I mean, fuck, I knew Barry O. was in the tank, but this? Looks like John Cole is right about the 4-year sunset on the hopenchange revolution. I can't say that I shall miss it. They really do seem to imagine that they can perform a magic trick and imbue worthless non-assets with value. I have occasionally noted on this blog that I am not a redistributionist when newcomers mistake my hatred of America's soi-disant conservatives for liberalism, and it probably bears noting at this point that the door swings both ways. This plan actually does represent the most massive one-time redistribution of wealth in the history of this nation, a promise to confiscate money from the majority of citizens for years to come in order to maintain the wealth of a tiny clique of super-gamblers. The idea that these payments are loans, that these firms, if they survive, will pay back the money they've been given, is beyond absurd. The money's not going to be paid back. The firms aren't going to become profitable again. The government is using public moneys to help shift worthless investments off-books, insuring a minuscule investor class against their immense losses, seeking to rebuild a rising speculative market, at which point these too-big-to-fail companies can be bought up or abandoned. The upside is that the plan is doomed to failure; it will not succeed even on its own terms; a used tampon cannot staunch the flow, yo. A year of ejaculatory spending will be followed by three of dithering and bickering. We can all learn to live with 15% unemployment. Detroit will truly return to its bucolic glory with beavers outnumbering people. Angry Pittsburghers will storm Cranberry, firebomb the Four Points, replant crops and set the cows loose to graze. In 2012, Mitt Romney gets his shot, while the American Southwest and California beg the drug cartel that will have taken over the Mexican government to accept their apologies and let them back in.
Saturday, March 21, 2009
And I realized that's why American music sounds so optimistic; it's because this country is unique in that regard, that people actually do believe that tomorrow could be better here.Mark O'Connor is a great musician and an okay composer, but does he really believe, really, that citizens of the United States of America are the only people in the world who believe that the material circumstances of their lives can improve over some period of time? I laugh at America's staggering proliferation of exceptionalisms, but I suppose I have always taken these sorts of statements as banal rhetorical excess. And yet . . . perhaps because of all the Euro-bashing in the news lately, it slowly occurs to me that, yes, many Americans, even those who have traveled abroad, are so toweringly ignorant that they believe this little strophe to be literally true: that only Americans, solely and uniquely among all peoples currently living, perhaps solely and uniquely among all the peoples ever to have existed on this world, believe in the betterment of their lives and station . . . believe in the mere possibility of bettering their lives and station.
Although not given to naive pronouncements, nor yet to rhetorical incredulity, I gotta say: this, if true, explains a lot.
Friday, March 20, 2009
One does have to admire the spectacle of American officials complaining that the Iranian government "is far more comfortable with confrontation, and raises the issue of past grievances to prevent any meaningful progress toward reconciliation." It has a bracing audacity. It has the audacity of the American and Israeli leaders jointly telling the Iranians that they could join the "community of nations," whatever on Earth that is, by forswearing violence as a tool of statecraft. The Iranians, have we mentioned, haven't launched a war in recent memory?
So. You have the United States, which is a nuclear power and signatory to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, and Israel, which is a nuclear power and not a signatory to the NPT, telling Iran, which is another NPT signatory, in barely coded language that it may not pursue its Article IV rights. Cute.
Simple Roasted Cauliflower
Cauliflower is a wonderful, flavorful, textural vegetable that has been incomprehensibly relegated to florets on a store-bought tray of raw vegetables with lousy spinach dip. One of my favorite relatives of the noble cabbage, there are dozens of interesting preparations. This recipe makes an excellent side to roast meats or poultry. The addition of freshly ground cumin gives it a spicy, Portuguese flavor.
1 large head cauliflower, cut into substantial florets
1 tablespoon freshly ground cumin
freshly ground black pepper
fine sea salt
extra virgin olive oil
Preheat the oven to 375.
Toss the cauliflower in several generous tablespoons of olive oil. It is very absorbent, so don't be afraid to add a bit extra. Lay in a single even layer in a fairly deep ceramic baking dish. Sprinkle evenly with the cumin, salt generously, and give a light dusting of ground pepper.
