Friday, January 15, 2010
Krauthammer, you're a nut!
I'll give him this much: his philosophy is certainly tenacious in the face of countervailing facts. I don't like Obama either, but accusing him of reactionary socialism or whatever is like accusing Sarah Palin of talking over the heads of Americans, which is to say that it properly identifies struggling popularity but totally misdiagnoses the source of the struggle. If Barry'd brought the boys back home, raised the top marginal rate by fifty percent, trust-busted the investment banks, and instituted cradle-to-grave free health care for all, he'd be the most popular man in American history. He'd also be a lot poorer.
Obama's general popularity, it seems to me, has more or less reverted to the mean of a modern presidency. A year in, that seems reasonable. He's not trying to be popular anyway. He tryin ta get paid, yo. The great persistence of the commentariat--from the lowly Kossers to the lowlier Krauthammers and back again--in conflating supporters with backers is the problem. Obama's policies have been designed to please the people who pay the bills. That is why his health policy, far from European socialism, preserves the insurance industry; it's why his bank tax is a pill not for the banks, but for the public, in other words, easily swallowed.
Thursday, January 14, 2010
Plainly I haven't got the mind of a partisan. I just don't understand this sort of hack job, wherein it is conceded that the Democrats are fucking you sideways, from which proceeds a series of speculations on how this brutal fuckeration is going to affect their electoral prospects in 2010. Like, IF THE DEMOCRATS KEEP FUCKING US OVER, IT WILL BE DIFFICULT TO MOTIVATE US TO ELECT MORE DEMOCRATS. Says La Digs:
Seriously, if you live in Massachusetts, do get yourself out to vote for Martha Coakley and volunteer to help if you can. A loss will be so devastating that I'm afraid the Democrats will end up calling to invade Yemen and institute shoot to kill orders for illegal immigrants if they don't win this race.Yo, Digby, it's whatchacall a fait accompli. Dad, Jesus, and the Spook, girlfriend, what's the plan here? To make sure that your asshole takes the mandate to do exactly the same shit that the other asshole would do in her place? Can't you let the people of Massachusetts call in sick and go sled riding in peace?
Wednesday, January 13, 2010
Ah-ha ha ha ha, ho ho ho ho, ha hahahahhahaha. Oh, Jesus. Oh, Lord. OMG. WTF. This is . . . this is . . . oh aha ha ha oh oh oh. Someone dry mah eyes!
By far, by far the best part is when he says, "True story." Lurlz! Let me tell you, my grandfather owned a bar, and I am a drinkin' man, and I can tell you, mister, what "true story!" means!
[It]was a complex speech. It was a, kind of a speech that could be taught in a college course on just war and America's role in the world.Reading the comments of some our chittering anonymice in the prior post put me in mind of the good Mister Smith's post, linked above. Liberal credentialism is really his beat, not mine, so I will only pause to note that one of liberal America's most pitiable traits is its abject fawning at the feet of our Ivy-League gate-keepers and their unimpeachable issue. Unimpeachable, that is, as long as they issue one of us.
-Katarina van den Heuvel on The Obama's Nobel chat
Wow! It "could be taught in a college course"! Say no more! The man is one of us.
Being President may make you stupid; but liking the President gives you a transmissible spongiform encephalopathy. Katrina is probably not a born fool, but deep commitment and hard work have made her a virtuoso of fatuous gaga
-The inimitable Mister Smith on Katarina van den Heuvel
Actually, Barry O's Maimonidean perspicacity may be the last liberal sacred cow, at least judging by the reactions of my own liberal acquaintances and the few progressive types we've yet to fumigate from our own subterranean comments section. It is now acceptable, if not accepted, to propose that The Obama is a coporate-hack warmonger busy bloodying the world and fucking over the workers in the names, variously, of GE, Exxon, Lockheed Martin, Jesus Christ, Pharma, Big Insurance, and Goldman Sachs, but heaven and all the choirs of angry angels forfend that you suggest he's a moron to boot. The arguments for his preternatural intelligence seem to me to have all the weight of the argument for paying Citibankers their trillion dollar bonuses, i.e. that they must be worth it, else they wouldn't be worth it. It is, in other words, basically an argument by question begging, although I suppose in Obama's case there is also the . . . . evidence of . . . the . . . thoughtful . . . pause.
