Friday, January 14, 2011

Various and Sundry, January 14

It's been a tough week, news-wise, hasn't it? I'm still trying to absorb what's going on and make sense of it.

I though Michael Chabon's reflection on the President's speech Wednesday was very good, very helpful--for me, anyway. Responding to the President's goal "to make sure this country lives up to our children's expectations," he said

To attempt to live up to your children's expectations—to hew to the ideals you espouse and the morals that you lay down for them—is to guarantee a life of constant failure, a failure equivalent with parenthood itself. Surely this is something that the father of Malia and Sasha Obama knows all too well. Choking up at one point, imagining the Taylor-Greens' loss, it seemed to me, in terms of his own unimaginable bereavement, Obama was figuring himself (extraordinarily, I think) not as the Great Father but, more messily and searchingly, as an imperfectly lowercase father, "shaken from [his] routines ... forced to look inward," struggling in the wake of calamity to reclaim and to strive to measure up to a set of principles the burden of whose observance falls so unevenly on the narrow shoulders of the young. He was, at that moment, talking directly to me.

Lovely, is it not?

I was also moved by this transcript describing Rep. Giffords opening her eyes for the first time after being shot.

In the realm of rhetoric, I liked this reflection by Conor Friedersdorf on Tone vs. Substance.

The strongest case against these people isn’t that their rhetoric inspires political violence. It’s that they frequently utter indefensible nonsense...They’re in a tough spot these days partly because it’s impossible for them to mount the defense of their rhetoric that is true: “I am a frivolous person, and I don’t choose my words based on their meaning...Don’t you see that this is all a big game? This is how politics works. Stop pretending you’re not in on the joke.”

In the "correlation is not causation" department, I got a kick out of this graph showing how the rate of assault has decreased dramatically since the release of Grand Theft Auto. The accompanying article does not, however, suggest GTA as a means of reducing assault. It does say we should stop and give thanks for the improvement of the quality of life (overall) that this graph suggests.

Meanwhile, The President has stepped down. The revolution apparently will be televised. The link above includes live video footage. Here's a brief video from the BBC:

Prayers for Tunisia continue.


Art Deco said...

Conor Friedersdorf is a j-school graduate who has attempted to carve out a career as a critic of talk radio programs. The seriality of the format - in contradistinction to books or movies - renders the exercise somewhat silly. That is quite apart from the question of whether Friedersdorf himself has developed a fund of knowledge that would allow him to be a reliable examiner of other people's opinion-mongering.

Responding to the attempted assassination of a public official by making reference to Gov. Palin or Mr. Limbaugh is non sequitur. References to 'political climate' would have been non sequitur with regard to most of the assassination attempts on politicians over the last eighty years, as the actual motives of the perpetrators were odd and esoteric. So tell me, why should the topic of talk radio, whatever its quality, be conjoined to a discussion of political assassination if you are not seeking to insinuate a connection between the two?

LKT said...

I think Friedersdorf would tend to agree with you, given that the part I referenced specifically said that the argument that their rhetoric provokes violence is a distraction from the real issue: that "they frequently utter indefensible nonsense."

Art Deco said...

Excuse me, but why is there a need for Friedersdorf or you to insert cutting remarks about Glenn Beck or Sarah Palin into the discussion at all? It is not as if you do not have other opportunities to critique the utterances of either. Rep. Giffords, as a working politician, has likely uttered her share of nonsense, but it would be considered in exceedingly poor taste to append to a news report on her medical condition a sidebar enumerating nonsense she has uttered, no? These people are only part of the story because their political enemies made half-baked and defamatory arguments which pinned blame on them. The enemies in question include Paul Krugman, Jacob Weisberg, and the editorial staff of The New York Times, not exactly obscure guys sitting in their pyjamas in their basement playrooms. The inability to dismiss the argument without insulting the injured party is indicative of wretched political partisanship. Not too winsome.

(That aside, you do not really believe that people who are articulate enough to talk on the radio for 15 hours a week are 'unable to mount a defense' of their words, do you?)

LKT said...

Probably for the same reason you feel a need to critique Friedersdorf's opinions, or me for posting them: you want someone to understand the truth as you see it.