To any half-attentive observer, Obama's calls for halting Israeli settlements bear the usual hallmarks of American double-talk on the issue, couched as they are in concurrent calls for Palestinians to abandon resistance and capitulate to the inevitable destruction of their aspiration to some measure of self-determination, but to Charles Krauthammer, they are unaccountably burdensome to Israel, as their transparent bias isn't transparently obvious enough.
Friday, June 05, 2009
Thursday, June 04, 2009
Last night we were discussing the fact that They are evidently making another Sex and the City movie and speculating what the fuck it could possibly be about since Cocoon already happened and shit, and I quite suddenly had what I thought might be the most brilliant idea ever: Sex in the City: Origins, a series of four hastily-sketched and "action"-packed back stories limning how each woman acquired her Abilities. To be fair, Kim Catrall already made Mannequin, so hers will have to be more of an interstitial prequel, less Phantom Menace, more Attack of the Clones.
CAIRO - Speaking before a large crowd at Cairo University in Egypt's sprawling capital city, President Barack Obama urged the Muslim world to "look over there," causing several dozen in the audience to turn their heads to see what he was pointing at in the vague middle distance.
"But seriously," Mr. Obama continued. "The time of the past is in the past, and the future is that which lies before us." Pausing for effect, he added, "The present is now," drawing applause.
Dwelling only briefly on a host of topics ranging from Afghanistan to Pakistan, the President spoke at length about his own biography, repeatedly declaring "I am the way the light and the truth," as he outlined his family history and spoke proudly of his father's Muslim heritage.
While the reception was generally appreciative, many afterward expressed skepticism. One student noted, "He's a Hussein, I'm a Hussein. That's terrific. But what's he going to do for us?"
On the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, which most Egyptians cited as their top issue, the President had suggestions for both sides. "The Palestinians must surrender," he said. "Abjectly. They must forgo their dreams and aspirations and live forever in the bitter half-dream or that-which-might-have-been-but-could-not-be."
Unlike past presidents, however, he also had sharp words for the the Israeli side. "Israelis," he urged, "must be willing to accept broken Palestinian dreams as their neighbors, accepting with grace their defeated neighbors, at least until such time as we can figure out somewhere else to put them."
Mr. Obama urged governments across the region to maintain a reasonable fiction of democratic governance, except in the case of hereditary monarchies. Regarding Iran, he reminded the audience that the absence of evidence is not evidence of absence, and expressed America's firm commitment to the principle that if you're not doing anything wrong, then you have nothing to worry about.
This was Mr. Obama's first major address in the Middle East since becoming President.
Wednesday, June 03, 2009
Nearly everyone agrees that Sonia Sotomayor will be confirmed to the Supreme Court, and most of those who ostensibly disagree with this proposition disagree only insofar as they hope that out of the miasma of half-baked accusations and innuendos something sufficiently controversial will arise to "derail" her nomination, i.e. to cause it to be withdrawn. But of course, the only way for the nomination to be withdrawn would be a revelation sufficiently damning to cast into doubt the possibility of her confirmation, which hardly seems forthcoming, and so the efforts of her opponents are odd in that they are almost entirely self-referential.
This morning on NPR, Juan Williams, who even more than fellow NPR commenter Cokie Roberts seems incapable of anything other than muddled paraphrasis, said that the Obama administration had not anticipated the "firestorm" that Sotomayor's comments (wise Latina, white dudes, etc.) would ignite. Aside from a severe underestimation of what it takes to make a firestorm, even a metaphorical one, the comment is most striking for being so palpably and obviously untrue. While the administration surely could not predict what precisely would ignite the Republican-driven and media-catalyzed opposition to the nominee, they obviously knew that some form of the ongoing false controversy was inevitable.
In the end she'll be confirmed, the specific, ridiculous content of the "debate" over her nomination will be forgotten, and all that will persist will be the vague recollection of controversy and opposition, preserving that most necessary and delicate public sensibility: that our media and government are divided and deliberative, that policy is made and persons chosen via argument and debate.
