Michael Kinsley’s Meretricious Look At the Tea Parties

Dictionary.com defines meretricious:

1. alluring by a show of flashy or vulgar attractions; tawdry.
2. based on pretense, deception, or insincerity.
3. pertaining to or characteristic of a prostitute.

…and that pretty much sums up my view of Kinsley’s take on the Tea Parties in this month’s Atlantic.

Here’s Kinsley:

The Tea Party movement has been compared (by David Brooks of TheNew York Times, among others) to the student protest movement of the 1960s. Even though one came from the left and the other from the right, both are/were, or at least styled themselves as, a mass challenge to an oppressive establishment. That’s a similarity, to be sure. But the differences seem more illuminating.

First, the 1960s (shorthand for all of the political and social developments we associate with that period) were by, for, and about young people. The Tea Party movement is by, for, and about middle-aged and old people (undoubtedly including more than a few who were part of the earlier movement too). If young people discover a cause and become a bit overwrought or monomaniacal, that’s easily forgiven as part of the charm of youth. When adults of middle age and older throw tantrums and hold their breath until they turn blue, it’s less charming.

Second, although the 1960s ultimately spread their tentacles throughout the culture and around the world, politically there was just one big issue: ending the war in Vietnam. No such issue unites the Tea Party Patriots. You might guess from some of their materials on the Web that the repeal of health-care reform is the TPPs’ Vietnam, their towering cause. But even for devoted TPPs, stripping health insurance away from people who’ve just gotten it is unlikely to summon the same passions that the activists of the 1960s brought to stopping a misguided war. Not only do TPPs not have one big issue like Vietnam – they disagree about many of their smaller issues. What unites them is a more abstract resentment, an intensity of feeling rather than any concrete complaint or goal.

The antiwar movement also worked, sort of. As did the civil-rights movement that preceded it. Antiwar protests ultimately turned the establishment itself against the war, though extracting us from it still took years. By contrast, the Tea Party Patriots, I predict, are just the flavor of the month: the kind of story that the media are incapable of not exaggerating. The antiwar movement and the 1960s changed America in numerous ways forever. The Tea Party Patriots will be an answer on Jeopardy or a crossword-puzzle clue.

Wow. Just wow.

I’ve been to three Tea Parties, and was at a shedload of 1960-70’s radical events and I’ll tell you this distinction is overblown and ahistoric – generously. If Kinsley could actuoally bring himself to go out and talk to – you know – regular people at one of these events, he light learn a few things.

The Tea Party folks I talked to as I walked around are all deeply distressed by what they see as the size, corruption, and ineffectiveness of government at most levels. yes, they bring a lot of baggage with them – there aren’t a lot of critical theory fans there, nor a lot of fans of affirmative action or more robust regulatory regimes. But they were certainly no more racist – in my direct experience – than the people I meet everyday at the local grocery store, or the people I work with.

They are voicing the same kind of rage at a government they don’t believe listens to them as the soixante-huit crowds, and my belief is that they will do a better job of breaking the government’s walls down than the 68-ers did, because in 68 we could end the draft, stop enforcing the laws on pot, and pretty much buy off a movement and leave it’s members to their future as BoBo’s (Bohemian Bourgeois) and members of the media.

So now we have Kinsley, prostituting himself (or at least his intellect) to show his solidarity with the media class that used to throw rocks at cops and now counts themselves puzzled at others who do didn’t as well.

Nice work, Mike.

[fixed dumb typo in second-to-last sentance]

On Market Instability

Check this out from ‘The Big Picture.’

But what about the final thrust lower – the seeming air pocket? We know, thanks to our friends at CNBC who were fixated on this particular stock, that Proctor & Gamble tumbled by over -35% in the span of about 5 minutes. It’s impossible to tell by looking at a chart of the stock, but when you look at the individual prints you can see that this was not a case in which two or three “erroneous” prints marked the tape down to $39 before the stock sprang back to $60. I’ve got 28 pages in front of me of P&G prints that occurred between $39 and $50 per share and between 2:46 p.m. and 2:51 p.m. At 36 prints per page, that means P&G traded over one thousand times at those “crazy” and “surely erroneous” levels. I’m sorry, but that isn’t an error, THAT IS WHAT WE LIKE TO CALL TRADING.


