Sunday, February 27, 2005


I haven't been tending this garden particularly well in recent weeks. Most of the plants are dead. The soil is hard and unforgiving.

Therefore, I'm of a mind to wall off the garden and leave it to the elements. Perhaps not permanently, but for a significant amount of time. I may pop up at my other blog, Writing and, really, reading, are becoming tiresome to me. I don't really want to do anymore with the world of James Dobson and Howard Kurtz and Jeff Gannon. It's increasingly becoming a world of abstractions for me, abstractions I don't feel much control over. I always felt like I had more to say than I said. I have a tendency online to edit and selfcensor in ways that are more obvious to me here than in the world of flesh and blood. I didn't like that. I don't like not having an audience, although I know I never really sought one out.

I got into all of this to vent. To get in touch with some representation of what upset me and to rail against it.

But I'm feeling increasingly like my political opinions aren't interesting to anyone, particularly myself. I'm feeling like my connection to politics whatsoever was arbitrary, an attachment born of the disgust at seeing antiliberals metaphorically spit on me and those like me from television screens.


This spot is hereby closed, although I may change my mind at any moment.

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Enormous blinders

For the Daily Standard, Max Boot gives a largely laudable takedown of the foolishness in Thomas E. Woods Jr's Politically Incorrect Guide to American History. The review lays bare the sort of insanity that passes for scholarship among the American hard right.

I have a feeling that this book wouldn't have elicited the same sort of animated refutation had some idiot New York Times reviewer not described it a "neocon." This book isn't neocon, it's paleocon, and in roughly the same way that Trent Lott is paleocon. As the review shows, this book is historical revisionism with the intention of advancing the agenda of Southern White Christian nationalists, because, after all, there is no group of people more oppressed than rich white straight conservative Christian Southern men.

What's utterly fascinating to me is how, in the end of his review, Boot suggests that Regnery, a "once-respectable publishing house", ought to be ashamed. You gotta be kiddin' me.

If Regenery is or was once "respectable", it's because conservatives have been making queasy bedfellows with the hard right in this country for decades. Regnery was begun by America Firsters, and some of its earlier published works were John Birch tracts and books critical of the Nuremberg Trials. If you ask my opinion, everything published by that hotbed of fascism should be treated as extremely suspect.

I'm pleased that Boot, although he is a neoconservative and a supporter of an adventurist (and unworkable) foreign policy has the decency to stand up to the extreme right, but I think this is increasingly rare. And I also think it wouldn't have happened at all were Woods not a total apostate to the right on the subject of Iraq.

The American right is riddled with folks like Woods. I remember my favorite bow-tied conservative, Tucker Carlson, suggesting that there were only a half-dozen white supremacists in this country, and they're all mentally disabled. To Tucker, and Max, and all the other metro conservatives in this country- there is no way Republicans would win elections if that were true. In places that are significant and places that are not, the Republican Party depends on prejudice, fear, and frightening nationalist ideologies to stay in power. If it weren't for it use of scapegoats like gays, "pinkos," blacks, atheists, illegal immigrants, "elites," and occasionally Jews, the Republican party would never have expanded its base beyond its natural constituency: plutocrats.

Monday, February 07, 2005

Ditto, kiddo

Kevin Drum, who is known to have been a little "even-handed" in the past himself, blasts what he calls looking-glass journalism, the same phenomenon I described in the last post.

It's a progressive disease among America's commentariat. I particularly enjoy this little gem from Allen Sloan:

I'm in favor of private accounts constructed along the lines that Bush suggested. But the accounts ought to be in addition to the basic benefit, not as a replacement for about half of it. Democrats are crazy to oppose private accounts. They really do empower you.

Yep, Sloan's in favor of the same thing as Bush, except totally different. It really does take a radical sort of stupidity to pound out this kind of column. The bottom line is that the punditocracy simply doesn't get it: Bush doesn't want to fix Social Security, he wants to destroy it.

If the pundits would actually look at the man, what he does, what he does and doesn't stand for, they would stop being snowed by flowery rhetoric about freedom, not would they continue to treat his policy proposals as if they had a resemblance to real policy, ie. intending to solve problems instead of create them.

