Wednesday, January 30, 2008

The End Is Nigh

On Tuesday, a man who spent $30 million to win the Florida Republican Primary finished in third place with less than 282,000 votes. On the same day, another man, who had been precluded from spending even dollar one to win the Florida Democratic Primary, also finished in third place with less than 249,000 votes. Yesterday, both Rudy Giuliani and John Edwards gave in to the reality of their lots in life--and we, in turn, give in to ours.

As this blog has made clear, I regard the former Mayor as depraved and deranged, a man who would make it his mission in life to execute Muslims around the world, a man who would call this excess of American might, largesse of the American spirit. Sometimes, even this fat, dumb country has a way of surprising me: it took a hard, long look at Mayor McCarpetBomb and realized it didn't like the dithering, slithering mess that it saw. It realized that the highest office in the land--though occupied by a myopic brush-herder--deserves more than a man who stood near the embers of his own astonishingly misplaced Emergency Command Center and took credit for...for what exactly, I'm not sure.

I am a bitter and vindictive person, I know; I am given to ad hominem attacks, but Rudy Giuliani is a horrible person, a union buster, a terror-bater, a Machiavellian gifted at decorating his own legend, and I can only pray that his failed campaign will ruin him professionally and erase him from our national consciousness. My saying this may seem impolitic--perhaps I am trampling on the already down-trodden--but if we are really to move beyond September 11th and heal, we must lay to rest all the myths that surround the narrative of that day: Rudy Giuliani did not stop the attacks , he did not guide us to some new understanding in their wake, he did not show resolve in the face of hardship. He was a man who saw oppportunity in disaster, and for that he deserves to be punished. The end of his campaign should be only the first penance.

If we are to gain anything from the day that made Rudy Giuliani, I hope it is this: tragedy should humble us, sober us, lead us to self-reflection. It did not in the immediate aftermath of the attacks; it has not in the protracted aftermath of the invasion of Iraq and Afghanistan. But when the vilest, rankest of our electorate can look at Rudy Giuliani and see a false prophet, I am heartened. Perhaps, we are not as dumb as I thought.

As for John Edwards, his departure portends different things for our country. Others may despise him for his haircut idiocy, for building his wife an expensive home, for working for those who are blazing a path straight to hell. But I look at him and I see this: a vain man, surely, a flawed one; he profited by helping others profit from their misfortunes; he arrived in Washington a centrist, and then he ran for President, and everything changed. The current administration, its disavowal of its people, its disdain for accountability, shocked this man--this nouveau riche son of a mill worker--into caring, and I--in a way I have not in years--cared about his candidacy.

Edwards rose from freshman obscurity to deliver what I regard--yes, even in the age of Obama--the most stirring stump speech Iowa has ever heard. (Sorry, apparently, there is no youtube of it.) He paraded on the floats of hope. He pandered to the establishment and became his party's vice-presidential nominee. He drank from the grail of establishment politics and became sick to his stomach: John Kerry, insouciant to the last, refused to excoriate the masters of swift-boat politics; he refused to get angry, when in 2004 anger was all that we had left. Edwards got sick to his stomach, indeed, but more important, finally, he got sick of himself: he repudiated his time in the Senate, and he became a left-wing populist.

He crafted an entire campaign about the least politically powerful people in this country, and he brought class issues once again to the fore. For Russ Feingold, for some readers of this blog, the Edwards of today cannot be reconciled with the Edwards of 2004, but as far as I'm concerned, I cannot imagine how a man goes to Washington in 1998, filled with giddy-eyed hope and backwoods moderate ideas, and doesn't come out as enraged as Edwards has. Frankly, it's the narrative of my own political evolution.

As Rudy Giuliani's political demise puts to rest some of the myths of September 11th, John Edwards' signals that there is room in the graveyard for other myths still: specifically, that party politics are about the people and not the party itself. As the warring cults of personality that are the Obama and Clinton camps come into sharper focus, we know now--and we know without a doubt--the poor in this country have no purchase on our political spirit. And the Democratic Party will never again nominate a populist.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Happy 1 Year Anniversary, Interweb Detritus.

Music Videos of the Day: Vampire Weekend

The boys of Vampire Weekend--clever, little Columbia hipsters-- have garnered Clap Your Hands-like buzz in the blogosphere and make references to New York City subways and neighborhoods in their songs; they admit candidly that they draw from (the less magnanimous would say coopt) African music traditions ("Upper West Side Soweto"); and they're seemingly carefree, in the way that only scions of the elite exploring their creative side can be. But despite all this, somehow--I mean, is it possible?--they're really kind of fantastic.

