Friday, January 28, 2011

The alternate universe of Michele Bachmann

Listening to Michele Bachmann's astounding readings of American history is like watching one of those episodes of Star Trek where the Enterprise crew stumbles into some parallel dimension with an alternate reality; world events have followed a diffent path, everyone's role is reversed, Kirk is a mass-murderer, and instead of the Federation there is an evil Terran Empire. Parts of her recent speech to Iowans for Tax Relief (sorry, it was just too long to embed here in its entirety--the scathing critique from CNN's Anderson Cooper will have to do) reminded me of that Ray Bradbury short story, "A Sound of Thunder"; it was as if someone had gone back to the Cretaceous era on a Time Safari, accidentally stepped on an insect, and changed the Earth's history.

Everyone arriving on America's shores has had the same status since its founding? Our Founding Fathers "worked tirelessly until slavery was no more in the United States"? Did I wake up last Friday on some alternate Earth? What kind of drug does Bachmann put in her Kool-Aid? Her cluelessness would be laughable if she wasn't an elected official with real power. And she says she wants "to be in the conversation" for the 2012 Presidential campaign? One vote for this ignorant, fact-challenged, McCarthy wanna-be would be too many.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Educated? Yes. Ruling class?....I don't think so.

Here is the great populist Rush Limbaugh on his radio show last Thursday, tearing into Brit Hume, Charles Krauthammer and Chris Wallace for their positive comments on President Obama's Arizona eulogy (verbatim remarks transcribed via HuffPost: Rush Limbaugh Rips Fox News Panel For 'Slobbering' Over Obama Speech, Panel Responds).
Limbaugh: "They were slobbering over it for the predictable reasons," he said. "It was smart, it was articulate, it was oratorical. It was, it was all the things the educated, ruling class wants their members to be and sound like."
Krauthammer later responded: "As one of the three slobberers...I find it interesting that only the ruling class wants a president who is smart articulate and oratorical in delivering a funeral's an odd and rather condescending view of what the rest of America is looking for in their president."
Well, as one who is both educated and appreciates a President who can express coherent thoughts in complete, grammatically correct sentences, let me affirm that Rush is indeed correct except for one small detail: he has more wealth and power in his fat left pinkie than me and all of the educated people I know put together. I have about as much power as my single vote entitles me to, and influence no one who doesn't already more or less agree with me. I am not rich and most assuredly not part of the "ruling class". Am not now and have never been.
And how much is Rush Limbaugh worth? Something like $400 million over 8 years through 2016? Which is in turn based on the presumed breadth, wealth, and influence of his listenership? And he represents the underclass? Or does this lying hypocrite represent, more likely, the media bigshots who pay his humongously inflated salary (yeah, I know Clear Channel has recently been on the brink of bankruptcy, but its owners are still Limbaugh's corporate masters)?

Sunday, January 09, 2011

Welcome to Pakistan Arizona

How much further comment does this really need? "TUCSON — Representative Gabrielle Giffords, an Arizona Democrat, and at least 17 others were shot Saturday morning when a gunman opened fire outside a supermarket where Ms. Giffords was meeting with constituents. Six of the victims died, among them John M. Roll, the chief judge for the United States District Court for Arizona, and a 9-year-old girl, the Pima County sheriff, Clarence W. Dupnik, said." (In Attack’s Wake, Political Repercussions, Marc Lacey and David M. Herszenhorn, NYT 08 January 2011).
First of all, my thoughts are with the victims (at this writing Giffords is still alive but in critical condition with a bullet wound to the head, while the dead include her director of community outreach, Gabriel Zimmerman, 30; a nine-year old girl identified as Christina Green; John M. Roll, 63, the chief judge for the United States District Court for Arizona; Dorothy Morris, 76; Dorwin Stoddard, 76; and Phyllis Schneck, 79) and their families.
What's wrong with this picture? Only last Tuesday, Salmaan Taseer, the governor of Punjab, Pakistan’s most populous province, was assassinated by one of his own bodyguards, who by his subsequent statements implied that this act was justified by Taseer's campaign to have Pakistan's anti-blasphemy laws amended. Doubtless many of us, if we noticed the event at all, took the occasion to reflect on what a savage country Pakistan must be, where the course of history appears hostage to conspiring conservative politicians and fundamentalist religious lunatics.
Lucky for us, we don't live in such a place! But maybe we can get there yet. On the one hand, as many have already noted, there is growing in the US, especially since runup to the 2008 Presidential election and afterwards, a palpable atmosphere of "Violence-laced political rhetoric" promoted by right wing politicians, pundits, and bloggers. Thus the main intended victim, Congresswoman Giffords, was a Democrat squarely in the cross-hairs of right wing incitement. On the other hand, I have seen numerous comments suggesting that the captured gunman, Jared Lee Loughner, is actually a Liberal. Some of his classmates suggested as much. What is readily apparent is that he is a lunatic; but whose lunatic is he? Listed among Loughner's favorite books are Mein Kampf, We the Living, Plato's Republic, and the Communist Manifesto. The last, it has been suggested, is evidence for his Liberal fanaticism. Of course the author of Mein Kampf was also a well known Liberal (I've read explicit comparisons to President Obama, I suppose by people who don't know their left from their right), but what to make of We the Living, Ayn Rand's semi-autobiographical, anti-communist first novel? Does that make Loughner an Objectivist assassin?
Further evidence I've seen put forward for Loughner's supposed lefty associations: Giffords is a centrist, a Blue Dog Democrat, not a strong supporter of gun-control nor of open borders; and Judge Roll was a 1991 GHW Bush appointee. But how does that stack up against Giffords' 100% positive rating by NARAL and her strong support for renewable energy? Loughner apparently has no known Tea Party or other organized right-wing associations; fair enough, he's not that kind of crazy, just one more psychopath who brought his paranoid delusions to a deadly end with a 9mm Glock pistol carrying 30 rounds in the magazine. Maybe it's arguable whether or not the climate of violent rhetoric somehow provided a facilitating or suggestive atmosphere for Loughner's acts (personally I wouldn't shrink from arguing the pro side of that question); however, there's a bigger issue than eliminationist rhetoric at stake here, something much more fundamental and long-standing: why is it so easy for these crazy fuckers to get guns?

