WASHINGTON - The Obama administration will largely retain Bush era airline safety policies, the White House announced. Officials explained that these old policies were necessary to protect the future from the threats of the past.
"Everything that is currently happening will immediately reach a state of having happened," said Press Secretary Robert Gibbs. "Therefore, it is in our vital interest."
In a statement released later in the day, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said that "in an increasingly legal world, we need to take every lawful illegal step possible to ensure that action is taken."
The civil liberties community gesticulated and made several sounds indicating frustration.
However, administration officials remained committed. "Obviously it is impossible to wage cyberwar against the United States from outside of the United States," said a spokesman. "But if you can get a laptop physically inside of American borders, all bets are off."
The Internet could not be reached for comment by press time.
Friday, August 28, 2009
America realizes that people do not enjoy being killed. Also at eleven, sky blue, water wet, hydrogen atomic number 1, boys have a penis, girls have a jina.
Via one of my many intrepid correspondents, finally, a political platform that I can get behind.
Thursday, August 27, 2009
Well, personally, I am shocked, shocked.
In hindsight, several current and former administration officials say they have come to believe the decision to turn a blind eye to the warlords and drug traffickers who took advantage of the power vacuum in the aftermath of the Sept. 11 attacks was one of the fundamental strategic mistakes of the Afghan war. It sent a signal to the Afghan people that the most corrupt warlords had the backing of the United States, that the Karzai government had no real power or credibility and that the drug economy was the path to power in the country.Yes, it is remarkable and tragic that backing the most corrupt Afghan warlords convinced the Afghan people that the US was supporting the most corrupt Afghan warlords. That's exactly the sort of cultural misunderstanding that constantly bedevils our necessary wars and humanitarian projects. If only the Afghan people understood what we were really trying to do instead of clinging to a limited understanding based only on the narrow category of what we are doing. How will we ever win the hearts and minds of such a mistrustful people?
By late 2003, officials said, the Bush administration began to realize its mistake, and initiated what officials called its “warlord strategy” to try to ease key warlords out of power.
What is America doing in Afghanistan again? I mean, does there exist any longer an official rationale for our war there? I keep hearing that The Obama is going to escalate the war there, and yet even those stock phrases that attend our Iraq occupation--stable, self-foverning, etc.--seem mostly absent from the present official discourse on The Other War, The Good War, The Necessary War, what have you.
Domino theories have always been popular with Democratic administrations, and it seems that the effort to deny Islamofascocializism a "safe haven" (By the way, America, can you please retire this redundancy? You ever hear of an unsafe haven?) is just a recapitulation of our various efforts to deny International Communism a foothold in Southeast Asia or Latin America or North Africa or whereverthefuckelse. Well, I suppose if we don't fight them in Afghanistan, we'll have to fight them in our our own backyard: Pakistan.
We speak of information technology in architectural terms. Perhaps we should reconsider the metaphors. Perhaps we would find more clarity in agriculture. For instance: the consequences of monoculture.
Wednesday, August 26, 2009
Theodric Aloysius Xavier John Paul Augustine Lawrence Joan of Arc Kennedy is dead, hallowed be thy mien. A reliable spelunker into the swampy dreams of the Democratic party's fatuous leftwardishesquian base, he served for over four centuries, providing the invaluable face of pretextual liberalism while the party went about the more general business of murdering Asians and replacing Jim Crow with the War on Drugs. His voting record has now helped to convince three generations of tragic Democratic rubes that the party cares about poor niggers, the general welfare, and the peace dividend, despite all evidence to the contrary. When progressives dream of a sixty-vote majority, they dream in Kennedy, since the real sixty vote senate majority has managed to deliver nothing but corporate handouts and an escalating war in the Hindu Kush. Kennedy kept collegiate liberals in the fold; he was the sweet smell on the flypaper. They even forgave him The No Child Left Behind for the Future, Which Are the Children Act. In paradisum deducant te Angeli. Amen. Exeunt.
Christians. What are we going to do with them? Notorious greasy chicken dish Jonah Goldberg discovers and approves of The Obama turning the pardon-the-expression Health Care Debate away from "wonkish frippery" to the more serious matter of whether or not a public subsidy for grandma's statins and junior's braces comports with the proscriptions of an ancient sky deity.
Reaching out to progressive faith leaders in two massive conference calls, Obama insisted that God was on his side. Expanding healthcare fulfills a "core moral and ethical obligation that we look out for one another ... that I am my brother's keeper, my sister's keeper."Now it is true that both the Jewish and Christian texts at various points admonish people to be nice to each other, in between admonishing them to murder and massacre each other in various obscene and horrific manners.