Friday, January 25, 2008

what we're talking about when we're talking about the economy (aka what the eff is david brooks yapping about - part 3)

in this part 3 of what appears to be an infinite-part series, i again examine the latest and greatest david brooks column in the new york times and ask the question we've all been wondering: what the fuck is david brooks yapping about? [Ed note: finally, i came up with a photo to illustrate just how i feel about david brooks.]

i swear i approached today's david brooks column with a somewhat open-minded stance. everyone knows i hate him and that i think he makes no sense...pretty much EVER, but i told myself today: i'm going to take a deep breath before i start silently screaming.

he begins the column by delineating two ways we can talk about the recent and ongoing turmoil in the markets: the greed narrative or the ecology narrative. oooookay. i'm not sure whether he came up with these brilliant names himself, but the hostile nature of the first moniker vs the benign, almost warm & fuzzy image invoked by the second pretty much lets me know which one he prefers.

he gives a scant two paragraphs to the so-called "greed narrative", using inflammatory and over-the-top descriptions like, "absurdly overpaid zillionaires" and "obscene bonuses". apparently all those who express any cynicism or disdain for how the market has been operating of late are sugar high teenagers. don't describe paul krugman that way. please.

then he moves on and devotes thirteen paragraphs on his "ecology narrative", with sweeping generalizations like "Everyone seeks wealth while minimizing risk" and "The U.S. has enjoyed 25 years of strong economic growth". not to mention, apologizing for the recent volatility in the markets with this type of benign and naive explanation:

Most of the time, the complex new instruments diversify risk and serve the public good. But life requires trade-offs, and, as we’re being reminded this week, the innovation process involves a painful adolescence.

When a new instrument enters the market, it takes a while before people understand and institutionalize it. Whether the product is high-yield bonds or mortgage-backed securities, there’s a tendency to get carried away.

In the first stage of this adolescence, investors look around and see everybody else making money off some new instrument. As Nicholas Bloom of Stanford notes: “They assume they are fine because they see everyone else buying it.”

indeed, i think mr. bloom is describing GREED. as in, thinking only about their own gains and not about any of the possible consequences of their actions. if i can withhold my anger and use david brooks' jargon, the so-called "greed narrative" is merely a subset of his genteel "ecology narrative". anyway, brooks' basic stance, surprise, is that the government shouldn't do anything to intervene because that just hampers innovation in the financial markets. and tsk tsk, these guys just got "carried away"! don't reprimand them and don't attempt to change the status quo. following his whole adolescence into maturity metaphor, what type of overzealous adolescent reigns in his/her behavior without some supervision and/or discipline? on that note, i'd like to meet his kids.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

when doves cry

i really wanted to embed this video but for whatever reason i'm unable to get it to work. does anyone know how stephen colbert is able to write his show without, uh, writers? anyway, the look of sheer delirium on his face when he starts dancing cracks me up pretty much every time. dare i say he's not a bad dancer? and you can see the wheels in the smithsonian guy's head turning: do i dance along? is this guy nuts? am i going to be fired?

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Monday, January 21, 2008

My Most Inevitable Post Ever -- Part 7

Mike Huckabee/Herc

Both manage to force themselves onscreen though neither has any particular talent. Most memorable scenes involve humor (Huckabee's Colbert Show appearances/Herc trying to move that file cabinet in one of the earlier seasons) or shocking incompetence (Huckabee's blissful ignorance of the NIE and willful disavowal of evolution/Herc's attempts to recover the camera Marlo stole and his fucking-over of Randy's life). In the end, these two are big, dumb white guys in a game that just ain't about them anymore.

My Most Inevitable Post Ever -- Part 6

Rudy Giuliani/Ziggy

In a game I otherwise love, I hate these two with an all-consuming passion. Their very existences make no sense in context. Both share funny voices and wild delusions of grandeur. In the end, those who created them (I honestly have no fucking clue why anyone thought this guy would be good at anything/David Simon) have done us all a favor and completely lost interest in their storylines. The only thing that could undermine this season (Presidential/televisual) is if one or both manages to worm his way back into the plot (Florida primary/some sort of prison break). Either way, were that to happen my respect for America/David Simon would be shattered beyond repair.

My Most Inevitable Post Ever -- Part 5

Mitt Romney/Prezbo

Both needed some forgettable old men to bail them out of serious trouble (Romney relied on his dad and on his own status as a native son to pull out Michigan and keep his campaign afloat/Prezbo needed his father-in-law, Valcheck, to go to bat for him after he lost his head and beat the shit out of that one kid in season 1 or 2). Both have a talent for office work, but in the field neither has experienced much success. Both have reinvented themselves (Massachusetts moderate --> Michigan conservative/cop --> teacher), and hope that the sins of their respective pasts don't catch up with them. What does this season have in store? I honestly have no idea, but despite heavy camera attention last year, no one expects these guys to have much of a role when the curtain finally drops.

