Skip navigation

Category Archives: Politics

Ha! I love the internet. A bunch of my favorite political bloggers (Matt Yglesias, Ezra Klein, and Julian Sanchez, among others [I love that they’re all friends, by the way]) are partaking in Infinite Summer and group-bogging about it.

The title of the blog, of course, comes from a collection of Wallace’s essays, A Supposedly Fun Thing I’ll Never Do Again.

Ezra:

The endnotes are clever, but in the aggregate, they’re hedges. They’re the product of a writer who’s never sure if he’s said enough.

Now here’s a tall claim that falls flat. There’s loads of really, really important stuff in the endnotes that just wouldn’t fit in the main text. J.O.I.’s filmography and drug clarifications are the two big examples that come to mind. More than likely, you’ll get through the book wishing he’d said more, but only because you didn’t know what he was talking about the first time around. This is significant.

Matthew Dylan:

Québécois

Or is Québecois? As in, something of or relating to Québec? Wikipedia shows Québecois as the secondary option, but it makes more sense to me. I forgot how he spelled it in the book.

Matt Yglesias:

Presumably the point here is to get across not only the text of the notes, but something about the tactile experience of flipping back and forth and constantly losing your place. Except I’m reading the book on a Kindle, so the experience is actually different—you click on a little thingy and jump to the note, then click again and you jump right back. This is, I think, less convenient than a footnote in a conventional book, but more convenient than an endnote. So, internet, am I actually missing something important by having this greater convenience?

I don’t think Wallace was that shallow. It might have amused him to have readers flipping around through time and space and pages. But the endnotes are still there because they matter, so their primary function is to assist in telling the story, and maybe the secondary function is to illustrate how silly a process this is, storytelling. The footnotes to the endnotes are a different matter. They’re are mostly jokes, if I remember correctly. He liked the idea of fitting print in unconventional ways on a page, so I think he’d be fine with the way the kindle renders his book (that’s how the Atlantic piece was written, after all), and more importantly, Mr. Yglesias won’t be missing out on much, besides the obvious signaling of lugging that sucker around on the DC metro.

So while I finished the book a few weeks ago, I’m really happy that so many people are going to be going through it this summer for the first time. I have some thoughts on the themes in the book that are less-than-half-baked that might be ready by September.

Advertisements

Crazy stuff is happening. Here’s some correspondence with an Iranian friend I met during study abroad:

Her:

basically mousavi’s supporters are saying that he did cheat but I don’t think so. mousavi’s supporters just look around them and see rich iranians in north tehran-this really isn’t iran; they represent a very small section of iran’s population. say what you like about ahmadinejad but in four years he has done quite a lot for the rural population and they love him. frankly, i think no one should’ve degraded themselves to voting in such a ridiculous election. by voting you effectively legitimise the regime. pouring out onto the streets complaining about an election that you CHOSE to participate in being rigged to me seems a ridiculous response. just because the candidate you wanted didn’t win doesnt give you the right to complain, if you knew the elections were going to be rigged WHY THE HELL DID YOU PARTICIPATE IN THE FIRST PLACE!? besides iran seems to have forgotten what state it was in when mousavi was PM; im not convinced he is any better than ahmadinejad. ok rant over.

Me:

I get that Iran is a religious place — the US is, too — and I get that Western reporters are biased because they are more likely to talk to liberals more than traditionalists, both because it fits into their pre-established narrative and because they’re more friendly to bumbling Westerners, but the polling data seems reallllllly fishy. It seems mathematically impossible for the count to wind up that way, especially given that there are most certainly concentrated pockets of Mousavi supporters and broad areas of Ahmadinejad country. And I do think it’s admirable — if sometimes quixotic — for people to try to vote, and then to protest if they believe that their votes weren’t counted. I don’t know how else people can govern themselves.

