clap clap blog: we have moved
Thursday, May 22, 2003
Aw, thanks Matt. Although for the record, I was saying everyone should be like you, but funny.
So anyway, hi there to the new readers and the old ones. I am about to go away for the weekend to watch some friends graduate from college, but as the Howler says, visit our incomparable archives! (Which are now comparable! Ha!) Here's some good posts from the past to keep you going until after the holiday weekend:
- Non-lethal weapons in Iraq, and the curious lack thereof.
- The State Department (response to the Gingrich speech).
- Response to a review of a Yo La Tengo album.
- Lengthy exchange of e-mails between me and a music critic about the White Stripes.
See you on Tuesday!
posted by Mike B. at 6:23 PM 0 comments Links to this post
the only (other) thing I'll post about the matrix, swear to god
There is always a point when I go to see a movie in a theater that I laugh and no one else does. [Brief side note: this reminds me of what one of my favorite teachers, Mike Reynolds, said about seeing Todd Soldonz's Happiness: everyone laughs, but no one laughs at the same time, so you immediately feel really weird about laughing at the pedophile joke.] And in the case of the new Matrix movie, there was a bit where I was laughing for a good minute, which was a minute longer than anyone else. I haven't seen it addressed elsewhere, and since it deals with two things not usually stressed in discussions about the movie--specifically, love and Krautrock--I figured I'd throw it up here to be spat at.
Unfortunately for this post, I can't quite remember whether this happens at the very end of the movie, after Neo rescues Trinity, or in the middle, after they leave Zion and are still debating prophecy stuff, but at any rate, Neo's doubting himself per usual, and Trinity turns to him and says, in this very clear, "this means something!" voice, "You made a believer out of me." And I laughed, because I couldn't help thinking of the Can song "Yoo Doo Right," whose chorus goes:
Once I was blind, but now I see / Now that you're in love with me / You made a believer out of me, baby / You made a believer out of me
(quoted from the Geraldine Fibbers' nicely loud cover, which is the version I'm familiar with.)
Now, obviously I have no idea if this was a conscious reference, but it really stood out to me, and regardless, it's interesting in context. Obviously there's the first connection between gaining visions of reality through faith as in the first movie, but then there's the implication that the cause is love and not some weird metaphysical conceit. There's also the negative interpretation of the statement: that the speaker is, in fact, blinded by love, and what he thinks is seeing is actually illusion, and the Matrix refs are pretty obvious there. It suggests as well that Morpheus' faith is kind of akin to obsessive romantic stalking, and Trinity's faith is sustained by a personal connection instead of an abstract belief, which is a very modern thing, of course.
But the really interesting thing is the way it reflects on the Christian imagery in the series, admittedly more present in the first one than the new one. They get the Jesus thing with being chosen, and the special powers, and the savior bit, but then they move on to Gnostic / Buddhist metaphysical riddles, and what's lost in the Christian tradition is the love. Love often gets lost when talking about Christianity--either fundamentalists want to turn tolerance into intolerance, or skeptics willfully ignore it in favor of the numerous abuses by its practitioners--and while that's hardly surprising for nerd-porn such as this (it's good stuff, but humanist redemption drama it ain't), it's also kind of unfortunate. You find this more positivist view of the Christian tradition (especially the xtian theological tradition) in writers like Chesterton and Voeglin, and there it's remarkably productive and, well, humanist. I guess the Trinity thing is already uncomfortably close to veering into Hollywood "love conquers all!" territory, but it is suggested by that line, and it shows what's lacking in Neo. That all-encompassing love for humanity is weirdly absent in the Matrix's cosmology--Neo seems to want to save them mainly out of obligation and guilt, or a love for Zion, and not because he actually likes them, a view encouraged by the mechanistic role humans take on in the Matrix's setup. I guess this is understandable and ties in with Neo's regular-guy (-with-super-powers) iconography, but it's still a bit weird.
Oh, and so is Can. What the fuck is that doing there?
posted by Mike B. at 4:34 PM 0 comments Links to this post
Bob Herbert makes what can only be described as a facile comparison between the Dixie Chicks and Halliburton:
Who's less patriotic, the Dixie Chicks or Dick Cheney's long-term meal ticket, the Halliburton Company?
The Dixie Chicks were excoriated for simply exercising their constitutional right to speak out. With an ugly backlash and plans for a boycott growing, the group issued a humiliating public apology for "disrespectful" anti-Bush remarks made by its lead singer, Natalie Maines.
The Chicks learned how dangerous it can be to criticize the chief of a grand imperial power.
Halliburton, on the other hand, can do no wrong. Yes, it has a history of ripping off the government. And, yes, it's made zillions doing business in countries that sponsor terrorism, including members of the "axis of evil" that is so despised by the president.
If you want to compare the two, you really should mention the ways they're similar: both have faced broad public outcry and threats of a boycott, but in both cases it has been unsuccessful because they both still enjoy broad institutional support (the Chicks were never really banned from that many radio stations, and most importantly, they're still being carried by retail). I guess this could pass for irony in some weird backwards universe, but c'mon Bob, we all know that what the Chicks are dealing with isn't anything approaching censorship, its stoking by media monoliths notwithstanding. (It's nice that he alerts us to the letter of protest Henry Waxman wrote to Rumsfeld, though.)
If you want a better comparison to illuminate the problems with Halliburton or Betchel in general, you might try something I was talking about earlier today: the educational system. When the educational system, or the FCC, or the EPA does something wrong, you a) know it's done something wrong, and b) can change its policy through political action. Sure, it might not always work, and the ways people might want to change these institutions might run counter to your interests, but the power is clearly there. It's accountability; even if, in the case of the FCC, there are structural barriers to change, those barriers can be removed through public pressure.
Call me a statist if you will, but I prefer that a thousandfold to Halliburton, a private industry doing government (i.e., public) work without any of the oversight we have with an actual government agency. In 99% of the cases where a civic activity is privatized or outsourced, the level of secrecy jumps, and the ability to make changes once the policy has been implemented is greatly reduced. (The main exception I can think of would be the computer industry, and that's mainly because of open-source doctrine and the fact that the NSA is the government's main agency computer-wise, and what would you expect from an organization with "Security" in its name?) So the problem with Halliburton isn't so much that it's getting these contracts, or even that it's probably getting these contracts due to the Cheney connection; it's that we have no idea how they're getting the contracts, and we have no idea what they're doing, ultimately.
