Saturday, January 27, 2007

Thursday and Friday at Once

With both yesterday and today spent traveling and at home, an abbreviated entry must suffice.

Politics:

It seems Bush made a strategic error in his State of the Union address. By so significantly emphasizing his stubborn stance on Iraq, which has been largely played in the media, he left his few domestic promises open to meticulous analysis and criticism. Especially in regards to his energy promises, with so many large corporations announcing this week their desire for a comprehensive cap-and-trade emissions program Bush’s agenda seems not only timid, but ultimately empty. That being said, some issues, like global warming and fuel standards are at least on the table, but it remains to be seen exactly how they will be tackled, and whether Detroit especially will continue to wield unfortunate and discouraging power in Washington. The NYT ran this editorial yesterday, which gives a sufficient summation of the immediate flaws of Bush’s “ambitious” programme.

To make matters worse, instead of letting the Iraq issue die, Bush petulantly announced today that he is the “decision maker” on Iraq matters in an attempt to rebuff the bipartisan congressional efforts to derail his ultimately flawed escalation-via-troop-surge. The media seems to playing the story against Bush right now, but I am growing increasingly concerned that Bush’s inflexibility and monomania is actually a strategy meant to turn the issue against the Democrats again. It occurred to me after reading this otherwise unexciting editorial from the Rocky Mountain Times about the dangers of populism for the Democrats.

I now worry that the more hyperbolic and extraordinary Bush’s resistance to change seems, the more it will encourage Democratic lawmakers to speak out against him in public. Once the media starts to run this story, the next story is “what will the Democrats do?” And while America may be opposed to Bush’s escalation, there is no indication that they are for a Democratic plan, the reason being that there isn’t one. There is a hodgepodge of theories about how to withdraw, and what seems now a strong, unified congressional body against Bush, will quickly seem a divisively syncretic and fragmented heterogeneity with little answers once the story has flipped. Be careful Democrats, be very careful. Best to stay quiet for the time being on this one (while surreptitiously working on a plan of course).

More frightening than the prospect of Bush regaining power on the Iraq issue, is this story from the National Journal which seems to suggest that there is a behind the scenes escalation occurring with Iran and that it is only the efforts of some rational Executive Branch insiders who are keeping the hawks away from the military planning rooms. I’ve always considered Iran to be merely the coy mistress of the Mideast, constantly testing limits, playing games, but with little momentum or ambition towards real conflict. Pretense, all pretense. Either way, anything beyond diplomacy is a frightening endeavor.

Last, two brief pieces regarding 2008. One, from the NYT, details the recent rush of states to obtain early spots in the primary calendar, meaning that elections will increasingly be about media budgets and money in general with far less of a chance for darkhorse candidates, which is a shame, because they are often the strongest candidates and most successful leaders. Finally, the central election story these days seems to be Barak Obama’s appeal to black voters. To appease this interest I provide a Washington Post article on the subject, though, to be honest, I’m not sure this all amounts to more than racial cold feet or, at the very least, just an attempt to fill the airwaves with something.

Culture:

Women aren’t funny, says the self-reflexive iconoclast Christopher Hitchens. And the requisite rebuttal by mildly amusing female author who, no doubt, Christopher Hitchens, misogynist extraordinaire alongside Martin Amis, will respect greatly.

In a follow-up of sorts to Tuesday’s article about the so-called “wild child” found after being raised in the jungle, Slate features an equally problematic brochure offering Baudrillardian vacations to the ultra-rich. Tour the indigenous cultures of the world. A cross-cultural Disneyland for the rich. Its like the Trail of Tears all over again, only this time the smallpox is delivered by a private jet and comes in an epistemologically bacterial form.

That being said, this is quite a brilliant article I think about the dissolution of group structures in the Western, postmodern state. I think it tacitly makes a nice space for some sort of Nietzschean collective politics, and also makes a strong analysis of radical Islam as a reaction to “deterritorialization” and the leeching effects of diasporic movement.

