Niall Ferguson has written a column in which he and his editors make fools of themselves for writing allowing him to write that Barack Obama is like Felix the Cat because they are both black, and they are both “very, very lucky.” But firstly because they are both black.
Actually, Ferguson’s point — such that it is — is that Obama is lucky (see Yglesias and Jason Zengerle on the stupidity of Ferguson’s lede and premise, respectively). Here are a couple of reasons why, according to Ferguson, Obama is lucky.
Felix the Prez is lucky in domestic politics, too. After months of wrangling, Al Franken was finally confirmed as senator for Minnesota, giving the Democrats a potentially crucial margin of advantage in the upper house of Congress. To prove the point, the Senate last week voted by 68 to 31 to confirm the president’s pick, Sonia Sotomayor, as the next associate justice of the Supreme Court.
Obama is lucky because an incoming Senator who won election eight months ago is now being seated, eight months later. He’s also lucky because he picked a highly qualified nominee for the Supreme Court, and that the Senate voted to confirm this highly qualified nominee.
New thesis for Ferguson’s latest book: we’re very lucky that a system of currency evolved, because otherwise we’d all just be sitting around juggling objects that we could be using as money.
(image from flickr user teadrinker, under a Creative Commons license)
I’m not going to make a substantive comment on Sarah Palin’s hatchet job of an op-ed in the Post. Instead, I’m going to do what good East Coast elites are supposed to do: make fun of her.
The ironic beauty in this plan? Soon, even the most ardent liberal will understand supply-side economics.
The Americans hit hardest will be those already struggling to make ends meet. As the president eloquently puts it, their electricity bills will “necessarily skyrocket.” So much for not raising taxes on anyone making less than $250,000 a year.
Even Warren Buffett, an ardent Obama supporter, admitted that under the cap-and-tax scheme, “poor people are going to pay a lot more for electricity.” [emphasis mine]
Heh. At least she didn’t pull out any Michael Gerson-esque similes.
Robert McFarlane, a National Security Advisor under Reagan, explains the war in Iraq:
In 2003, it was arguably democracy promotion, rather than the threat of weapons of mass destruction, which triggered the U.S. invasion of Iraq.
Nice. Since, in the year 2003, the invasion or Iraq was in fact predicated on the threat of weapons of mass destruction — there are no ifs, ands, or buts around this justification, I’m afraid — McFarlane just adds the word “arguably” to fit the long-reigning ex post facto casus belli of “democracy promotion” into a context into which it simply does not belong. Justifying the war on pro-democracy grounds was a rationale that gained in strength with each discovery of a hiding place in which WMD were not hidden. This is not something that’s controversial; it was prevailing conventional wisdom. Trying to change it through canny means is just an attempt to reclaim historical memory.
Beyond such stomach-churning lines like this (and we all know Michael Gerson’s 5th grade-level aptitude for similes) — “Democracy is not inevitable like communism was said to be; it is inevitable like hope.” — Gerson’s op-ed today is unsurprisingly political hackery. His broad brush paints an admittedly jagged swath across the Middle East, but this trajectory still inevitably leads — this is Bush’s former speechwriter, remember — where else but to freedom.
But while the development of democracy in the Middle East is not linear, it is also not random. It moves in steps, but upward. Taken together — a constitutional Iraqi democracy, a powerful reform movement in Iran, democratic achievements from the Gulf sheikdoms to Lebanon — this is the greatest period of democratic progress in the history of the region. Given consistent outbreaks, it seems clear that the broader Middle East is not immune to the democratic infection.
This reminds me of nothing so much as Condoleezza Rice’s cringe-worthy utterance that death and violence simply represented the natural “birth pangs of a new Middle East.” The reflexive habit of neoconservatives to any spate of elections as a triumph of this abstract notion of “freedom” — even, remarkably, when they acknowledge, as Gerson does, the tendency to “overinterpret events to confirm preexisting views” — is simply an indication of how politically fraught this term has become. Gerson does not need to analyze the specific politics and social dynamics of each Middle Eastern society; he sees what he wants to see (in Iran, that means a “powerful reform movement” and “martyrs” of democracy, who will no doubt eventually succeed), and uses these out-of-context planks to reconstruct his political project: vindicating his old boss’s “freedom agenda.”
Such a baldly partisan op-ed contributes less than nothing to informed discourse; its only effect is in reminding readers that Republican talking points, whatever the facts on the ground, will prevail. The ark of the political universe is long, one might surmise, but it bends inevitably toward freedom democracy the GOP.(image from flickr user carcollectorz under a Creative Commons license)
As just one example of the high-minded scorn with which the media has treated Stephen Colbert’s publicity stunt in visit to Iraq, take the analysis of this Baltimore Sun television critic:
With the golf club and all the jokes about being a coward in his opening monologue, Colbert’s offering a post-post-post modern take on Bob Hope. But most of the jokes do not have a real point of view, because this gung-ho makebelieve character Colbert plays lacks a moral or emotional center. Are we ironic-izing (through a post-modern humor that is 99 percent irnony) ourselves into a kind of emotional death in which we can no longer feel the horror of war?