So with the educational system, if you don't like the textbook they're using, you can, for better or worse, convince them to use a different one. If you don't like Halliburton's activities, you can, of course, vote Cheney out, but if you're a lawmaker you can't change the policy, and you can never really sever the ties the company has with the establishment. Worse, you can't even raise a good case for why they should be removed, because you don't know what the hell they're doing. John McCain made the excellent point in asking for the 9/11 commission to release its findings that "excessive administration secrecy ... feeds conspiracy theories and reduces the public's confidence in government." Damn straight. Most of the time the reality always turns out to be better than what you would guess given the secrecy, and so it's unclear why the secrecy was there in the first place. Of course some areas of government require secrecy to do their job, and sometimes private industry is going to be a lot more efficient than government, but as citizens I think we shouldn't be so eager to promote efficiency in favor of being able to know what our government is doing and to make changes accordingly, as seems to be the trend recently. We also shouldn't be so eager to throw up our hands at the thought of reforming government inefficiency and simply surrender the job to the private sector.
posted by Mike B. at 3:21 PM 0 comments Links to this post
brief personal bitch
So I've got one intern in the next cubicle blasting and singing along to some shitty MOR Matchbox 20 clone and another guy in the cubicle down the way blasting and singing along to soul. And he's white. And he can't sing. And weirdly, my Liars EP isn't drowning them out, and I don't have my To Live and Shave in L.A. album with me, which trumps pretty much everything. Any suggestions for what I could put on to really bring the noise-rock hurt? (And don't say Le Shok, because my last fart sounded better than them. And I forgot Deerhoof at home too, damnit.)
Hmm, maybe I should just put Fluxblog's John Wayne Gacy conversation on, but I've been playing that crazy DJ thing everyday to no avail...maybe it just reminds music-biz peeps of their friends? That's probably unfair.
posted by Mike B. at 1:15 PM 0 comments Links to this post
William Safire leaves the "I had a stroooooke!" linguistic tricks behind and makes the excellent point that conservatives should be against media deregulation just as strongly as libbers:
Many artists, consumers, musicians and journalists know that such protestations of cable and Internet competition by the huge dominators of content and communication are malarkey. The overwhelming amount of news and entertainment comes via broadcast and print. Putting those outlets in fewer and bigger hands profits the few at the cost of the many.
Does that sound un-conservative? Not to me. The concentration of power — political, corporate, media, cultural — should be anathema to conservatives. The diffusion of power through local control, thereby encouraging individual participation, is the essence of federalism and the greatest expression of democracy...That's why I march uncomfortably alongside CodePink Women for Peace and the National Rifle Association, between liberal Olympia Snowe and conservative Ted Stevens under the banner of "localism, competition and diversity of views." That's why, too, we resent the conflicted refusal of most networks, stations and their putative purchasers to report fully and in prime time on their owners' power grab scheduled for June 2.
Must broadcasters of news act only on behalf of the powerful broadcast lobby? Are they not obligated, in the long-forgotten "public interest," to call to the attention of viewers and readers the arrogance of a regulatory commission that will not hold extended public hearings on the most controversial decision in its history?...Let's debate this out in the open, take polls, get the president on the record and turn up the heat.
I mean, duh to all of this, but thank God. This is one of the few times when you can clearly see that big business is getting a big ol' sloppy french kiss from a government agency at the expense of the clear interests and wishes of the vast majority of people. And so much of it is structural, as Safire points out, but a lot of it is internal politics as well, especially the fact that the FCC has been underfunded for so many years that it now doesn't have the resources to investigate most citizen complains of media abuse, and thus pays attention to the people who do give it money, i.e. the media conglomos. The end of the Right to Respond doctrine, the spectrum auctions, radio deregulation...it's the trail of tears for people who believe that citizen access to media is a vital component of a free republic.
posted by Mike B. at 12:46 PM 0 comments Links to this post
Lemme lay out the points made in this NYT article and what it says about the "educational standards" movement.
- Federal gov't passes a law (the "No Child Left Behind" law) saying that states must require all students to pass standardized tests.
- The law also requires all students (i.e., 100%) to meet proficiency standards in reading in math by 2014, "a level they say has never been achieved in any state or country."
- No additional money is provided to achieve these goals, because conservatives don't like "big government."
- The states can set their own standards, because conservatives like "states' rights."
- If the standards are not met, schools lose funding, because conservatives like "accountability."
So what happens when you set higher standards (I thought conservatives liked deregulation?) and don't provide any new funds to meet those standards (I though conservatives didn't like unfunded mandates?) but allow states to set their own standards? Well, of course, they simply redefine what constitutes a passing grade, and everything's fine. Does it help students? Nope, not really. But then it can be reasonably argued that this is all the fault of the original bill. And, again, conservatives see an instutition they don't like, and instead of openly opposing it, they use the power of the purse to fund and legislate it out of its mandate.
I feel like conservative policy toward education is somewhat analogous to liberal policy towards gun control. They see certain problems in things they basically don't like anyway (c.f. the recent conservative quoted questioning "Who said we all get free education?...What is this, Russia?") and try and fix these problems largely through regulation. But enforcement is feeble because of certain biases in the ideology (righties don't like federal government dictating local policy; lefties are uncomfortable, despite what the NRA says, about the government having strong enforcement powers to seize private property) and practitioners on the ground generate constant work-arounds that end up little practical change beside having political battles supplant efforts at finding common-sense solutions, all supplanted by a public that has a hard time not supporting the dominant position ("Well, I like standards, and guns are bad...").
Then again, I'm a lefty, so I'm for gun control and against the standards movement. I don't understand how anyone who has spent any time in a public school can be reasonably for it, honestly--just saying that we're going to hold students to certain standards does nothing beside make the teachers teach to the test and take away from any opportunity they might have had to tailor their curriculum to the interests and abilities of their students. The problem everybody ultimately has seems to be with teachers (conservatives don't trust 'em), and if this is a problem, it can be solved, I think, through a combination of devolving power from the administrative level and getting the teacher's unions to agree to unequal pay scales so that better math and science teachers can be hired. And, I'm sorry to say, more funding targeted at schools that need it.
Well, that's not the most coherent argument I've ever put together in favor of the educational system, but you get the idea.
ADDENDUM: OK, didn't catch this on the first read-through:
The 600-page law, Mr. Bush's basic education initiative, was passed with bipartisan backing four months after Sept. 11, 2001. Many prominent Democrats, however, have since withdrawn their support, including Representative Richard A. Gephardt of Missouri, who recently described it as "a phony gimmick."
"We were all suckered into it," Mr. Gephardt said. "It's a fraud."
Um. OK, Dick, I was willing to give you that line on PATRIOT. This one? Not so much. This is where electoral strategy divides from policy strategy: passing a popular proposal and then disavowing it when it turns sour is a good way to get yourself elected, but the policy damage has been done, and it's not like the implications weren't clear from the start. You've been in goddamn politics long enough to know that just because it has a "nice" name it isn't actually nice.
posted by Mike B. at 12:10 PM 0 comments Links to this post
Wednesday, May 21, 2003
I just want to go over this Texas thing quick for anyone who hasn't been following the aftermath: I tend to agree with Josh Marshall who feels, in sum, that the Department of Homeland Security itself wasn't responsible for using its powers to track Texas Dems, but the fault can be laid at the feet of a Texas state trooper, who was almost certainly following orders from Texas House Speaker Tom Craddick, who was definitely taking orders from Tom DeLay. So while the system didn't fail as such, it was deinitely abused. Go read some more of Josh's posts about the whole thing--he's especially good in pointing out that the Dems had every right to oppose the gerrymandering, which flies in the face of a century's worth of political custom.
