DON'T KNOW MUCH ABOUT HISTORY: I linked this review of Jonah Goldberg's book last night, and a reader pointed out that the text reference to Roosevelt's National Recovery Administration contained a hyperlink to articles about the National Rifle Association. The error is still there this afternoon. Despite having the same initials, those are not the same . . . .The MSM wars on hyperlinkage. It's curious, but the capacity of the putative right to mount outrage against the establishment resembles nothing so much as every cubicle drone's rage against his office manager. Why does Susan get all the nice pens, anyway?
I'm sure that mistake is not the fault of David Oshinsky, the reviewer, but rather of some undereducated staffer at the Times, but it serves to illustrate the need for the kind of history lesson Goldberg offers, as well as a point made by many, that the NYT doesn't take its hyperlinks very seriously.
Saturday, December 29, 2007
The candidates keep telling me that we need a change in Washington. I agree, and I think the Brits had the right idea circa 1814. Otherwise, there seems to be a lot of talk about Bhutto, which is, as your friend and mine, Dennis Perrin, notes, rather shamelessly tawdry, full of the all-about-US vibe that America digs on. What does it mean for "our Pakistan policy." Is the President's Pakistan policy a failure. And so forth and so on, whatever and ever, amen. Why do we have a Pakistan policy? Is there no nation on earth, no people, no place, for which and for whom our "policy" could be disinterest in the dictionary sense of the damned word? I'm sure they make something in Pakistan, or grow something, or something. Couldn't we just buy whatever it is, and sell something back, or neither, or not? Who cares what Hillary Clinton thinks about Pakistan, or if Mike Huckabee knows which border is on what side? The fact that we must all bear listening to these freaks as they descend upon a crazy gang of Iowan eccentrics hawking the notion that the assassination of a foreign political candidate has got fuck all to do with the price of rice in Dubuque is torture. The caucus-goers, meanwhile, have got it in their party-pickled little brains that they have some sort of citizen-borne fiduciary responsibility to select the person who will best acquit herself of a Pakistan policy. Consider that causal line, if you will.
Bill Kristol is getting a regular Times column, and the intersphere is atwitter. Says Balko:
This would be the same William Kristol who for the last seven years—actually, for his entire life, really—has been wrong about just about everything. Most recently and notably, he’s been wrong to the tune of a few thousand dead U.S. troops, who knows how many dead Iraqis, and what will likely be more than $1 trillion of U.S. tax dollars down the pisser. And he’ll now have the most influential chunk of real estate in journalism from which to trumpet his perpetual wrongness. Makes you wonder, exactly how many major screw-ups does a guy need to make in this town for people to stop taking him seriously? Really. What possible insights could William Kristol have left to fill two columns per week—particularly that aren’t already filling David Brooks’ space on the page?The idea that it matters whether or not Bill Kristol has been right or wrong, that the relevance of observable facts to the world as he describes it has anything to do with his pundiferous existence, is rather quaint. I am not, in any case, entirely convinced that "wrong" is exactly the proper descriptor. It implies, I think, that to some extent Kristol's job involves observing world events, analyzing them through the lenses of politics, economics, culture, and history, and producing insights that allow men with lesser access to information and poorer interpretive abilities to see more clearly. But neither you nor I nor Radley Balko really believes that Bill Kristol sat down and concluded that it was wise and necessary to invade Iraq, say. The necessity of invading Iraq was embedded in the current Zeitgeist of the American empire, and Kristol's task was to provide some more or less publicly palatable ideas about why this inevitable thing was, inevitably, going to happen.
It also means the roster of Times columnists will now run the full gamut of political opinion—from big government liberals (Dowd, Krugman, Herbert) to big government conservatives (Brooks, Kristol), to big government moderates (Kristof, Friedman). Sadly, I think we’ve reached the point where many people, particularly in journalism, really do believe that this is the fullest possible range of respectable political opinion.
As for how a propagandist came to be hired by the venerable Sulzberger family newsletter, well, the question rather answers itself. Radley is right to note a certain . . . favorably pro-government bent to the Times opinionmaking section. Big government conservatives; big government liberals. I agree with Radley here, but I think he's misnaming the malady. How about something a little more melodious. How about, Imperialists?
Thursday, December 27, 2007
Before we begin shedding too copious tears for the late Benazir Bhutto, we should recall what precisely she represented, which was a megolomaniacal, Western kleptocrat who thought of Pakistan as a family fief and who, in many unguarded moments, spoke of it as such as well. Now I, for one, would prefer to live under a corrupt aristocrat than under a military dictator. That said, all the speculation about how Bhutto's death will affect Pakistan's "transition to democracy" is perfectly crazy.