But the Bible does not admonish anyone to be his brother's or sister's keeper. The question, "Am I my brother's keeper?" is a quintessential tale of human evil and disobedience, second only in Genesis to Adam and Eve's defiant munching on the fruit of the tree of knowledge. The questioner is Cain, who has jealously slain his brother Abel.
God curses Cain, and perhaps implicit in that rebuking curse is the answer that yes, he is his brother's keeper, although the tale of Cain and Abel is made rather more . . . difficult to parse as a morality tale given the real suborner of that first murder, Yaweh, who rejected the offerings of Cain, a mere "tiller of the field," though he accepted Abel's mutton and sheep fat.
And in the process of time it came to pass that Cain brought some nice salads and a decent couscous to the potluck.True story.
And Abel also brought some stuff, a rack of lamb in a rich reduction. And the LORD was all like, Respect, Abel. For real, brah.
But unto Cain and his bullshit tofu or whatever, the LORD was all like, What the fuck is this shit, dude? Are you gay? And Cain was pissed as fuck.
And the LORD was like, Dude, why are you acting like such a little bitch?
And Cain found Abel and was like, What it is, yo! Then they went up the park and Cain killed his ass.
And then the LORD was like, Straight up, Cain, where's your bro? And Cain said, Why the fuck you think I know? I ain't up his ass, yo.
Point being, appealing to the bizarre alien god of Genesis based on some Gospel-induced misapprehension of what the Old Testament actually means and says in the service of passing social service legislation is retarded.
Haha America is broke as a joke. Nine trillion dollars. What does it even mean? America is ugga bugga wacka jawacka dollars in the red. America is bananafanafofanafeefiefofanabanana dollars in debt. Look, these numbers are imaginary. Can't we just take a mulligan? Call it a warm-up set? Claim it was a bad rack and break again?
Fortunately, the global economy is likewise imaginary. Money is a fiction. Debt is a narrative convention. Pace Karl Marx, it does make a material analysis a little difficult.
I generally enjoy reading Tyler Cowen, because he is smart and entertaining, but then he writes something lazy and preposterous, reminding me why I no longer self-apply the libertarian label.
My alternative view is that Americans rate European life so highly (in part) because the buildings from previous eras are so striking and attractive. If all of the U.S. looked like U.S. postwar construction, the country would still impress more or less as it does. If all of Europe looked like its postwar construction, Americans would be less likely to admire European policies and political institutions. Yes I know about Lille, and contemporary Spanish architecture, but in reality most Americans would think of Europe as some kind of dump.On what level does this even make sense? America has some lovely post-war skylines. My own Pittsburgh, for instance, has the loveliest in the world, with a nice assist from Geography:
But all of the city's charming and sought-after residential neighborhoods are prewar. Pre-Great War in many cases.
The same is true of Manhattan, Chicago, San Francisco. Yes, the Transamerica building is iconic, but you wouldn't wanna live in it. America's storied small towns were all built before the war. Most of America's post-war suburban building consists of suburban housing stock that consciously imitates, if poorly, 18th-century construction styles, cf., "The Colonial," and the architecture of commerce, industry, and exercise outside of the urban core is execrable, cinderblock blockhouse construction.
Meanwhile it is true that Europe built some very ugly high-rise apartment blocks in the seventies. Unlike America, wherein the seventies were truly a flowering of subtle taste and excellent design.
Here, for instance, thanks to the brave souls at GoogleMaps, is the hellish Route d'Oberhausbergen just outside of Strasbourg, where I lived for a time in a state of unbearable, environmentally-provoked and -exacerbated depression:
Can you imagine?
Honestly, seriously: an ordinary, middle-class residential neighborhood. It has none of the memorable loveliness of Amsterdam city center or Haussmann's Paris, nor yet the astonishing medieval beauty of Strasbourg's own city center, which is one of the most stunning in all Europe, capped by a towering red sandstone cathedral. And yet . . . it is quite nice. It is also mostly post-war construction, with an architectural style that apes but simplifies the predominant, Franco-Germanic architecture of Alsace. Just ahead and to the left is a very nice bakery. Another block is a tram station. It's just a regular city.
A few skyscrapers aside, let us not forget that America's great buildings are likewise prewar, nor that the great tragedy in America's cities and towns was that so many wonderful prewar buildings were willfully destroyed in the sixties and seventies in failed, doomed efforts at slapdash urban renewal. Those European cities that escaped bombing and total devastation do benefit from conservation. Well, likewise Savannah!
The reason that Americans like Europe is that it is an old and marvelous place full of astonishing art, architecture, food, and culture that is nonetheless culturally similar enough to home that it is an easy visit.
The idea that Western Europe is a secret East Germany that has wallpapered over its socialist, totalitarian, Soviet decrepitude to fool American rubes into thinking that it is a vibrant and wealthy capitalist society is stupid and absurd. A marginally more robust public sector and better provision of certain public services does not a Bloc make.