Of course, then today's there's the revelation that the Texas Department of Public Safety destroyed all records of Homeland Security's involvement in the matter, which is just really, really bad, and I hope we can all agree on that. I don't care where you are on the political spectrum--having federal anti-terrorist resources used to track you down when all you're doing is breaking a quorum is not a weapon you want to have pointed at you, to say nothing of the moral reasons. And destroying the evidence just makes it look worse.
posted by Mike B. at 5:56 PM 0 comments Links to this post
Matthew Yglesias gives us a good example of a statement that is basically not right but still very funny:
"If the government doesn't have any better way of assessing the threat than watching CNN to see if anyone's been blown up lately, then I think we all have reason to worry."
Clearly not true, but still pretty good for what it is. So lemme ask the question: is this what the left needs, maybe? Matt was taken to task for an entry which seemed to be praising the Communists but I think was probably more meant to make the Greens look stupid, and this is a decent example of the kind of ironic (as opposed to sarcastic, which we have a lot of) humor you see in Rush Limbaugh but not much in any other leftist commentators outside of, weirdly, Dan Savage (and a few others). Yes, yes, Rush is a Big Fat etc., but as I've often said, looking back on his 90's stuff with the benefit of hindsight, a lot of that FAIR / "you say feminazi!" stuff was sort of missing the joke. And it's even kind of funny in retrospect. I think leftists are quick to jump on their own when they see them saying something "wrong," but sometimes you have to be willing to say something that's wrong in order to make a point and trust your audience enough to know that you know. Does that make any sense? I just think we have a bit too much faith in the blinding power of The Truth, and a bit of ironic humor and a nose-thumbing response to criticism of same (see the Blumenthal quote below) might be good for us. Like I say, the Fox News slogan is mind-bendingly cynical, but anything that gets the opposition that apoplectic can't be all bad. Too often the jabs we take at the opposition are half-hearted, self-congratulatory, and putting waaaaaay too much stock in the idea that we're being "subversive." I think you all know what I talk about--think about leftists who say things that you agree with in ways that make you want to slap them (i.e., Michael Moore at his worst). Well, I guess I'm just rambling on at this point, so maybe I should just try bein' funny like that myself, but maybe this will raise some thoughts in others.
posted by Mike B. at 5:42 PM 0 comments Links to this post
Wanted to highlight this one answer from the Blumenthal interview from Salon:
Why were official Washington and the media establishment so anti-Clinton?
They didn't share his commitment to shaking up the old order. And then, at the beginning of his administration, he was too embroiled in political conflicts -- over the economy, gay rights, healthcare and trade issues -- to sufficiently stroke the Washington and media gatekeepers. The Bush administration's attitude of utter contempt toward the press seems to work better. The press is sociologically much closer to the Democrats. Everyone's always going on about the liberal media. It's no mystery -- there's a natural selection process that goes on, the profession attracts certain people for the same reason that some people become heads of pharmaceuticals. Why get all exercised about it -- it's like accusing bankers of having conservative leanings. But as a result of this sociological affinity, the press feels both closer and more competitive with Democratic administrations than they do with Republican ones. The competitiveness inherent in journalism was brought to bear on many of the media's peers in the Clinton administration.
I don't want to go on too much about Blumenthal--I'm not obsessed with the thing like certain other bloggers--but this is a very nice answer to a persistant question, and one I tend to agree with.
posted by Mike B. at 4:04 PM 0 comments Links to this post
Thomas Frank is frequently wrong, but he is just as frequently right. (Like Christopher Hitchens, but with less pride in being an asshole, and less self-righteousness--er, although those two things may be the same.) And while examples of the former, especially an article in Harper's a few years ago about "ironic" music, can be painfully egregious, his cover story in this month's Harper's, "Get Rich or Get Out: Attempted Robbery With a Loaded Federal Budget," is unquestionably the latter. So goes Thomas Frank--he seemed a bit scattershot and shrill at times in his last book, One Market Under God, but the chapter on cultural studies is the definitive takedown of that particular bastard genre, and it's hard not to at least respect someone who attempts to engage with the market by seeking to understand its actors as fully as possible by being proficient in economics, scouring management texts, etc.
At any rate, this one's a doozy, and I am going to go so far as to type up the first section to entice you all to buy it, since it seems to end up being me but smarter and better-written and in Harper's.
FRANK: The Bush Administration's proposed budget for 2004 fills five phone book-size volumes; it is 2,866 pages long. The list of authors alone runs to hundreds of names, arranged alphabetically, occupying four pages of four columns each. The UPS man who delivered my copy had to carry it on his shoulder, puffing as he climbed three flights of stairs. When he plunked it down on the floor of my apartment, the dishes rattled in the cupboard.
The five-volume budget set includes a book of precise details in microscopic type, a book of tables showing how much was spent on the various programs over the years, a book of hints for unlucky staffers who have been assigned to think about matters budgetary, and a main volume--a reader-friendly book featuring a continuous prose narrative, full-color pictures of your government in action, items of interest set off in attractively typeset boxes, and a reassuring abundance of the familiar phrases of bureaucracy: "homeland," "stewardship," "caregiver." "Transition" gets used a lot as a verb.
I don't have too much of a problem with the budget's desk-crushing backup volumes. I find it kind of interesting to read seven pages of tables detailing highway expenditures from 1940 to the present. [nerd!!!! -ed] It's the part of the budget I'm supposed to like that I really can't stand.
Let me upgrade that remark: The 2004 budget is toxic. It is an epic of distortion and evasion and contradiction and misleading rhetorical ploys. The object of this malodorous epic is to outline the Bush Administration's plan for plunging the nation from surplus into deficit and to cast the blame for the ensuing disaster on the very people--the retired, the sick, the poor--who will feel the brunt of its effects. Whether Congress alters this budget, reduces its tax cuts, or rejects it altogether is beside the point. The document we will have always with us, an indelible reminder of what the Bush team would do if they possibly could.
There is nothing inherently wrong with deficits, even massive ones, as a tool of state policy. In wars and recessions it is right and even proper for the federal government to spend more than it takes in, so as to ensure that resources continue to flow to consumer and to those hardest hit, and to stimulate the economy. The 2004 budget is not concerned with any of that. Here war and recession are merely pretexts for getting the crudest social trends of the last twenty years moving again. This deficit is designed to enrich those at the very top of the social pyramid while cutting services for those lower down. This is not cyclical Keynesianism. This is not a helpful or even a merely benign program of deficit spending. It is a blueprint for sabotage. It is an instruction manual for how to power up a complicated machine and dash it headlong into a stone wall.