Closer to home, the Unabomber is in the news again, this time making constitutional arguments in order to keep his writings, which prosecutors are attempting to sell in order to recoup the civil settlement money he owes his victims’ families. I’ve always found the Unabomber fascinating and remember reading his manifesto in highschool and finding it surprisingly lucid. Obviously he’s a psychopath, but nevertheless.

Lastly, the Japanese filmed a weird creature, which then died and is now extinct. And when I say weird creature, I mean nightmarish fish-thing that will keep me from the oceans for the rest of time.

3 comments:

Diana M. Gauvin said...

Regarding female humor, I think that both of the articles you cited are, to some extent, missing the point. Now, as I am the token female on this blog, I suppose an ounce of feminism is expected. I'm honestly not much of a feminist, but I have lived the reality of femininity, and I have had some recent conversations with a Wesleyan type who often proclaims "fuck the binary."

I agree with Hitchens: women are rarely funny. I even agree that the ones who are tend to be either lesbian or in a position to make fun of themselves, to point out whatever is going to appear "grotesque" to this Elizabethan culture dwelling beneath the veneer of post-postmodernism.

No, but seriously. I think a huge part of the reason that women aren't very "funny" is because over the years, society has been honed toward "male" humor. If women aren't funny very often, it's because of two powerful problems. The first is that women are struggling against the strictures of what society grants us at a young age: we're supposed to be feminine in order to attract the opposite sex, and it's not very feminine to put on a show in the sort of "look at me, look at me" way of comedians. The other reason is that any humor we don't borrow from men (and few women, except those Hitchens pointed out, can do so handily) is considered particular to women.

Think of it this way: in school, a teacher must choose a book to read to her class of first graders. One is about a little boy and his train set, and one is about a little girl and her doll. Both of these are stereotyping to the extreme, but let's leave it that way for a minute. If the teacher reads the story about the little boy, the class will pay attention - after all, we've all been honed to pay attention to men/boys and their concerns. However, if the woman reads the story about the little girl, the boys will either not pay attention or roll their eyes, while the girls are either attentive or mildly embarrassed that their male classmates are being forced to listen.

The point is that feminism made customs formerly considered "masculine" reasonably unisex, but it neglected to do the same to customs considered "feminine." A good portion of the world would still like to leave the mysticism in femininity, and the sad result is that in the public arena, anything "feminine" - such as humor - is considered either something for privacy, as the rebuttal you cited mentioned, or else something to which no man can connect - a thing apart.

John A. Atchley III said...

I agree entirely. Hitchens' verbal gift is his flair for controversy. I do believe he is the ex-liberal who, during our freshman year at Bates, delivered a speech in which he asserted that the only solution to the middle east was a "final" one, i.e. nuclear annihilation.

Smectymnuus said...

Perhaps the 'final solution' characterization is a bit extreme. I do remember being a bit stirred up by the end of his speech, but it wasn't that bad. In fact, in retrospect, I thought it was quite a good speech (but you know how I like Hitchens, even if he was obnoxious to everyone, including me). He did agree that 'they' - Islamists - should be killed for a number of reasons (and he kept harping on about his friend Rushdie - understandably, I suppose), but it wasn't really a sort of 'final solution'-type speech. It was more along the lines of an explanation of why their ideology doesn't harmonize with the modern world, and since they seek their goals violently (ie, the resurrection of the medieval Caliphate), and would incorporate extremely repressive/fascist regimes given the chance, the only real option open is to attempt to defeat the ideology (and those who profess it) now before it spreads.

Not exactly stuff we haven't heard before, but it was pretty interesting and entertaining to an eighteen-year-old college student in 2002.

I can understand your 'final solution' comparison, but I think it's a bit off the mark (and there was never any talk of a nuclear solution, as far as I remember), mostly because of what such a phrase reflexively conjures up in the mind - Nazism. I mean, how do you co-exist with someone who deeply believes in the cause of Islamism? I don't think you can. So then, what is the solution?