Place in the middle of the oven and roast for 40 minutes or so. At 40 minutes, raise the temperature to 400 and roast for another 10-15 minutes, until the exposed tops of the vegetable begin to brown. Remove from the oven. Allow to rest for 5 minutes. Toss together once more and serve immediately.
Thursday, March 19, 2009
I consider noted huckster and neologist Richard Florida to be something like the manlove-child of Thomas Friedman and Malcolm Gladwell, a bumptious popularizer of pseudosociological hooey that flatters his petite bourgeoisie readership by assuring them that they, their Volkswagens, and their attendant Trader Joes and Ikeas are the true engines of productive urban economies, which are in turn the fundaments of our now-passing national prosperity. That said, Will Wilkinson excerpts a fairly reasonable passage in which Florida notes that both the bailouts and the so-called stimulus seem designed (successfully or not, this remains to be seen) to prolong the life of a structurally unsustainable economy based on inflated home values, easy credit, and a massively, insanely overcapitalized financial sector.
On the other hand, I die a little bit when I read:
The creative class, which now accounts for some 40 million workers and about a third of the workforce is much more flexible and resilient. It is this changed economic class and occupational structure which are keeping us from Depression-level unemployment rates.This is pure and simple the class prejudice of the college-educated. Those 40 million workers mostly aren't involved in anything that could reasonably be described as a creative-productive endeavor. They're not writing code, doing research, running high-tech ventures. They're middle managers. They're Regional Junior Account Executives. They're End User Support Specialists. They're Spend Process Managers, Sourcing Specialists, Compliance Coordinators. They're the middle echelons of the service economy AKA the knowledge economy. They occupy a class of employment whose existence owes to the structurally deficient economy that Richard Florida is going to go on to criticize.
The idea that their supposed flexibility and resiliency prevent Depression-level unemployment is pure flattery, untethered from fact. What has so far prevented Depression-level unemployment is that the current "crisis" or "downturn" is not (not yet) as severe as the Depression. And should we see a rapid contraction in auto industry and financial sector employment, then even the jiggered official unemployment statistics will quickly move into the double digits. Now this may be inevitable. It may even be desirable for exactly the painfully necessary reasons that Florida outlines. But it is not directly related to a workforce tranche invented out of thin air as a coinage for a piece of pop social science.
Is decriminalizing homosexuality more important than decriminalizing tyranny?What does he mean . . . what does he mean?
Oh, he means criminalizing tyranny! I think . . . But . . . can't be sure.
I do enjoy the part where Jonah is all like, Send faggot troops to some predominantly muzlim land and see how well they fare!
Dude lurves the fuck out of Zion but has never heard of the IDF.
Via Roy E.
Wednesday, March 18, 2009
Pittsburgh is about to ban "all furniture that's plush, upholstered or foam-filled" from porches. At $200-500 in fines for violation, the Mayor estimates that the city will make up the overruns in the North Shore Connector project by the time it opens in 2117. City Council member Tonya Payne has additionally proposed the banning of students from Oakland and automobiles from the Parkway East.
Look, states do not have rights--to exist, or otherwise. The belief is a conceptual fallacy. 4,000 years of beautiful tradition from Moses to Sandy Koufax does not constitute a right. States come into being or do not, grow or do not, prosper or do not . . . but all of them eventually decline, disappear, or simply change beyond recognition. The fact that the liturgical traditions of most Jewish communities call the Jews a nation is totally non-germane to the question of whether or not a modern nation-state with a system of ethnoreligious citizenship can continue its present existence indefinitely in a region where the group to whom full citizen rights are exclusively granted is a distinct minority.
Larison and Bose both make points that will by now be familiar to readers of this little compendium of mental-ward graffiti. One of the most curious pseudo-ideas lurking in the corridors of consensus thinking on "foreign policy" is this notion of legitimacy: whether or not this or that state has a "legitimate" right, duty, obligation, case, cause, what have you to do such-and-such in, around, for, or against some other state. But legitimacy in the political realm derives from compacts, and for all our species faddish love of "universal" declarations of this and that, there are no universal principles dictating what state actors can and cannot "legitimately" do except their actual capacities to do it. The shifting, entirely relative norms of national behavior don't derive from some codified or traditional collection of powers. The legitimacy of America's expeditionary interest in Everywhere, for instance, derives (or derived, at least) from our actual and perceived expeditionary power.
