The Invisible Adjunct has a fascinating post about boys, girls, gender, color, clothes, class, and education. She's generally careful with her language and qualified with her statements, but two things in her last paragraph about which she expresses no doubt struck me.
So I can't help wondering if these icons of boyhood don't represent, in some new and strange way, an infantilization of working-class masculinity? The same parents who would dress their little boy in a fireman theme ("our little fireman! how adorable") would be horrified at the thought that Junior might actually grow up to be a fireman (my god! the best schools, from preschool on -- and here in New York they actually interview 2-year olds for preschools: no really, I happen to know a 2-year old who had an interview -- in order to get him into one the Ivies...to become a fireman?). Yes, I know we're not really supposed to talk about this stuff, we're all middle-class here and any mention of class is pretty much taboo. But I ask you: what the heck is going on with an $80.00 sailor suit?
Is mention of class taboo? One Bostonian of my acquaintance explains why she doesn't have the expected Boston accent with a simple "it's a class thing;" my co-blogger, Unf, who has known me for over 15 years, was openly incredulous that I might know people of a different class; and if discussions of income equality and tax rates aren't about class, what are they about? I'm playing a little dumb and not being entirely fair to IA, since I have a sense of what she means: class differences are pervasive but not spoken about. But I think a distinction needs to be made between truly taboo topics, like the fact that even (especially?) educated liberals are scared of black men, and topics like class, which we don't discuss, but don't feel much shame about. (An aside: what to think of the fact that I'm much more likely to have dinner with someone of a different race than someone of a different class?)
But IA really loses me with the claim that parents who dress their children as firemen would be horrified if those children actually grew up to be firemen. To this I reply, never underestimate the feelings of inadequacy white-collar men have regarding blue-collar men. The great nightmare of academic/white-collar men is an educated fireman. We just can't compete with that. You think investment bankers buy expensive gear and go climb rocks because they love the outdoors? It's because they're not carpenters! And if you want infantilization, get inside the heads of those my ilk (I see the site logs, you educated white-collar boys better jump into the comments on this one) when we go to the mechanic or need work done on our homes. If a child were to "fail" into a blue-collar job, it's probably true that the parents would be horrified, but once the status-course of study is completed, it would be all those parents could do to keep from bursting with pride that, despite their class, they raised a real man.
Now that I've defended Paul Wolfowitz (and gotten an Instalanche for my troubles), I have to atone. There's plenty that's rotten about the absence of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq and I'd like to invite you all to spend some time with Hesiod at Counterspin Central, who's a much better ranter than I.
In the June 6 issue of Entertainment Weekly, fortuitously left behind by a houseguest, I read,
Los Angeles police picked up Dr. Dre's mother, Verna Griffin, 54, on May 20 for allegedly firing a gun at her friend in her Hidden Hills, Calif., home. She was released on $50,000 bail.
Moral: that house is too big.
Paul Wolfowitz's recent Vanity Fair interview is already causing trouble for the administration. The consensus interpretation, or at least the subtext of the interpretation, is that the administration deliberately promulgated a big lie in order to sway public opinion. But I just read the transcript of the entire interview and, although I'm as happy as the next guy to see this administration come to grief, I have to say that Wolfowitz doesn't say what's being alleged, and in fact seems rather honest about the deliberations leading to war. Here's the portion that's causing the controversy.
Q: And then the last question, you've been very patient and generous. That is what's next? Where do we stand now in the campaign that you talked about right after September 11th?
Wolfowitz: I think the two most important things next are the two most obvious. One is getting post-Saddam Iraq right. Getting it right may take years, but setting the conditions for getting it right in the next six months. The next six months are going to be very important.
The other thing is trying to get some progress on the Israeli-Palestinian issue. I do think we have a better atmosphere for working on it now than we did before in all kinds of ways. Whether that's enough to make a difference is not certain, but I will be happy to go back and dig up the things I said a long time ago which is, while it undoubtedly was true that if we could make progress on the Israeli-Palestinian issue we would provide a better set of circumstances to deal with Saddam Hussein, but that it was equally true the other way around that if we could deal with Saddam Hussein it would provide a better set of circumstances for dealing with the Arab-Israeli issue. That you had to move on both of them as best you could when you could, but --
There are a lot of things that are different now, and one that has gone by almost unnoticed--but it's huge--is that by complete mutual agreement between the U.S. and the Saudi government we can now remove almost all of our forces from Saudi Arabia. Their presence there over the last 12 years has been a source of enormous difficulty for a friendly government. It's been a huge recruiting device for al Qaeda. In fact if you look at bin Laden, one of his principle grievances was the presence of so-called crusader forces on the holy land, Mecca and Medina. I think just lifting that burden from the Saudis is itself going to open the door to other positive things.