After which the president will turn to us and say, "See? I told you big government doesn't work."
And there's lots more good stuff after that, like when he critiques the idea of a businessman making a good political leader by pointing out that "management theory holds government to be a uniquely depraved social actor." Mmmm.
So yes, I tend to think that Frank hit this one out of the ballpark, and it would be a nice theme to see Democrats picking up on. Of course, underfunding and crippling agencies until the lose their mandate is a classic political technique (which has worked in a very weird way at the FCC, but that's a case study for another time), but if you're going to pretend like you're helping the agencies, you're gonna take some political shots, and it's up to our representatives (and erstwhile candidates) to deliver those, albeit in a tone that always avoids conspiracy theory. (You could wheel out the ol' "Lipstick on a pig" quote, if you'd like.) Let's not be unclear about the fact that the current administration is trying to run some agencies (State especially) into the ground in the same way, say, Reagan wanted to kill the EPA (James Watt) and the NEA. And these are services--like veterans' benefits, from which they wanted to cut US$25billion--that are the essence of what most citizens look to government to provide. So we should at least be honest in what we're doing.
He goes on to give some quotes from the budget summary where they basically just seem to be ripping on their own government--"here the White House can be seen confession, on behalf of previous administrations and, indeed, the entire federal workforce, to anything you care to think of"--which are just astounding.
"Federal agencies," for example, are said to be so out of touch that they have "not managed themselves well enough to know whether they had the right people with the right skills to do their work." Among federal workers "pay and performance are generally unrelated," which is apparently not a problem in the private sector.
Ouch. Anyway, it ties into that whole Arendt thing I've been going off on about respecting the civil service, their neutrality and their institutional knowledge. It makes a certain amount of sense, I suppose, for the administration to present their budget in these political terms, but I've written budget summaries before, and even when I did it for a company about to go under, there was nothing as skewed as this. The budget is, essentially, numbers, and for the spin to extend so far as to claim to be rehabilitating agencies intended to be gutted, it illustrates the need for there to be somewhere an enterprising citizen can go for straight facts. The flip side to an open government is that the government is much more open with its ambitions.
posted by Mike B. at 3:55 PM 0 comments Links to this post
My boss, Danny Goldberg, has written a book called Dispatches from the Culture Wars: How the Left Lost Teen Spirit published by Miramax Books (no homepage, but I did find out that they're also publishing Yanni's memoirs) and, while I haven't read it--well, except for a chapter or two that I helped his assistant format--it's a pretty good title, no? (He used to manage Nirvana, btw.) There are a bunch of copies lying around the conference room table and I might just have to steal one.
While I'm hyping things, I might as well mention that the TSC link at the top of the page is now active, because I got off my ass and made a website for it. TSC is The Song Corporation, the rock band I'm in (Galvanized being the electronic one), and if you go to the site you can hear two MP3s and read some very, er, familiar-sounding ramblings in the news section. The MP3s are very good, I think.
posted by Mike B. at 3:00 PM 0 comments Links to this post
Looks like the UN's starting to gain a little bit of ground back (and the US is beginning to admit what was obvious even to semi-educated leftists such as myself). From a Newsweek article on Kofi Annan:
U.N. officials spent some lonely weeks combing the papers for any mention of their organization, trying to reassure themselves they hadn’t been completely forgotten. Now they are back in the news, and with the Coalition struggling to cope with a society threatening to spiral out of control, there does seem to be a dawning realization among American officials that the United Nations, with its long experience in reconstruction efforts, may have something to offer after all. Americans are pushing Annan to appoint a candidate of their choosing, Sergio Vieira de Mello, the U.N. high commissioner for human rights, as a U.N. representative in Iraq, though Annan is not so sure he wants to be seen relegating human-rights issues to a back burner. The shift, in any case, is a step sure to gladden multilateralist hearts. “They want to share the blame with more people” in the complicated aftermath of the war, one U.N. official observes. “That’s what we’re here for.”
That's a pretty cynical way of putting it, but I guess it's good that they're considering the possibility. I dunno. When reading this story, I had a certain reaction, and I hope to god Kofi had the same one: as soon as it became clear that the UN was going to get shut out of the war, I hope he prepared both an internal political strategy and an external policy plan for when the US would almost certainly drop the ball during the reconstruction and admit that they needed help, so the Iraqi people could suffer as little as possible. This, after all, is what politics at its best is for--and, lest we get caught up too much in partisan accusations, why having not only a good policy but having a political strategy to successfully implement and maintain it is crucial to doing the kind of good works that (hopefully) everyone involved in politics want to do. But that's old-hat policy stuff, right guys?
Ah, but read on:
“The future of the institution depends on how he responds to the challenge,” says a former U.S. official, as much as on whether President George W. Bush ultimately sides with the hawks who call him “Kofi Annoying,” or with his more moderate friends in the State Department, who’d rather see the United Nations reformed than retired.
Is Annan up to the job?...Is he too tentative and polite to use the only real tool he has, the bully pulpit? People the world over were waiting for his big antiwar speech, but he never delivered anything of the kind. “He’s —not the missionary type,” says a key aide. “He’s very much about will it help the process, will it help the United Nations.” Which is why he is not about to do what his most adoring fans would like—spend some political capital and join Britain’s Tony Blair in making the case for multilateralism. His undramatic answer? Wait for passions to fade, and then wait some more, to see what jobs are actually offered the United Nations in Iraq, rather than risking rejection by volunteering for specific duties. For his critics, Annan’s under-caffeinated affect and tendency to go slow have only reinforced their feeling that the French-speaking, “dopey old United Nations,” as one Fox News commentator recently called it, should stick to worthy relief efforts and leave the masterminding to the guys with the guns.
What is not so dopey, however, is the alternative notion that Annan’s one-foot-in-front-of-the-other approach is not only strategic, but actually quite shrewd. He has for weeks been resisting heavy U.S. and U.K. pressure to send an envoy to Baghdad, holding off until somebody tells him precisely what a U.N. representative would do at the postwar party. While insisting on a real rather than rubber-stamping role, he has also been trying to split the difference between the Coalition and the rest of the world in his public comments. Though this hasn’t satisfied those on either side of the Iraq issue entirely, it may be the best way to keep the United Nations alive in the long run. The long run, of course, being what the United Nations has been counting on. With Americans already tiring of the tedious, messy business of nation-building, the point seems valid. “You come from a country with a short attention span,” one of the United Nations’ top officials told me. Annan, on the other hand, is an exceedingly patient man.