My Most Inevitable Post Ever -- Part 4

John McCain/Jimmy McNulty

Both cultivated reputations as mavericks in their respective fields: McCain challenged Republican orthodoxy by standing up for campaign finance reform and against Big Tobacco; McNulty pissed Rawls and Burrell off by drawing attention to the bodies Avon's crew was racking up. Neither is really all that likeable, but for much of their careers one could forgive their failings because of their dedication to their work. Recently, however (the summer months of the McCain campaign/all of Season 4 when McNulty sobered up and disappeared from the show) both looked like they'd squandered their leading man status as others rose up around them. But as things started to come to a head, both got their shit together (McCain pulled out New Hampshire/McNulty went back to the sauce and, equally important, back to homicide). If you asked me a few years ago, I'd have told you these guys are the stars, but have they pissed off too many people (the Evangelical base/the entire Baltimore police department) to be left standing when the season comes to an end?

Sunday, January 20, 2008

My Most Inevitable Post Ever -- Part 3

Hillary Clinton/Prop Joe

Both have survived as long as they have because they understand deeply and intuitively how the game works. Clinton was deflecting potshots from Gingrich and Maureen Dowd when her current challengers were playing handball in the schoolyard; Prop Joe took on Avon in Season 1, negotiated with Stringer through season 2, hooked up the Greek connect, formed the co-op, and managed challenges from Omar, all the while bringing Slim Charles and all the west-side peoples into the fold. Right now, he looks out-muscled by Marlo and his astonishingly well-organized team (Snoop and Chris Partlow), but are you really going to count him out as the storm Marlo's invited starts to gather?

My Most Inevitable Post Ever -- Part 2

Barack Obama/Marlo Stanfield

Both rocketed to fame from modest beginnings (Illinois state legislature/umm, literally out of the fucking blue) to dominate in respective arenas (Iowa/West Baltimore). While both rake in the cash, they can't rest until the crown is placed firmly on their heads. Inevitably, both clash with the elder states(wo)men in the game (the Clintons/Prop Joe), who clearly fear them, but all are left wondering, when the dust settles how does this end? Is this youthful exuberance or the work of a wunderkind we're watching?

My Most Inevitable Post Ever -- Part 1

First of all, shut up. I know "inevitability" is an absolute, and cannot be quantified. The title is just a bit of poetic license. Note, this quality is also true of "unique," despite some readers' faith in modern usage. Anyway, the point of the post is this: while some have decided to analogize the presidential field to college football teams (highlight: Edwards/Clemson -- "Attractive; high-energy; fan bases are an occasionally uncomfortable mix of blue-collar types and influential big-money boosters...") and others to the hip hop scene (Joe Biden/Joe Budden -- "I'm lazy."), I'm taking the obvious route here. I present the Presidential candidates if they were characters from The Wire...

John Edwards/Stringer Bell
Golden boys in their own right, both worked tirelessly to advance the goals of another (John Kerry/Avon Barksdale) who, because of stubbornness, would only disappoint them. Ultimately, both tried to change the rules of the game altogether and strike out on their own (eschewing the Democratic establishment for politically unsellable populism/eschewing the game for life as a legit businessman). Despite fiercely loyal fans, both had to meet their ends, sadly and brutally, at the hands of a fierce and unlikely tag team--Obama-Clinton/Omar-Brother Mouzone.

moment of levity

i didn't realize this position even existed. what are clooney's qualifications? you know, to think of it, maybe the UN selection committee penned this article as well.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Dear Heidi, Democracy Is a Failed Enterprise

In 1995, when I was 17, I procured some funds from my school to go to South Africa (then a newly minted democracy). Ostensibly, I was to study the roles of Asian and Muslim subgroups in the anti-Apartheid movement, but really, the expectations were pretty low: if I came back and showed some nice pictures in a slide show presentation at assembly I'd have satisfied my charge--which was fine by me, because, given my tender years and unshakable nature, I wasn't really one to labor over anything anyway.

Truthfully, I was going only because I wanted to be there in that improbable country in that astonishing moment--not because I wanted to write up a report for school. Mandela had been transformed from prisoner to statesman, and, I don't know--I guess I just wanted to live in the milieu, amidst all that gathering hope. For me, South Africa was rife with vague possibility, and I became fixated with it. In my grant proposal I think I said something to the effect of never having lived through the 1960's, I couldn't really know what it was for a democracy to be born, and so I could but only take it for granted.