I don't want to speak in messianic terms. It's not going to change things overnight, but it's a huge improvement.
Q: Was that one of the arguments that was raised early on by you and others that Iraq actually does connect, not to connect the dots too much, but the relationship between Saudi Arabia, our troops being there, and bin Laden's rage about that, which he's built on so many years, also connects the World Trade Center attacks, that there's a logic of motive or something like that? Or does that read too much into --
Wolfowitz: No, I think it happens to be correct. The truth is that for reasons that have a lot to do with the U.S. government bureaucracy we settled on the one issue that everyone could agree on which was weapons of mass destruction as the core reason, but -- hold on one second --
Kellems: Sam there may be some value in clarity on the point that it may take years to get post-Saddam Iraq right. It can be easily misconstrued, especially when it comes to --
Wolfowitz: -- there have always been three fundamental concerns. One is weapons of mass destruction, the second is support for terrorism, the third is the criminal treatment of the Iraqi people. Actually I guess you could say there's a fourth overriding one which is the connection between the first two. Sorry, hold on again.
Kellems: By the way, it's probably the longest uninterrupted phone conversation I've witnessed, so --
Q: This is extraordinary.
Kellems: You had good timing.
Q: I'm really grateful.
Wolfowitz: To wrap it up.
The third one by itself, as I think I said earlier, is a reason to help the Iraqis but it's not a reason to put American kids' lives at risk, certainly not on the scale we did it. That second issue about links to terrorism is the one about which there's the most disagreement within the bureaucracy, even though I think everyone agrees that we killed 100 or so of an al Qaeda group in northern Iraq in this recent go-around, that we've arrested that al Qaeda guy in Baghdad who was connected to this guy Zarqawi whom Powell spoke about in his UN presentation.
Q: So this notion then that the strategic question was really a part of the equation, that you were looking at Saudi Arabia --
Wolfowitz: I was. It's one of the reasons why I took a very different view of what the argument that removing Saddam Hussein would destabilize the Middle East. I said on the record, I don't understand how people can really believe that removing this huge source of instability is going to be a cause of instability in the Middle East.
I understand what they're thinking about. I'm not blind to the uncertainties of this situation, but they just seem to be blind to the instability that that son of a bitch was causing. It's as though the fact that he was paying $25,000 per terrorist family and issuing regular threats to most friendly governments in the region and the long list of things was of no account and the only thing to think about was that there might be some inter-communal violence if he were removed.
The implication of a lot of the argumentation against acting -- the implication was that the only way to have the stability that we need in Iraq is to have a tyrant like Saddam keeping everybody in check -- I know no one ever said it that way and if you pointed it out that way they'd say that's not what I mean. But I believe that really is where the logic was leading.
Q: Which also makes you wonder about how much faith there is in spreading democracy and all the rest among some of those who --
Wolfowitz: Probably not very much. There is no question that there's a lot of instability that comes with democracy and it's the nature of the beast that it's turbulent and uncertain.
The thing is, at a general level, I've encountered this argument from the defenders of Asian autocracies of various kinds. Look how much better off Singapore is than Indonesia, to pick a glaring contrast. And Indonesia's really struggling with democracy. It sort of inherited democracy under the worst possible conditions too, one might say. But the thing that -- I'd actually say that a large part of Indonesia's problems come from the fact that dictatorships are unstable in the one worst way which is with respect to choosing the next regime. Democracy, one could say, has solved, not solve perfectly, but they represent one of the best solutions to one of the most fundamental instabilities in politics and that's how to replace one regime with another. It's the only orderly way in the world for doing it other than hereditary monarchy which doesn't seem to have much of a future.
Q: Thanks so much.
Wolfowitz: You're very welcome.
