Unless he’s proposing that he, too, shall remake the ethics of the world, in which case I hope at least one student referred to "a man by the name of K'ung-fu-tzu."
Anyway, the truly funny moment in the article is Chuck Schumer observing of a meal: "It wasn't your typical Chinese food," added Schumer. "It was amazing stuff, not your usual stuff." I’m not sure if he imagines that chop suey made its way in reverse across the Pacific to be adopted by a bunch of primitive Chinamen or what, but I chalk that statement up as the Hilarious Example of the Inevitable End of American Hegemony of the Day ©.
As the hopeless, hapless American political establishment prevaricates and squabbles internally over the proper nomenclature for Iraq’s inexorable death-spiral into bloody chaos, and as Howie Kurtz and Co. pull their chins and ponder whether or not the Media, whoever or whatever that is, is working hard enough to report on the girl scouts and puppies and kittens and spelling bee champions and rainbows and rock-candy mountains, it’s perfectly clear to every thinking human being that the problem isn’t a matter of balance between so-called good and so-called bad news. The problem is that just as the American military is totally incapable of effectively prosecuting Fourth Generation Warfare, the American press is totally incapable of conveying the magnitude and true nature of the unfolding disaster, a task that would require a discursive capacity completely beyond your average journalist, let alone your average journalistic institution, both of which are simply staggered into dissipation by the pace, scale, and changeability of The Situation in Iraq.
The same can be said for our domestic political (ahem) process, by the way. I don’t discount bad faith and bad intent on the part of our government, neither before the war as in the linked article, nor currently as, for example, every time that Dick Cheney opens his carnivorous maw. But that sort of broad, generic dishonesty is to be expected: the enemy is always in his last throes; he is always whomever we happen to be fighting at a given moment; he is always seeking to undermine whoever is our partner; his situation is always hopeless; the process, such as it is, will always prevail. Antiwar folks who spend their waking hours dissecting the specific dishonesties of the administration and its pro-war allies are playing their rôle perfectly by frittering away their own energy on the—you’ll pardon the expression—birdshot rhetoric of lies blasted indiscriminately to pollute the sea of information. Meanwhile, the incapacity of any politician to appreciate the scope of the Iraqi debacle is dispiriting, to say the least. Listen to Ted Kennedy list the lies of Dick Cheney, and consider that he does so as if the lying is the point. Of course Dick Cheney is lying. But when he returns to the coffin full of his native soil and Don Rumsfeld beams back up to the mothership, there will still be a former nation known as Iraq, and if today’s reporting has any predictive value at all, then I’d like to quote a good artist friend of mine, who a year or so back made a series of pins emblazoned with plain white text: "Everything Gets Worse."