More than twelve years later, Mandela's handpicked successor has shown the world what it is to take democracy for granted: he has bungled his way through a deepening race and class divide and has denied prevailing medical science as HIV ravages sub-Saharan Africa. He's become so unpopular that he was unseated by a notoriously corrupt bigamist whose achievements include resisting a rape conviction (and doing so only after asserting that a woman wearing a skirt invites sex, and that once sex has been purloined from such a woman, one need only shower in order to stave off HIV). This is modern democratic South Africa. This is the country that Mandela's efforts gave birth to, and that my youthful, exuberant feelings of hope were pinned to.

But I shouldn't pick on South Africa. Our own country is in a state of severe indifference about that which we have wrought in the decaying world: We de-Baathified Iraq and disbanded its army and squeezed the Iraqi people dry to the bone, and then reelected the President who perpetrated these acts and said of them, "Freedom is on the march"; we say now that he's led us into disgrace, but we do nothing to punish his unrepentant enablers; we call for men and women of ideas to lead us, yet we're spasmodic with joy when ideas are traded for watchwords and hollow platitudes; in fact we refuse wholesale to process ideas, and we punish those who dare run for office solely on the basis of them.

As the embers of the World Trade Center scatttered about New York City, we were driven to bloodlust, and Susan Sontag said, poignantly and most bravely, that we are not a mature democracy. She was excoriated for this, but the fact remains we don't care about our democratic institutions, and so we've stood watch as they've eroded.

And this brings me to the Presidential race. Although New Hampshire and Nevada have not gone his way (well, at least not the popular vote in Nevada), now comes Barack Obama with promises to end all this malarkey. South Carolina, a bellweather state in the primary season, aims to vault him to the nomination, if polls are to be trusted. (I'm being insincere--we know polls are not to be trusted, and we know his opponent is an intensely disciplined campaigner who will parry his every move.) And If my generation and its Ritalin-addled, Playstation- atrophied collective mind is to be trusted--and of course, we know it too is not to be--he's a symbol of hope, an agent of change, and on these wings he should glide into the White House, but I confess: he leaves me wanting and sad.

Firstly, it should be pointed out, that I don't care at all about character. Serious people are able to see that a man who has had an affair, or one who moronically provided receipts for pricey salon care, or one who has snorted cocaine as a teenager can govern this broken country. Serious people do not stand around with "Oh, no, he di'n't" placed firmly on the tips of their tongues should a hoarse candidate emote oddly into a microphone. And serious people don't base their vote on what they think their unserious colleagues think about a candidate's chances--that is, on the tyranny of electability. I don't object to Barack Obama because of nebulous ideas about his character; nor, conversely, do I care if nebulous ideas about his character make him appear like a man of consequence. In this regard, however, he does not sway me and I'm bewildered by those who are inspired by his speechifying. I care only about the substance of what he has to say, and to date he has said little that gives me hope for the future of our country.

He has declared open disdain for the sovereignty of Pakistan, a country that has been torn asunder by refugees and pro-Taliban forces, people who were driven out of Afghanistan in the first place by Bush's War on Terror, saying, "There are terrorists holed up in those mountains who murdered 3,000 Americans. They are plotting to strike again. If we have actionable intelligence about high-value terrorist targets and President Musharraf won’t act, we will." The extent of the naivete of this statement is staggering: it is true that Musharraf has over-reached in myriad ways the last year or so, and hangs on by a thread, but there are no viable political parties left to contest elections, and the Pakistani electorate is seething in frustration--yet one of the Democratic front-runners thinks that it's in America's interest to further galvanize dispossessed Pakistanis by making reckless claims about how he'd proceed in a post-Bush world. Some have called this an extension of the Bush doctrine, but at least Bush understands now how dumb it is to assert your will on to countries that can bite you in the ass.

Now, I'm not naive. I understand that if Osama Bin Laden popped up on the grid in a hut outside of Peshawar, whoever's President's going to take him out, but announcing to the world--unprovoked--as Obama did, that he has no interest in preserving our tenuous ties to the Pakistani government shows that he misunderstands basic geopolitics--and he misunderstands what American interests are. Musharraf's an asshole, but if you alienate him, where exactly does he go to make alliances? Obama is willing to score the easy political points by running to the hawkish center, but as he promises to cowboy his way around dangerous and complex regions of the world, I'm left wondering--this, this, motherfucker, is the politics of hope?