Oddly enough, the liberal QED for the proposition that Obama must be named to the national honor roll, though it yet remains uncertain whether he will attain to the true heights of human genius, seems to be that he edited Harvard Law and then taught at the University of Chicago, which might make one pause to consider replacing this whole representative democracy business with something more closely resembling the tenure committee.
Or maybe that's already been accomplished.
The great Institutions of American higher ed are not designed to produce intelligence, after all, nor even to reward it. They are designed to produce and perpetuate an Establishment. Intelligence is irrascible, iconoclastic, prickly, argumentative, and reactionary. It resembles a gaggle of Frenchmen at a dinner party, not a Cabinet meeting. It rankles; it doesn't conciliate. It certainly doesn't become the President of the United States. Good Lord, here is Bill Clinton, Rhodes scholar, surely the most . . . supple-minded of recent presidents, calling Tom Friedman "our most gifted journalist at actually looking at what is happening in the world and figuring out its relevance to tomorrow" and praising Malcolm Fucking Gladwell as one of our most "penetrating" thinkers. Which is to say, a smart guy by the lights of the Times book review, but not exactly a mind for the ages, eh?
The point here being: what exactly is the evidence of Obama's mental acumen? Granted, the guy speaks at least as well as your average VP of Marketing; he does not slur his words; he appears to have mastered what we might have called fourth-grade geography before they stopped teaching geography. As evidence of depth of intellect, breadth of consideration, sagacity and wisdom, however, is his output not lacking? His celebrated speech on race was callow when he gave it and seems ever more so in retrospect, the sort of blacks-see-it-this-way, whites-see-it-that way that, repackaged and repurposed, might reasonably make an opening act at your local Funny Bone. His innaugural was like a teleconference pep talk with a few bowdlerized Kennedyisms (and what was JFK but another Harvard mediocrity?) thrown in. His Nobel speech would have been morally monstrous were it not so utterly incoherent. He is probably a fine spokesmodel, but insisting on his brains because of his Harvard pedigree is dusting off a just-so story and calling it truth.
We suffer most, not when the White House is a peaceful dormitory, but when it is a jitney Mars Hill, with a tin-pot Paul bawling from the roof. Counting out Harding as a cipher only, Dr. Coolidge was preceded by one World Saver and followed by two more. What enlightened American, having to choose between any of them and another Coolidge, would hesitate for an instant? There were no thrills while he reigned, but neither were there any headaches. He had no ideas, and he was not a nuisance.While I can't say that I agree with Gerson's thesis; while I only wish it were true that Obama's presidential progenitor and role model was Silent Cal; and while the word inspiration makes me reach for my Browning, I feel obliged to say that Gerson is right on when he writes that
In Obama's running seminar, a flawed thesis and a flawed antithesis are always resolved by the synthesis of Obama himself--the speaker as Hegelian culmination of history.Well, perhaps not entirely on. I'm not sure that "Hegelian culmination of history" is exactly it--not so much because it misinterprets Obama, but because it misreads Hegel. Well, we are talking about Michael Gerson, after all.
Nevertheless, it does find the big flaw in our President's self-pious dialectic, in which thesis-and-antithesis are ever reduced to the most asinine of superficially contradictory claims, the resolution of which is not synthesis so much as hybridization. The model is invariably: neither all of this nor all of that, but some of this and some of that at the same time. The method is intellectually shallow and oratorically banal, which perfectly describes Barack Obama, who strikes me as the sort of student who, though he never fails to achieve high marks, also never manages to get beyond a compare-and-contrast approach to his subject--in other words: smart, but not really intelligent.