Of course, it would be nice if the US were to take a more active role in the reformation of the UN, but it's also a nice testament to the fact that the UN is stronger than it would seem sometimes, and much of its strength lies in its institutional memory, I think. I mean, I usually disagree with the dumb party line that Americans have no historical memory, but with national institutions that change on a pretty short cycle, that kind of memory is (intentionally) lacking, at least when you get an administration in that seems determined to minimize the power of the civil services of career officials, like at State.
(apologies for the long excerpt, but I know mostaya blog-fans aren't exactly Newsweek readers...)
posted by Mike B. at 12:00 PM 0 comments Links to this post
Tuesday, May 20, 2003
Ah, this is why we read the NYT arts section: for exegesises on the (over)use of the melisma in current pop music. The melisma is that "Iiiii-eeeiee-ii-eee-EEEEEE!" packing of multiple notes into one syllable that you hear Mariah and Whitney use a lot, and which American Idol has apparently decided is the epitome of vocal talent. It's not, obviously, which the article points out adroitly:
Soul innovators like Mr. Charles and Ms. Franklin were capable of melisma that could singe the false eyelashes of divas like Ms. Carey and Whitney Houston, but they used the technique more sparingly, and more meaningfully — as fevered expressions of emotions beyond words. Listen to Mr. Charles's "Come Back Baby" (1954). He employs all kinds of vocal flourishes, whooping and growling, lagging teasingly behind the beat and sliding into an unearthly falsetto. When he does break into melisma, he does so in the service of his song: in his vocal hiccups we hear the pain of a spurned lover.
It is worth remembering that good popular singing is less about technical polish than personality amplification. Many of the greatest pop singers are freaks, cranks and technical ill-adepts; the bona fide American idols who would likely flop on "American Idol" include not just vocal eccentrics like Bob Dylan, Chet Baker and Billie Holiday, but even the definitive modern soul diva, Mary J. Blige, whose occasionally imperfect pitch is more than compensated for by her charisma and large lungs.
I would add that the worst example of this trend would be the way the national anthem seems to get sung these days, i.e. as a goddamn melisma-fest. I mean, I love American Idol, but I liked it more before, I think, when it was more honest in using strictly commercial standards. First season looks obviously mattered, while the rhetoric this season is that "talent" will win out. Well bull-shit. No one who's as nervous on stage as Reuben seems to be (to say nothing of his, er, questionable looks) is anything like an Idol, at least not without a few years of working crowds, and if you're going to put the emphasis on vocal "talent" then you're going to have to have a lot better musical arrangements to back them up, you know? It's fun and all, but I think I might have liked it better when it seemed to have more of a connection to the weird and evil standards of the music industry. Mmm. Yeah, I'm all for instant fame, but instant celebrities are only compelling in their downfalls. Although maybe that's the point. Justin, where's your arrest for snorting coke off a dead hooker when we need you in these troubled times?
posted by Mike B. at 3:55 PM 0 comments Links to this post
Two lovely bits from Gawker. First is an excerpt from a ["an"? -inner grammar Nazi] NPR interview with the editor of the Weekly World news:
PS: What's in store for Mr. [Jayson] Blair?
BD: We might be interested in hiring him, actually.
BD: If we could teach him to be real reporter. This whole nonsense of making up quotes, making up everything...he made up people. That's not the kind of journalism we teach here.
PS: Thanks for talking with us.
BD: Thank you very much.
PS: Mr. Dutter is the Executive Editor of the Weekly World News.
BD: ...and don't miss our next issue, Elvis is alive and we've got the photos to prove it.
Hmm--it's like what that Fox News guy said, except with some awareness of irony. Can I tell you how much I want to write for the WWN?
Also, this quote from Ewan McGregor is pretty priceless:
"I'm not an exhibitionist in terms of whipping out my penis at parties and waving it around. I was in the past. Perhaps that was something to do with my drinking at the time."
Hey, what was that about lefty bloggers being such committed statists that they only talked about institutional activity? Drunken celebrities, anti-psychotic medication, the Weekly World News--man, we gots it all.
posted by Mike B. at 2:57 PM 0 comments Links to this post
all the ladies in the house do tha thorazine shuffle
Allow me to engage in a bit of personal talk, albeit on a subject that relates to a larger issue.
The New York Times today published a story about the new generation of anti-psychotic medications and how studies are beginning to show that they're not the miracle cure they appeared to be at first. The old stuff, like Haldol or Thorazine, was given in massive doses to psychotics and resulted in a kind of zombie state of sedation and Parkinson's symptoms that caused muscle spasms and a signature stiff-legged walk, "the Thorazine shuffle." The new generation of antipsychotics, like Zyprexa and Risperdal, seemed much gentler and to have far fewer side effects, and patients and doctors embraced them eagerly, to the degree that they started to be prescribed for "Alzheimer's, personality disorders and nonpsychotic depression, and for conduct disorder and severe aggression in children." But it's become clear that the side effects these drugs (the "atypicals") have been known to cause, such as fatal blood clots and diabetes, require such expensive monitoring (mainly blood tests) that the benefits may not be worth it. Of course, the cycle of "New miracle drug!" -> acceptance -> "Oops, maybe it wasn't such a good idea..." -> "New Miracle Drug!" has been repeated ad naseum in the last fifty years, but it's a healthy reminder that this might not be the smartest practice.
Now, what they don't make clear is that all these drugs are essentially tranquilizers, as far as I know, and that the atypicals are just slightly gentler tranquilizers. They can talk about targeting specific brain chemicals all they want, but as far as I'm concerned, the class of antipsychotics basically works to slow down your brain in one way or another. You can see how this would work in the case of the other disorders for which antipsychotics are now being prescribed.
I was prescribed Risperidol by one of the top neurologists dealing with my condition, which is not psychosis, and even that was a fight--he wanted to put me on Haldol, which was "standard," but I assume you can see why this might not be the most promising option for someone who, say, writes as much as I do. (At least until the Thorazine shuffle becomes the dance craze I hope to one day make it.) Risperidol was gentler, as far as I could tell, and it seemed to work OK, although I was worried about it--depression was one of the most notable side effects, and I went on antidepressants at the same time as I started Risperidol. Still, it seemed the best thing at the time.
Then I gave some to a friend who was having trouble sleeping. And she took it, and reported back that she had slept for 18 hours and been depressed for a day afterwards. And I thought: hmm, maybe that's why I've been tired and depressed for the past six months. So I got off that as fast as I could and onto an entirely different class of medications--which cost $1000 a month and has thrown me into an insurance company pit of hell, but that's a story for another time. This is all to say nothing of tardive dyskinesia, which is, as the Times article puts it, "a disorder that causes repetitive movements — chewing motions, lip-smacking and contortions of the arms and legs — that sometimes persisted even after the drugs were stopped." More specifically, it's known to cause permanent eye tics, and when that's sort of the behavior the drug's meant to cure, it's a problem. My friend Liz did a study and found a distressingly high probability of getting a form of tardive dyskinesia if you take anti-psychotics for three years.