Bush and his buddies have been sucking off autocrats for decades, deriding vital social programs like SS for decades, planning their idiot revolution for decades. Considering the outcome of the last election, perhaps we in our time deserve a fourth estate seemingly overflowing with rubes, but as a nation, as the United States of America, we do not.

Joe Klein and other Embarrassments

I discovered a clip of Joe Klein talking about the State of the Union on the Daily Show via Boinboing. It was supposed to be funny, but it just reminded me of why Joe Klein is useless and an embarrassment. If Klein has an identifiable agenda, is it is as something of an adjunct to the "radical center."

But there is little that is legitimately radical about Klein. What is most salient about Klein is his lazy, pox-on-both-your-houses vibe. Klein is the type of guy who asks "why does politics have to be so alienating and yucky?" at the same time he works consistently to make Americans believe that it is.

Point is that Klein was about to launch into a tirade about how the Democrats were being merely obstructionist on Social Security, and oh-so uncivil booing Bush's lies, and that they don't have any ideas.

This is an effing script. Folks like Nick Kristof- you know, the guys who put the "liberal" in liberal media- make their bread and butter on this same thing. Like Kristof will say, as he did this past week, that Democrats are being big jerks by not presenting their alternative plan for saving Social Security. Part of the perception of Democrats and "the Left" more generally as not having any ideas and being merely obstructionist is because of the folks like Klein and Kristof who feel compelled to prove their bonafides as centrist and even-handed by accusing the Dems of crimes they have not committed.

As I was saying, Klein was about to launch into this tortured tirade, replete with Doug Gilesish, cringeworthy stabs at pop culture reference, and somehow Jon Stewart interrupted him. So Klein ended up eventually discussing how Bush's Social Security plan is a mess, an arcane, overcomplicated useless mound of policy crap, one more complicated than Hillarycare, one that won't do anything to improve SS's finances. Ya know, Joe, I'd say that's eminently deserving of straight-up obstruction.

The president builds this giant landfill of crap, designed foremost to destroy America's most popular social program, and the Democrats are supposed to act civil and offer counterproposals as if the Republicans are even capable of reasonable compromise? Nuh huh.

So Klein, in his quest to appear fashionably centrist, like all the effing beltway knobjobbers, was going to waste the public's time imputing madness to the Democrats for point-blank opposing the further corrosion of this fine country? That's what Joe Klein is good for- reminding us that politics is all gross and that both sides are just as bad when Republicans, as usual, are putting enormous efforts into trying to make Social Security fail.

I blame this on a twisted vestigial idealism that seems to haunt many of Joe's cohort. Joe and company are so frustrated by the fact that politicians are politicians, and politics is boring and yucky, that they find it necessary not just to cast aspersions every which way, but to be utter rubes when some phony, especially if he is an apostate like McCain or Lieberman, plays at being above politics. What I have called beltway knobjobbers aren't really conservative, they just tend to be carnival rubes for any PT Barnum who gives them the attitude they want to hear. Hence the naïf's tendency to see the Republican Party's cynical manipulation of the Iraq elections as something other than ultimately heartless, stagemanaged crap, or the willingess to endorse the president's destructive lunacy as bold. I wonder how bold they think martial law is.

Sunday, January 23, 2005

I didn't really mean it

From WaPo we get this lovely story that Bush's inaugural address, with the most highflying rhetoric of any Bush speech ever probably, was, well, it was just rhetoric, kids.

Heh. These WH officials say that the speech constituted a crystallization and clarification of Bush's policy, not a policy shift. But you don't assert a mission to defeat tyranny everywhere and then say you don't mean it. And, yeah, they don't mean it. It isn't a cheap shot, really, to bring up that two of our most significant allies in the GWOT are a military dictatorship (Pakistan) and a semitheocratic oil monarchy that treats women as second class citizens (S. Arabia).

There has always been this sort of compromise of ideals in American foreign policy. It's unfortunate that the US government finds itself cozying up to tyrants in order to get along in the world. But the Bush administration seems to embrace tyrants with more enthusiasm than most, and seems less willing to expend political capital to see that its allies are moving toward democracy and away from human rights violations, at the same time it embraces the most bizarre Disneyland idealism rhetorically, and sets bars for its enemies that are impossible to fulfill.

