Thursday, July 02, 2009
He did not, to my recollection, participate too fervently in the endless ratcheting of the more, better Democrats movement, preferring to cultivate an image as a wonkish, though admittedly partisan, observer and commentator, but Matt Yglesias made the headline, so Matt Yglesias gets the infamy:
You may recall how the Donk protested its innocence back in the bygone days of Total Republican Dominance. Don't blame us!, the Donkle cried. Not even the traitorous quisling Jeffords in those heady, pre-9/11 times helped much with his defection to the Donk bosom. Then slowly, slowly, like the first mutant fish hauling its bony, wheezing body out of the slime and onto the sand, the Donk slipped back into power. But when it won Congress, it wasn't enough, and when it won even more Congress and the Presidency, it wasn't enough, and when at last it achieves sentience and launches Judgment Day on its unsuspecting, soft, human creators . . . still, it will not be enough.
In this regard, Democratic voters are really no different than the Rapture-ready Republican rubes they are ever-willing to mock as credulous fools, worshiping likewise at a church whose eschaton is ever-imminent but never-arriving.
Wednesday, July 01, 2009
There is a certain charm to the response, which moves feelingly, but could've used a continuity editor. In the first paragraph, it accuses us (the, uh, Who Is IOZ? community) of campus liberalism, which is understandable, given our fondness for tapestries on the dorm room walls. Of course, this is as far from a den of revolution, self-proclaimed or otherwise, as you can get, seeing as we counsel that the revolution is useless, defeat inevitable. The condition of man is to be ruled. Annoyance is the ultimate resistance. And cetera. I personally am not ready to fight for Latin America. I simply counsel that the United States, a corporation in which I am just a poor, extremely minor shareholder, not fight for Latin America either, indeed, that we leave Latin America alone.
In the second paragraph, Mr. Loomis declares that this aggression will not stand, man, and proclaims that the principle of preventing rightist rollback of leftist political gains to be "more important than this particular situation in Honduras," a curious complaint from a man who just a half-sentence before was parenthetically castigating his critics for their ignorance of "actual conditions in Latin America." Well, is it the particular or the universal that hold the day, the principle or the actual? I suspect the question remains unresolved in Mr. Loomis' brain. I suspect the question hasn't occurred to him. Meanwhile, the more pressing question, which motivated my first little foray, goes thunderously unanswered: I am still not sure what it means to say the coup cannot stand. Send in the Marines? Place your suggestions in the box.
In the third paragraph, Loomis ventures that I and others react poorly to criticisms of Castro and Chavez. Allowing that such reactionaries exist, so what? Whatever else you might say about those two, they are leftist, Latin-American-ish presidents . . . though presumably not the sort whose ousters Loomis would personally prohibit from standing. Or are they? In any case, it doesn't seem germane.
After this we return to Loomis' fanciful "world," whatever or whomever that may be, and his insistence that it not "allow the coup to succeed," again without pausing to take a breath and suggest just what this world is supposed to do about it. He then notes that President Zelaya is not "a real progressive leader," although Loomis, gosh, sure wishes that were the case, but in the meantime, what're'ya gonna do, vote Republican? He concludes with a clarion call. What happens in Honduras has no effect on the rest of the world, unless it happens, in which case, it will affect the rest of the world. Now that's clarity you can change your belief in.
Wooly-headed sentiments like these usually herald a dire case of the neoconservatives, for eventually the revolution can only ever be served by sending in the Marines. Meanwhile, the non-revolutionaries here at Who Is IOZ? advise only that the US stay the fuck away from Latin America, letting them fight their own wars and revolutions, rather than forever seeking to mold other peoples to our passing political whims.
Today in 2009 we’re in a lot of ways back to where we were four years ago—able for American forces to start leaving on a high note, confident that they performed their job with skill, and leaving Iraqi leaders with a handshake.Or you could say that in 2009 a tactically exhausted and strategically impotent American army is beginning a pullback, leaving behind a million or two (it is a mark, a stain, a dishonor, a horror that we frankly have no idea) extra dead and displaced Iraqis under the rule of a gangster president who looks ever more like his predecessor, whose ouster we sought at the cost of those hundreds of thousands of lives. You could say that the "high note" on which we depart, having made the world safe for British Petroleum, consists of a level of daily terror and violence, both on behalf of the extant state and on behalf of the various insurgencies, hold-outs, rebels, extremists, and others, that would fracture and destroy any internally peaceful western society. The "job" performed so admirably by American forces was the unprovoked invasion and occupation of a foreign nation, and the fact that the American military has subsequently managed to mop much of the blood from the gutters does not obviate or abnegate these facts. Meanwhile the assurances from the leaders of the various Iraqi factions that it is all now a matter of political accommodation and hard bargaining between them reeks of misinformation. Here, for example, Qubad Talabani, the son of Iraq's new warlord-dictator, tells a series of self-serving and transparent fairy-tale lies to NPR's Scott Simon, who simply cannot imagine that that lovely Oxbridge voice could tell an untruth.
