"It is easy to confuse what is with what ought to be, especially when what is has worked out in your favor."
- Tyrion Lannister

"Lannister. Baratheon. Stark. Tyrell. They're all just spokes on a wheel. This one's on top, then that's ones on top and on and on it spins, crushing those on the ground. I'm not going to stop the wheel. I'm going to break the wheel."

- Daenerys Targaryen

"The Lord of Light wants his enemies burned. The Drowned God wants them drowned. Why are all the gods such vicious cunts? Where's the God of Tits and Wine?"

- Tyrion Lannister

"The common people pray for rain, healthy children, and a summer that never ends. It is no matter to them if the high lords play their game of thrones, so long as they are left in peace. They never are."

- Jorah Mormont

"These bad people are what I'm good at. Out talking them. Out thinking them."

- Tyrion Lannister

"What happened? I think fundamentals were trumped by mechanics and, to a lesser extent, by demographics."

- Michael Barone

"If you want to know what God thinks of money, just look at the people he gave it to."
- Dorothy Parker

Monday, April 19, 2004

There there
Reason's Hit & Run noticed how George Will is getting all gloomy on us. This presents me with an opportunity to clarify what the name of this site means to me. In his piece, Will quotes James Q. Wilson:
"So common have despotic regimes been that some scholars have argued that they are, unhappily, the natural state of human rule. This tendency raises a profound question: Does human nature lend itself to freedom? It is not difficult to make arguments for personal freedom, but the history of mankind suggests that human autonomy usually will be subordinated to political control. If that is true, then our effort to increase individual freedom is an evolutionary oddity, a weak and probably vain effort to equip people with an opportunity some do not want and many will readily sacrifice."
This is the typical conservative argument about "wasting money" on trying to change "human nature." To me this is too pessimistic - and stinks of racism - in regards to the average person, whatever nationality. This is a rationalization, pure and simple.

Granted, like anyone I'll have moments of doubt. In Ian McEwan's novel The Child in Time, there's a character so demoralized by tragedy and loss that he's reduced to gaping at daytime TV talkshows - think Jerry Springer. Seeing his fellow humans so eager to humiliate and embarrass themselves, he coins a name for watching the proceedings: "the democrat's pornography."

"Negative Outlook?" is not meant to refer to conservative rationalizations and pessimism. Keeping with the often adolescent-level tone, subject matter, and grammar, the title is taken from a song's lyrics, the Transplants's Diamonds and Guns:
Every last soul must pay the last toll
In the dice game of life, who gets the last roll?
Is it the one with the suit? The one with the sack?
The one who hides behind his fuckin' gun and his badge?
Negative outlook? Well that's how I'm livin'
And like he said, it's a wicked world we live in
It's a wicked world we live in
It's directed at the authority figure or sell-out who's telling you, condescendingly, "quit complaining, stop being such a downer, get with the program, consider how lucky you are." Etc.

For instance, Hitchens has a negative outlook and bucks the herd of independent minds.

Sunday, April 18, 2004

Ana Marie Cox chillin' on the porch.
Last month, a party celebrating the start of her site was packed. Held at the Dupont Circle town house of Peter Bergen, the CNN terrorism expert, the party's heavily mediacentric guest list included Michael Isikoff of Newsweek; a former Clinton mouthpiece, Joe Lockhart; the political blogger Mickey Kaus; and a former Howard Dean spokeswoman, Tricia Enright. This is her devoted fan base: Wonkette registered 55,000 page views on its startup date in January, and over a million for the month of March. (The Drudge Report averages over seven million page views a day.)
The Times reports her curriculum vitae as such: "She was writing her own satirical blog, theanticmuse.com, after bouncing from editing jobs at The Chronicle of Higher Education, America Online and National Geographic. She was fired from The American Prospect magazine after six weeks (during which she playfully called its co-editor, Robert Kuttner, "Crazy Bob" behind his back) and was required to sign a confidentiality agreement about the terms of her dismissal." It should have read "She was writing her own satirical blog, theanticmuse.com, after bouncing from editing jobs at The Chronicle of Higher Education, America Online, National Geographic, and Suck..." but that might have given people pause.
The New Deal's Shock Troops
The White Whale for the American Right ever since the 1930s is that collection of institutions and legislation, dare we say "philosophy"?, known as the New Deal. Erected in response to the Great Depression, the New Deal is the source of countless evils and a "Wall" or barrier to greater prosperity, according to the Right .

Today's New York Times has a Michael Beschloss review of a book about the New Dealers who labored in the trenches.
''The Fall of the House of Roosevelt: Brokers of Ideas and Power From FDR to LBJ'' shows why [President] Carter felt free to ignore an event that his three Democratic predecessors would have considered mandatory. In keeping with its scholarly subtitle, Michael Janeway dutifully navigates the ideological differences that developed among the New Dealers and the ways in which the Democratic Party later moved away from their crowd. But his book is far more interesting and original as a biographical study of what human beings will do to acquire great power and try to hold onto it -- especially after their time has passed. (Full disclosure: Janeway writes in his acknowledgments that during his 10-year writing process I helped him with a research question, although I don't recollect doing so.)
Beschloss notes how, perhaps counterintuitively, many New Dealers sought not only to do good, but to "do well":
Janeway observes that in his sometimes reckless determination to become rich, his father resembled others he knew well. Long after the New Deal, Fortas had to resign from the Supreme Court when his secret cash payments by a foundation were revealed. Corcoran was scarred by charges that he had lobbied the Supreme Court on behalf of his client El Paso Natural Gas. The onetime Truman aide Clark Clifford went down in the flames of a banking scandal. Janeway sardonically notes that these same people had once inveighed against Wall Street's ''unconstrained license and greed'' and the abuse of ''other people's money.'' As he describes it, part of the problem was that they were greedy themselves. More than that, by the end of their lives, ''the Rooseveltians' great chain of dealing had become its own end.'' These once powerful men did not know ''how to leave their active association with power.''

There is no need for us to end the story on such a sour note. Under Franklin Roosevelt, these New Dealers built a lasting monument, showing how government could be made to improve people's lives. But Michael Janeway's book is a reminder that even monument makers can have feet of clay.
Beschloss is an impressive historian. He's deceptively mild-mannered in his TV appearances, but his work demonstrates an eye for the telling detail and a sense of the important grander themes which the equally mild-mannered mainstream rarely confronts.
Heather Havrilesky reminds us of why Chris Rock is still around after all these years. Rock on affirmative action:
But let's keep it fucking real, OK? A black C student can't run no fucking company. A black C student can't even be the manager of Burger King. Meanwhile, a white C student just happens to be the president of the United States of America!
Even partisan conservatives admit Bush's recent combo speech/press conference was C level at most however much they agreed with the content.

I'll never forget when Rock had Cornel West as a guest on his cable show and Rock was visibly amused by West's high-falutant vocabulary. His questions and give and take with the academic/actor demonstrated respect, though.