Sunday, January 16, 2005


Ciao For Now

They're cute. Punish them.
Originally uploaded by jonnybutter.

To anybody still reading this blog: it's time for me to sort of 'suspend' it. I'll probably still post occasionally, but knowing that no one will be reading it - blogs are 'publish or die'! I've realized that I've really been blogging for the election (how could one resist?). Now, I have to face the fact that I don't really have time to write, dangit. If it's not worth doing well....well, you know. Right now it's time for me to concentrate on making some of those ever-lighter dollars.

Anyway, the bad news is, Bush Tango'd his way into another term in office. The good news is, it's all on him. G-d punishes people by giving them what they ask for. Rather than make us feel cowed and demoralized, the election has merely pissed core dems/progressives off. The blogosphere is really becoming more aware of itself, is getting more spontaneously organized. It's soberly thrilling. I certainly don't feel demoralized, politically (the looming cultural problems are, er, more complicated).

The Democratic party obviously needs this sort of 'time-out'. We've forgotten that the GOP is paying us a backhanded compliment when they deride us as the 'establishment' or 'status quo' party - even as they beat us with it over and over: basic, inexorable progress is the status quo in the US. The US has historically been a vanguard kind of nation, down to its very constitution. W. Bush is able to do an astonishing amount and variety of damage in a short time - he has an actual genius for fucking up - but his lasting legacy will mostly be economic decline, I suspect. I'm not happy about it, but that's not everything. The Republicans - optimistic rhetoric aside - are what they are: conservatives, a force for a kind of social 'market correction'. Their power is an aberration; they are a natural minority. Our creaky old winner-take-all electoral process is still, unfortunately, a bit more 'republican' than democratic, but we actually eat at Jefferson's and Jackson's table. It's where we live. There is no real 'Republican Revolution', at least not yet. It's gut-check time now, though. If the, yes, Established Democratic party doesn't become a disciplined opposition party - one with the courage of its convictions and a belief in its natural trajectory, it will either be taken over by a very angry grass-roots, or simply dwindle away, to be replaced by something better. If Bush's Social Security gambit, 'Tort Reform' and Tax Program get more than a very few Democratic votes in congress in the coming 18 months or so, we've got a problem.

I know that once I hit 'publish' on this post, I'm going to think of a dozen things to blog about. But until I can figure out a way to do this periodically rather than closer to 'daily', I'll just see everybody in comment land. The blogosphere is starting to kick ass, and I'm enjoying every minute of it.

Thanks for stopping by.


Saturday, January 15, 2005


Rummy Ontology

Big Don hears an unknown unknown
Originally uploaded by jonnybutter.

Ask any certified angry white male if our culture's apparent emphasis on 'self-esteem building' bothers them, and every one of the hardcore of them will light up like christmas trees. They HATE that. HATE HATE HATE it. They counter - rightly - that true self-esteem is built on achievement rather than simple jawboning (note that this critique is a MAJOR part of the whole populist Right rhetorical underpinning - El Rushbo, et. al.). But, what's this?! It seems they highly resent getting their tender self-esteem gored, and tend to be quite touchy about it. What delicate, sensitive souls they really are!

This last election was ALL about 'self-esteem'. Bush and Rove played this tune relentlessly. All resentment all the time. The Bush fans (because that's what they really are - 'fans') thereby showed they tacitly accepted the idea of 'building self-esteem out of thin air' - the danged, supposedly 'liberal program' they despise! This weakness, this contradiction, speaks volumes about how ephemeral W Bush's political support really is; notwithstanding his 'political capital/that's mah style' comment, George and Karl are on fairly shaky ground, and they know it. We should know it too.

Sen. Obama recently endured an hour+ of being interviewed by Charlie Rose. Squeezing in between Charlie's usual small eternities of gibbering solipsism, Obama was able to make some good points. The main one was that the GOP didn't win in '04 so much as the Democrats lost. He's right-on, there. People naturally yearn for revisiting their ethical roots right now, for myriad obvious reasons. I hate to say it, because I think 9/11 was, in a very real way, the beginning of the end for per se religion; but withall, the primary source of ethics in this country is the Judeo-Christian tradition. It just is. Religion simply matters to people, even if they aren't active churchgoers (like Bush). And you essay a culture with the ethics you HAVE, rather than the ethics you think you wish you had. The problems, of course, are with the religiosity itself, the literalness. Take it to its logical conclusion, though, and religion is ultimately about ethics, not religion. Religious customs come and go; ethics is forever. But religious customs don't come and go gently.

