Wednesday, March 31, 2010
I wonder if this has something to do with a residual self-image issue. Fey used to be much heavier and more homely in general, so it's possible that she sees herself as an ugly person, culturally speaking. (I hate myself for writing something so Brooksian, by the way.) Perhaps that's why she feels she can get away with those kinds of jokes. But if these jokes are an attempt to get audiences on her side, in some way, the whole thing just strikes me as backwards. If anything, it smacks more of false humility, like Fey is trying to make a joke about being unattractive to solicit contrary opinions. I don't know if that's the goal, but it's not unreasonable to assume that it might be.
Then again, I guess it's easier to think of "Liz Lemon is ugly" jokes than it is to think of "Liz Lemon is totally sexy" jokes. As Jon Hamm's stint on the show proved, it's not that easy to make jokes about how attractive someone is. But about how ugly they are? Easy. My guess is that's the real reason why those jokes are there.
Saturday, March 27, 2010
I think that to understand what’s wrong with the conservative movement today, you need to think about Barry Goldwater’s 1964 Presidential campaign. In ‘64, the GOP establishment felt that Goldwater was too radical. They said that nominating a hard-rightist like Goldwater would be counterproductive. But conservative activists worked hard, and they did it. Goldwater got the nod. And, just as the establishment predicted, Goldwater got crushed. And just as the established predicted, it proved to be counterproductive. The 1964 landslide led directly to Medicare, Medicaid, Title I education spending, and the “war on poverty.” In the 45 years since that fateful campaign, the conservative movement managed to gain total control over the Republican Party and to sporadically govern the country. But it’s only very partially rolled back one aspect of the Johnson administration’s domestic policy.
Which is just to say that the conservative movement from 1964-2009 was a giant failure. By nominating Goldwater, it invited a massive progressive win that all the subsequent conservative wins were unable to undue. But the orthodox conservative tradition of ‘64 is that it was a great success that laid the groundwork for the triumphs to come.
Which is to say that it’s not just a movement incapable of thinking seriously about the interests of the country, it can’t think rigorously about its own goals. 2009-2010 has already seen the greatest flowering of progressive policy since 1965-66. No matter how well Republicans do in the 2010 midterms, the right will never fully roll back what the 111th Congress has done. And yet, as Andrews suggests, if they win seats in 2010, conservatives will consider their behavior during 2009-10 to have been very successful.
Tuesday, March 23, 2010
For the past few months, Republicans have been offering Democrats advice about dropping health-care reform, despite the obvious conflict of interest. Democrats mostly ignored them, figuring that Mitch McConnell probably doesn't have the best interest of the Democratic Party at heart. But it might be advantageous for Republicans to consider that the Democrats are positively giddy at the prospect of running against a party dedicated to a full-on repeal of HCR, from liberal media outlets to elected officials, there is positive excitement to fight for what Democrats rightly feel to be a historic achievement. Republicans are highly unlikely to win the argument for full-on repeal. There could indeed be some utility to a more nuanced case for targeted changes and modifications to the bill, though I think would force Republicans into a defensive debate position. The odds of a court challenge to health care succeeding are uniformly regarded as poor. It seems apparent that the Administration has pulled a fait accompli on the issue, and among elite Republicans there is little enthusiasm for fighting this fight. Right-wingers are, as usual, setting themselves up for disappointment.
But it does seem as if Republicans are going to run on repeal. Considering the stakes they put on this bill, they really have no other choice. My guess would be that such efforts will be a drag on Republicans' chances, generally speaking. It might help in winning Democratic seats in conservative areas, but I find it highly unlikely that the public--which has been worn out on this debate for months now--is going to respond to angry calls for repeal. By all accounts, they've wanted Congress to move onto new issues for some time now. Republicans' pledging to continue this debate means less time spent talking about the economy--in other words, it will only render the Republicans out of touch even more so than they are now. They've really fallen for their own nonsense--the Republicans running for Senate in California (California!) are all pledging to repeal Obamacare, in what will no doubt go down as the greatest example of mass seppuku since ancient Japan. The idea that this issue will play to their satisfaction in liberal, union-dominated California is positively nuts to me. But what can they do? It's much too early to prognosticate about the Midterm elections, and high unemployment will be a difficult hurdle for Democrats to overcome. But the Republicans are showing signs of replicating the same errors that plagued the British Conservative Party over the past decade, such as their obsession with their own pet issues instead of the public's desires. This could play very poorly for them. Time will tell.