Tuesday, June 02, 2009
It is also worth considering that while we tweet away our intelligence on whether or not Sonia Sotomayor is the Tokyo Rose of the Reconquista, our flying death robots are destroying and destabilizing Pakistan, the world's Most Nuclear™ Post-Partition Ex-British-Colony. While I am not especially concerned that the destabilization of this corner of the world will result in some Tom, Dick, or Mohammed detonating a nuke in the new, pedestrian-friendly Times Square, I nevertheless think it must be awfully shitty to be a subsistence farmer scratching out a mean existence in a rough and unforgiving terrain while also worrying that an errant CGI extra from a McG battle sequence is going to kill your daughter's wedding party.
Jonah Goldberg is "willing to concede, happily, that liberals aren't cartoonish villains" for their views on race. On the other hand
From which we can conclude that he's only willing to treat them as cartoonish villains for everything else. A position with which, to be fair, I have some sympathy.
In any case, the idea that every time some melanin-American is raised out of obscurity, we must engage in some sort of great national colloquium on "race in America" is perfectly absurd. As for Ms. Sotomayor, her allegedly "racialist" comments about "wise Latina women" are the sort of thing you hear grandmothers making every day down at the Sons of Italy lodge, and that, at root, is the problem with using them as a cudgel--to everyone other than the Daughters of the American Revolution, her words are so plainly innocuous.
As for the other bruited evidence of her preference for browns over whites, racial solidarity certainly makes strange bedfellows. The New Haven firefighters sound to me like a gang of self-entitled union droogs. "Oooo . . . we passed a test. We're entitled to a promotion." Apparently Frank Ricci is also a dyslexic midget born with a club foot, webbed fingers, and a set of nipples like a breed-birthing mammal. Why does he want special treatment, huh?
Monday, June 01, 2009
On the one hand I support abortion. I don't feel the need to bracket that support with caveats and hypotheticals. I don't believe that it is a searing moral dilemma "for every woman." I don't have moral qualms with the so-called use of abortion as a method of birth control. It is a method of birth control.
On the other hand, I find the predominantly liberal advocates for abortion rights to be almost utterly unbearable. Consider this mewling appeal to Obama as Pontifex Maximus and politico-cultural plenipotentiary of the universe, Augustus of the East and West, Commander-in-Chief, dieu-donné, most blessed among men. The tone is at once hectoring and ingratiating, and worse yet:
This was a terrorist act, one in an ongoing campaign against Dr. Tiller, who was one target among many in a bigger campaign against women and the people who provide abortion services and safe havens for them—but no one in our government will call it terrorism. There are, in fact, a lot of things that don't get called terrorism in this country, but few of them approach the breadth of the long-term, flagrant campaign of intimidation, harassment, exhorted violence, attempted violence, actual violence, and murder of abortion providers and abortion-seeking women.A terrorist act? A terrorist campaign? They were threatening castration! Are we gonna split hairs?
Still, our government is unwilling to call this orchestrated, overt, unapologetic campaign against women and their healthcare providers terrorism, even as increasing numbers of doctors say offering the legal service to their patients is not worth the risk—the very definition of effective terrorism. Even as physician champions of women's right to choose are murdered in cold blood. Even as "pro-life" groups openly celebrate his death and take the position that he deserved it. Mr. President, in the history of my blog, I've gotten death threats right in my comments threads by people who know that the government will not take them seriously, people who have left links to pictures of dead fetuses and pictures of Dr. George Tiller pictured in a sniper's crosshairs. I am scared for whoever will be next, if the government continues to fail to take this terrorist campaign seriously
The putative left, we see, is just as eager as the nominal right to brand crime and violence with any hint of political motivation as terrorism, and therefore to remove it from the ordinary processes of criminal law and sanction, which are already quite draconian in these United States, and to animate parallel systems of harsher surveillance and punishment for the political compeers of such criminals. Thus Dr. Tiller's murderer is not simply a murderer, but the beachhead of a hostile force. Outlaw them! Spy on them! Watch their websites! Shut down the hate! Perhaps the more virulent believers should be preemptively detained, lest they act on their degenerate and violent beliefs.