UPDATE: Uh, okay. The Internet writes and says, "Dear IOZ, how about some links?" Cowen link added above. Also, found that via Edroso.
Tuesday, August 25, 2009
We doubt much will come from any of this. With Obama’s promise of non-prosecution for any officer or contractor who acted within the four corners of the absurd OLC memos Holder is free to go after the new Lynndie Englands. If they play their cards right, they will position themselves as martyrs, get book deals, air time on Fox and then become senior fellows with that titan of international policy analysis, Cliff May. Embedding the rendition and detainee program with Brennan in the White House would not have occurred to Terry Gilliam even with ether and a Samoan attorney.Barack Obama is really turning out to be an odious little man, isn't he?
I ask you: if you eliminate Smokey Joe Biden's infelicitous identification of Barry O. as "clean and articulate," can you, even at a stretch, come up with something praiseworthy? What a vicious, small-minded monster of a man.
Just what the fuck do people think unprecedented means, anyway? I mean, "Yeah, uh, I'd like to order Denny's Unprecedented Slam Breakfast." Or, uh, "God, that same thing keeps happening to us, and every time, I'm like, that's totally unprecedented."
“As an expert on the causes of the Great Depression, I’m sure Ben never imagined that he would be part of a team responsible for preventing another,” Mr. Obama said. “But because of his background, his temperament, his courage and his creativity, that’s exactly what he has helped to achieve.” In brief remarks, Mr. Bernanke said that the Federal Reserve “has been challenged by unprecedented events of the past few years.” If confirmed by the Senate, he said his objective was to “provide a solid foundation for growth and prosperity in an environment of price stability.” Mr. Bernanke was a leading scholar of the Depression who had broken important ground on the links between financial crises and the real economy. In his work on what he called the “financial accelerator,” Mr. Bernanke argued that a run on banks or other disruptions in financial markets could turn a relatively mild downturn into a severe one.
Supporters of Mr. Bernanke, including many current and former Fed officials, said his academic background provided almost perfect preparation for the financial crisis that began when panic over mortgage-backed securities began spreading through the broader credit markets in late July 2007.
-all reported in The Times
John Caruso and I don't exactly get along. He often finds me glib, dismissive, cliquish, scampering, and a tad juvenile. I often find him tedious, overly earnest, plodding--a stuffy moralist. So it is with some pleasure that I say this bit on Greenwald is right fucking on.
Monday, August 24, 2009
Today I am thrilled to be joined by America's most important thinker, Malcolm Gladwell, who writes for The New Yorker and will soon publish his fourth book, Hey!. Today, Gladwell talks to us about his new book, elections in Afghanistan, Health Care, and state of the American economy.
IOZ: Mr. Gladwell, thank you for joining us.
MG: Thank you.
IOZ: Malcolm, what is your new book about?
MG: Well, IOZ, it's about how when you call across a room, street, or open outdoor area to someone who hasn't previously noticed you, they will hear you and become aware of your presence. This is really a remarkable phenomenon, but much of the newest research has yet to be written about for a general audience. I got the idea one day when I was in Manhattan. I was on Bleeker, and suddenly someone called, "Hey!" Before that, I hadn't known he was there. Afterward, I did. So I started to ask myself, what goes on in that moment. What is the real story there? In a broader sense, it is a book about what it means to be human.
IOZ: Heady stuff, no doubt. But Malcolm, won't some people say, oh, that is just glib repackaging of a totally banal and widely appreciated fundamental of everyday, lived experience?
MG: They might, but they would be misunderstanding the central idea of the book. You see, this isn't a story that's been told before. It isn't about hearing, or voice recognition, or the habits of human public interaction. Those stories have been told before. This is really a story about an idea.
IOZ: Do stories and ideas mix, Malcolm?
MG: Not usually, IOZ. They are like oil and vinegar. So I try to think of my writing like the mustard that emulsifies the oil and vinegar into a salad dressing.
IOZ: I think I understand. So would you say that the story is the oil and the idea the vinegar, or vice versa?
MG: You may be taking the metaphor too literally. Instead of thinking about oil and vinegar, think about chocolate and peanut butter.
IOZ: Which . . . go together!
IOZ: You certainly think outside the tipping point, Malcolm. How does your concept affect the Health Care debate in America.
MG: I thought a lot about Health Care while writing this book. The argument seemed to me to center on a few fixed ideas, such as whether or not health care is a commodity or a basic right, or who ultimately bears the responsibility for paying for care, or if the goal should be the best care regardless of cost or a fuller balancing of the necessity of treatment against the expense of providing it. Somehow, it struck me as very limited. And so I began to think about Health Care not as the treatment of sick people or the maintenance of minimum standards of public wellness, but instead as an idea that ultimately speaks to who we are as a species.
