Archive for the ‘blogospheric tail chasing’ category

I Wish Andrew Were Correct, But…

September 4, 2012

…when he writes stuff like this:

…by adding Ryan to the ticket, Romney has ensured that the far right will not be able to blame defeat on a RINO candidate. They will have to accept that a teenage Randian vision of domestic society and a revolutionary militarist foreign policy are not acceptable options in a free and sane polity.

he hasn’t begun to plumb the depths of the crazy.

See, e.g., this:

“If Obama wins re-election, the Republican Party will react by moving right, not left,” observes Ramesh Ponnuru, a well-connected conservative writer, in a Bloomberg op-ed Monday. “It will become less likely to compromise with Obama, not more.”

Radical right fanaticism can never fail.  It can only be failed.  Andrew Sullivan may believe that there is a rational core remaining somewhere in the bowels of the Republican Party.  There isn’t.  And the very piece of evidence he advances to claim otherwise — that the selection of Ryan is an 11 dimensional-chess-worthy move that will handcuff the asylum’s inmates when the loss sinks in — is so swiftly and easily swatted away it is almost pathetic that he would pin any hopes for a return to sanity on so tattered a reed.  Hell — the retort isn’t even wrong:  if and when Mitt Romney goes down to defeat, and even if and when the Dems hold the Senate and (FSM willing) pick up the house (I dream big when I dream), the radical right’s true believers will be able to say, accurately, that Romney lost the election.

Remember:  Palin didn’t lose in 2008, McCain did — and even if you conceded that Palin didn’t help, the fact that remains that it’s the guy on top that takes the fall.  Plus, you have now something even more deeply felt than it was four years ago:  the radical right is tolerating Romney; he’s on permanent double secret probation with them.

If and when the R-Money/Granny Starver ticket loses, the obvious place for the radical right to go is (a) to demand a true believe in position one in 2016 after two failures with the squishy folks at the top of the ticket discredit (in their eyes) the notion that even the simulacrum of moderation is electorally valuable.  Then there’s (b):  when you’ve gone all in on the worldview that says Obama and Democrats in general are illegitimate, no matter how many elections they win, then the radical right have no reason at all to resume taking their oh-so-necessary meds.  The Kenyan Mooslim Commie Usurper must be opposed by any means necessary, and no amount of actual, you know, votes, can change that conviction.

There is no future in the Republican party.  It’s sane remnant, if it wishes to retain that modifier, is going to have to do what Abe Lincoln’s Republican party did to the Whigs back in 1854: separate and disembowel.  Nothing less will do, I think.  The mad dog sunk its teeth in too long ago; the time for treatment has passed; one should merely mourn the walking corpse and move on.

Factio grandaeva delenda est!

Image:  Thomas Rowlandson, A Mad Dog in a Coffee-House, c. 1800.

Belatedly…A Bloggy Announcement

October 28, 2010

It’s been quiet around here the last few days (and more or less for a while).

The highly episodic nature of this blog for the last few months has been due to the usual stuff — summer, then the sheer joy of the start of the fall semester, combined with the shock of a new gig at the ‘tute.  But over the last couple of days something else has been going on…

and that is, thanks to the very kind (and/or certifiable) hospitality of John Cole, I’m guest blogging over at Balloon Juice.  I’ve put up a couple of posts there so far, with more to come.

So, while I’ll try to be more conscientious than I’ve been to flag posts over there over here, that’s where you should check in for my stuff — and all the rest as well.  It’s a great place to hang on the nets, and I’m honored and very happy to be sending stuff that way. (I’ve been talking thuggery and Godwin, but if you want to check out a relaxation, politics-free post on good science writing, the Krebs cycle, and how many hydrogen atoms died for this post, check this one out.

Image:  Abraham Solomon, “(Travelling) First Class” 1862

 

PAYPAL IS THE WORST COMPANY IN THE WORLD

August 31, 2010

What John Cole said.

Google bombing run to commence in 3…2…1…

Now.

Seriously — I’ve got an acct. w. Paypal, and while they have not done to me what they have done to John (memo to self — no debit cards from companies whose offices I can’t walk into), I smell the grasping hand for that last little bit of float in every transaction I make with them.

Image:  Guy Pène du Bois, “The Confidence Man,” c. 1919.

Scientopia!

August 4, 2010

ScienceBlogs bloggers live on in very spiffy new digs.

Many of my favorites from the old place have reorganized themselves here, at Scientopia.org.

Most wonderful, from my perspective, the interaction/conversation between blogs and bloggers that was one of the best (and occasionally worst) of the Seed Megalith’s science blogging aggregation is reproduced here, with much good fellowship and very sharp intelligence.

An evolution to be watched…

Image:  Anicet-Charles-Gabriel Lemonnier, The Salon of Madame Geoffrin” 1812.

