Shrinking Pains

(from an e-mail and a journal)

I miss J on so many levels, whether as a problem, challenge, or joy — it was all one.  I feel sort of shrunken and diminished.  My nervous system is used to being stretched almost beyond its limit, my heart stretched wide — passively. I didn’t have to go seeking challenge and stimulation, I didn’t have to generate it — it was plopped down in the middle of my life.  My life force was entirely a response to one which was so outsized.  My nervous system is just dead in the water in the absence of that.  It doesn’t know what to do with itself, except put itself in the way of trouble, and there’s no kind of trouble it likes worth a damn.  J was some high-class trouble.

Flashback to Birmingham!

But this is Cairo.

More about the Egyptian protests, including the immensely touching role of women.

This is one of those stirring, spirit-rousing moments, like 1956 and 1968 and 1989, and Ukraine’s Orange Revolution.  Let’s hope and pray it doesn’t meet the fate of Iran’s green one.  But even when such surges are beaten back, as at Tiananmen, they are not broken.

More.  I wonder why Secretary Clinton is speaking out forcefully in support of the rights of Egypt’s protesters, as no one in the Obama administration did for the Iranians.  Well, clearly the difference is strategic.  But it also underscored, rather than helping to undermine, the Iranian regime’s power, no?  I am notoriously naïve about these things, please enlighten me.


Apologies to Flaubert, or to anyone sick of my occasional complaining about co-workers; all quotes guaranteed authentic.

ART – must express political indignation or offend local sensibilities to be any good. Art has a duty to not merely explore and express the wounds in the nation, but to create new ones.

BLACK REPUBLICANS – only can be explained by reference to Uncle Tom or some sort of self-loathing complex that requires therapy. Fair game for every sort of hateful stereotype and epithet. Anti-Israel Jews, however, are proof that being anti-Israel is never the same as being anti-Semitic (see JEWS).

CANADA – has no crime, no poverty, no racism, no militarism. “I would move there in a minute if it wasn’t for _______.”

CHILDREN – your progressive views about public education, diversity, tolerance, SUVs, and affirmative action do not apply in situations that involve your children.

CHOMSKY – God. Only Stephen Colbert outranks him.

CHRISTIANITY – only idiots and bigots believe in it. Westboro Baptist is a typical church. Any public expression of faith is aimed at intimidating atheists and other non-Christians. The world won’t improve till people stop listening to preachers. None of the above applies to black denominations.

COMMUNISM – ancient history. Dismiss it quicky and move on. “Real communism was never tried.”

CONDI RICE – not really black, of course, but really a war criminal. Bad example to young minorities. The only public political woman it is legitimate to call “ugly.” All taboos against race-baiting are suspended in her case, provided they are uttered by people of sterling liberal Democratic credentials.

DEATH PENALTY – immoral and a sign of America’s hopeless cowboy culture. Unless the subject is Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, or Rice.

DEMOCRATS – never do any of the mean political tricks and underhanded stunts that are the basis of any Republican success. Until they actually are convicted of them, in which case everyone does that.

DICK CHENEY – shout “war criminal,” flush red, and swear every time you see his face on television. Or else just say, “shot a guy in the face.” Hypocrite because he has a lesbian daughter yet remains a Republican.

EUROPE – proof that socialism is better. Workers get 2 months of vacation and 4-day work weeks. Any European is smarter than every American. Anything that goes wrong in Europe is a result of American policies or pressures.

EXCEPTIONALISM – American exceptionalism is a myth. Unless you mean America is exceptionally violent, ignorant, racist, and militaristic in comparison to the rest of the world. In which case American exception is an ironclad truth.

FASCISM – use it often; change the definition to fit the target. The real definition is, “whatever it is about my enemies that most reminds me of what little I think I know about fascism.”


GAYS and LESBIANS – always more enlightened, intelligent and sensitive than those who aren’t. Improve property values by their mere presence. Anyone who makes generalized statements about them is a homophobe.

GEORGE W. BUSH – “Where’s Lee Harvey Oswald when we need him?” Responsible for a climate of intolerance and personal violence in America, and even for road rage. “If I had a gun, I’d shoot him” (see GUANTANAMO).


GUANTANAMO – after you say something nasty about GEORGE W. BUSH (q.v.), say, “I better shut up or they’ll send me to Guantanamo.”