None of this is to say that the atypicals aren't great for people who, you know, actually have schizophrenia, and blood disorders and increased risk of diabetes aside, Risperidol et al are way, way better than Haldol ("Bretta M., 34, a Brooklyn woman, for example, said that the Zyprexa she takes is an improvement over Haldol, an old-generation drug that she said made her feel "like a zombie.") although, honestly, that wouldn't have been too hard. But to read that its use on other disorders isn't limited to weirdoes like me is troubling, especially when coupled with the assertion that "It's probably the best growth market in the business." It's an awfully blunt way of dealing with a lot of these things, and seems a strange substitute either for effective behavioral counseling or actual scientific progress in finding more specific treatments for these disorders. It also exposes patients to unnecessary side effects and does, to a certain degree, sedate them (a charge leveled at antidepressants which turns out to be largely untrue but which would seem to be the case here) which is problematic both because it lessens their social value and makes it much harder for them to get off the medication if it's causing problems, as happened in my case.
I guess I don't really know what I'm talking about here. I'm just a guy who took Risperidol, and I'm unfamiliar with the science behind them and the institutional context that leads to their acceptance and wider use for treatment of secondary disorders. But I do think that it's dishonest for the drug companies and doctors to push something in this way. That's all.
posted by Mike B. at 1:10 PM 0 comments Links to this post
Some scattered bits before I get to the "meat" (ahem) of the postings for today--although I suspect these may be slim as I am still reeling from seeing the Matrix last night, and I should, er, probably get some work done. But anyway:
Fluxblog gives me a shout out today, which is much appreciated, and so I'll just repeat what I said below: go read.
Salon has a good rundown of Ari's lies, although Helen Thomas is curiously absent.
Finally, the Times did a story on Cornel West's role in the Matrix. They repeat Baudrillard's grumbling that the first movie "stemmed mostly from misunderstandings" of his work (well duh Jean, but I would hope that a critical theorist would welcome the reinterpretation) and Cornel talks about how the second movie is kind of a critique of the first. I will stop here before I go off on a total geek-fest, as I have already been doing that in e-mail. Ahem.
posted by Mike B. at 12:10 PM 0 comments Links to this post
Monday, May 19, 2003
JFK: the musical!
Y'all gotta get this: in today's Fluxblog post, Matthew (who has been posting some absolutely killer MP3s lately) gives us a song called "The Trumpet" from a record called "Sing Along With JFK" in which one of Kennedy's speeches is not only orchestrated, but repeated line-by-line in counterpoint by a choir. It's a mind-blowing bit of weirdness appreciable by the politics and music geek alike.
...just realized how weird a title "Sing Along With JFK" is. Man.
posted by Mike B. at 5:44 PM 0 comments Links to this post
So I made some rather nasty comments over at Eschaton on a post about liberals walking in lockstep, although it mostly refers to a weekend post linking to a thread wherein righty bloggers vent their assumptions about lefty bloggers. (Wshew. Link tracking can be exhausting.) That in itself is well worth reading, but I have been mildly challenged in my barbs against libertarians (though I feel I responded fairly wittily), so let me explain a bit more exhaustively. (And yes, I know that in my case that's the operative word.)
It always seems mean and kind of pointless to take on libertarians. I mean, when a feminist critic can demolish their entire ideology in a chapter of a book called Justice, Gender and the Family (shoutout to my man Rawls!), libertarians are the political philosophy equivalent of Fred Durst--yeah, he sucks, and he seems to be everywhere, but we all know he sucks, and what's the point? The fans will grow up or get married and get over it soon enough.
But maybe I'm wrong. Jason and I are embarking on a read-through of the latter two sections of Hannah Arendt's The Origins of Totalitarianism, a book which, although it's presented as a historical tract concerned with an era (the Cold War and World War II) that seems over, tied in even very loosely with some of Arendt's more straightly philosophical works like The Human Condition it both constitutes a statement of purpose and intent and ends up having a lot of resonances with our current dillemma. Try as we might to avoid inscribing our current historical moment onto Arendt's (and I think Jason and I both did), certain things keep popping up.
There's a lot to talk about here, which I might end up posting on another site, but it was very strange to go through the first chapter of the second book, "Imperialism," and see the ways that she was basically limning and condemning libertarianism years before it was officially birthed. After an absolutely mind-blowing runthrough of Hobbes, she then asserts that while his philosophy at the time seemed primarily to reflect on the English Civil War, the justification for tyranny he outlines comes to pass 200 years later at the hands of the rising middle class, who disliked and distrusted the state and correspondingly made every effort to stay out of politics until it became clear that they could not successfully expand abroad without the protection of force that could only be guaranteed by the state, and that protection would only be extended if the merchants were, in fact, running the state. She opposes these imperialists to nationalists ("statists" in libertarian lingo) who believed in the political neutrality of the civil service, a neutrality which became corrupted when moneyed interests began to intervene directly in government. Painting the bourgeoisie as a group of individuals perfectly exemplifying the Hobbsian model of man as a self-interested animal unconcerned with society or community, she asserts that their disdain of government and love of expansion and profit at any cost leads inevitably to the conclusion that they don't care for anyone else or believe in the essential commonality of humanity, and that this attitude leads irreversibly to the racism that so poisoned the conflicts of the twentieth century. Replace "bourgeoisie" with "libertarians" in that last sentence and the conditionals retain the same truth-value, even if it doesn't lead to the same conclusion (for obvious reasons), and turning that back onto the rest of the chapter, you begin to see a historical pattern of anti-statists becoming pro-statists and corrupting the very government they have so little regard for.
So maybe it's time to start worrying about libertarians. Certainly the libby bloggers seem to generally support the administration on most of the major issues aside from civil liberties, although I could be wrong. But at any rate, more troubling is the "political journey" many in the current administration have taken from businessmen (Bush, Cheney, etc.) or anti-gov't politicians (Ashcroft, Rumsfeld, Rice) to committed statists. You can track this in the way their rhetoric still depicts them as outsiders even though they have near-total control over state policy at this point, and in the various ways they've been accused of using government connections to benefit private interests. Certainly this is not unique in American government, and the civil service was probably far from pure before, so maybe this is less the turning point that Arendt describes it as and more a cyclical thing, but at any rate, it seems like libertarians may be worth watching now.