Believe me, we have plenty of people in the US who believe that just because they didn’t vote for Obama, they don’t have to respect the fact that he won. It’s ridiculous. Democracy is democracy, not because of who wins, but because of how they win.

And is Mousavi under house arrest?

Riots:

Atul Gawande uses fun analogies and memorable stories to explain why health care in the US is a mess and getting messier:

Providing health care is like building a house. The task requires experts, expensive equipment and materials, and a huge amount of coördination. Imagine that, instead of paying a contractor to pull a team together and keep them on track, you paid an electrician for every outlet he recommends, a plumber for every faucet, and a carpenter for every cabinet. Would you be surprised if you got a house with a thousand outlets, faucets, and cabinets, at three times the cost you expected, and the whole thing fell apart a couple of years later? Getting the country’s best electrician on the job (he trained at Harvard, somebody tells you) isn’t going to solve this problem. Nor will changing the person who writes him the check.

&

Dramatic improvements and savings will take at least a decade. But a choice must be made. Whom do we want in charge of managing the full complexity of medical care? We can turn to insurers (whether public or private), which have proved repeatedly that they can’t do it. Or we can turn to the local medical communities, which have proved that they can. But we have to choose someone—because, in much of the country, no one is in charge. And the result is the most wasteful and the least sustainable health-care system in the world.

One sentence upset me: “Skeptics saw the Mayo model as a local phenomenon that wouldn’t carry beyond the hay fields of northern Minnesota.”

mayo

Northern Minnesota doesn’t have hay fields — it has lakes, iron mines, forests, and resort towns. It also doesn’t have a Mayo clinic. Southern Minnesota does. Other than that sentence, the essay is a one-page wonder. Read it.

Democrat fail:

REID: I’m saying that the United States Senate, Democrats and Republicans, do not want terrorists to be released in the United States. That’s very clear.

QUESTION: No one’s talking about releasing them. We’re talking about putting them in prison somewhere in the United States.

REID: Can’t put them in prison unless you release them.

QUESTION: Sir, are you going to clarify that a little bit? …

REID: I can’t make it any more clear than the statement I have given to you. We will never allow terrorists to be released in the United States.

Democrate win:

“American prison guards, they went on to say, quote, “have no idea what they’re getting into,” close quote. Well, I would just say to my colleagues who made those statements, you ought to take a look at some of our security facilities in the United States, and you ought to have a little more respect for the men and women who are corrections officers and put their lives on the line every single day to keep us safe and to make sure that those who are dangerous are detained and incarcerated. The reality is that we’re holding some of the most dangerous terrorists in the world right now in our federal prisons, including the mastermind of the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, the shoe bomber, the Unibomber, and many others.”

-Dick Durbin, D-IL

2 points:

1) If Obama is #1 on the Dem pecking order and Pelosi/Reid are #2/#3 in some order, that’s one short, short bench.

2) Surely Reid knows that no one has ever escaped from a federal supermax prison, so why is he bumbly peddling these paranoid falsehoods?

So Gingrich is kind of a new character to me, since in the ’90s I was way more into cool amphibians than presidential blow jobs, much less the resulting political scandals. He doesn’t strike me as wise or principled; he contorts and fabricates facts to appeal to the masses’ basest drives: greed and fear.

Gingrich on how Republicans love America, Democrats love terrorists: “There’s this weird pattern, where the Bush people wanted to defend Americans, and were pretty tough on terrorists, and these guys [Holder et al.] are prepared to take huge risks with Americans in order to defend terrorists.”

On how thinking about investigating war crimes is like McCarthy’s paranoid crusade against undercover communists: “What we’re seeing now, in a very sad way, is as bitter a partisan attack on the Bush people, as we’ve seen since the McCarthy era. The degree that they’re putting people at risk for criminal prosecution in America is unprecedented.”

On how defense attorneys willing to defend alleged enemy combatants are actually spies for Jihadist terrorists: “Now, his (captured, maybe-enemy combatant) defense attorney would like you to share with them all the ways in which you’ve spied on terrorists. Which they will then promptly give back to Al Qaeda and other terror organizations.”