There is a reason why it's Southern, explicitly Christian, Democrats who win. It's not because they're condescending, or 'slick'. It's because they know we're in something of an ethical tempest at the moment, and are not too 'cool' to admit it and speak to it. There's absolutely nothing 'stupid' about people yearning for their ethical roots in a storm like this. Democrats must lead the country we have, not the country we wish we had.


Wednesday, January 12, 2005


Three Reasons I'm Not Posting Anything Lately

Blue-eyed Soul
Originally uploaded by jonnybutter.


Harold Meyerson in the WaPo sums Bushco up nicely: The fabricated crisis is the hallmark of the Bush presidency:

I can't think of one [President] fundamentally invested in the spread of disinformation -- and so fundamentally indifferent to the corrosive effect of propaganda on democracy -- as Bush.

(Ted Kennedy even used the line in his Nat'l Press Club speech today, which was funny).


-James Wollcot is on Unction Reconnaissance Duty today. I'm not so interested in snark for snark's sake; but Fineman deserves it, every bit of it. Other good posts at Wollcot's site today, too.


-'Salvador' means 'saviour', an extra fleck of unintended irony about this desperate 'Ave Maria' Pass/float. If you have any questions about the 'Salvador Option', Eric at TIA employs the fire which burns but does not consume to take it apart for you this week. The discussion on this and related topics has been lively, too.

(And 4, I have to work at my real job, dangit.) But the blogosphere is definitely 'warmed-up' lately. The shock of the election is starting to wear off. Folks are on it - commentors, too. What do I need to add? I feel I can safely leave off lurking fretfully in the lead car of the subway train; the train will get there whether I stand there or not. HA.

[UPDATE] And that's only three reasons, of course. So much good work being done on the web. And you can even watch TV, and see people trying to be serious in DC, too. Council On Foreign Relations C-SPAN event on all night (Wed.) is worth seeing. Also check out Sperling et. al. eviscerating Bush's SS gambit (you'll probably have to watch that online - worth it).

[UPDATE 2] For all you Me'shell fans, the full title for the photo would be: 'Blue-eyed soul, without the hot comb'.

Saturday, January 08, 2005


Tyranny of the Minority: The Endless Republican Filibuster

Why, these letters are all IDENTICAL COPIES!
Originally uploaded by jonnybutter.

Publius, this last week, chose to ventilate the issue of the threatened rule change in the Senate which would disallow the per se filibuster (AKA, the 'nuclear option'); in the process, he neatly baited some righteous Christian Soldiers into full battle-mode in his comment area (jumping, as they were, to the defense of that nice Dr. Frist with the good bloodlines ). Their argument is predictably legalistic AND moralistic: the idea of a filibuster is morally abhorrent, you see, because it's a tyranny of the minority (notice that their argument is the other way around when they themselves are in the minority: the questions change, but the answers never do. Exactly like the Bush tax cuts). Their objections to the New Deal are similarly 'adjustable': it's not the programs themselves they object to, necessarily (wink, wink), just the way they were justified legally via the Commerce Clause. Riiiight. That explains the red-faced fury, alright. Pub also gets to the heart of that matter this week, with his ruminations on the difference between an advocate and an analyst (or 'empiricist'). He makes the extremely important point that it matters what kind of lawyer you are; to be a good advocate, you yourself have to know all the actual facts. These Soldiers are salesmen/advocates, and change their arguments like they change their socks. As I've said elsewhere, this phenomenon is a big reason women have historically despised men: that unreachable emotional obtuseness, an ignorance of self so complete as to be laughable, but not that funny. It's basically justifying what you want to do anyway with a big, nerdy, abstract rationalization, the more abstract the better. (Not that women never do anything like that, but men have perfected it.) It's also why people hate lawyers and might even think they want 'Tort Reform'. Moral relativism. Slippery!

This is no deep insight, obviously, but: what is the primary MO of the modern GOP surge since Newt? The Filibuster-style. What are El Rushbo and his ilk but filibusterers? Remember the talking heads whipping the Clinton Whitewater/impeachment, etc. stuff into a frenzy? How did they do it? By talking louder, including shouting people down; by running out the clock; finally, by simply yelling 'shut up!'. And on and on it still goes - you can tune in anytime and hear Sean Hannity reading a phonebook of talking points, hour after hour, day after day.

I know that this 'tyranny of the minority' stuff is transient; we'll get some new 'passionate' argument for the next thing soon. But I don't mind taking note when sheer irony squeezes and oozes through the cracks: the modern GOP insurgency is nothing if not a tyranny of the minority.