Lets just say that Palestine of the Arafat era was probably more democratic than Pakistan, and a freer society than Saudi Arabia. One can't exclude the fact that suicide bombs keep going off in Israel, but the bar that Palestine needed to meet was democracy first and foremost.

It is one significant measure of the rhetorical emptiness of freedom and liberty that the Bush administration would use these words in such a fashion. Basically, freedom means anything that is good and tyranny means everything that is bad. Freedom is, on balance, good, and tyranny bad. But those words never mean what they actually mean when they leave Bush's lips.

(There is a larger lesson to be taken here about the conservative movement. Conservatarians are always crowing about freedom, but the conservative movement remains largely undivided between the libertarian gun enthusiast types and the cultural reactionaries who want a society based on a rigid social order. Sometimes these sides of the conservative movement coexist in the same person)

"Freedom" for the president and his followers is not about liberating those living under tyranny in gulf oil states or Singapore or Uzbekistan. It's about waving around a vacuous rhetorical cudgel at people we don't like. And in this day and age, it's just a rhetorical cudgel. There is no way with today's US military that Bush has any intention of literally fighting for freedom and democracy. This, like all of Bush's speeches, ever, is directed at a domestic audience. Bush is trying to win back all the morons in this country who believed in the lunatic neoconservative rhetoric that hit its peak around the time of the Iraq War's beginning, but are less than satisfied by that war's results.

"Freedom," then, is nothing more than a sop to that rather large population of Americans who embraced a rhetorical cloak for the invasion or Iraq, which was, substantially, far more about kicking a little Arab ass than it was about freedom or democracy or any of the things it was supposed to be about. "Freedom" is about dumbshit Americans who will never read that the inaugural address doesn't actually mean anything. "Freedom" is about dumbshit Americans lying to themselves, telling themselves that this moral and military and strategic quagmire in Iraq was both necessary and an act of moral courage.

The war party tries to say it has idealism on its side. No, it has Abu Ghraib on its side. And the idealism that Bush is supposed to possess is, as is apparent to anyone who doesn't enjoy being lied to, nothing more than P. T. Barnum salesmanship dressed up as moral mission.

As for myself, I believe that the United States should actually endeavor to m ake the world a freer place. But I know that any US government that does so has to at first be serious. But these people are not serious about anything. These people are clowns, and it will be a good day when the "intellectuals" among them go back to writing asinine essays about Iran and privatizing Medicare at their fancy thinktanks instead of running this country.

Sunday, January 16, 2005

And I woulda gotten away with it...

...if it hadn't been for those darned kids!

Via CNN we have this story of a woman in Austria imprisoned for harrassing her husband's boss, making ghostly sounds around his castle residence.

I personally think 4 months for prank calling and nuisance behavior sounds a little steep, as the article doesn't suggest the woman was dangerous or meant her victim any physical harm. What makes this story so intriquing is the degree to which it resembles a plot on Scooby Doo, and the fact that pretending to be a ghost for months on end is pretty hilariously absurd.

Sunday, January 09, 2005

Gingrich casts eye toward presidency in 2008

(via the Agonist)

Please, please, pretty please.

I think I share the sentiments of a large segment of lefty blogtopia when I say Gingrich is one of the ten people I most want as a representative of the Republicans.

Dude just reeks of unlikeability. I think he's at least as radioactive and laden with long half-life baggage as Hillary. Plus, we've already seen his tendency toward self-destructive hubris.

Also, like Hillary, he speaks to a certain constituency (you know, reasonably well educated, fairly wealthy white conservatarians who think they are radically more sophisticated and intelligent than they actually are) and this means he might actually peel away from George W's heir apparent. I'm thinking food fight.

Generally speaking, anything that sows division and brings out egos on the Republican side pleases me. Likewise, via Digby we get Adam Yoshida, everyone's favorite Canadian fruitcake, suggesting Roy Moore, he of the granite 10 commandments, would appeal to the conservative base in 2008.