Not Dead Yet….Just Resting/Beautiful Plumage Edition

May 23, 2010

Blogging is conspicuous by its absence.  I plead end-of-term disasters, combined with the long dark tea-time of the soul.

Been feeling grim lately, and lacking the oomph to blog, I channel my inner Ishmael:

… I find myself growing grim about the mouth;
whenever it is a damp, drizzly November in my soul; whenever I
find myself involuntarily pausing before coffin warehouses,
and bringing up the rear of every funeral I meet;
and especially whenever my hypos get such an upper hand of me,
that it requires a strong moral principle to prevent me from
deliberately stepping into the street, and methodically knocking
people’s hats off–then, I account it high time to get to sea
as soon as I can.

But I do see some possibility of returning to civil conversation, probably after my next two talks, both in the LA area tonight (LA County Library downtown) and tomorrow (the OC — at the National Academy facility at UC Irvine), so please consider this a hiatus rather than a quietus.

And in the meantime, for your viewing pleasure, those clips that inspire this title.

and

Why I Love the English Language (and writing)

April 16, 2010

From Nick Mamtas

Carver became a legend on 72 short stories. I just sold my 60th.  But thanks to the handy chart at the back of Carol Sklenicka’s mammoth biography, I know that Carver never sold stories to anthologies with names such as The Walri Project, The Naked Singularity, or Fucking Daphne. Am I doing something wrong?

(h/t Andrew Sullivan.)

I don’t quite know why this tickles me so, except that as a writer, I love reading writer’s rants.  Or perhaps its the fact that I now have some almost-certain-to-be-unreached destinations to which my own work could aspire.

I

mage: Cover of the pulp magazine Weird Tales (January 1937, vol. 29, no. 1). Covert art by Margaret Brundage.

How to deal with trolls/Why I love Balloon Juice

April 13, 2010

Nothing like some Albigensian snark to deal with the old “everyone’s evil, hence no one’s evil” apologetic for the latest hateful nonsense to emerge from the Catholic clergy/child rape scandal.  See commenter Warren Terra at number 77 for the details.

Image:  The massacre of the Albigensians, from the Chronicle of St. Denis,  fourteenth century.

No Doubt Ms. McArdle Will Reassure Us That The Rhetoric of Violence Has Nothing to do with Violence

April 6, 2010

This threat to Senator Murray reminded me of the McArdle nonsense discussed here (at great length, as is my wont).

But not to worry.  Just because elected leaders and the highest profile opinion makers on the right have been calling health care reform “armageddon” and the Democrats who passed it tyrants, there is no need to fear that idiots with lethal firepower will mount threats to our elected officials.

Just to forestall the likely “that’s not what I meant” retort from Ms. McArdle, I concede that it is true that merely carrying a weapon does not indicate the intent to use it.  But it sure gives you the means to do irreversible harm if you do so choose.  And blithely dismissing ratcheting rhetoric and the impact of the public display of weaponry as unconnected with actual increases in the risk of violence is willed blindness.

Props, by the way, to the FBI, on the case in a big way this time.

Image:  Knotted pistol in front of the UN building in New York.

Why Andrew Sullivan Continues to Piss Me Off…little things edition

April 5, 2010

Andrew Sullivan, as I and many have noted, is a true pain in the ass.  He’s sometimes brilliant,  more or less always deeply committed, capable of howling error and, in the one great strength that any opinionated journalist needs, completely unfazed by that fact.

But he’s also beset by the one true sin of someone who would both know and interpret the world (which is a fancy way of saying a journalist of and with opinions):  he is selectively incurious.

That is there are certain assumptions that just don’t get their spring and fall airing out — and they manifest themselves as seemingly permanent thumbs on the scale.

I’m onto this because, while procrastinating yet again in submitting expense reports for the four-trips-in-three weeks stint just past, I sauntered over to his blog just now to find in a post about Mark Thiessen’s serial lies, this:

Media Matters is a group I remain somewhat skeptical of, but the data they have assembled on “Courting Disaster” is truly impressive.

This annoys because of its magisterial dismissal of his source, Media Matters.  There is the matter of tone — I bridle at his “We are not amused” affect.  There is the awakening of the grammar nazi in me:  the clause is better written (IMHO, of course) “Media Matters is a group about which I remain somewhat skeptical…”

But most of all there is the assumption not in evidence, the argument not made.  Sullivan distrusts Media Matters, despite their seemingly admirable work in this instance, because?….

We must infer, and I do: I’m going to guess that Sullivan’s residual distaste comes, for all that Sullivan has moved a lot from his naive Bush-and-war worshipping days as a callow blogger, Media Matters has consistently documented sins by many of Sullivan’s friends, former or otherwise.

It galled then, I’d imagine, and it galls now.*  But this is weak sauce, to steal TNC’s epithet: if you are going to undercut your authority you need to explain why (a) they merit general distrust and (b) how the work you praise is different.  Sullivan doesn’t, ruling instead ex cathedra, which, as we have all recently been reminded, is a perilous place from which to opine.

