Current Wisdom

Current Wisdom

By From the February 2011 issue

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New York Times

Bug-eyed and sputtering, professor Paul Krugman avers another implausible explanation as to why the Liberals were trounced in the recent election and sent unceremoniously to history's necropolis, there to reside with the Nudists and the Prohibitionists:

Have you heard the one about how there's been an explosion in the number of federal regulators? Mike Konczal of the Roosevelt Institute looked into the numbers behind that claim, and it turns out that almost all of those additional "regulators" work for the Department of Homeland Security, protecting us against terrorists.

Still, why does it matter what some politicians and think tanks say? The answer is that there's a well-developed right-wing media infrastructure in place to catapult the propaganda, as former President George W. Bush put it, to rapidly disseminate bogus analysis to a wide audience where it becomes part of what "everyone knows." (There's nothing comparable on the left, which has fallen far behind in the humbug race.)

(December 24, 2010)


In the exciting new Newsweek, Miss Lorraine Ali interviews, formerly Mr. William James Adams Jr., sometime after surgeons removed his brain, and elicits some surprisingly energetic patterns of thought before he was led away by his pet parrot, Wonderful:

You've also produced for a lot of icons. How do you tell someone like Bono he's out of tune?

"I panic before I go in the studio, like ‘Oh, God, I'm about to be chillin' with M.J. for a week in Ireland,' So you geek out on your way there, but as soon as you get there you have to be responsible. You also have to humble yourself and not get all extra cocky, like ‘Yeah, you want my expertise 'n' s--t?' Well, that s--t's wack. You can't ego out.'"

(Dec. 27, 2010/Jan. 3, 2011)

Politics Daily

Driven by the horrible fears of the present Liberal moment, and by the attendant frostbite afflicting even sunny Washington, D.C., David Corn, once again, attacks the wholesome aesthetic relaxations of the American people:

Here's a bet that I probably won't be able to collect: I wager that in 50 years, historians gazing back at now [sic] will pay less attention to the Iraq war, the Afghanistan war, or even the economic downturn. They will wonder why present and past administrations did not sufficiently respond to the threat of human-induced climate change. If the scientific consensus is on the mark, the planet is likely to heat up by several degrees in the next half-century, and this will cause all sorts of severe consequences: droughts and other extreme weather, disease, species extinction, water shortages for tens of millions of people, rising sea levels, and more-which could cause conflict and dislocations around the globe.

Yet this long-term (but quickly approaching) problem-which at some point might no longer be redressable-has become largely a ho-hum matter. Look at the tepid response to (and the tepid action of) the recent U.N. climate summit that concluded a few days ago in Cancun. Far more many people can tell you what happened with Bristol Palin on "Dancing with the Stars" than what transpired in the conference centers of Cancun.

(December 12, 2010)

The New Republic

Patriotic vaporings from the Banana Republic-no, make that the New Republic:

It wasn't terribly hard to predict the public's turn toward tea-hurling rage. When Barack Obama came to Washington, he could have hardly anticipated the size and scope of the Great Shellacking of 2010, but he certainly could see something like it coming. From the start of his presidency, his advisers privately warned that all economic downturns generate wild flashes of incumbent-melting heat.

This awareness of a looming populist backlash could have suggested a different political course than one the White House chose. When Obama inherited the financial crisis, he could have let the crisis worsen, blamed his predecessor for the mess, and then claimed credit for any modest recovery. But Barack Obama tethered himself to the bailouts, deciding, in other words, to save the country-and this is how the country shows its gratitude.

(November 18, 2010)

In These Times

Miss Eve Ewing, an advocate of public spaces and open sewers, makes the courageous case for public lavatories, public nuisances, and public education all over again:

In Another Kind of Public Education (Beacon Press, 2009) Patricia Hill Collins points out that Americans have come to associate anything "public" with a notion of inferiority. "Ideas about the benefits of privatization encourage the American public to assume that anything public is of lesser quality," she writes. "The deteriorating schools, health care services, roads, bridges, and public transportation that result from the American public's unwillingness to fund public institutions, speak to the erosion and accompanying devaluation of anything deemed public. In this context, public becomes reconfigured as anything of poor quality, marked by lack of control and privacy-all characteristics associated with poverty."

(December 2010)

Washington Post

An anonymous White House staffer explains why his shoes smell so good:

My neighbors have an 8-year-old cairn terrier, Benji, that has exhibited unusual behavior toward one member of the household. He urinates in this person's shoes. Or on the side of his bed.

I suggested maybe it's because this person used to walk him regularly but had gotten out of the habit so I offered to help out. I take Benji four days a week because his owners work. I take him with me to the office and he has never had an accident.

(December 15, 2010)

South Florida Times

In the respected Times of south Florida, fulminations from the erudite Professor Donald Jones of the University of Miami School of Law and Delicatessen:

In an aptly titled book, Over the Cliff: How Obama's Election Drove the Right Insane, Joe Amato writes:

"Today they are hunkered down in a paranoid crouch convinced their country has been stolen from them by a usurper-a man so illegitimate they believe he is not even an American citizen, much less a qualified leader...their militia is made up of former members of the ‘Patriot' Movement, John Birchers, white Supremacists, ‘Birthers' and various other permutations of the radical fringe."

They began as a movement bent on a slow lynching of Obama. Recall the chimpanzee cartoon, when the New York Post depicted Obama as an escaped ape shot dead in the street. They carry posters of Obama painted as "The Joker" with red lips and a demented grin. Tea party activists and sympathizers have all but pulled out the torches and a rope.

(November 12-18, 2010)


From the Archives
Timeless Tosh from Current Wisdoms Past
(February 1991)

Village Voice

The American Renaissance continues:

Kyle Gann: From 1983 to '85 you quit writing for electric guitars. Why, after that, did you decide to write for 100 guitars?

Rhys Chatham: It started with a bet. I was touring with [dancer] Karole Armitage in 1980. This was the height of "noise-rock." I didn't think I was doing noise-rock, but I decided to let the label stick. So I thought, wouldn't it be great to get 100 electric guitars, put them in a small room, lock the audience in, have them play really loud, and call the piece Torture Chamber?...

It was scary, because no one has ever written a piece especially for 100 electric guitars. Guitarists have massed together; I think the world record is 265 guitarists playing "Louie Louie." But this is the largest proper ensemble, and it's a special sound.

(November 27, 1990)

The Great Books Series

In competition for the most egregious mixed metaphor, a Mr. Hedrick Smith achieves a world record:

The second major incident that stepped on the Reagan parade in 1981, and nearly derailed it, was another self-inflicted wound....

(From The Power Game, by Hedrick Smith, Ballantine Books, 1989, page 358)

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