Saturday, January 01, 2011

52 Books In 52 Weeks

Last 01 January, mindful of how few books I've read in recent years, I made a New Year's resolution: to average a book a week throughout 2010. As it happens, I actually read 53. For what it's worth, my list follows, in reverse chronological order:
Tariq Ali, The Protocols of the Elders of Sodom and Other Essays
William Kennedy, Ironweed
Cormac McCarthy, The Road
Robert Alter, Necessary Angels: Tradition and Modernity in Kafka, Benjamin, and Scholem
David Shields, Dead Languages
Kazuo Ishiguro, Never Let Me Go
Jonathan Safran Foer, Everything Is Illuminated
Carolyn Forché, Gathering the Tribes (Yale Series of Younger Poets)
Jonathan Franzen, The Twenty-Seventh City
Nathalie Sarraute, The Use of Speech
David Albahari, Götz and Meyer
Claude Simon, The World About Us
Michael Chabon, The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay
Alan Furst, Blood of Victory
Charles Simic, Night Picnic: Poems
Lawrence L. Langer, Editor, Holocaust Testimonies: The Ruins of Memory
Susan Sontag, Against Interpretation
Roland Huntford, Scott and Amundsen
Claude Lévi-Strauss, Totemism
Fanny Howe, Selected Poems (New California Poetry, 3)
James Tate, Worshipful Company of Fletchers
Hjalmar Söderberg, Doctor Glas
Charles Simic, A Wedding in Hell
Paul Auster, The Invention of Solitude: A Memoir
Howard Goldowsky, Editor, Masters of Technique
Jacobo Timerman, Chile: Death in South
Stephen Jay Gould, Urchin in the Storm: Essays About Books and Ideas
Don DeLillo, White Noise
Kenneth R. Miller, Only a Theory: Evolution and the Battle for America's Soul
Hans C. Ohanian, Einstein's Mistakes: The Human Failings of Genius
Susan Sontag, On Photography
Philip Roth, The Plot Against America
Jacobo Timerman, Cuba: A Journey
James Tate, Dreams of a Robot Dancing Bee
Jo Walton, Farthing (Small Change, #1)
Raul Hilberg, The Destruction of the European Jews (revised 1985 edition in 3 volumes)
Orhan Pamuk, The White Castle
Russell Edson, The Tunnel: Selected Poems of Russell Edson
Charles Simic, Orphan Factory: Essays and Memoirs
Roberto Bolaño, Amulet
Roberto Bolaño, By Night in Chile
Philip Roth, The Humbling
Kim Addonizio, Lucifer at the Starlite: Poems
Marcel Proust, Within a Budding Grove (Remembrance of Things Past, No. 2, Vintage)
James Gleick, Chaos: Making a New Science
Fumiko Enchi, Masks
André Malraux, The Royal Way
Amos Oz, To Know a Woman
James Tate, Riven Doggeries (American Poetry Series; V. 18)
Lawrence D. Kritzman, Auschwitz and After: Race, Culture, and "the Jewish Question" in France
Nicholson Baker, The Anthologist
William Gibson, Mona Lisa Overdrive (Sprawl Trilogy, #3)
James Edward Young, Writing and Rewriting the Holocaust: Narrative and the Consequences of Interpretation
This the first resolution I've ever successfully met. So I'm going to renew it for 2011.