Current Wisdom

Current Wisdom

By From the December 2010 - January 2011 issue

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Newsweek

The Republicans' frightening blueprint for America as seen by comrade Jonathan Alter before heading to Cuba for some dental work:

In brief: repeal health-care reform, so if you lose your job and your kid gets sick, you may have to sell the house; repeal financial reform, so Wall Street scammers and predatory lenders can return to doing everything they did before they wrecked the economy; maintain corporate-welfare subsidies that move jobs overseas; reduce spending by slashing education funding; and ending all clean-energy projects aimed at curbing our dependence on Mideast oil. Republicans insist on extending $700 billion in tax cuts for the wealthy and leaving the $500 billion defense budget untouched.

(November 1, 2010)

The Nation

At our favorite lunatic haunt, editorialist JoAnn Wypijewski demonstrates once again that silliness begets silliness while Dr. Joycelyn Elders continues her crusade for silent pleasures:

In an essay accompanying some of the Indiana study data [about onanism] in The Journal of Sexual Medicine Joycelyn Elders wrote, "We have finally included masturbation in our national conversation and as a result stopped checking our hands for growing hair"; you wouldn't know it from the days and nights of talk-media devoted to winks and nudges over the adventures of young Christine [O'Donnell]. If there was a liberal commentator who took sex as seriously as O'Donnell had in her passionate abnegation, only from the other side, I missed it. No one said, Come on, masturbation is one of the great, free joys of life; powerful, relaxing, instructive too; as common as rain and as good for you. No one punctured the absurdity of public squeamishness on the issue and argued plainly, like the Spanish socialists in Extremadura with their campaign for youth, that "pleasure is in your own hands!"

(October 25, 2010)

New York Times

Anthropological jottings from columnist Maureen Dowd, writing in her inimitable schoolgirl argot:

We are in the era of Republican Mean Girls, grown-up versions of those teenage tormentors who would steal your boyfriend, spray-paint your locker and just for good measure, spread rumors that you were pregnant.

These women-Jan, Meg, Carly, Sharron, Linda, Michele, Queen Bee Sarah and sweet wannabe Christine-have co-opted and ratcheted up the disgust with the status quo that originally buoyed Barack Obama. Whether they're mistreating the help or belittling the president's manhood, making snide comments about a rival's hair or ripping an opponent for spending money on men's fashion show, the Mean Girls have replaced Hope with Spite and Cool with Cold. They are the ideal nihilistic cheerleaders for an angry electorate.

(October 17, 2010)

Angle-Reid Debate

The American Demosthenes, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, at the height of his powers, elucidating the mysteries of cancer; and snip, snip, it is gone:

We need them to be forced to do mammograms. That's why you see breast cancer awareness month. You see the baseball players wearing pink shoes, and you see the football players having pink, uh, uh helmets. It's because people dread breast cancer, and you don't get breast cancer, you can-correct breast cancer-you detect it if you do mammograms. Colonoscopies, if you do colonoscopies, colon cancer does not come because you snip off the-things they find when they go up and-no more, and we need to have insurance companies do this...

(October 14, 2010)

New Republic

Young Jonathan Chait takes time out from barking at dogs and howling at the moon to pen yet another column of timeless flumdiddle for the New Republic -- not to be confused with the Banana Republic, which is more serious:

One idea that has gained oddly wide currency, especially among Republicans and moderate Democrats, is that the recession is an especially bad time to raise taxes on the rich. "If the priority is to get people back to work, is to start growing this economy again, then you don't want to make it more expensive for job creators," asserts GOP House Whip Eric Cantor. The plight of the rich is never far from the minds of the political establishment, and the state of the economy has given fresh urgency to the cause of sparing the very prosperous from the horrors of Clinton-era taxation.

(October 14, 2010)

The Week

Democratic political strategist Bob Shrum after reading some very misleading chicken entrails picked up at Democratic national headquarters, or perhaps it was just leftover carryout:

So let me state it plainly: I now think the Democrats will hold the Congress-yes, the House as well as the Senate-and turn back high-profile Republican challengers in California and elsewhere.

The GOP strategy of "no" worked to slow the recovery, stoke fears about factions like death panels in the health-reform bill, and persuade voters to strike out in frustration against Democrats. Their trend peaked in August, a month Democrats probably wish they could abolish given the dog days they suffered then, in 2009 as well as 2010.

But with the onset of autumn, there are signs that the Republican tide is receding.

(September 10, 2010)

The Great Books Series

The last frontier of crusading scholarship offers a splendid opportunity for double-entendres as can be seen in the introduction to this great book, Learning from the Loo, written by the ineffable Professor Harvey Molotch:

Public and Toilet do not sit well together. The discord goes beyond words. Using the facility-let's call it that for now-involves intensely private acts. Focusing on the public restroom, as the contributors to this book make it their business to do, thus opens a tense domain. But it is a route worth taking, precisely because of the shadow under which it normally falls. By going there, we have the potential to make discoveries with implications for personal hygiene, psychological stress, and social betterment. We can also learn about power and the capacity to shape others' life chances. Hence a group of scholars, drawn from the diverse disciplines of sociology, anthropology, law, architecture, archaeology, history, gender studies, and cultural studies, conjoin to face the facts, unpleasant or otherwise, of the loo.

Even the home bathroom can unleash embarrassment, shame, or criticism when family members detect by sight, sound, or scent what one another are up to. Places such as restaurants or shopping centers introduce anonymity (often welcome) but also concerns about having to share intimate space with people whose intrusion may make us anxious and from whom we want to keep our intimacies separate. The person in the next stall may be the boss or a rival co-worker. The open-to-all facility, as in a public park or train station, invites its own range of anxieties-a person of filth or stranger ready to attack.

(From Toilet: Public Restrooms and the Politics of Sharing, edited by Harvey Molotch and Laura Noren. New York University Press, 304 pages, 64 illustrations, $18.95)

From the Archives

Timeless Tosh from Current Wisdoms Past

(December 1990)

Santa Barbara News-Press

Ruminations of a potential mass killer at large in Santa Barbara:

First, I double dare you to print this. My whole family bets you won't.

Every month I get a phone call from your paper asking me to subscribe, telling me of the greatness of your publication. I always reply that I won't subscribe because your paper is biased and capitalist. That usually stops them in their tracks.

Today's (Aug. 18) paper proved my point. My family sat around the breakfast table and groaned and booed while I read out loud your front-page article on the opening of Nordstrom. We all agree that you did not put this article on the front page, or in the paper at all, because of the enormous amount of money the mall is pumping into your paper with their endless full page ads!

The quote saying the reception from the community is outstanding is erroneous. Nine out of ten people that I speak with about the mall think it is obscene, too big, too gaudy, too much, no matter how you look at it.

I thought that the purpose of our lives here on Earth was to become more spiritually evolved. This mall pays homage to man's greed and selfishness. When so many have so little...well, you know the rest.

(August 21, 1990)

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