I understand that this issue is simply irrelevant to the masses of Americans who want to resist Clinton-Bush imperial succession and that I'm uniquely interested in it; I understand also that many of us want to credit Obama for his early resistance to the War on Iraq, and we want to celebrate his progressive bona fides because he was a community organizer and led get-out-the-vote efforts, but shouldn't the Presidency require more? What does it mean to oppose the War from the beginning--like, by the way, I did and virtually everyone I know--and then to vote unwaveringly in financial support of it once you've arrived in the Senate (in a fashion identical almost to Hillary Clinton)? What does it mean to
stand for health-care reform but eschew a universal mandate , thereby excluding millions of Americans
? What does it mean when your great healthcare triumph in Illinois was brokered through insurance companies? What does it mean that you've established yourself as a moderate in the Senate, voting to confirm three of Bush's judicial nominees? And what does it mean when you've declared Ronald Reagan as your political role model?

There can be wide-ranging debate about these questions, but I think if, like me, you see the Presidency as something more than just a repository for rhetorical hope, then you have trouble swallowing the notion that Barack Obama will lead a progressive renaissance in the Executive. I don't want the next President compromising out of the gates with lobbyists, and I don't want him or her continuing to promote the failed notion that carpet bombing is the best way to deal with beleaguered and humiliated Muslims. (Hint: the best way is to take a page out of Hezbollah's book and build hospitals.) And I don't want the next President selling me bipartisanship and calling it hope. I want the next President to be pissed off and brimming with hell-fury about the ways in which common Americans have been cheated, poisoned, and lied to by our government. And most important, with the fracturing of the Republican coalition, I want the next President to eviscerate the other side, to expose it as the haven for rank, moneyed hypocrites that it is. I want the next President to answer to no God but the people. Maybe like the Americans Susan Sontag saw in the wake of September 11th, I'm immature--I've been called it before--but that's what democracy looks like to me. And since I know it's not what's in store for us (or for South Africans or for Pakistanis), I can't help but think democracy is a failed enterprise.

Friday, January 18, 2008

road to the whitehouse: even more poorly formatted separated at birth edition


is not just a carly simon song. it's also what you're feeling now that i'm telling you that the 1 year milestone for this tour de force in the blogosphere is just around the corner. c4ts and i are gonna do something totally awesome. or not. but maybe!

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

road to the white house: separated at birth edition

RIP, Josh From Ghost World (Also, I liked you in Bully)

Rest in peace, Josh from Ghost World. You could play blank and bullied like no other, but now you've gone off to mainline with the big, hypodermic needle in the sky. Still, you've left us a legacy--one that includes a pre-glam ScarJo, a post-Jack-Ryan Thora Birch, Babu from Seinfeld, and Steve Buscemi in a career role.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Friday, January 11, 2008

Mea Culpa

Ok, so the new year has not bode well for the future of C4tS blog posts. Strangely, my job has started to treat me if not quite like a person of conseqeunce, at least one out of whom a modicum of hard work can be extracted. And knowing me, as you do, reader, I prefer the epic to the minimalist blog post, and so I've little to show for myself these last few weeks, but I will return, return as triumphantly as the decrepit, angry old man who threatens to be our next President. For now, enjoy the smallish image above--this was something that Gawker media linked to at some point, which means I'm breaking my own rule about giving those snarky boys and girls more web traffic, but seeing as I actually saw this poster myself and thought about blogging about it when I did, I thought you'd forgive. Thank baby Jesus for nerdy modernism fanboys and their panache for graphic design and irony.

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

is she gonna cry again?

her jacket is making bayrex cry.

also, who's that hot fuzzy man to chelsea's left?

Saturday, January 5, 2008

Harold and Kumar Escape from Guantanamo

Yeah, yeah, I still owe Heidi an Obama post, but this very blog--a groundbreaking melding of Korean and South Asian minds--would be nowhere without the original such collaborators. So, I give you...

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Happy Armageddon!

Hey, I need to blog again. I know. Parents were in town Christmasweek, and then 'Pockets and I flew back east for a wedding in Pittsburgh/to see if my new niece/nephew had arrived on the scene, but that's no excuse: Benazir was assassinated/bumped her head; Pakistan devolved into a riotous and blood-spattered free-for-all (which led to the destruction of, among other things, my aunt's car...while she was driving it); The Wire season premiere dropped On Demand; Mike Huckabee became the would-be-nominee for a bit, then started to talk about things not related to our Lord and Savior/love handles; Giuliani became irrelevant; and Will Smith secretly converted to Scientology (which makes him still more electable than Romney). Also, Happy New Year! Here's to hoping that nuclear holocaust/impending Chinese colonization/bird flu/Britney-LiLo-Winehouse's inevitable group overdose and-or suicide pact decides to put off plans till '09 at least.