Wednesday, March 17, 2010
I actually think that the Tea Parties are going to break up a lot sooner than people think. Not just over failing on HCR, but when one considers that the next big battles are going to be over financial regs and clean elections, where the far right doesn't have much purchase on public opinion (and which are issues that the Tea Parties are supposed to be exercised about), I really doubt that this movement is long for this world. But, then again, movements don't last forever. They either fail to achieve their goals and everything falls apart, or they achieve them and become institutions.
I don't follow Breitbart's work, but he's always struck me as a man on the verge of a nervous breakdown. Sullivan, for his quibbles, is able to put this stuff in perspective. It's a good bit of wisdom that all of us netroots types should heed.
Breitbart, like Drudge, gets the web. He understands its subversive and rhetorical power: the sheer thrill of the direct access to millions, the fuel that ideology brings to everything, the traffic that anger summons like a dog whistle to the alienated. This is an angry time, and the web helps tap our anger, monetize it, leverage it in intoxicating ways. I don't begrudge him one bit his fury at some liberals' smugness, or the p.c. nonsense of the 1990s, or the cant of a lot of academia. I never came from liberalism, so I never felt I had to shuck it off.
But Drudge has kept himself sealed off as a human being for a reason, I suspect. He's public only as an avatar. It is because this transparent, raging, brutal world is too destructive to the soul and the psyche to remain so exposed in such a raw fashion for so long without serious damage. Drudge is smart. Andrew, I suspect, will realize how smart eventually.
Yep, death happens because the Internet has replaced life for some but it hasn't abolished the real thing. And Breitbart's vulnerable moment in the piece shows how even the enraged and always offensive are sad and defensive at times, vulnerable often. The web has not banished these truths. Ideology is false. Labels obscure. Rage eventually undoes the enraged, even if the anger is merited. And no, media isn't everything. The battle isn't everything.
I'm not entirely sure what's going on here, but I suspect stuff like this is why it's happening. In no universe can Bob Bennett be considered liberal, but he is interested in solving problems and working with Democrats, which is apparently not allowed anymore. These other dudes have seen what's up and are hamming it up for the Tea Party crowd, but they don't really have the knack for it, so they come off as unbelievably obnoxious. It's just kind of sad.
Tuesday, March 16, 2010
What about instituting a universal single-payer system, something Moore advocated for in his 2007 movieSicko, through a Congress that balked at a watered-down public option? According to Moore, all it takes is courage.
"We've been lied to for so long, and it works," he said. "It's amazing to watch a lie work. Only a strong leader, only a Roosevelt could confront this."
Saturday, March 13, 2010
Why was the Bush administration initially so eager to cover up its torture, and conduct its abuses in secret? Once the truth about the Bush administration’s policy of institutionalized torture came out, it turned out to be something that the right thinks works for it politically and they like to brag. But back in the high tide of the torturing, they clearly understood that they were doing something shameful and wanted to keep it secret. And even today they’re ashamed of what it is they were actually doing. In their constant invocations of SERE training as way of showing that waterboarding’s not so bad they reveal themselves. The logic of their arguments is that brutality works and it’s good, but they can never quite bring themselves fully and fulsomely embrace that idea and instead want to turn around and minimize the enormity of their actions. But if the justification of the brutal coercion involved in waterboarding is that it works then why is the semantic argument about torture even relevant?
Friday, March 12, 2010
Monday, March 8, 2010
Friday, March 5, 2010
"My response was that Dean was temperamentally unsuited to be president -- he had the resume of a moderate but the soul of a radical. His egomania and extreme pugilism made him a poor advocate and an even worse negotiator. His only solution to political impediments is to pretend they don't exist."I should add that Dean's fear that the GOP would repeal HCR is unfounded. The Tea Partiers want them to, but the Democrats are positively salivating for them to do so. The fact is that the GOP has convinced much of the public that the Democrats' bill is weak, but virtually all of the individual components are popular. Campaigning on repeal would be a disaster for the GOP: they couldn't support full repeal, because then the Democrats would hit them on preexisting conditions. The debate would become one in which Democrats attacked Republicans for wanting to bring back payment caps and preexisting conditions, and the Republicans would be on the defensive with some sort of nuanced position that probably wouldn't play well. This is why Tim Kaine is saying things like, "If they want to run a campaign of bring back the day of kicking people off because of pre-existing conditions, I relish it."I guess Republicans could campaign against "government-run care", but that's just spin and not a plan of action. There is nothing like that in the bill. If the GOP runs against government-run care but pledges not to mess with the pre-existing condition ban, the individual insurance exchanges, the insurance payment caps, etc., I wouldn't be too worried.