Wolfowitz's meaning is pretty clear: there were three issues that might have prodded us to war: links to terrorism, weapons of mass destruction, and Saddam's brutality. We don't invade over brutality, trading American lives for foreign lives (argue with the principle if you want, but that's just political bedrock); and there was considerable disagreement over Iraq's connections to terrorists (this disagreement has been quite well publicized, no? Wolfowitz makes no attempt to deny differences of opinion that we've been reading about for over a year). So, even if some people thought the link to terrorism was the best reason, or if some people even thought that Saddam's brutality justified an intervention, what everyone agreed on was weapons of mass destruction. The implication is not that no one believed WMD were the real issue, but, on the contrary, the casus belli around which there was a consensus was precisely the belief that Saddam possessed or was determined to possess those weapons.
And note that Wolfowitz also does not say that the removal of US troops from Saudi Arabia was a motive for war on Iraq, but only says that that's one "huge" difference between the Middle-East now and the Middle-East before the war. It's worth asking whether it was a motive, but he doesn't "admit" to any such thing in this interview.
Two final points. I haven't read the Vanity Fair piece, but based on this interview, I have to say that Sam Tannenhaus does a fantastic job. Read the entire transcript and you can see that this is a guy who's really done his homework, asks smart questions and then gets out of the way of the answer. This is a peculiar firestorm in that the original journalist seems to have done a fine job but the coverage of the coverage still manages to be careless.
Finally, there's been plenty of debate about neo-conservative Straussians running the government. But Wolfowitz gives a fascinating account of his filial and academic lineage and puts paid to any notions of "Straussians" running the government. (Do read the whole thing.)
UPDATE: William Kristol makes similar points. So does Pejman Yousefzadeh (via Instapundit, as are many of you, I'm sure). Based on what the two of them say, it seems that despite Tannenhaus conducting a great interview, the Vanity Fair piece itself was misleading. This is getting enough coverage that I think we may hear from Vanity Fair soon.
Unf, showing remarkable sticktoitiveness, remains wrong. I'd like to listen to the other parts of NPRs history of the FCC before doing a longer post, but here are a couple of posts about commons and markets that are at least tangentially related to the topic at hand.
Henry Farrell on Lin Ostrom's "polycentric" governance as an alternative solution to the tragedy of the commons.
Is nudity the libertarian "gateway" decriminalization? What better way to expose the scolds in our midst than to force them to argue against nudity? Think of the children! The children! Maybe the pro-public-nudity forces can take a federalist angle: we understand the desire to keep lumpy red-staters covered and by all means, cover away, but for the love of procreation, let the hotties in New York and San Francisco bare what they will. I'm not very hopeful, but maybe the creativity of the market will suffice. (via the single-minded Bomis Babe Report)
Apple's new music service sure is nifty. However, I've noticed that they don't have a lot of stuff. I'll hear songs on the radio, look them up on iTunes, and more often than not, they don't have them. There also seem to be lots of odd gaps in the collection. For example, they have Liz Phair's first and third albums, but not her second. And they don't yet have her new album. I'm not disgruntled about all this - but I'm probably not totally gruntled either.
I can't ever seem to get out of work before midnight these days, so I remain hobbled in my attempt to respond to Ogged's latest provocation. However, these are my thoughts on his latest post.
1. I'm not sure what it proves that we have a licensing system for the airwaves. EM spectrum is a commons, and the best way to ensure that a commons is not wasted is to create a system of private property rights for it. Which is what licenses do. But just because we need a licensing system doesn't mean the licenses should be manipulated in the name of the "public interest".
2. That wasn't just the view of Mark Fowler - he actually said it. And he was exactly right.
3. Why do we have public radio and public television? Because of a failure in the marketplace? No, because well-oragnized groups of citizens have figured out a way to get the government to subsidize their consumption. NPR is just like an agricultural price support, except for people who don't wear hats from seed companies.
Of course, my views are not stopping me from seeing This American Life live this Saturday. But I take comfort in the fact that I bought Sarah Vowell's books, and didn't rent them from some damn socialist library.
Since a search of the blog reveals I've never used it, I can ask the question: can the use of "hortatory" ever be unpretentious? It's a good word; a useful word with no common synonyms, but something about the "hort" and the alliteration always says "look at me!"
OF COURSE, it is ridiculous. What sane person would put metal rings round her neck to stretch it like a giraffe's, or lace her corset so tight that she fainted, or allow her feet to be bound to make them tiny? How backward, how primitive. Completely different, obviously, from the woman who pays huge sums to have her breasts surgically enlarged; or the man who takes drugs to give him an athlete's torso; or the rich, modern men and women who spend $160 billion a year on beauty products whose impact on the appearance is sometimes, um, unproven.Then follows that up with some faux alarmist truisms, pointing out that attractive people get paid more, marry more easily, and lead generally smoother lives. That's the set up for this, well, beaut.