Friday, January 07, 2005



With the advent, by now, of the 2Millionth weblog , it's easy to forget the history of the weblog phenomenon. As many of you no doubt know, back in the 90s, true weblogs were originally compendia of interesting links with short commentary - sort of like voluntary 'push' technology. It was more of a 'log' than a 'blog', a 'meta-web' service. Some of you may remember the pioneering 'Robot Wisdom' (which I think is no-more); and 'memepool' (in my blogroll at left) has been around for a long time and is still going strong. Nowadays, blogs run from the essay-style mostly original content of Total Information Awareness and Legal Fiction (and the dear-departed Billmon Whiskey Bar), to the more link-oriented atrios (Danny Yee's 'Pathologically Polymathic', also at left, is another great, old-style weblog).

I suppose most blogs are a mixture of the two, a notable example of which is coturnix's Science and Politics . I thought I had added it to my blogroll long ago, but...I hadn't, dang me. So, check it out, but be warned. Coturnix is a scientist, albeit with very diverse interests, who always offers so much to read and think about, that the only problem is the embarrassment of riches - finding the time to grok it all. A good problem to have.

Wednesday, January 05, 2005


Taxing The Unborn

die Magie Macht Frei
Originally uploaded by jonnybutter.

Oyster is all over new Social Security 'reform' counter-programming today (over at YRHT ). He suggests we repeat the above phrase at least ad nauseum. It does have a certain tang, doesn't it? He links to the people who came up with it, among other good stuff...

(ps Click on the photo to get a good look)

Tuesday, January 04, 2005


Note To My Vast Readership 2

I've changed the name of this blog to 'Crush All Boxes' but left the address the same just so nobody has to change bookmarks. The new title is more appropriate to what I want to attempt in this post-election milieu. I want to try to really rev up and examine some very general cultural themes in the next few months. I realize that this will greatly increase the possibility (already present) of my committing Pompous Hokum, but I figure it's worth the risk. I hope people will see fit to take a little time to set me straight now and then.

Cozy Footies

tender tootsie comfort
Originally uploaded by jonnybutter.

As I suggested in my last post, vis a vis so-called 'Intelligent Design', human life is a continual struggle to balance between instinct/fear/rationalization and Reason. I call it a tension. We would never survive or DO anything without instinct/fear/rationalization (eg walking is literally falling forward). Not admitting that a deeper rationality can sometimes be found in this realm - one we don't yet understand 'scientifically' - is, well, irrational (or, how about 'silly'?). But to maintain a tension, the Rational mind must always be probing, revising, learning.

Another manifestation of our partially reptilian (?) brains - which I propose we simply accept, and even use and enjoy - is our two conceptions of history and time, linear and circular. Humans need cycles. We need to presume a certain amount of 'always was, always will be'. We may know intellectually that empires, even worlds, come and go; but we still need the 'working illusion' that ours is forever. If continuity didn't exist, we would have to invent it - and we do. The challenge is to have a sense of humor enough about our own species to be able to recognize and act against a wrong instinct rather than enshrine it, but to do it without foolishly discounting instinct/et. al. altogether; to distinguish between one's own personal cosmic struggle, and politics and the world. Because history is really more linear than circular. I think dealing with our human dichotomy about this can be easier or harder.

History does repeat itself, but more/less metaphorically than really. In a vital sense, history doesn't repeat itself at all. It is a line. You can probably analogize nanotechnology or modern genetics to something ancient or old, but the analogy is going to be very strained, and probably counterproductive. We, as a species, are going somewhere, and we can definitely fuck it up or not. Nothing is inevitable.

I would draw (or ask someone else to help me draw) a distinction between classic conservatives and our modern day crop - who call themselves conservative, but are really reactionary. I've mentioned elsewhere that I'm not so sure Burke would be a 'Burkeian' today (I'm not a Burke scholar, but he sounds to me like a very conservative liberal in his famous 'letter' about the French Revolution). Skepticism and cynicism about the 'perfectibility of man' are not the same things. Classical conservatives and liberals are both interested in progress - both think in linear terms, but favor different rates. Reactionaries, on the other hand, enshrine the circular, comfy way of thinking as doctrine.

The cry from post-communism progressives, and liberal conservatives, is not for the 'perfectibility of man', (a straw-man anyway) but for 'perfect enough' - evolved enough to handle the wonders which lie ahead. Despite the best efforts of reactionary spirits from Washington DC to Kandahar, science is not stopping. Reactionary politics doesn't really have a 'plan B' (other than Armageddon). It is reactionary politics - rather than the generally liberal kind - which has the touching, naive conception of human nature. Reactionary thinking and politics are the cozy footies of the mind.

For progressives to regain political power, we need to think like the majority we probably are. That partialy means dealing with the ins and outs of the human need for cozy footies of some kind - and not in a contemptuous way, because we ALL long for them. So, 1.) Remove stick from ass. 2.) Laugh. 3.) Move forward (as the dynamic Scott McClellan would say).


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