Mock Radio

Through a combination of earnestness and contrarianism, certain enterprises (such as Christian rock, the Log-Cabin Republicans, and advice from Jim’s Dad) invite mockery.  Whether one’s goal is effective political advocacy or profitable entertainment, I can’t imagine that hiring a gaggle of liberals to harangue listeners and fact-check right-wingers in a polity manifestly unconcerned with facts won’t provide a more frequent target for parody than grins or food for thought.  Al Franken’s at his funniest when he’s detached and satirical, not trying to match Limbaugh and O’Reilly bark for bark, and if I want satrical detachment Harry Shearer’s Le Show’s got me covered.  Janeane Garafolo?  Her best (perhaps only) rhetorical tactic is her withering stare, which doesn’t exactly suit the medium.

But the main reason I won’t be tuning in Air America is that radio is my least favorite news source; it’s the pushiest of Push Media.  Perhaps if I spent more time in my car . . .


Ginned Rummy

In the days and weeks following the 9/11 attacks, Americans affected alarm when confronted by the ease with which the terrorists were able to inflict massive casualties and damage.  To anyone who spent any amount of time thinking about such things, our society’s vulnerabilities were fairly obvious and had been for many years.  There’s only so much you can do to protect the public from the suicidally insane.  Due to a variety of factors—not the least of which a fitful veneration of notions of liberty—Americans have come to tolerate certain levels of risk, such as fast cars, plentiful handguns, and securities trading.  Any attempt to eliminate such risks through legislation would offend our sense of personal autonomy and (almost as important) almost certainly fail.  After 9/11, many Americans (notoriously bad at quantifying risk) re-examined this tacit contract—the freedom of an open society along with the occasional abuse of freedom resulting in tragedy—and wondered if it wasn’t time to renegotiate.

A government that had decided to treat its citizens as adults would have, in due course, explained that while the clear and present threat of Al Qaeda would be met by appropriate responses including military, intelligence, and law-enforcement measures, terrorism itself is a permanent feature of modern civilization that can only be minimized at best.  A government that regarded its citizens as children would proclaim a state of war, both promising eventual victory and demanding exigent loyalty, while instituting restrictions on civil liberties that would last as long as a single terrorist remained at large.  Before the first tower fell, I had no doubt which course the Bush Administration would take.

As much as anyone, Donald Rumsfeld was the public face and voice of the U.S. government’s paternalism, assuring Americans that swift and just retribution was being dealt to evil-doers while reminding them that war isn’t an ice cream social.  If John Ashcroft has been our guilt-invoking mother, claiming that only terrorists and traffickers in drugs and pornography need fear increased surveillance, then Rumsfeld has been our hickory-switch-bearing father, intoning that that the War on Terror hurts him more than it hurts us.

Critics and supporters all agree that the single most important (if not only) argument for voting for George W. Bush this November is that national security is "Job One" and that Bush has demonstrated his superior proficiency at this task.  Today, Rumsfeld testified in his Plain-Spoken™ manner that, given the limitations of intelligence-gathering and the resourcefulness of terrorists, there wasn’t much that could have been done to prevent 9/11, and we will likely be attacked again.

But never mind that.  Just remember that, as Lileks said, if John Kerry is elected, then the terrorists will have won.


Spain Is The New France

11-M, as the Spanish have named the Madrid train bombings (and who else should name them?), was in many ways almost eagerly anticipated by opinion peddlers, maunderers, and litterers.  Benumbed by the prospect of eight more months of fact-checking Lee Atwater’s posthumous exhalations, charges of appeasement flew fast and furious as hawks both neo- and paleo- remembered what they loved about the war as a campaign issue: its clarity.  Krauthammer declared Spain "decadent," and the wags at The Corner vied with Charles Johnson to be the first to lead a post with the Spanish translation of "surrender monkeys."

As handy an analogy as Munich is, it doesn’t really apply (if indeed it ever did).  As Krauthammer points out, no one could seriously believe that ejecting Aznar’s party would reduce Spain’s risk of attack from Al Qaeda.  The corrolary of this principle is that no one should seriously believe that re-electing the Popular Party would increase Al Qaeda’s desire to attack Spain; everything we know about Al Qaeda suggests that we are simply props in their internal fantasy, and modifying our policies in the hope that we can deter or discomfit Al Qaeda is to engage in psychological shadow boxing with an invisible shadow.  Might it then be more plausible to assume that the Spanish voters were motivated by factors other than how their nation figures in the dramatic narratives of either Osama bin Laden or George W. Bush?  Particularly when you consider the reports the Socialists were gaining on the PP prior to 11-M, and that Spaniards themselves stated that a chief motive for their rejection of the PP was that they didn’t appreciate being deceived on the eve of an election.  This is what really alarms Bush’s supporters: the refusal by an elecorate to see everything through the lens of the "war on terror."

Kevin Drum asks: how does it serve Bush-supporters’ interests to breezily generalize this single electoral result into a trend threatening to alienate all of Bush’s European allies?  Perhaps the recent Wonkette-driven Punking of the Bush re-election site unintentionally (?) handed Rove the campaign’s new theme: "Bush-Cheney '04: Thrown Out of More European Countries Than the Visigoths."


Unreal Madrid

The Madrid bombings were by an order of magnitude larger than anything ETA has ever attempted.  ETA has primarily targeted government officials and military sites, and typically issues warnings before attacks.  ETA has officially denied responsibility, while a group "affiliated" with Al Qaeda has claimed it.  After Tony Blair, current Spanish Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar was the most prominent European camp-follower in Bush’s démarche to Baghdad, despite the overwhelming anti-war sentiment of the Spanish people.  Spain is also featured in Al Qaeda’s animating psychodrama.  Aznar’s party is facing elections on Sunday.  So who is the current Spanish government’s usual prime suspect?  And does the current American administration—who has ignored no shred of evidence, however flimsy, in its quest to link all acts of malice to the (New) Axis of Evil—dispute the Spanish government’s suspicions?

(Attributions of responsibility to Oliver Kahn are probably premature at this point.)


Absent At The Creation

Where’s Seattle’s notorious rubophobia-driven me-tooism when you need it?  Oh, yeah; protecting its ass.


On The Gastronomy Of Morals

Once again, America's Finest News Source has, well, overcome (sorry) its quotidian torpor and hit one out of the parkThis is my favorite piece, of course.