Monday, October 15, 2007


I've been lax in updating lately because I was at the National Archives on Wednesday and at Fort Dietrich on Friday. This morning I had meeting and file management of the Wednesday and Friday stuff to deal with. So while I ready the first of what will be several Solar Decathlon related posts I give you something I lifted from

posted by Liberal Eagle at 12:51 PM
In this column here, which you should read, Paul Krugman analyzes the conservative sense of "humor." (I'm so glad the NY Times is no longer putting its opinion writers behind a subscription wall, if only for Krugman and Bob Herbert.)

It has not escaped my notice in the past that when conservatives are being "funny" they always come off as complete and total assholes (P.J. O'Rourke, who I actually quite like, being the one notable exception I can think of). Think of Rush Limbaugh joking back in the '90s about holding the "Homeless Olympics" or calling Chelsea Clinton, who was 14 at the time, the "White House dog."

Molly Ivins wrote of Rush, around the same time:

Satire can be quite a cruel weapon. It has historically been the weapon of powerless people aimed at the powerful. When you use satire as a weapon against powerless people, it is not only cruel, it is profoundly vulgar.

When I listen to Limbaugh, as I often do [brave woman, Molly], I find he consistently targets dead people, little girls, the homeless, and animals--none of whom are in a particularly good position to respond. It is the consistency of his selection of helpless targets that I find so appalling.

I miss Molly Ivins.

(And we won't even get into the slime of Ann Coulter, who thinks it's the hight of hilarity to call people "faggots" and advocate murdering Supreme Court justices and blowing up the New York Times building with all its reporters and editors inside. I've been told I don't "get" her humor. My theory is that this is because I have a soul.)

Of course, as Krugman notes, conservative assholery has a high pedigree, having been given legitimacy by the patron saint of modern conservatism, a man who (ironically) is widely thought of as sunny and positive.

But Ronald Reagan thought the issue of hunger in the world’s richest nation was nothing but a big joke. Here’s what Reagan said in his famous 1964 speech “A Time for Choosing,” which made him a national political figure: “We were told four years ago that 17 million people went to bed hungry each night. Well, that was probably true. They were all on a diet.”

Ha ha ha ha ha ha. I think my sides may have split. Billy Kristol, writing in the present day, can you follow that act?

In anticipation of [Bush's veto of the SCHIP bill, which would have expanded health care for children], William Kristol, the editor of The Weekly Standard, had this to say: “First of all, whenever I hear anything described as a heartless assault on our children, I tend to think it’s a good idea. I’m happy that the president’s willing to do something bad for the kids.”

Honestly, it's very hard for me not to hope Bill Kristol gets flattened by an ambulance on his way home from work.

I suppose this is inevitably what you get when you mix these particular ingredients into a political movement. Take a bunch of privileged rich kids. In high school and college, have them all read Ayn Rand, thereby drilling into them the idea that acting in their own naked self-interest at all times is not only allowable, it's a supreme moral virtue. Stir.

Krugman also points out something interesting about George W. Bush, he of vetoing a children's health care bill that has over 70% support nationally:

Mark Crispin Miller, the author of “The Bush Dyslexicon,” once made a striking observation: all of the famous Bush malapropisms — “I know how hard it is for you to put food on your family,” and so on — have involved occasions when Mr. Bush was trying to sound caring and compassionate.

By contrast, Mr. Bush is articulate and even grammatical when he talks about punishing people; that’s when he’s speaking from the heart. The only animation Mr. Bush showed during the flooding of New Orleans was when he declared “zero tolerance of people breaking the law,” even those breaking into abandoned stores in search of the food and water they weren’t getting from his administration.

At least he didn't tell a lot of jokes about the displaced refugees. (He left that to his mom.)

But I think this underscores an important point about who we as a nation should be empowering. George W. Bush is only interested in being the big tough manly man, not in, you know, actually governing. What was so great about Bill Clinton, for all his failings, was that he actually liked governing, believed in it, and was good at it. He cared about policy and making it work.

In a way, that's the choice in front of us in the next election, isn't it? Vote for the party which, by and large, actually wants to govern, or vote for the party which, on the whole, couldn't care less about governing, unless by "governing" you mean going out and kicking some weak little country's ass so we can all feel tough.

The nerdy administrator who'll make your life easier, or the macho bully who'll make fun of your kids if they get sick. It's up to you, America.

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