Obamapocalypse

When the passage of H.R.3590 kicked up a shitstorm two weeks ago, I thought of Jorge Luis Borges’ short story entitled “The Improbable Impostor Tom Castro.” This 1911 piece tells of Arthur Orton, a ne’er-do-well operating under the alias of “Tom Castro.” When he meets fellow conman Ebenezer Bogle, the two men hatch a plan to scam Lady Tichborne, a grieving mother who is unable to accept the fact of her son’s death at sea. Hoping to squeeze some buckeroos from this rich old biddy, Bogle decides that Orton/Castro should travel to England to impersonate the late Roger Charles Tichborne even though Castro looks nothing like young Mr. Tichborne at all.

Tichborne had been a slim, genteel young man with a reserved and somewhat self-absorbed air. He had sharp features, straight black hair, tawny skin, sparkling eyes, and an irritatingly precise way of speaking. Orton was an irrepressible rustic, a “yokel,” with a vast belly, features of infinite vagueness, fair and freckled skin, wavy light-brown hair, sleepy eyes, and no, or irrelevant, conversation.

…The plan had an irrational genius to it… Bogle knew that a perfect facsimile of the beloved Roger Charles Tichborne was impossible to find; he knew as that any similarities he might achieve would only underscore certain inevitable differences. He therefore gave up the notion of likeness altogether. He sensed that the vast ineptitude of his pretense would be a convincing proof that this was no fraud, for no fraud would ever have so flagrantly flaunted features that might so easily convinced (emphasis mine).

So here’s the Tom Castro Strategy: when an approximation of truth would too easily reveal yourself as fraudulent, shoot for the moon and become as absurdly outlandish as possible.

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Decade Recap

Has this been, like, the worst decade ever or what? Time Magazine seems to think so. They don’t hold back: “Call it the Decade from Hell, or the Reckoning, or the Decade of Broken Dreams, or the Lost Decade. Call it whatever you want — just give thanks that it is nearly over.” I’m surprised this got published, but I can’t say I disagree (some hyperbole notwithstanding). My decade started with promise, then took a sharp downturn real fast. Maybe this New Year’s Eve I’ll rub the belly of a white rabbit to ward off the curse of the fukú.

I like that 2009’s end-of-year lists are all turning into end-of-decade lists. Here’s Telegraph’s list of the top 100 films, and here’s The Times Online’s version; I’ve seen 64% and 68%, respectively, of the films on there. Both lists are pretty shite though, with the possible exception of The Times putting Cache/Hidden at #1. (I may be re-considering The White Ribbon too. We’ll see.) Oh, and Telegraph putting an unreleased film on their list, not to mention Fahrenheit 9/11 at the very top, is pretty LOL.

This has really nothing to do with this past decade, but Zizek’s got a new essay on Lacan.com called “Denial: The Liberal Utopia” that’s worth reading; at least the first section is, I zoned out a bit on the Confucius stuff. His discussion of 1988’s They Live and “critico-ideological glasses” is really top-notch, imo.

Lastly, I have to at least mention this Afghanistan travesty, which I’m hoping will somehow pull the public away from the Tiger Woods drama. I liked Bob Herbert’s NYT essay on this, mostly because he quoted Eisenhower:

“I hate war,” said Dwight Eisenhower,  “as only a soldier who has lived it can, as one who has seen its brutality, its futility, its stupidity.” He also said, “Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired, signifies in the final sense a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and not clothed.”

I suspect the impotent Left will wave & holler for a while before giving up and not even protesting when their congressmen quietly vote to fund this escalation. I was hoping the Right would oppose this out of knee-jerk hatred of everything Obama does/says/thinks/is, but it looks like their love affair with cluster-bombs and nifty predator drones will win out; militarism ekes out racism FTW. Well, FTL for Afghans, who will see their “Decade From Hell” stretched a little further.

Books Read in 2008

I tried to read a book/week again, which seems very reasonable, but fell short once again. I’m about halfway through a dozen other books, which I’ll probably just finish & count for ’09. Under each category, they’re listed in the order I read them. Incidentally, the first book I read in 2008 was The Audacity of Hope by Mister Obama. (more…)

Messiahs & Monomyths

One of the most interesting pre-election interviews I saw was of arch-conservative Bill Kristol with Jon Stewart on the Daily Show just a few days before the 4th. One of the striking things Kristol said was that “I don’t think [Obama] would be a very radical president. I think he’ll disappoint a lot of people on the left, because he’ll be a conventionally liberal president.” I’ve thought a lot about this quote, especially as Obama’s picked his staff and proven Kristol exactly right so far. But I’m unsure just how “radical” anybody on the left ever expected him to be (we had Nader, Klein, Chomsky, et al to keep our expectations low).