The most relevant description of Colbert’s character is not that he “lacks a moral or emotional center;” it is that he is a caricature of a trueblood conservative. Viewed through this lens, his trip to Iraq is not about the lack of media attention that Iraq has received; that is just an easy peg on which to hang his satire. The basic plot line of the piece — that the war is only still going on because no one has yet declared victory, and that Colbert will therefore be the one with sufficient cojones to make that declaration — brilliantly evokes all of the foolishness of the dozens hundreds of Bush-era speeches repeating nothing more coherent than the word “victory.” That reality was a farce, and in mocking it, Colbert has produced something more revealing than Bush policy (and the conservative stance on the war writ large) ever was.
|The Colbert Report||Mon – Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c|
|Obama Orders Stephen’s Haircut – Ray Odierno|
In the midst of humping the perpetual favorite theme of conservatives — the enduring, albeit thoroughly debunked, “axis of evil” — the Wall Street Journal‘s Bret Stephens slips in the fact that Saddam Hussein apparently didn’t get build his still-elusive nuclear weapons from uranium from Niger, but from the French surrender monkeys!
Britain gave France the secret of the hydrogen bomb, hoping French President Charles de Gaulle would return the favor by admitting the U.K. into the European Economic Community. (He Gallicly refused.) France shared key nuclear technology with Israel and then with Iraq. [emphasis mine]
That’s it, no further discussion. Perhaps there was some cooperation on something vaguely related to nuclear stuff and/or technology between France and Iraq, but the implication of this throwaway sentence — one of a series of throwaways meant to connect “the nuclear daisy chain” (presumably with something even flimsier than daisies) — is that Iraq still has nuclear weapons. Good to know not only is the Right hewing to the same “axis of evil” canard, but they have not even moved beyond peddling WMD deception in Iraq of all places.
I’m not sure whether to praise the Wall Street Journal editorial page’s open-mindedness or condemn its cynical liberal-baiting in giving George McGovern a spot today with a piece that it subtitles “We could defend ourselves with a military budget half the current size.” But I’m inclined to think the latter…Don’t get me wrong, I happen to agree with McGovern — who happens to be hilarious, by the way — on everything he suggests in his “My Advice for Obama” column, but could there be something more likely to galvanize the broad right, more perfectly aligned with conservative anathema, than an op-ed, during brewing crises in Iran, Pakistan, and North Korea, that suggests substantial cuts in the military? As true as it is, it seems to play right into the territory of conservative messaging to argue that the military is bloated and — even invoking 9/11! — that terrorism should be treated as a criminal enterprise, not a military threat.
And it’s as if pushing for America developing the world’s best public transportation system was just added in at the end for conservatives’ to have just one more good poke at poor old George. I mean, he ends the piece with “All aboard!” — even though I agree with him, that makes it seem like a dead giveaway that he was played here.
(image from flickr user Runs with Scissors under a Creative Commons license)
In the midst of this somewhat silly Michelle Cottle article on the even sillier CNN “reality show” about freshmen Representatives, I found this surprising nugget:
While the culture of reality television, YouTube, and Twitter has put down roots on both sides of the congressional aisle, Republicans seem to be embracing it in disproportionate numbers. (At last count, GOP Twitterers on the Hill outnumbered Democratic users by more than two to one.) [emphasis mine]
The explanation of one of the featured legislators, Republican Jason Chaffetz of Utah, is that, since Republicans can’t legislate, they have to “win the communications battle.” I don’t doubt that this is why Republicans should be using new media (except doing so in actually effective ways, rather than, say, complaining about beaver management and sending shitty emails, might help), but I don’t think this explains the unexpected phenomenon.
I’d venture that Republicans — the party of old white men whose presidential candidate, an old white man par excellence, admitted he did not know how to use a computer — are exhibiting the same tendency as old media celebrity types everywhere: make sure to mention Twitter, smirk about it, and show how hip and “with it” you are by knowing that the correct verb form of “twitter” is to
twat tweet. By embracing in particular the newest, and easiest, form of social media, they can try to distract from their extant stodginess in a flurry of tweets. I don’t think it’s going to work.