Now, in general I regard theocrats with a racist following with some fear and suspicion, as, who knows, it would be very bad if Roy Moore developed some sort of enormous protofascist movement, but if you peel racism and religious zealotry from the Republicans, what do they have? Lower marginal tax rates for millionaires? Basically, in this circumstance, competing Republicans have either to more aggressively and overtly appeal to racism and fundamental Christianity, or to pitch that constituency off the side. Either way, bad for Republicans. I especially like that Moore has identified with a Third Party. Wallace revisited.

Wednesday, January 05, 2005


Category: Observations

I have ended my brief and ill-considered love affair with long-distance solo driving. From P___, Maryland, to Tampa Florida in 2 days. My legs are killing me- my body is altogether quite upset with me- and my mind has not yet readjusted to solid earth.

I have not had the pain nor pleasure to have driven the length of America's interstate highways. At the moment contemplating these in aggregate is tiring, another level of mental exhaustion to lay over those that lay over me at present. They are a triumph of mass labor, of what is possible when millions of man-hours are poured into a collective good. There are of course reasons why the interstates deserve criticism and rebuke, reinforcing as they do a culture of fuel consumption and solo driving that is basically not in our best interest. And of course there is the fact that they are the occasion of skeleton towns built around mass produced hotels and restaurants, and are decked on either side with some consistently by crimes of graphic design, exhorting travelers to watch them Bare It All, to purchase fireworks, to Repent-for-the-End-is-Coming ad infinitum. But there is something glorious about having the ability to drive from each corner of the country with relative speed and ease. Eisenhower, we salute you.

Despite my silly paeans, I am deeply tired of interstates and with the long distance driving that they invite. Someone once asked me if I ever conceived of the lives of people who drive for a living, that is, truck drivers. I think I said I couldn't bear to.
I may be deeply misinformed, and to all professional truck drivers, I apologize in advance, but it seems to me that that life is rather miserable, or at least would be for me. The physical confinement, the loneliness. The stereotypes are that truckers tend to be outrageous consumers of the sex industry, and that many are heavy users of stimulants. If there is any truth to that, it figures.
The things that we tend to associate with the good life (and we is extremely loose here) come from a good balance of stability and variety. Many of us envy the lives of those who travel across the country and world for a living, but few of us envy the massive amounts of airplane food that likely entails. Many if not most of us seek significant emotional connections, a sense of accomplishment and purposefulness, and the other pleasures of life as a foundation to a good life and to happiness.

I simply do not believe I could achieve this as a truck driver. Truck drivers appear to me to have made lives on the very part of the American experience which is least memorable, most aggravating, and least remembered.

Driving a measly 950 miles has further solidified in me that conviction. Despite intermittent beauty, the road is something I bore more than anything else. It was a test of endurance and focus. There are many pleasures of life that are just that, but most of these are games, limited both in time and consequence. A game can be stopped in ways that driving often cannot.

The best I can say about my trek, and this truly distinguishes it from my perception of the trucking life, is that I felt unique purpose in this trip- it was a trip home. It's also the kind of trip I hope not to repeat fro a long, long time.

Holy Crap!

Apparently someone sued Fear Factor for $2.5 million because it sends the wrong message. This is, of course, not what I meant in my post a few days ago. But the coincidence is startling to me.

Sunday, January 02, 2005

Lame excuses

Check out this total and unmistakable confirmation that Colin Powell is a tool and would say anything to cover the rear end of his employers:

He defended the Bush administration against complaints it took too long to comprehend the scale of the crisis or respond with money.

"We have nothing to be embarrassed about. Our response scaled up as the scope of the disaster scaled up," Powell said on NBC's "Meet the Press."

Bull. The only way Bush wouldn't have comprehended that the tsunami deserved more than the $15 million he first proposed is if his only information about the disaster came from Fox News.

There is plenty to be embarrassed about. The first thing is that it took so long for Bush to even issue a statement about one of the greatest natural disasters in decades. The second is that it only did so because Clinton went public with a statement of condolence first. Thirdly is that the White House found it necessary to publically chastize Clinton for feeling the pain of others. Fourthly that its initial offering was less than half the cost of Bush's inauguration. And finally that Bush and his White House remain incapable of admitting a mistake.

I'm sure that Bush and his friends don't feel the slightest bit embarrassed. But I do.