And there there’s this, in a post on the presumed greater conservatism of Hilary Clinton (compared to Obama):

I think Bruce needs a qualifier: “ideological conservatives.”

This is another one of those asides that turn up fairly often on his blog, in which Sullivan again tries to defend his general claim that he is an arbiter of authenticity.  I wrote recently about his Christians vs. Christianists trope — and his chiding of Bruce Bartlett is more of the same.  There are real conservatives — those whom Sullivan recognizes as fellow heirs of a lineage that includes the inevitable Burke and the locally omnipresent Oakeshott…and then there are all those who have followed false prophets, and become merely “ideological” conservatives.

Sullivan is, of course, absolutely entitled to construct his own typology.  I have an unsolicited suggestion for him, in fact:

I agree with him that those using the term “Conservative” in contemporary American politics are not — in either the political-historical sense of the term, its philosophical sense, nor in any reasonable reading of its plain meaning.  Rather, they are, to dredge up a term from British politics, Radicals.  If he’d start using that to describe the Palins and the Kristols of the world and all the rest, with an account of the Anglo-American roots of the word as used in politics, that would be great.

But for now, some attention must be paid to the way the word is actually understood in current usage.  Movement conservatives, self-identified American conservatives, the folks who love torture and hate health care reform assert, as conservatives have often done, that there specific stands are derived from a more global commitment to some established base of eternal truths articulated most clearly in some idealized past — and there is not reasonable understanding of conservatism as a political trope that doesn’t recognize such claims as a broadly shared element in the definition of of what it means to be conservative.

That Sullivan deeply dislikes the form in which this commitment takes in our politics today, and that he sees it as mostly or entirely a fiction (i.e. — there is no reading of history that yields the “truths” that Palin says she sees as foundational, a view with which I entirely agree), doesn’t mean that he gets to decide who stays in the conservative club and who gets booted out.

Again, I’d trace this back to Sullivan’s still incomplete grasp of the contradictions within his worldview and experience — conflicts which he has been more open than most about expressing.  He’s someone who thinks deductively, from axioms he believes or accepts to be true.  He is sensitive enough to experience to recognize at least some of the times when those axioms turn out to be falsified by daily reality — hence, among much else, his passionate battle against the perpetuation of the American torture state.  But old habits of mind don’t simply undo themselves…and here, in two casual asides, you see how they dull thought.

Which, I suppose, if I’m honest, would be most useful as a warning to self.  There is no such thing as herd immunity in the thinking-and-writing biz.

*There may even be a hint here, to my perhaps oversensitive ears, of a kind of class disdain:  Media Matters may be just a bit too grubby to be taken seriously. (I could be detecting phantoms here. There’s nothing like being a member of an Anglo-Jewish upper-ish family to give one perhaps a too-finely-tuned sensor for English class distinctions, as a recent conversation with a friend who happened to be an old-Harrovian (sic?) classmate of a cousin of mine reminded me.  With just two Jews at Harrow at that time, the tension within an identity of same-and-other was constant.)

Image:  Titian, “Portrait of Cardina Pietro Bembo” before 1547. Bembo is a favorite of mine for many reasons, not least that he had an affair with Lucrezia Borgia before he being made a cardinal.

RIP Jon Swift

March 4, 2010

By now I’m sure most of those who read this blog will have heard the sad news that one of the best of those who chose to write in this strange new form has died.

Jon Swift, aka Al Weisel, died late last month of complications of an aortic aneurysm.  Tom Watson has a moving tribute here, and there is nothing in my brief and passing blog acquaintence with Mr. Swift that can add to that.

What I can affirm from personal experience is that Jon Swift (the name by which I knew the man we’ve lost) was at once a marvelous, caustic wit who accomplished something very difficult — creating a wholly plausible alternative world in which his views and words became plausible — and hence  hilarious in the one we laughingly (because we’re too big to cry) call “the real world.” And for all of that wit and slash, he was a believer in the idea of community on the blogosphere, and did more than almost anyone to make that easily typed sentiment an actuality.

He put a lot of muscle behind blogroll amnesty day, for example, and it is a sad tribute that Inverse Square got traffic today from his ‘roll, to which it had been added a Feb. 3 or two ago.  And he tried to notice small and new blogs when they were trying to make a move; he did so here, promoting what remains one of my favorite pieces of the last couple of years.   We corresponded a couple of times — I thanked him for that notice, and he wrote back, noting that while he didn’t agree with the piece, he thought it argued its point sharply enough to make it worth pushing into the conversation.

So that’s my story:  this was a generous man, and one who clearly loved both the solitary act of writing and the collective practice of thinking.

The good die to damn young.

Image: Nicholas Poussin, “Les Bergers d’Arcadie (Et in Arcadia ego)” 1637-1638