‘Kaboom’ – A Soldier’s Heart And A Novelist’s Eye

So a month ago, I got an email asking if I’d like to read Matt Gallagher’s book, Kaboom: embracing the suck in a savage little war. I remembered him as one of the more literary milbloggers, and I’m a whore for books anyway, so I said “sure.”

The book sat, accusingly, on the dining table for the past three weeks, and finally I sat down to read it tonight.

I just finished it, and – gosh. Really, gosh. What a great book.

I’ve read most of the books from the front of this dragged-out, messed-up war. It’s much like my efforts to sit down and talk to Iraqis or people who’ve lived there or people who’ve fought there – to try and get some glimpse of the reality that is hidden in the abstraction of the books about history, or policy, or strategy.

And I’ve read those books. Lone Survivor. Not A Good Day to Die. My War. Assassin’s Gate. One Bullet Away. Imperial Life Inside the Emerald City. This Man’s Army. The Unforgiving Minute.

This is a better book than those. Really.

It’s a better book because it isn’t a journalist’s retelling of the bloody minutiae of battle a la Black Hawk Down. It makes no pretext of being a sweeping strategic view of the war. It is not a journey of personal growth (not explicitly). It’s not a historian’s view or a policy wonk’s or a weapons and tactics fetishists. It is, simply, a very talented writer’s telling of what he saw and felt and did in two years of combat in Iraq with no point of view except honesty.

From the fragments I’ve gotten from my son and from parents of other sons, it is what I imagine they would tell us if they wrote down their experiences. It reads – real..

And it reads so damn well…


If looks killed, there would be far more than 4,000 American ghosts trapped in Babylon’s sand spunk.

I had heard it before – the Hawaiians have a term for this visual hate. Da stinkeye, bruddah-man, bettah stay in Waikiki, haole, ya dig? I had seen it before – drunk college boys in pastel polo shirts with fat wallets should be more careful where they venture in the slums of the dirty South. And I had felt it before – scarecrow tourists with cameras and smiles and perfect white teeth didn’t penetrate into the seedy backwaters of Dublin unless they wanted trouble. Have you ever knifed another man just to feel his very essence pour out of him in pools of running red and guts of unidentifiable slop onto the sidewalk?

Ummm. yes, we did. And no, no I have not.

Still, though, This was different. The flowers and hugs and cheers from the liberation only lasted a few months before one stare became ten stares, became one hundred stares. Suddenly the stare was the norm, house by house, block by block, and town to town, and all the flower petals dried up, and we suddenly recognized that those cheers of gratitude were actually pleas for salvation. There were thousands of them, and they were everywhere. This pattern of starbursting degeneration, roughly translated from Arabic, meant occupation.

and action…

“White 4, this is White I,” I said.

No answer.

“White 4, this is White I,” I repeated.

No fucking answer. Nothing but radio static.

I broke into a profanity-laced tirade, which culminated in my beating my hand mic against my helmet. Despite the tenseness of our situation, my rambling antics cracked a few of the guys up. Still nothing more than a very serious mind doomed with a clown’s soul, I thought. Then I remembered Sergeant Spade still had radio communications from the Stryker, and I had him relay our update. Deep breath. We still had commo with the outside world.

“4 copies,” Sergeant Spade yelled down from his hatch. “The section in cordon is still in position and reports that the IA are the only ones shooting now. Also, Steel still reports receiving contact in the south.”

I looked over at Staff Sergeant Boondock, who just shrugged his shoulders. “Keep moving?” he suggested.

“Roger,” I said, signaling to the soldiers to resume their column positions behind my Stryker. No more than twenty meters after we continued our movement, though, my Stryker came to a halt. I heard Sergeant Spade’s voice rise in pieces above the engine and other extraneous noise.

“LT … a bunch of guys … waving … civilian clothes … they might be Sahwa … armed.”

While I didn’t have the sights Sergeant Spade did in his hatch, a quick glance around my Stryker confirmed his report. There were definitely Iraqi men to our front who were definitely waving at us and definitely armed to the fangs with foreign rifles. The problem was, we couldn’t walk behind the Stryker all the way north until we could confirm that these men were indeed Sons of Iraq. A series of shabby huts canalized the maneuverable terrain ten meters in front of our current position. The civilian world referred to this as a stalemate. The French called it an impasse. American soldiers knew it as a clusterfuck.