In an altogether execrable column in the LA Times, the New Republic‘s neocon front man, Jamie Kirchick, enlists God in the U.S.A. column:
At a stop on his grand global apology tour this spring, President Obama was asked by a reporter in France if he believed in “American exceptionalism.” This is the notion that our history as the world’s oldest democracy, our immigrant founding and our devotion to liberty endow the United States with a unique, providential role in world affairs. [emphasis mine]
The notion that the United States’ role is “providential” is not American exceptionalism, Jamie; it is called manifest destiny. And just as this worldview led the irredentists in 19th century American governments to stake their righteous claim on lands ever further west, the hubris espoused by Kirchick is simply self-serving justification to exert American muscle around the world without qualm. “American exceptionalism” is a theory of history, of American studies, the critique — and it is that, a critique — that scholars of Americana either do not consider or willfully ignore America’s place in the world and in world history.
The mythology that Kirchick relies upon — that something about America’s history, identity, and values “endow[s]” it with a God-given position of influence — is exactly what Obama had to affirm when he said that he believed in the concept just as “the Brits believe in British exceptionalism and the Greeks believe in Greek exceptionalism.” It would be political folly to utter something that could be construed as suggesting that America is not exceptional; since this is not the point at all of American exceptionalism, Obama wisely played up the misconception, appeasing to the chorus of America-lovers while demonstrating that he knew that the question posed about “American exceptionalism” was a ruse. But even “exceptional” is not enough for Jamie Kirchick; only divine Providence will satisfy his patriotic lust.
(image from flickr user Ye Olde Wig Shoppe under a Creative Commons license)
In George Will’s case, outright lying may in fact be preferable to outright stupidity. Really, just copy and paste any sentence from this latest bit of wagon-circling — having to do with, yes, the moral erosion of America‘s pants caused by pre-faded blue jeans, which presumably presents a threat far graver than that global warming nonsense — for an example of the egregiousness of Will’s silliness. Among the best:
Disenfranchisment for videogame players:
Seventy-five percent of American “gamers” — people who play video games — are older than 18 and nevertheless are allowed to vote.
A little bit of homoerotic myth-embracing:
Jeans come prewashed and acid-treated to make them look like what they are not — authentic work clothes for horny-handed sons of toil and the soil…
Eventually, however, [Levi Strauss] made tough pants, reinforced by copper rivets, for the tough men who knelt on the muddy, stony banks of Northern California creeks, panning for gold.
A stunningly bad linear interpretation of history (even by the standards of stunningly bad linear interpretations of history): “it is a straight line from the fall of the Bastille to the rise of denim.”
And not one, not two, but nine uses of religious terms to deplore America’s cult of slovenly jean-wearers.
But the most inexcusable offense: insulting the “childlike adults” of Seinfeld. Honestly, I prefer this George.
(hat tip: Roeper)
Michael Steele having evidently sacrificed the Republican Party to the Gods squirrels of Wingnuttia, it is no surprise that he is readily feeding them the ACORN that they crave:
President Obama’s old friends from ACORN, the leftist, urban “community” organization with a long history of promoting vote fraud, has been chosen by the Administration as a “partner” with the Census Bureau to determine population counts in cities around the country.
With this group’s track record of coming up with countless fraudulent voter registrations in heavily Democrat areas to sway elections to ultra-liberals, you can be sure they’ll be manipulating population numbers as well.
Because the obsessive focus on paranoid conspiracy-theorizing about ACORN worked so well in the 2008 election — not to mention the unprompted and utterly baffling snickering over the job of “community” organizers — Steele and the Republicans seem to have doubled down on the tactic. I expect emails harping on the influence of Jeremiah Wright and Bill Ayers in the White House to evade my spam filter next.
Really, though, this is the national establishment of one of the United States’ two dominant political parties, resorting to tactics of baseless fear-mongering. It really is staggering.
Dave Noon has a great takedown.
(image from flickr user Carol Esther under a Creative Commons license)
Charles Murray thinks that Europeans, with their universal health insurance, child care, affordable education and all sorts of other effete and atheistic designs, “drain too much of the life from life.” Yes, because when you’re working 12 hours in a factory, struggling to pay for your seven children, and praying to God that you’ll be able to afford the cheap ketchup, that’s when you’re really living.
From the mixed-up files of emails from the Republican National Committee:
Meanwhile, don’t look now, but Nancy Pelosi and the Obama Administration is busily working to build up a debt larger than our country or any country has ever seen.
Even if Nancy Pelosi and the Obama Administration are part of one joint nefarious tax-raising cabal, I think the plural subject-plural verb rule still applies.
(image from flickr user A Siegel under a Creative Commons license)
Evidently, the plethora of United States flags surrounding United States President Barack Obama is not the only thing that proves how beholden to flag-waving unpatriotic he is. Blue Texan reports that wingnuts are claiming that because U.S. troops who were standing at attention and therefore not allowed to “whoop it up” for anyone did not “whoop it up” for President Obama — but merely “erupted in a cacophony” when he left the stage after his speech — is yet another sign that the military is incorrigibly conservative.