Wednesday, March 3, 2010
Here's how I see it: the GOP has many problems at this point, but probably the biggest one is that its supporters are thoroughly captured by its elites. Because much of the Republican base is animated by the culture war message rather than by strict policy proposals (not a risky assumption, I should think), they can be fairly easily manipulated by the conservative elite, whose interests largely don't lie with solving big problems or helping their constituents, so much as enriching very specific groups. They make big promises and don't follow through on them, and then invoke the specter of the evil liberals to justify inaction. This is where you get the (accurate) accusation on the left that the GOP is run largely by grifters: you have almost a perfect set of circumstances for widescale corruption.
I think that the Tea Parties understand this on some level. They get that it's incompatible to both extol the virtues of the free market and then bail out the big banks. The problem is that they share very little substantive policy differences from the mainstream conservatives, and they don't really have much space to launch the critique that it would make sense for them to make. It would make sense for them to decry corporate collusion with government and to back regulation and legislation to reduce it, but this is a tacit admission that capitalism isn't a uniquely just system that gives everyone what they deserve, and that the Republican approach to the market is flawed. Most of them aren't ready for that. The Tea Party movement has not correctly identified its enemies, preferring to make partisan attacks instead of getting the Republicans' house in order and demanding accountability. There has been little backlash against the people who misled them for all these years: I've heard of little anger at Karl Rove, or Bill Kristol, or Fox News among these folks (or, at least, among Dave Weigel's persistent reporting on them, as well as some of the random conservative blogs I read). In fact, Fox News is more popular than ever, despite having fed these very people lies for many years. The deep-down fear of liberalism pushes them back to the very people who failed them because the alternative is unthinkable, or perhaps merely unthought. What the Tea Party movement seems to me to be is a movement that is trying to rebel with a group with which it agrees with almost everything. There is little imagination within the movement, less vision, and it overwhelmingly reeks of futility and chaos. It's like some late-90s pop-punk group raging at the system underneath a Doritos banner. Or, to use a political metaphor, I'm continually reminded of liberal hawks' decision to turn against the Iraq War in 2005-06. The tide was palpably turning against the war, and many of these hawks needed to pivot away from defending it, but the problem was that their ideology--which found American hegemony, national security ideology, and the notion of preemptive war acceptable--didn't allow much space for critiques of the war. Eventually, they decided to criticize Bush's conduct of the war, which was handy because Bush did such a poor job of it, but it was weak as far as these things go. The Tea Parties folded their complaint against the bailouts into a complaint against spending, which is fair enough I guess, but it is about as obvious as the liberal hawks' rationale and it doesn't really try to solve the problem that was, for a time, their raison d'etre.
This is why I think calls for some sort of right-left populism are misguided. I think that such a dialogue could be interesting, and I think that some of the same things motivate populists on both sides, but I have seen little evidence that this sort of right populism has a substantive case to make on these issues that differs from standard Republican thinking. Perhaps dialogue could discover some common ground, but I doubt there would be too much trust on either side. They've chosen to base their movement around spending, but anyone who actually thinks that a Tea Party-powered Republican majority would actually take action on this issue is sorely mistaken, as can be seen with Paul Ryan's neglected budget ideas.
The Man, The Myth, The Bio
- East Bay, California, United States
- Problem: I have lots of opinions on politics and culture that I need to vent. If I do not do this I will wind up muttering to myself, and that's only like one or two steps away from being a hobo. Solution: I write two blogs. A political blog that has some evident sympathies (pro-Obama, mostly liberal though I dissent on some issues, like guns and trade) and a culture blog that does, well, cultural essays in a more long-form manner. My particular thing is taking overrated things (movies, mostly, but other things too) down a peg and putting underrated things up a peg. I'm sort of the court of last resort, and I tend to focus on more obscure cultural phenomena.