HUGO CHAVEZ – a leader of the people and an honest socialist. “At least he was fairly elected, unlike George W. Bush.”

ISLAM – they just want to be left alone. If anyone points out that it involves everything that makes liberal secularists loathe Christianity, and in greater degree, as well as many worse things not found in Christianity, shout “SARAH PALIN.”

JESUS – never existed, and if he were alive today he would be one of “us.” Everything Christians do is contrary to his teaching.

JEWS – always excluded from any demands for more “diversity” or “multi-culturalism.”

JOHN BOEHNER – Orange crybaby. Don’t take seriously.

KARL ROVE – tried to kill Valerie Plame.

KURDS – run them down if someone brings them up; ignore them otherwise.

MICHAEL MOORE – sensitive, independent documentary film-maker, not an grandstanding propaganda hack. Defend everything he says and does, repeat his assertions as fact, claim that everyone who aspires to have an opinion about anything can’t really know anything about it without first viewing Moore’s work. Then deny that he is at all influential or representative of “progressive” opinion.

MILITARY – blacks who enlist are falling for the recruiters’ trap in a desperate bid to escape poverty. Whites who enlist are knuckle-dragging, crypto-fascist gun-nuts.

NON-PARTISAN – always claim to be this. Prove it by saying something balanced and bad about both parties, such as, “Republicans are granny-starving, soul-less, totalitarian hypocrites and the Democrats are too disorganized to beat them.”


PRESIDENTS – if the incumbent is a Republican, all troubles in the world are his fault. If the incumbent is a Democrat, all troubles in the world are the fault of the previous Republican incumbent.

RECYCLING – conservatives and Christians never do it.

REPUBLICANS – always preceded by “evil” or “fat-cat.”

RICH – got that way by cheating the poor or rigging the system with the help of their GOP friends. Unless they are Democrats, in which case they earned it honestly by their talents and prove their entitlement to it by their political philanthropy.

RONALD REAGAN – whenever his name comes up, say, “Ketchup is a vegetable.”

SARAH PALIN – whenever you’re stumped in a debate or cornered in an argument with anyone measurably rightward of you, and you don’t have a response, just shout her name like a magic incantation to banish your opponent to a lower plane of existence, then walk away triumphantly. In general be obsessed with her and never let her name go unuttered for more than half an hour.


SEPTEMBER 11 – a tragedy, but we deserved it for lack of universal health care, not signing Kyoto treaty, etc. Unless we did it to ourselves. We’ll get back to you on the conspiracy theories when we figure out whether they’re right-wing (dismissable) or left-wing (plausible).

SOUTH – “We should have let them secede. I wish they would leave again.”

SPORTS – always hate the Dallas Cowboys (“America’s Team”) and the New York Yankees (“Yankees”). Anything else is up to you. Never like NASCAR.

TAXES – are good, because they take wealth from those who have it and distribute it in ways that are useful to those who do not have it. Deny strenuously that this involves wealth redistribution.

TERRORISM – “Terrorism, schmerrorism; it’s all Bush’s fault.”

TRANSGENDER – should not be treated as anything but what they say they are. To think about the details of this and ask practical question like “ought the plain definition of ‘woman’ include ‘man who wishes he was a woman?'” is to be homophobic.

UNIONS – answer to all this country’s past, current, and future economic troubles.

Ammo for Michael

After reading this and other perceptive comments that Michael wrote on Dave Schuler’s blog, I ran across this post by noted economist Tyler Cowen today:

Charles I. Jones, an economist at Stanford University, has “disassembled” American economic growth into component parts, such as increases in capital investment, increases in work hours, increases in research and development, and other factors. Looking at 1950–1993, he found that 80 percent of the growth from that period came from the application of previously discovered ideas, combined with heavy additional investment in education and research, in a manner that cannot be easily repeated for the future. In other words, we’ve been riding off the past. Even more worryingly, he finds that now that we are done exhausting this accumulated stock of benefits, we are discovering new ideas at a speed that will drive a future growth rate of less than one-third of a percent (that’s a rough estimate, not an exact one, but it is consistent with the basic message here). It could be worse yet if the idea-generating countries continue to lose population, as we are seeing in Western Europe and Japan.

(The quote is from Cowen’s soon to be released eBook, The Great Stagnation.)