The failure to perceive our own meddling in the affairs of others as helping to foment commensurable actions in other regional and international powers is an obvious historic blind spot made worse by our brief and largely imaginary so-called unipolar moment. Our self-congratulatory self-perception as the sole survivor of the doctrinal, ideological wars of the twentieth century convinced us in quite certain terms that we need not merely make the world safe for democracy, but that, having already done so successfully, we could now make it democracy. Democracy in this formulation referred in general to no particular political system, although we did have a hard-on for Elections; instead, it meant quiescence and clientism. Anyway, we were thus, what is the word, emboldened. Insofar as we believed the American system to have triumphed globally, it made a sort of perverted sense to claim the uniform right to intervene everywhere, since the whole globe was really just an extension of the domestic political economy. The current regime doesn't appear to have any more or less reservations in this regard.
Tuesday, March 17, 2009
It does not take cable TV to make a bubble. CNBC played no role in the Tulip Bubble that peaked, as I recall, in 1637, or in the Great Depression of 1929-41. It is the zeitgeist that does this -- the psychological version of inertia: the belief that what's happening will continue to happen.Ha ha Richard Cohen is a dumb idiot who doesn't even know that the Tulip Bubble was a meaningless speculative sideshow for wealthy people that had no major consequences for the Dutch economy! Loser. Pwnd! FAIL! His hilarious defense of poor widdle Jiminy Cramer is that everyone in The Media is a huge tragic moron and no one ever gets anything right. This is a truly diverting entertainment. Dudes have actually taken to arguing that they cannot possibly be evil heartless shills for the Satanic powers of war and finance because they are all credulous semiliterate primate degenerates who have no idea how anything works, what it does, or why it exists.
This reminds me of one of my favorite jokes which is best told in a heavy Pittsburgh accent:
So I'm fuckin' this dude in the ass, right, and he says to me, he says, Hey buddy, can I get a little reach around? And I'm like, whaddareyou? Some kind of faggot?More pertinently, perhaps, I will suggest to Professor Delong that while the story makes Douthat an asshole, it doesn't make him quite such an asshole as if it had, in fact, occurred. I will suggest that the girl's identity is safe insofar as she isn't real.
Being a Homosexual™, this is rule number one for discerning The Truth in Your Friends' Accounts of Their Previous Night's Sexual Activities. Allow me to demonstrate:
Oh my god, last night I got fucked by this guy who no joke looked like a thinner Zach Quinto.False! As opposed to:
Oh my god, last night I was so drunk and I invited over some dude from Manhunt who turned out to be Steve from marketing! You know, the one with that voice.Believable!
Okay, question. Since when are bonuses contracted? Fuck me, I bet most of these guys are at-will employees anyway. Fire the lot of them! En tout cas:
If you think this economy is a mess now, imagine what it would look like if the business community started to worry that the government would start abrogating contracts left and right.Yes. Imagine what the economy would look like if failed companies entered Chapter 11. Abrogated contracts! Lawdy.
Fortunately we don't have to worry our little heads because America is awesome! David Brooks is for real addicted to the national myth. Let go and let God, Davey!
What strikes me:
This gospel gets dented during each of the nation’s financial crises, but it always returns with a vengeance. The late 19th century was a time of economic turmoil. Yet it was also a time when this commercial creed was preached most fervently. Andrew Carnegie published “The Gospel of Wealth.” Elbert Hubbard published “A Message to Garcia,” which celebrated industriousness and ambition and sold nearly 40 million copies. The Baptist minister Russell Conwell traveled the country delivering his “Acres of Diamonds” sermon to rapturous audiences more than 6,000 times.Hubbard was a sub-transcendentalist hack and Conwell's injunctions about digging in your own backyard are somewhat lost in the translation, but as a testament to willful misreading in the present moment, one can hardly ask for a better example than this invocation of Carnegie, whose "Wealth" warned against the amassing of generational fortunes, preached the elimination of poverty, and made the case that the entirety of personal fortunes should be recirculated and redistributed voluntarily. Which is great! But what it has to do with the price of AIG on a Tuesday in March is beyond me.