I admit, though, that the cui bono confuses me a bit.
Monday, December 24, 2007
Of all the things that Ron Paul says, the most curious to modern ears--at least if you watch the news and read the blogs--is that he supports a gold standard. But why is that really so crazy? I'm not talking about a gold standard, specifically, but the general idea of backing currency with something valuable (which, let's be honest, really just means rare)--metal, gems, what have you, as was the case from the earliet human currencies which were actually made from such materials until, you know, Nixon. It seems that the principle objection is that for a nation to readopt a backed currency would immediately and dramatically reduce its monetary supply, would eviscerate the financial services sector, and would vastly constrict governments' abilities to do shit like borrow a trillion dollars for a war. To which I guess the reply is, Yeah, and?
Partisans have always been apologists to the core, but in the last year Democratic partisans have turned into full-fledged apologists, arguing endlessly that all knowledge and discovery falls within their revelation, even when it doesn't. 2007 was the year in which I witnessed the most extraordinary perseverations that I've ever seen. I saw the most mediocre minds of my generation destroyed, well-fed, faux-rational, bien habillés. 2007 was a monument to conventionality. With death and war on every side, it managed to emerge as a year of miraculous political banality. Not a single Democrat of actual or electronic stature said, "Enough." Not one! After the last, most important election ever in our lifetimes ever™, nothing of substance has been accomplished. The wars have not ended. They've escalated. The various depredations of torture and universal surveillance are now more resolutely regularized, itemized, reified, and legalized than before. The precariousness of our economic situation is difficult to overstate, and yet while our insane, financilized, subsidized, bastardized, bowdlerized economy creaked toward catastrophe, our Democratic congresscritters self-congratulated themselves to their one great legislative accomplishment: increasing the minimum wage, a transparently ridiculous piece of economic populism aimed squarely at the uplift-minded urban constituency of the party, professionals with educations who use phrases like "working class" to describe an out-of-work, post-industrial underclass that wouldn't self-apply such a patently focus-grouped neologism to save the lives of their mangy dogs.
Those who chose not to legitimate the shadow-play are, in the new lexicon, defeatists. But the actual defeatist credo of "unprecedented capitulation" has nothing to do with it. In fact, your Donk partisan means quite the opposite: his defeatism is a failure to capitulate to the Cliffs-Notes, Hegelian necessity of the Democratic party as quite literally the sole, singular means of Progress. Having opened the year in triumphant mood given their party's newly acquired majority, these exhortations started out in a relatively jocular mood, and the odd libertarian or real lefty or Gore Vidalian crank could expect bemused tolerance and even occasional agreement from the responsible Donk mouthpieces. As their party floudered and discontent spread to the ranks, though, a reigning-in was necessary. Discussion quickly turned from ending the wars to enforcing the doxology that only the Democrats could end the wars. But the Democrats aren't ending the wars, we protested. Well, came the sundry replies with the finger-tapping impatience of a provincial priest lecturing a doubting boy, perhaps you're not praying hard enough.
Now, as the Primaries approach and the general elections soon after, orthodoxy has become extravagant self-parody. Witnesseth:
For whatever its worth, I came to some brief conclusions recently about the Democratic Party that’s likely relevant to some readers in these trying times. This first was a realization that a famous political saying of my lifetime made absolutely no sense:The second paragraph is my favorite, for what it calls an abstraction is concrete and what it calls concrete is largely abstract. The language is otherwise strictly Counter-Reformational--even as it offers bromidic strophes to "improvement," it affirms the necessary catholic orthodoxy. It hardly seems to occur to them that their position is essentially totalitarian--that there is nothing outside of the Party; that the Party is uniquely able to respond to the entire panoply of human existence; that one has a "duty" to the Party. A duty! What, I wonder, must it feel like to work the press gang for a navy full of leaky boats? It can't be especially edifying. The language of obligation works better in the presence of miracles. Otherwise it's just long hours at a dull work that no one especially enjoys.
I didn’t leave the Democratic Party, the Party left me. A political party isn’t an abstract entity like a tent that one enters, it’s an organization made of up by each of its members. If one belongs, one is the Party. The only way to leave is to fundamentally, drastically change. Meandering around saying the Party left me is a rationalization for the abdication of duty, if one doesn’t like parts of the experience the answer is to work on improvement, not abandonment.
You act is if there were no other alternative to progressive and liberal interests than the Democratic Party. That’s right, I sure do. I have looked high and low, near and far, with microscopes and telescopes, I talked to Jesus and the Gypsies, I read history and political science, and there is no other way. Believe you me after this last year if there were another alternative I’d be freaking taking it, yeah.
We are the party, the party is us, it’s our duty to change it, and there is no other alternative.