Here, then, you have a generational crime, an act of naked aggression rationalized post hoc as a regrettable and unnecessary event that nonetheless worked out . . . what? A little better than expected. This judgment seems to me to be wholly inaccurate, desperate, and immature. It marks not the glimmer of success but the abjectness of our failure that we comfort ourselves in knowing that the conquered province we leave behind is merely straining, rather than splitting, at the seams.
Tuesday, June 30, 2009
If uh had'n glamahhd dem widdinn an inch ah dey sanntee, den blah blah blah vampire stuff blah blah.Regrettably, I must part ways with Dear Leader, with whom I share many cultural affinities, and declare True Blood, even more so than its predecessor/rough draft/plaster mold, Six Feet Under, to be dispositive on the question: is Alan Ball worse than Hitler, Stalin, and Mao combined, times one million, to the infinity power?
-Vampire Bill, True Blood
It is Ball's life's work to take a simple dramatic setup, tie it face down to a dirty, semen-crusted mattress, and continually rape its tender ass with a monstrous array of spiked, flanged, barbed symbolic dildos until the poor thing is so traumatized, so utterly dehumanized, beaten, and destroyed that it confuses the pain for pleasure and the criminal abuse for a kind of love, at last offering itself up to the Satanic Ball with a frightful willingness, allowing itself to be sacrificed in a ritual sexual murder to the horrible demonic gods to whom Ball long ago devoted the last black ounce of his sanguinary, bestial soul. Around his artistic charnel house, he has erected a Busby Berkly set of high-kicking, homosexual glamour-gays whose pastiche of a parody of camp distracts the audience from the screams within.
True Blood begins with a beach-book setup. There are vampires, and a very special, sexy young lady who can hear people's thoughts, except for the thoughts of her soon-to-be-beloved vampire, Bill. There is a lot of heavy-handed paralleling of the vampire quest to "come out of the coffin" and gay liberation, which like every other point of plot and character in the show is dispensed with for thousands of episodes at a time before resurfacing without explanation as the central driving force of a new plot line, which will moan its way to a fizzling orgasm like a sixteen-year-old getting a hand job before going home to do its homework, or whatever. I should take pains to say that I have no problem with vampires in pop culture, and if Anna Paquin and her heaving bosoms wish to badly impersonate the phonetic transcriptions of Remy LeBeau's cajun accent from the X-Men comix of my adolescence for a television show that continually forgets that, oh yeah, she is totally, like, also a psychic, then that, by god, is her right as a Canadian-born New Zealander living and working in these United States. If we as a country and I as a man are able to accord millions of dollars in box office revenue to the spectacle of Wesley Snipes and Kris fucking Kristofferson duking it out with Stephen Dorff and Udo holyshit Kier while house music from the worst fucking rave in the history of the reunified Germany hoots on like a bad car alarm in the background, then we can hardly bemoan the desecration of Nosferatu at the hands of Alan Ball.
In other words, it is not for reverence of the source material that we should hate this show, but for its total indifference to its own ridiculousness. From time to time, the show is aware of its own absurdity and seems about to make something of it, but then it forgets, just as it forgets that Sookie is a psychic until it . . . remembers. Sort of. The show now features no less than ten million vampires--they outnumber the actual townspeople of Bon Temps Looooooseeeeeeaaaaannna a billion to three, but also a man who can turn into a dog, a minotaur, and, I am not fucking kidding, Circe. Yes, that Circe. Also there is a sort of Fred Phelps Church of the NoMoreVampires, drug dealing, drug addiction . . . and a treasury of accents stolen from Robin Williams, locked in a cage, fed cocaine for twelve hours, and poked with a stick through the bars. HBO's vaunted production values are nowhere to be seen. An algal lagoon looks like a dirty Koi pond, and the poor film crew has been forced to light the sets with a table lamp and a pen-sized maglite.