A few thoughts:

  1. Moderation in the pursuit of justice is no virtue, punk.
  2. You can’t just “put people at risk for criminal prosecution,” they have to do something illegal for there to be any risk at all. It sounds like he agrees that it looks like the “Bush people” broke laws. Otherwise he wouldn’t think that if we investigated, we might find a basis for prosecution. In hindsight, it seems that Rush Limbaugh’s reaction to the torture memos was the most consistent for the Bush defenders, if also the most monstrous and historically aberrant. “Slapping, sleep deprivation, and a little water on your face can’t be torture.” It’s the only way to pay lip service to the rule of law. If you accept the fact that we tortured, but object that the law shouldn’t be applied to the most powerful people, then there’s not really any argument to be had. We’re just a country that elects a 4-year dictator, and we cross our fingers and hope they don’t figure out a way to extend their term limits.
  3. I would love to hear Gingrich get into the details of why the Lewinsky scandal wasn’t a “bitter partisan attack” but it when you form a bipartisan investigation of Republicans and Democrats who gave torture the thumbs up, it’s just posturing.

From the Oklahoma Republican Party Platform:

Public schools shall not prohibit the Judeo-Christian worldview upon which our country was founded. Public schools shall be prohibited from promoting other worldviews such as, but not limited to, secular Humanism, New Age philosophy, deep ecology, reincarnation, psychotherapy, channeling, transcendental meditation, altered states of consciousness or any occult practice.

There’s a lot going on there. So I’ll limit myself to the most amusing ironies.

  • Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, and Thomas Paine were basically secular humanists. Their views are not to be promoted.
  • This looks like it bans prayer. Maybe in their attempt to prohibit crazy stuff, they accidentally succeeded.
  • Republicans are using their religion as a political force to turn America into a Christian nation. Hamas and Hezbollah use their religion as a political force to turn Palestine and Lebanon, respectively, into Islamic states.

Their views on homosexuals:

We believe that in order to encourage and protect family values, those promoting homosexuality or other aberrant lifestyles, should not be allowed to hold responsible positions over children which are not their own or over other vulnerable persons.

That means they want to prohibit gay people (or their supporters) from being teachers, doctors, nurses, or social workers. Or babysitters. Maybe not even hairdressers.

The Southern strategy benefitted the Republican Party for over 30 years, beginning in 1972 and ending in 2006. It might hurt them for just as long.

If you can’t prove causation, you can go for correlation. If you can’t prove correlation, well, you can always lie.

Courtesy of the recession, one might assume.

UPDATE:

If you liked Auto-Tune the News, here are the debates set to song and dance.

If the Olson clan keeps at it, I see big things in their future.

… while appearing humane.

What really gets me is the misty-eyed face that Noonan puts on (3:07) when she says “sometimes in life you want to just keep walking,” like her whole life has been spent cutting this gem of folksy wisdom. Like ignoring war crimes is the sagest, lovingest idea she’s ever had. She says she feels bad that a “great nation” like the US has put out these papers, but doesn’t realize that being morally great is in contradiction with torturing people and then lying about it. She acts like a kind, senile, Nazi grandmother.

As for Will, it makes me cringe (and he must be cringing, inside) when he espouses the relativist line, “I don’t think that, and you don’t think that, but these are intelligent people,” as if he really thinks that all that it takes for a theory to be true is for people to believe it. Come on, George. I’ll laugh good-naturedly when you display a comic disconnect with American fashion sense, but take it from me: you don’t wear postmodernism well.

UPDATE:

I think it’s ridiculous how much more appropriate Noonan’s comments and composure would have been for Clinton’s impeachment process. When I think of things in life that “need to be mysterious,” sexual relationships of public figures fit in that category much better than rampant lawlessness of elected officials.