But if society believes that government should aim to give citizens equal opportunities, might beauty be a right that society can be legitimately asked to pay for? The poor once looked very different from the rich: they were worse fed, worse clothed, worse washed and had less access to medical and dental care. Those days are gone, at least in the developed world. But bat ears or a cleft lip can still make a teenager's life a misery. The World Health Organisation has broadened its definition of health to include psychological well-being. Stand by for the moment when public policy has cut out the most striking sources of inequality, and conventions of cosmetic surgeons announce that their craft can excise the remainder.Thanks goodness the rich and poor have the same access to medical care these days. O what dull eye could fail to see that while the rich may not look good, they most certainly look (and name) rich. And take a look at the history of the "healthy" tan. My not-quite-scientific estimate is that 90% of our brains are for processing how people look. The other 10% makes sure there's always a difference between the rich and the poor. A scalpel doesn't have a chance. But the Economist's larger point, about the commodification of "pretty," fails on a softer consideration. True beauty is rare and, it's true, rewarded. But the more common "beauty" that smoothes people's lives isn't about "face" so much as "aspect." It's not a geometric calculation, but a reaction to someone complete: bearing, manner, voice, carriage, sexuality. Are we going to have a clamor for Medicaid to cover cosmetic surgery because the poor have nothing else to worry about than assholes with facelifts becoming the new overclass? That's a wish, not a worry.
What's going on with Pakistan? Now that they're American "allies," I think a lot of us are taking it on faith that Musharraf and the US administration are working together to rein in the Islamists in Pakistan's intelligence agency, the ISI. This Economist piece is speculative, but consider my faith shaken.
Mr LÚvy believes that [Wall Street Journal Report Daniel] Pearl was close to uncovering collusion between extremist Islamic groups and officials of Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence agency, known commonly as ISI. Omar Sheikh was not a zealot acting outside the law but an ISI agent, Mr LÚvy believes; the agency was helping supply Osama bin Laden's al-Qaeda with weapons of mass destruction and providing Pakistani nuclear secrets to both Iran and North Korea.
If true, this has terrifying implications. Pakistan, supposedly President Bush's brave ally in fighting terrorism, Mr LÚvy says, is playing "a double, even triple game" and could even have helped plot the September 11th attacks. What a mistake to be obsessed with Iraq, he argues, when the real rogue is a fanatical and nuclear-armed Pakistan.
By way of that most colorful of blogs, the Bandarlog, comes this site, where our young couple, John and Belle, display the sort of agile wit to which other blogospherians pretend. (That said, this is just showing off.) In that land where "and then he said...can you believe it?...what an idiot!" counts as refutation, this good-natured dismemberment serves to remind us of the possibilities of...language.
Julian Sanchez knows what you want.
Unf may get the last word on media concentration, but since I haven't sent him the login information for the blog's new home, I'll just take all the middle words, thank you very much.
I don't know how much of my reaction to the proposed new FCC rules is just reflexive anti-market liberalism and how much is good sense, but this NPR story went a long way to edifying me and also confirming that the new rules are likely a bad idea.
There were a few very good points (and I am selectively quoting, so you should listen to the whole thing).
1) The airwaves were, at first, free and open to anyone who asked for a license. Some people realized that they could sell airtime to advertisers. As that became an established and more crowded field, those very for-profit operators asked for regulation to keep the airwaves from getting too crowded and making it impossible for them to make money. Hence, the FCC.
2) As an example of an extremist view (which I find indistinguishable from many current defenses of "deregulation") reporter Rick Karr characterizes the view of Reagan-era FCC Chair Mark Fowler as "the public interest was whatever interested the public."
3) To which another former FCC Chairman, Newton Minnow, responds "Why do we have public parks? Why do we have public libraries? Why do we have public radio? Public television? Because the markeplace does not provide service to everybody."
Libertarians and free-marketeers have appropriated populist and democratic language, but the policies they advocate are, in effect, oligarchical. This is the converse of what Nietzsche calls the "joke of Kant's soul:" he vindicates the common man in a way that the common man can't understand. Now we screw the public by appeal to the public interest. Very funny.
...on media consolidation will be mine, I assure you. Only problem is that I've been eating all this genetically modified food lately and I seemed to have grown an extra set of thumbs. It makes the typing tough. But once I see the doctor, I'll put Ogged down like the stray dog he is.