But all of this . . . all of it would be forgivable were it not for the singular, cardinal failure at the center of this show, the great, monstrous dynamo of FAIL that powers its every creak and strain, heave and howl, and that is its utter insistence that given any situation in which even a hint of a choice exists, the character must behave in the most bone-headed, incorrect, foolish, transparently ex machina manner possible. Every single development of plot and character is arrived at by forcing a character to behave erroneously. The open-minded become suddenly suspicious; the suspicious become suddenly accepting; characters who know each other's most intimate secrets speak in obfuscatory riddles rather than giving each other plain information, even when the lives of their friends are obviously at stake! Of course, if everyone behaved rationally all the time there would be no show, no conflict, but since no one ever behaves rationally ever, there is simply an unending skein of narrative pratfalls, a string of Wile E. Coyote moments, an insane and incoherent series of set-piece scenes between which the Molechian Alan Ball and his writer-minions insert nonsensical dialogue that does nothing to further our understanding of characters because at long last, this show does not have any characters. It is the most titanically incompetent and god-awful television show ever created, and three million people watch it every week. I'll be tuning in. Will you?
COLUMBIA, S.C. -- South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford admitted Tuesday that he saw his Argentine mistress more times than previously disclosed, including what was to be a farewell meeting in New York chaperoned by a spiritual adviser soon after his wife found out about the affair.A "trusted spiritual adviser." Like . . . an Irish monk?
I usually oppose US intervention in Latin America. Certainly it has not gone too well in the past, to say the least. But this is a clear case of the Honduran elite class attacking democracy itself. It is not 1983 anymore and this kind of behavior is not acceptable. While Zelaya isn't such a great president, he was democratically elected and is clearly supported by a large percentage of the population. Plus, if the international community allows this coup to stand, the precedent is set that right-wing politicians and militaries can overthrow the new generation of left-leaning governments in Latin America without reprisal. Not allowing this precedent to take place is much more important than Honduras itself.I am not certain who this "international community" is supposed to be, nor what new "US intervention" Loomis' imagines will not "allow this coup to stand." But it is the last sentence of the above excerpt that most mystifies me. What on earth can it possibly mean? "Much more important than Honduras itself"?
BOB GARFIELD: The U.N.’s High Commissioner for Human Rights says that waterboarding is torture. The International Committee of the Red Cross have called what the U.S. did “torture.” Waterboarding is unambiguously in violation of the International Convention on Torture, which has been ratified by 140-some countries.Via Greenwald, I discovered this hilarious and embarrassing foray into damage-control, an ironic sort of circumlocutory question-begging non-response to the proposition that NPR embraces official euphemisms for various acts of official barbarism. The nonpartisan newsmedia has tied a more-and-more Gordian knot in trying to conceptualize itself as a totally neutral non-quantity, neither animal nor vegetable nor mineral, shapelessness motionless in void, forever in never, amen, ad infinitum. I am particularly fond of NPR Ombudsperson Alicia Shepard's notion that "when you detail something and explain specifically what it is, then the public can decide."
It seems to me that the only people who think it’s a debate are the Bush Administration, who are the culprits. So how does that constituent a debate?
ALICIA SHEPARD: Well, there are two sides to the issue. And I'm not sure, why is it so important to call something torture? You know, when you describe the technique, I think that sounds like torture to me. Isn't it the job of the news media to put the facts out there, to give as much detailed information and to put it in context?
BOB GARFIELD: I put it to you that embracing a euphemism for torture validates a political position. You’re trying to be apolitical but, in fact, to embrace terms like “harsh interrogation tactics” instead of calling a thing by its name, in effect, gives credence to the Bush Administration’s argument, does it not?
ALICIA SHEPARD: Yes, I think it does. I think using terms like “harsh interrogation tactics” or “enhanced interrogation techniques” does validate the Bush Administration. So that’s why I said why not just describe it. I think when you detail something and explain specifically what it is, then the public can decide.
There is, of course, a long-established and perfectly usable means of discussing as-yet unproven accusations of wrongdoing, which is to append the crime with the adjective, alleged. Even if one were to accept that NPR's most fervent aim is to avoid prejudicing the, ahem, public, lest Joe Sixpack hastily reach a conclusion without all due deliberation, it would seem that the proper way to describe American torture in this manner, which would avoid both euphemism and the appearance of prejudgment. Oh well. What's fun about Gordian knots is not the tying, but the hacking to pieces later on.