If we're going to make the maybe not entirely valid charge that the neo-conservatives are Straussians, I think it's much more useful to start talking about libertarians as basically Hobbesians. It may be true that we do, in fact, live in Hobbes' leviathan, but as Eric Voeglin (more on him in later days) would point out, continuously describing the status quo does nothing more than reinforce it. Hobbes created something new hundreds of years ago, and all these folks are doing is reifying it, and perhaps using it, as Hobbes would expect, purely to further their own interests. It admits little hope, and much cynicism, and seeks to conquer those things it hates, including American political institutions themselves. And regardless of your policy positions, I think that's simply not good. The "Well how can they want democracy overseas if they don't want democracy at home!" thing is a little glib, but it does seem clear at this point that there are some profoundly anti-democratic wishes both among libertarians and the current administration; moreover, if you want to give foreigners the benefit of the free market much more than the benefits of free government, just say so. Libertarians and, to a degree, neo-conservatives think that business is more likely than government to create the greatest social good, and I do not think that is true, or at least it's not a good political philosophy, and Adam Smith would agree with me.
posted by Mike B. at 5:14 PM 0 comments Links to this post
Atrios points us to an almost distressingly honest interview with Matt Labash of the Weekly Standard. Eek:
JournalismJobs.com: Why have conservative media outlets like The Weekly Standard and Fox News Channel become more popular in the past few years?
Matt Labash: Because they feed the rage. We bring the pain to the liberal media. I say that mockingly, but it's true somewhat. We come with a strong point of view and people like point of view journalism. While all these hand-wringing Freedom Forum types talk about objectivity, the conservative media likes to rap the liberal media on the knuckles for not being objective. We've created this cottage industry in which it pays to be un-objective. It pays to be subjective as much as possible. It's a great way to have your cake and eat it too. Criticize other people for not being objective. Be as subjective as you want. It's a great little racket. I'm glad we found it actually.
Well, nice to see they know what they're doing--and that the Fox News slogan "Fair and Balanced" really is cynicism at its most disgusting. (Although kudos for picking something that sends liberals into unproductive paroxisms of rage.) This is, I guess, another bullet point in the pro v. con argument about whether conservatives are just fighting sincerely for their erroneous ideals or are evil, cynical manipulators. I generally tend toward the former (as I do with liberals) but there are some distressing examples of the latter these days.
posted by Mike B. at 4:02 PM 0 comments Links to this post
So I tend to think that the Daily Howler can get a wee bit over the top at times. And the 5/3/03 edition looked to be no different, calling the press "buttboys" (ahem) before enticing readers to view a recent Hardball transcript "if your stomach is strong." Well, I did, and read:
MATTHEWS: What do you make of the actual visual that’s people will see on TV and probably, as you know, as well as I, will remember a lot longer than words spoken tonight?
And that’s the president looking very much like a jet, you know, a high-flying jet star. A guy who is a jet pilot. Has been in the past when he was younger, obviously.
What does that image mean to the American people, a guy who can actually get into a super sonic plane, and actually fly in an unpressurized cabin, like an actual jet pilot?
...and I did actually have to stop reading, I was so appalled. Quite incredible, isn't it? I'm not even going to bother to comment on that last bit. Wow.
posted by Mike B. at 3:47 PM 0 comments Links to this post
Pete Hamil makes the excellent point that the best point of comparison for the trailer full of dead undocumented migrant workers might be the Irish immigrants who died on illegal passages to America 100 years ago. We figured out what to do about that problem, and we can figure out what to do about the issue of Mexican workers. In short: immigration reform.
Once upon a time, they'd have all been Irish. Their names would have been Liam or Seamus or Bridey instead of Jose and Maria and Panchito. Instead of trailer trucks, the Irish traveled in what were soon called coffin ships, jammed together in the deepest bottom decks, the air stained by the odors of excrement and urine and death. They died of hunger and thirst. They died of typhus. They died trying to get to America.
So when I read about those 18 Mexicans and Central Americans who died on the side of a road in Victoria, Tex., in a sealed trailer with New York plates, jammed with almost 80 other human beings, I hear the Irish pleading for a chance at life. I hear them begging for water and scraps of food for their children. I hear them praying. I hear their shallow breathing as the air runs out. I see them pounding in the dark, fetid air against sealed hatches, desperate to see the sky.
For the Irish are the true ancestors of last week's immigrant dead. The bones of those long-dead Irish, like the bones of so many Africans forced through the Middle Passage, are scattered now upon the vast floor of the Atlantic. Today, nobody knows their names. But we do know how they got to those unmarked graves - and why.
And the dreadful truth is this: It didn't need to happen. We have known for years that the policies governing migration from Mexico are irrational, humiliating and dangerous. Americans who want to go to Cancun simply show up at the airport and get a tourist card on the airplane. Mexicans can't do that. I've seen thousands of them lined up at the American Embassy in Mexico City, waiting for hours to go through the legal process of obtaining a visa to go to the U.S. Some eventually give up. Some go alone to the border. Each year, hundreds die making the crossing.
In February 2001, President Bush met in Mexico with Mexican President Vicente Fox, and an accord on a more rational immigration process was high on the agenda. There were followup discussions among American and Mexican bureaucrats. There was much talk that many undocumented Mexicans who had been living for extended periods in the U.S. would be legalized. There were discussions of new short-term work permits for Mexicans, a means of eliminating the coyotes from the process.
All that ended after 9/11. There was no record of terrorists crossing our border with Mexico as there was with the Canadian border. But the attempt was being made to seal both borders. All discussion of normalizing the status of Mexicans inside the U.S. ended. The Mexicans felt betrayed. In the runup to the war in Iraq, Mexico made clear that it could not be counted on as an ally at the United Nations.
Maybe it's worth pointing out that the corrolary to the "America should always have been aware of terrorism and 9/11 did nothing to change its actual status" argument is that since 9/11 didn't really change anything all of our previous policy initiatives should have continued unabated. (Except the Israel one of course, which was less a policy initiative and more a policy nap.)
posted by Mike B. at 3:01 PM 0 comments Links to this post
I'm not sure if this is old news or not, but this page makes a reasonably convincing case that the London Evening Standard made a crowd of celebrating Iraqis look larger by (rather clumsily) cutting and pasting. Of course, the Guardian doesn't believe them, so...
posted by Mike B. at 11:37 AM 0 comments Links to this post
The rock stars are not your friends, Liz.
posted by Mike B. at 11:31 AM 0 comments Links to this post
Does anyone else read William Safire and hear him talking in the voice of that guy on the Simpsons with a mustache who's almost always a waiter and says, "Yeeeeeeeeeees?" ("I had a stroooooooooke!")
I'm just curious. Like, try reading this passage in that voice:
Second, to paraphrase Henny Penny — the dollar is falling! Americans are proud of "the strong dollar," assuming that means a strong economy. But the dollar has been nosediving against the euro, which means the average out-of-work or raiseless American worker will be hard put to afford a bottle of French perfume.
(add "Mwahaha, I'm so witty!" at the end for the full effect.)
posted by Mike B. at 11:17 AM 0 comments Links to this post
Ari Fleischer: door, ass, way out.