Finally got around to seeing Reloaded this weekend. I'm not going to say that its the suckiest movie that ever sucked, but.....well, my powers of damning with faint praise seem to have left me for the time being. The car chase scene was cool, I'll give it that. However, just about everything else (not including Carrie-Anne Moss, I will not hesitate to add) was not so good. The fight scenes, while more intricate that those in the first movie, were not any more interesting. The half-assed philosophizing was a lot more....half-assed. And the plot was just downright confusing (and I would like to point out that I absolutely love Memento, so I don't have a problem with complicated plots).
That being said, I'm sure I'll go to see Revolutions when it comes out. I am, as Ogged has pointed out, a slave to our corporate entertainment masters.
I thought I would be doing a lot more gadget blogging, but I can't manage much argument about gadgets. So I'll just pass along that I'm using this mouse (once you've had eight buttons...) and this monitor (beautiful) and they are both very nice pieces of equipment (get someone else to pay for the monitor).
When we first started the blog, I wanted to minimize the zeroes I saw at the bottom of each post, but I'm ready to take the plunge: I'm turning on TrackBack.
So Ariel Sharon now calls it an "occupation."
You may not like the word, but what's happening is occupation," he told Likud members of Parliament. "Holding 3.5 million Palestinians is a bad thing for Israel, for the Palestinians and for the Israeli economy. We have to end this subject without risking our security.
He's stating the obvious, of course, but it's still big news, despite Israel's reservations to the Roadmap.
Haaretz has their typically well-informed analysis of the situation.
Over here, where people can afford to be extremists, we have the "Christian Zionists," who will think nothing of getting to the right of Ariel Sharon. What business does Jerry Falwell have influencing Middle-East policy? And perhaps some readers can enlighten me about why Jewish leaders would ally themselves with people who would, quite literally and doctrinally, just as soon see them dead.
Or maybe that's obvious too: anything's better than Islam.
MORE: More analysis from Haaretz, this time saying that Israel's reservations make a diplomatic breakthrough unlikely.
For anyone who's forgotten why, as a matter of good citizenship, we should trust our government as little as possible, there's the story of Dianna Ortiz, a nun who was kidnapped and tortured in 1989 in Guatemala, with, it's quite likely, American involvement.
The Washington Post's Teresa Wiltz wrote about Ortiz in yesterday's paper and Donna Minkowitz also wrote about her in Salon back in November. The articles emphasize different parts of Ortiz's story and both are much worth reading. (The full text of the letter (referred to by Wiltz) responding to Minkowitz piece, and calling Ortiz's story "bullshit," as well as Minkowitz's definitive rebuttal, are here.)
For a longer and more thorough treatment of incidents in America's ignominious involvement in Latin America, this article (PDF) by Stanford prof Thomas Sheehan is excellent.
If you've wondered if you know what self-centered really means, this letter to the NY Times may help you understand.
As an audience member paying a high price for choice seats close to the stage, I resent the fact that I have to be subjected to secondhand smoke from actors smoking in a play. Why do directors feel that they have to carry realism to such extremes in having the characters smoke on stage?...Personally, I don't feel that smoke coming out of the actor's mouth is necessary to advance the plot.
I'm sure none of the readers of this blog need to be told this, but when someone goes off on a rant, responding with "so, tell us how you really feel" isn't funny. If you do it and people laugh, they're just being polite. Cut it out.
Josh Marshall, whom you read every day anyway, yes? makes a much needed point about the failure to find weapons of mass destruction in Iraq and what that says, not about our intelligence agencies, but the Executive branch.
I went to see Identity a couple of days ago. Since when can John Cusack do world-weary and brooding? He was really quite good. As for the clever twist in the plot, you're asking the wrong guy, since I don't really care about plot coherence. There was a twist, I thought it was clever, I was ready for more suspense, I got it, I'm happy. In more news about my idiosyncrasies, I really don't like it when women cry. Not because it makes me feel bad, but because it makes them big wimps. So it was with much annoyance that I watched Clea Duvall having a breakdown. And much added annoyance (spoiler for dummies who wouldn't have figured this out) that we weren't even compensated with the pleasure of seeing her death onscreen (spare me the outrage). It was made worse by the fact that I had just "discovered" her on cable in "But I'm a Cheerleader," a surprisingly good movie in which she plays a snarky incorrigible lesbian. Just another damn hasbian, I guess.