I felt compelled to instigate some course of action and remembered the first thing they taught us at the armor officer basic course: It was better to execute a shitty plan quickly than to wait around for the perfect plan. Well, I could do that. To hell with it, I thought, these bastards can’t hit anything they shoot at anyway. Stepping around the side of the Stryker, I started walking toward the group of armed, faceless Arab men and told my guys to stay put. I took three steps, then felt a firm hand grab me from behind, at the neck collar, yanking me backward.

“No way, sir. Let me go first,” Specialist Haitian Sensation said. He was nice enough to say it like I had a choice in the matter, as he had flung me back with the chiseled ease of someone who regularly benched twice my body weight. I regained my footing, smirked to myself, and followed, waving and loudly yelling all the friendly Arabic I could think of. The rest of the dismounts wedged out behind us.



Here’s something personal.

Someone I met for a business coffee early this morning at Starbucks noticed the pin I wear on my collar for Biggest Guy, and asked about it.

I explained, and he asked how I coped with the worry.

I explained that I really don’t worry much; the math says he’ll be safe, and I trust his skills and judgment, and the men in his team and platoon. That he’d been home and that his emotional and spiritual health far exceeded anything I could have imagined, and how happy it made me that this choice – becoming a warrior – had in truth done him such good.

We had our meeting, I was helpful, and then I walked home (the Starbucks is about three-quarters of a mile from my house, where I’m working today). Our block faces a park – a big field often used for soccer games and t-ball practice. And as I walked across the park, past the Little League fields onto the soccer field, I automatically looked up the block at our house, and realized that I was looking for something.

And I realized that every time I come home, round the corner onto our street and can look up the street toward our house, I’m looking for the same thing.

A government sedan.

Which will be bringing me the worst possible news.

And every time I come round that corner on my motorcycle, in the car, or on foot, I have this moment of worry that lasts from the time I turn onto the street until I can see our house and see that there is no drably-painted Pontiac G6 parked there.

And the worry stops, and I’m done with it until the next time I come home.

Remember Obama And Big Donors?

From back in 2008??

Today in Politico:

While the BP oil geyser pumps millions of gallons of petroleum into the Gulf of Mexico, President Barack Obama and members of Congress may have to answer for the millions in campaign contributions they’ve taken from the oil and gas giant over the years.

BP and its employees have given more than $3.5 million to federal candidates over the past 20 years, with the largest chunk of their money going to Obama, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. Donations come from a mix of employees and the company’s political action committees – $2.89 million flowed to campaigns from BP-related PACs and about $638,000 came from individuals.

That’s gotta be giving Axelrod a headache…

Mirandizing Shahzad

Memeorandum suggests that John McCain is opposed to treating the Times Square bomber under criminal law.

He’s wrong.

Look, it’s simple – and I’ve made this point since Moussaoui. US citizen? Legal US resident? Activity committed on US soil? You’re suspected of treason, and entitled to the full protections of the law.

Activity committed offshore – US citizen or not? Bag ‘em and tag ‘em. Non US resident? Ditto.

I’m sorry, but we’re fighting to protect the freedoms enshrined in the Constitution. And that just doesn’t jibe with US citizens or residents held in undisclosed locations, incommunicado, outside out legal system.

Arizona And Immigration

What Megan McCardle said:

If you think that immigration is a pressing problem, then the place to enforce it is in areas of life that are already regulated pretty intrusively: border crossings, employment, landlord/tenant relations. These are places where enforcement can be stepped up quite dramatically without massive intrusion into the ordinary lives of law-abiding citizens. But quasi-criminalizing looking different . . . well, it’s not just wrong. It’s un-American.


Friday Night Chats and Times Square Car Bombs…

Michael Totten and a few others were at the house talking global politics and we were all shaking our heads that no meaningful terrorist attacks had hit the US in the last few years.

We were obviously talking too soon…

The police discovered a car bomb in a smoking Nissan Pathfinder in the heart of Times Square, prompting the evacuation of thousands of tourists and theatergoers from the area on a warm and busy Saturday evening.

The ineptitude of the bombmaker mirrors the squib car bomb in the UK a year ago

Obviously lots to learn as the investigation progresses, and lots and lots of possibilities here from white power to Islamists to pro-p0rn advocates upset that Times Square was cleaned up…but one simple thing to watch for. If the bomber is an American Islamist, this is significant. It means that we’re seeing radical action from the folks who have to date only been talking smack on the Internet.