It is very sad that Dr. Tiller was killed, and one hopes that some measure of justice is delivered to his accused killer, who is already in custody. But perhaps we should pause before demanding the creation and implementation of the future crime division.
On the rare occasions that I drive, I drive a 2002 Saturn, which I bought used for a few grand from the surviving wife of a dead, distant relative. With the exception of the time it was stolen by the City of Pittsburgh for a couple of days, it's been a fine car, and as I average no more than a couple thousand miles a year, a large portion of those from weekend visits to my folks out in the country, I expect it to last me beyond the twilight of the Saturn brand in the appropriately apocalyptic year of 2012. As for GM in general:
The bankruptcy of a once-proud auto giant that helped to define the nation’s car culture and played a part in creating the American middle class immediately rippled across the country, part of a process that the president said would take “a painful toll on many Americans” but lead ultimately to a strong company ready to compete in the 21st century.I would write a moderately less panegyrical obituary, given GM's dastardly influence in the destruction of Pittsburgh's street cars--and plenty of other cities' trams and trolleys besides. America's "car culture" was the root of the current intersecting crises in our economy, and it should never escape our attention that the auto industry in this sense catalyzed its own ultimate destruction. In reshaping the lived geography of America, the car turned the neighborhood into the subdivision and the downtown into the highway-accessed surface-level parking lot. People blame the car for the decline of the American city, but to my mind it is even more responsible for the more severe and irreversible decline of the American town. In my own state, Pittsburgh and Philadelphia, for their problems, are nevertheless doing okay, and it doesn't require undue optimism to see them both thriving and prospering in the future. But a tour of the towns in between, from the bombed-out remains of the Monongahela Valley through the industry-less slums of Scyulkilll reveals communities in irreversible and terminal decline.
Some wines are oaky, some cough syrups mediciney; Jay McInerney's writing is zeitgeisty. "He laid out four identical lines with his Soho House membership card ..." begins a sentence that brought me up most short from his How It Ended: New and Collected Stories. This from the man recently compared to F. Scott Fitzgerald by the editor—a critic I otherwise revere—of the New York Times Book Review? Fitzgerald is a glory of the English language; McInerney is the John Marquand for a new American ruling class. His stories are populated by stockjobbers, star litigators, and the floating detritus of showbiz and the international rich—adepts in the competition that is a free agent society. They sense they are the victors and wear their sense of victory like an Elizabethan ruff. But the perimeter of the winner's circle is never fully secure. They long for what Marquand, the New England WASP, found confining; a small world, with its clubbiness and intimacy, to assert itself, finally, against the heartlessness and anonymity of the new power elitism. And it never does.I enjoy Jay McInerney, and his short story "Smoke" from the new collection How It Ended is exactly the triumph that Metcalf shortly admits it to be.
Otherwise, Metcalf's assessment reeks of received opinion, not so much for what it says about McInerney, whose authorial catalogue certainly has its weaker numbers (I'm looking at you, Model Behavior), but for the lousy rubric it sets up in this above-quoted opening salvo. There is, in the first place, a fine broad territory of excellent literature between Gatsby, which surely is a masterpiece of American literature, and the collected works of John Marquand. I know this, because all of Fitzgerald's other finished novels inhabit that territory, as does most of McInerney's short and long fiction. "[T]he floating detritus of showbiz and the international rich—adepts in the competition that is a free agent society"--well, who does Metcalf think lives in the pages of This side of Paradise, The Beautiful and the Damned, or Tender Is the Night? (For that matter, who does he think Gatsby is all about?) True, Gatsby's society losers prefer gin to coke. This in particular animates Metcalf's quibbles with McInerney.
I dare you to read This Side of Paradise and tell me that it is a superior novel, poetically, morally, or psychologically, to Bright Lights, Big City.