With the post-election afterglow quickly curdling into the usual nastiness, let me state a few things for the record today:
I think Sarah Palin knows Africa is a continent, not a country. Given that the lady is one of those people whose words, verbally, tend to become — I think in terms of the verbal expression, you know, she could be expressing, word-wise…
You get the idea. Also, I’ve heard many, many people refer to Africa as a country, and I know they know better. It’s just one of those things.
The NAFTA thing, I could go either way on. And I believe every word about the clothes and the shopping. I can’t say how, except that I’ve seen otherwise sensible people make utter fools of themselves when they thought something was free. This is all I have to go on — a few hunches.
Also, I think the McCain we saw at his concession speech was the real man, and his failure to be that man throughout his campaign is one of those Greek-tragedy things he’ll carry to his grave.
We’re reaching the end of my graciousness toward American conservatism, but I’ll hang on a little longer, to say this P.J. O’Rourke piece is worth a read. Everybody likes funny Patrick Jake, although some like him better than others, and this piece has the advantage of at least sounding honest:
Since the early 1980s I’ve been present at the conception (to use the polite term) of many of our foreign policy initiatives. Iran-contra was about as smart as using the U.S. Postal Service to get weapons to anti-Communists. And I notice Danny Ortega is back in power anyway. I had a look into the eyes of the future rulers of Afghanistan at a sura in Peshawar as the Soviets were withdrawing from Kabul. I would rather have had a beer with Leonid Brezhnev.
Fall of the Berlin wall? Being there was fun. Nations that flaked off of the Soviet Union in southeastern Europe, Central Asia, and the Caucasus? Being there was not so fun.
The aftermath of the Gulf war still makes me sick. Fine to save the fat, greedy Kuwaitis and the arrogant, grasping house of Saud, but to hell with the Shiites and Kurds of Iraq until they get some oil.
Then, half a generation later, when we returned with our armies, we expected to be greeted as liberators. And, damn it, we were. I was in Baghdad in April 2003. People were glad to see us, until they noticed that we’d forgotten to bring along any personnel or provisions to feed or doctor the survivors of shock and awe or to get their electricity and water running again. After that they got huffy and began stuffing dynamite down their pants before consulting with the occupying forces.
Is there a moral dimension to foreign policy in our political philosophy? Or do we just exist to help the world’s rich people make and keep their money? (And a fine job we’ve been doing of that lately.)
I haven’t always kept current on the O’Rourke catalog, but I assume someone here has; did he ever write this stuff at the time it was happening? If so, I don’t recall any of it, but maybe this is just his niche — truth-telling long after the fact, kind of like David Horowitz on the Panthers. Whatever. At least someone’s trying honesty for a change. Strategic honesty, anyway — there’s the usual abuse aimed at “liberals,” but I guess if there wasn’t at least a little bit of that, it wouldn’t be a Weekly Standard piece.
And so begins the new era, and while I’m optimistic and hopeful, I’m not stupid, either. If you want to know what an abyss looks like, look at an abyss, so over the weekend I contemplated what might happen to this town if General Motors, et al, filed for bankruptcy. Our house, already worth tens of thousands less than we paid for it, would fall further in value. One of the papers would probably fold, and it would likely be the one my health insurance is tied to. The freelance market would either dry up or become so competitive, what with all the unemployed journalists on the market, that it wouldn’t pay worth a damn. When I was in college, a nearby power-plant cooling tower — one of those wasp-waisted structures you see in the non-picturesque parts of the country, and in Indiana, practically on the lovely sandy beach of Lake Michigan, and whose idea was that — collapsed while under construction. The workers, under pressure to make a deadline, had anchored their safety harnesses in cement that wasn’t fully set. The line gave way at one end, and took down a couple dozen workers in a motion not unlike water going down a drain.
It would be like that.
Still, we had dinner with friends Saturday night, and we all had a champagne toast to the new era. Someday we’ll look back on it and say, either, we should have saved those few dollars we spent on champagne or else, hey, at least we have our memories.
Hard times are hard times, but acting as though they’re harder than they are can make them worse. This is common sense. Rod Dreher is on one of his pants-wetting jags about “stockpiling food.” I may well lose my health insurance, my job and my house, but staying fed has never seemed much of a risk, not in this country. By the time the food runs out, most of your stockpiles will have been depleted too, so why bother trying to keep the mice out of the 50-pound bags of rice in the basement? Now that we have firearms in the house, I plan to feed us during a Depression the old-fashioned way — by killing and eating the neighbors’ pets.
Dreher goes on to quote some lady at his church: “The newspapers ought to be telling us how to prepare, but instead they talk about nothing but sports and entertainment and everything like it is normal,” she said. “It’s not going to be normal.” No, I don’t expect it’ll be normal, but running stories about how to make your own pemmican and squirrel jerky isn’t going to set well with the few advertisers you still have left, who are trying to sell wide-screen TVs and electric skillets.
There’s a lot of automotive-buyout money floating around town now, and I think it’s behind a lot of small businesses that are popping up in the oddest places. Two are on the commercial block nearest our house. One I suspect is doomed; there just can’t possibly be that much demand for a dog wash, aimed at that slice of the population that has a dog to bathe but doesn’t want to do it in their own tub. The other is a fast-casual restaurant called the Big Salad, which amuses me because I remember the “Seinfeld” episode where they got the name, and pleases me because they make a pretty good salad there. I try to stop in every week or two, if only because it’s good to get out of the house and without customers, the lettuce will wilt and there will be no more Big Salad on the block. Perhaps Dreher and his old-lady friend, eyes squinched shut in fervent prayer, haven’t thought of this.
Anyway, I’m sick of current events, and plan to be for a while. You guys talk amongst yourselves about whatever you like, but I’m going to turn my thoughts to art and Christmas shopping. Or that might just be the weather talking — snow is flying outside my window as I write this. Seems like a good time to study Russian instead of polling data, and for a good long while.
(This is also, I warn you, the “my website is a tar baby” spasm of disgust I go through from time to time. I can’t think of the last time I got a nickel from GoogleAds, those chiselers. Roy Edroso details the unintentionally hilarious goodbye-to-all-that of a one-time high-flying right-wing blogger, his finances destroyed by hours spent at the keyboard, along with gout and the expenses of “lap-band surgery,” for both the blogger and his daughter (so she could make the weight requirement for military enlistment). I was so embarrassed for him, reading this, that I had to look away for a while. I don’t want to be that guy. But I would like to write some other stuff. So I may redirect my time for a while.)
Anyway, I think Brian Dickerson, easily the best remaining columnist at the Freep, sums it up well:
The wild-eyed Marxist revolutionary known as Barack Obama convened the first meeting of his economic advisory board Friday. Besides Michigan’s own Gov. Jennifer Granholm, those invited to participate included two former secretaries of the U.S. Treasury Department, former Federal Reserve Chairman Paul Volker, and über-capitalist Warren Buffett. If this strikes you as an unlikely group to task with the radical redistribution of America’s wealth, you’ve stumbled upon the not-so-dirty little secret of American government, which is its frustrating (and enormously reassuring) continuity.
Not that any of this has occurred to yet another Hoosier asshole picking up on the fly-the-flag-upside-down meme, tacitly approved of by the newspaper columnist who detailed it. Get this guy to a Boy Scout, stat.
Off to the gym. Monday. Sigh.