However, whenever I stumble upon the lunatic fringe of the far-right (say, WorldNetDaily or FreeRepublic for example) I’m sometimes surprised at how often they try to paint Barack Obama as the left’s “Messiah.” It’s unclear, of course, who actually believes this. In reality, Republicans are far more obsessed with Obama’s supposed messiahship than liberals are. There’s no doubt that a number of people have said nutty things, among them Louis Farrakhan and, to a lesser extent, Oprah Winfrey, but there’s not much evidence that most people see Obama as anything other than an inspiring figure. Obama’s election team have admitted that McCain’s “celebrity” ads over the summer had them most worried — but being a celebrity is far different than being a messiah. (more…)

Why McCain Lost

“The newspaper reader says: this party destroys itself by making such a mistake. My higher politics says: a party which makes such mistakes has reached its end; it has lost its sureness of instinct.” – Nietzsche

With all due respect to Mr. Nietzsche, I’m about to point out the key reasons why I believe McCain lost this election. But I don’t wholly disagree with the quote — insofar as the Republican Party will live on in name, it’s not at its end. However, the party as it currently stands is in major need of an overhaul and a smart party needs to re-tool after every major loss. The Democrats didn’t after 2000 and got whupped in 2004. If the Republicans don’t, they’re going to find 2012 very painful (a sure way to further self-destruct: nominate Palin).

So, the three major reasons McCain lost big on 11/4/08:
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The Culture of Fear

I read Barry Glassner’s The Culture of Fear: Why Americans Are Afraid of the Wrong Things about a year ago. It comes in handy when I read things like this:

Tragic Mistake in Halloween Shooting
SUMTER, S.C. (Nov. 1) – An ex-convict who thought he was being robbed gunned down a 12-year-old trick-or-treater, spraying nearly 30 rounds with an assault rifle from inside his home after hearing a knock on the door, police said Saturday.

It’s a terrible story, of course. But what also saddens me is that more people will read that article and think “OMG trick-or-treating isn’t safe!” than will read that article and think “OMG letting citizens have assault weapons isn’t safe!” I’m sorry, there’s no justifiable reason to let a populace own AK-47s. The poll on AOL confirms my suspicions: Do you think we should ban semi/automatic assault rifles? Do you think trick-or-treating is safe? The majority, at 58%, said no. Which is moronic. Trick-or-treating is safe. Assault rifles are not. Please let your kids beg for congealed sugar. Please do not let your kids think guns are cool.

Also, polls open in 5 hours.

Dear Barack,
Please do not lose.
Love,
Kevin.

Lastly, thank you for praying for me and my family over the weekend. The viewing was Friday, the funeral Saturday, and then we returned Sunday afternoon.

Oh, one more thing: please stop texting me. Whomever you are. My phone does not have texting capabilities anymore since it’s almost 5 years old. So stop. It’s only making me curious. Bi-curious.

End of America

I watched The Rape of Europa the other night, a documentary about the Nazi theft of art during WWII. I was struck by how hard it is to learn lessons from the Third Reich. Compare anyone or anything to Nazi Germany and the conversation is effectively over (see: Godwin’s Law). I think part of the problem is that many people mistake comparison for identification. The result is that we’re essentially cut off from learning anything meaningful from that era — surely there’s more to take away than simply “Hitler bad, America good.”

Naomi Wolf is one writer who’s attempted to learn a little more from the rise of Hitler. She’s examined Hitler’s Germany and Mussolini’s Italy in an effort to discover what steps usually happen before a dictatorship takes over.
Here are her “Ten Steps to a Fascist State,” or “How to Turn an Open Society Into a Closed Society:”

1. Invoke an internal and/or external enemy
2. Create a secret prison network
3. Employ a paramilitary force
4. Set up an internal surveillance system
5. Infiltrate and/or harass citizens’ groups
6. Engage in arbitrary detention and release
7. Target key individuals
8. Restrict the press
9. Equate dissent with treason
10. Subvert and/or suspend the rule of law

“Fascist America, in 10 Easy Steps” looks at how all ten of those have been implemented in the US in the last 8 years. Her book End of America: Letter of Warning to a Young Patriot fleshes out the argument even further. She has a documentary out called End of America as well, which can be viewed for free on the SnapFilms website.

If you don’t have time for a documentary, amuse yourself instead with Republicans gone wild. This blog also seems to be collecting videos of Republican asshattery. There’s a good deal of Democrats also acting loony in those videos.

Make Your Predictions

Time to call it: I’m predicting 292 electoral votes for Mr. Barack. Leave your predictions in the comments. Whomever guesses closest is a communist gets some sort of prize. The prize may or may not be a personal dinner with Pres. Obama, or an Obama Candy Bar, or just bragging rights.

Also, this is amazing: Alan Greenspan has admitted that the free market sucks ass. Or something similar. I wrote in Cedars a couple weeks ago that this current economic mess should cause a crisis of faith for freewheeling free market fundamentalists. I’m glad Mr. Greenspan is a fan of my column.
“You know why the ‘invisible hand’ is invisible? Because it doesn’t exist.”

My new Cedars articles (due Oct. 30th) are uninspired, but sometimes that’s just how the cookie crumbles. One piece is a review of Illuminated World’s “The Book: New Testament”. The other is an article begging students not to vote based on complete lies: Obama is a Muslim, Obama has a fake birth certificate, Obama hates the national anthem, and so forth. I ended by suggesting they utilize sites like Political Compass to find out which candidate more closely shared their own views. All I’m looking for is one person to say “Hey I’m still voting for McCain, but thanks to you I’m no longer voting based on blatant lies about Obama.”