IOZ: Who are we as a species, Malcolm Gladwell?
MG: Actually, IOZ, that will be my next, next book.
IOZ: In the works?
MG: In the works.
IOZ: What can you tell us about it?
MG: Not much yet. The working title is: Humanity: the Human Species.
IOZ: Intriguing. How would you rate President Obama's handling of the economy?
MG: I am less interested in the way the President has handled the economy than I am in what the President's handling of the economy says about the human mind within the context of the President's handling of the economy. It is a story about how the decisions we make affect the decisions he makes regarding the decisions we make, and that is ultimately a story about what it means to be human.
IOZ: What does it mean to be human, Malcolm Gladwell?
MG: Being human is unquestionably a state of being, IOZ. What is a state of being? It is a story, which has a beginning, a middle, and an end. What are beginnings, middles, and ends? They're locations. And what is a location? It is a place.
IOZ: That is exactly the sort of counterintuitive thinking that has made you such a provocative thinker and author. Final question: what should we think about the elections in Afghanistan?
MG: We should definitely think about them, IOZ. That is not the position we naturally arrive at, but when we go beyond the conventional wisdom and "common sense," it is the only conclusion.
IOZ: Thank you, Malcolm Gladwell. Malcolm Gladwell's new book is Hey!: You Over There, and Where It Comes From.
One of The Internet's favorite terms of insult is "undergraduate." I've used it myself! It suggests intellectual shallowness, a lack of rigor, hastily drawn conclusions, habitual over-generalization, and philosophical dilettantism. For these and other reasons, I'm tempted to hurl it at Robert Wright for this travesty of an effort at conciliation, and yet to do so would be an insult to actual undergraduates, so many of whom could doubtlessly recognize Wright's room-temperature, bowdlerized Spinoza, made even less interesting, if that is possible, by a dull sprinkling of the weak anthropic principle.
These are tired arguments--I mean: God is the indwelling and not the transient cause of all things. That's circa 1662, y'all. Hell's bells, you can find this sort of thing in Ecclesiastes, which is in the fucking bible! There's no point in pointedly refuting Wright, who apparently believes he's stumbled upon something novel, poor bastard. His argument is that "faith" or "belief" or what have you is infinitely malleable and universally reconcilable to our material understanding of the universe, if only everyone agrees that neither faith nor belief possess any attributes. This is true, as far as it goes; an affectless non-system of not-belief is indeed limitlessly amenable and amendable. But look, I am an atheist, confirmed and absolute in my belief that there is no universal intelligence or intelligences, but I am not so much not a Jew that I didn't say the kaddish for my brother, and my withered affiliations with that religion prompt me to reply abruptly to the sheer . . . presumptuousness of Wright's argument and others like it: a god that is not God is not god.
I feel this very acutely, very personally. It was not difficult for me to leave religion behind. I did so at an early age and have not regretted it. I am no more bereft at loss because I know there is no persistence of self in an afterlife; if anything, I find myself far less dismayed, shocked, and terrified of our inherent mortality than friends and family who do believe--or profess to believe--that a young man like my late brother now resides in some recumbent paradise. I am not troubled by some sense that I lack purpose. And yet I find myself vestigially insulted by the suggestion that there neither is nor is not a god (or gods, I suppose), but, take comfort!, there is some or other kind of bullshit, half-assed, insubstantial, wafting demiurge that is the equivalent of the sum total of natural law and can be revised without end as soon as our descriptive, scientific powers render one more non-aspect of this non-entity transparent and explicable. How dull, boring, and unnecessary.
It's aught-two all over again.
But the general concedes that attacking Iran could unleash terrifying consequences — among them, the near-certainty that Iran would retaliate.Get that? It isn't the attack that makes the war, but the retaliation. It's really a quite breathtaking position, a quantum theory of warfare, where the effect is the cause and the cause the effect.
A large and very strong state, Iran would "surely strike back," says Nicholas Burns, who was the Bush administration's top negotiator on Iran and former U.S. ambassador to NATO.
"And if it struck back, we might end up with a third war in the Middle East and South Asia, after Afghanistan and Iraq. Can we handle a third war?" he asks.
I have long since grown inured to such casual insanity, and do not think it necessarily foretells an imminent American attack. The "option" of smashing some country or other to smithereens is always on the American table, as the saying goes, and our elite like to rub it, like old Catholics habitually fingering their rosaries. Simply a comfort that it's there.
Worth noting nonetheless: The Obama is a cruise missile liberal if there ever was one. We can all recall Responsible Liberalism's dire fear that that clumsy hick, George Dubbayew, would ruin Humanitarian Intervention for everyone with his clumsy war, and since The Obama is the Restoration president, the temptation to set it right must be very . . . tempting.