Tuesday, January 12, 2010
Daybreakers was too good for its own good, which isn't to say it was a good movie. It was a terrible movie. It would be impossible for it to be a good movie. But it could have been a very good bad movie if only it had been a little bit worse. Its production values were just barely high enough to make it terrible rather than fun. With $10 million less in the budget, I would've loved it. Anyway. It is set in a future in which pretty much everybody is a vampire. And the few humans left get hooked up to the Matrix and the vampires suck their blood. That's the setup. Got it? But they're running out of hyooooomanns! Will Ethan Hawke find the blood substitute in time? Or will they all starve into monsters? (Starving turns you into monsters!) Fortunately for HVIC (Head Vampire In Charge), Sam Neill, and for the writers/producers/directors AKA visionaries of this movie, Stephen Spielberg's Brothers, I have constructed this simple mathematical formula through which one can solve all the problems of vampirekind:
To which I have appended this basic corollary:
Hey Woo . . . wasn't this guy supposed to be a millionaire?Anne Applebaum has just discovered that most terrorists are not "the illiterate warlords of Waziristan." I am not certain that the illiterate warlords of Waziriztan are the illiterate warlords of Waziristan, but let us not get distracted. Since just after 9/11, which was likewise carried out by something other than illiterates, the so-called West has reacted with the same shocked dismay that engineers and doctors and elementary school teachers and suchlike have been so often implicated in various acts of terrorism or insurgency or irregular combat or what have you, despite the fact that engineers and doctors and elementary school teachers and suchlike have been so often implicated in various acts of terrorism and insurgency and irregular combat and what have you. This suggests some kind of a priori fallacy, does it not? I mean, if your own personal Weltanschauung is consistently rocked by seismic WTF moments, then maybe you need to set all those neatly ordered continents adrift.
Alora. If you flipped on al-Jazeera and found their infotainers gathered in a koffeeklatch gaggle around a brightly-lit, technicolor dream set wondering how it could be that a CIA forward operating killbot command center was populated by multilingual, highly educated Americans rather than methsmoking subliterate Great Plains cannonfodder stock, you'd laugh. It would seem preposterous. Obviously the genetic mulligan stew of America's great brooding middlelands provides a fair portion of our grunt quota, but just as obviously we are going to send the smartest of our true beleivers to do the really Important work. No one is surprised by this. The surprise that anything other than a cave dweller would sign on to fight the Americans suggests only that we still cannot wrap our fat-thickened Western brains around the notion that, agree with it or not, there are people in this world nursing real grievances against us, willing to fight and die just as some of us are. One can hardly spit in the direction of an NPR affiliate without splattering some fatuous report on a Harvard Medical grad who forsook his lucrative ENT practice to dress wounds in Afghanistan--that guy is practically an archetype in our wartime Commedia. So why should the other side not have theirs as well?
Part of the shock in these instances is that professionalism is assumed by Westerners to mean Westernized. Clearly those primitive Others could not produce medical doctors! This is our last remaining ideology, a sort of monopolistic modernity, which struggles with the notion that there may actually be a few universities in the Muslim world. It is simply presumed that anyone attaining some modest degree of literacy, vocational ability, and access to a satellite dish will become immediately Americanized. We are very content to repeat the self-congratulatory silliness that imbues a certain moral superiority in something we call innovation, frowning biliously in the vague direction of Mecca and complaining that They are merely using Our inventions against us. And while there is a certain truth to the notion that for the last few centuries, anyway, Europe and North America produced a large part of the world's scientific and technological advancements, the idea that this fact alone obliterates cultural preferences and makes any supposed value system other than our own some kind of pathology is the purest of hubris and the most asinine sort of egotism. (Meanwhile, it turns out that the Hindus and Confucians and Shinto and so forth are quite good at science as well, for what it's worth.) The presumption that every educated Muslim will turn Washingtonward because the West produced the technological systems that said Muslim was trained to operate is wholly nonsensical; it has nothing at all to do with the political and cultural antagonisms driving the ongoing insurgency against American hegemony. Osama bin Laden is not, after all, complaining that Windows is a clunky operating system or childhood vaccination has somehow created autism. He and his compatriots are pissed that America keeps fucking invading other countries.