"I've decided my time has come to leave the White House," Fleischer said in a telephone interview.
The spokesman said he wanted to leave the hard-driving job before President Bush's re-election campaign geared up.
Fleischer clashed at times with the White House press corps and had an uneasy relationship with some senior Bush aides, but he said the departure was his idea. He notified Bush of his decision Friday. The president ended the conversation "by kissing me on the head," the spokesman said.
If by "clashed" you mean "lied to outright," then yeah.
OK, I was just gonna leave that head-kiss thing, but...what the hell? It feels like either a papal benediction or a Mafia kiss of death.
Now let the gossiping begin...
posted by Mike B. at 10:35 AM 0 comments Links to this post
Don't let them get away with this shit, kids. On the problem of looting in a post-war Iraq:
Mr. Bush's aides cautioned reporters before the war that even the best plans would have to be rewritten on the ground.
Those plans called for quickly returning Baghdad police officers to duty to maintain a semblance of order, and having Iraqi soldiers build roads and clear rubble. They envisioned cheering crowds and a swift restoration of electricity and other utilities. The quick establishment of a civilian Iraqi interim authority, officials said, would help demonstrate to a suspicious Arab world that America would not act as an occupier, as in Japan and Germany.
"We will in fact be greeted as liberators," Vice President Dick Cheney said on March 16, three days before the war started.
But many of Baghdad's 10,000 police officers are just now trickling back. The Iraqi soldiers disappeared. No one in Washington anticipated the degree to which the chaos would undermine that central goal of presenting the United States as a liberator, senior officials said.
In fact, that instinct may have worsened the problem, senior officials said in interviews. Inside the White House, officials feared that if the looters were shot — the fastest way to send the message that the United States was intent on restoring order — the pictures on Al Jazeera would reinforce the worst images of America in the Arab world.
Don't even start with this shit, you lying motherfuckers. We all know damn well that the problem wasn't that soldiers were threatening looters but were unable to shoot them; the problem was that there weren't enough soldiers, and those that were there were guarding the goddamn oil ministry. This is an outright lie. There's been enough fucking coverage of "non-lethal weapons" in the decade since Somalia that we all know (or should know) that there were ways to stop criminal Iraqis besides just fucking shooting them in the back. It's also presumably what you could have done to those dead protesters besides shooting them.
You guys do remember non-lethal weapons, right? Does anyone know why we're not hearing about those in Iraq?
Within the administration, the backbiting has intensified. Some say Jay Garner, the retired Army lieutenant general initially charged with the physical and political rebuilding of Iraq, moved too slowly.
The sense that General Garner's team got off to a slow start was reinforced when he and a small team of aides finally arrived in Baghdad in late April to discover that they had no functioning e-mail, no way for outsiders to reach them by telephone, no cars and drivers to get them around the city and no interpreters. Aides say those problems have since eased.
And this is why, despite their flaws, we needed to work with the UN and international aid organizations. They can be inefficient and corrupt, it's true, but they also have a large body of institutional knowledge that allows them to get the job done.
He acknowledged in videotaped testimony to Congress last Tuesday that his Office of Reconstruction and Humanitarian Assistance was just now — after three weeks on the ground — getting its arms around a set of immensely complex issues, and making headway on problems like salary payments and gasoline distribution.
"This is an ad hoc operation, glued together over about four or five weeks' time," he told the House International Relations Committee, adding that his team "didn't really have enough time to plan."
Hold on, hold on--liberals knew this war has been coming for about, what, six months now? Did the Pentagon honestly not get together a team for post-war planning until four weeks before the goddamn bombs started falling?
But problems were already cropping up. Critics complained that he failed to build support on Capitol Hill. He sent lower-level officials to meet with aid groups, who complained to the White House that their efforts to help were being stymied. "The humanitarian community made repeated efforts to meet with Garner to express our concerns," said Sandra Mitchell, vice president of the International Rescue Committee. "He was always unavailable."
Yeah, dude--you would have learned that in the first week of a college public policy course, OK? Geez. "Why are you guys complaining about putting military contractors in charge of Iraq? They can do the job too, you know!" No. We need bureaucrats and politicians. I know the folks on the right hate bureaucrats and politicians, but I'm sorry, they do sometimes come in handy.
Look--let's just admit at this point that we're royally fucking up the peace, that plans were left unmade, that fairly obvious contingencies were not planned for, that our arrogance and pride got in the way of helping the Iraqi people, that Rumsfeld's war plans worked great for a conflict and shitty for a post-war situation--let's admit this, and admit that we need help, and start letting a few other countries and organizations help us out.
posted by Mike B. at 10:26 AM 0 comments Links to this post
On that whole trucker hat thing: I know, I know, you're sick of hearing about it, hopefully--if you still care I'm not sure I like you--but the folks at Gawker have been griping continuously about them, and I responded to one particularly annoying post with a letter. You should probably read the Gawker entry first, but know at least that Liz claims that what's insulting about trucker hats is that poor people wear them because they have to, and rich people wear them because they want to.
Hey, there's a black girl in the office today wearing a trucker cap--should I yell at her for appropriating white culture?
Seriously, though, I don't get it--what's the point of the "poor people wear it because they have to" argument? I mean, a) they don't HAVE to--there's nothing about driving a truck or going to high school football games that physically requires wearing a styrofoam hat, and you know as well as I do that if if you're poor and you have a sense of style you can scrounge up a decent outfit or two from the Salvation Army or K-Mart or Target. Wearing Dickies is not a government-mandated requirement of being in a lower tax bracket. The reality is that the people you're talking about just have a different sense of style, or, even, have far less concern for clothes than Manhattanites. And that's OK--as you'd probably agree, that can be a very good thing. But let's not pretend that trucker hats are a symbol of oppression; let's just be honest and say that fashion is ALWAYS superficial and stupid. That's its appeal.
And b) what's the implication for the trust funders? If they don't wear it because they "have" to, then what do they have to wear? Should they wear pinstriped suits and smoke cigars and chuckle evilly so we can more easily identify them as the capitalist enemy? If you're admitting that they have the freedom to wear anything, why don't they have the freedom to wear trucker caps? Hey, if it gets 'em laid, more power to 'em.
I think the reality is that blue collar chic has been around for a very long time--that's where jeans come from, after all--and it's not going away anytime soon. Your reaction to it is probably far worse because you're living in New York and everyone in New York hates everyone else in New York because they were probably the fucker who stepped on my foot in the subway last rush hour, and everybody hates hipsters because nobody thinks they actually are a hipster, because hipsters are bad and I'm not bad, even though I listen to indie bands and dress a little bit like a retard and live in Brooklyn, etc. It's OK.Classism is a big, big problem in America, but I think fashion is the least of its problems.
posted by Mike B. at 10:08 AM 0 comments Links to this post