Thursday, July 16


• Okay, I'm guessing Andrew Sullivan is on vacation. The idea first struck me the other morning at the grocery, when I happened to notice a spike in the price of margarita salt, and this seems to be confirmed by the presence of something like fourteen guest bloggers housesitting his place; I can't really be sure because I was still turning up new ones as of page two, which was as far as I was prepared to go to check. Now, without seeming to make a big deal over something I couldn't care less about, What is the fucking point? I mean, it's your by-line; it doesn't permit comments, so the only Bloggy Community that it engenders must come there strictly for Sullivan's wise and witty three-paragraph takes. Is the franchise in danger of swamping if you put up a notice that you're on vacation for a week, or ten? If so, does it really take a dozen scribblers to equal one Sully? Do at least two of them have to be named Conor? And if so, do they really need to total but two Ns between them?

• And look: I've got less use for Andrew Sullivan, Punditaster, than I do for Andrew Sullivan, pudgy Melina-Mercouri-glasses-wearing fashion icon, so whatever it was that sent me there did not prepare me for his Above The Title credit: ANDREW SULLIVAN• OF NO PARTY OR CLIQUE. It's a veritable masterpiece of breathtakingly casual deceit, and I stop short of calling it a work of true genius only because I regularly inspect food labels and, frankly, Sully's got nothing on, just to pick one example among thousands, Prego™ Heart-Smart© Mushroom Sauce and its 410 mg of sodium in one 1/2 cup serving. Really, it was like clicking over to Mark Sanford's homepage and seeing "I BELIEVE IN FOLLOWING YOUR HEART" just under his name, in some ill-considered cursive font for good measure. Hey, Grizzly Adams, Jr.: you, sir, were the posterboy for political party membership that transcended rationality for almost two decades, which leaves alone your ongoing membership in a Church which insists you're going to Hell. Whatever honor accrues for having scurried off that first ship the moment you noticed she'd run aground while following your charts, it does not include getting to pretend you weren't ever on board in the first place. But thanks for adding that CLIQUE bit; one sometimes forgets that The Atlantic and "Sherman Adams Junior High Eighth Grade Dance Decoration Committee" are near synonyms these days.

• I in fact wound up there because of something I'd thought Sullivan had said, but which turned out to have been the substitute typing of Conor Friedersdorf, a man who, as he informed Sullivan's erstwhile readers Tuesday, earned a 4.0+ GPA at his well-regarded Catholic high school:
Writing in Salon, Michael Lind argues "against comprehensive reform -- on any issue." It's music to my ears. In cautioning against "giant, complicated, omnibus pieces of legislation that are supposed to solve multiple problems at the same time and for a long time to come," he draws on history. The Missouri Compromise was voted down when Henry Clay tried to pass it as an omnibus bill, he recalls. Only Stephen Douglas' insight that it could be broken up into 5 separate pieces of legislation, passed by distinct Congressional majorities, saved the effort.

And, of course, having craftily laid the groundwork, the rest is one big pacific history of correcting that little misunderstanding over human chattel. The Union Is Preserved! Praise Be To Senator Douglas!

I do not, and cannot, understand how this sort of thing garners the response it gets, and you can extend that to the whole of the supposed principled conservatism of the likes of Sullivan. How long can this sort of commonplace observation enthrall people? You'd grow tired of someone telling you to break down the steps in tuning-up an engine, planning a week's menus, or remodeling your house, for the sake of efficiency, within a sennight, if you lasted that long. How is it that "But, Government is inefficient!" remains such a cherished rejoinder, especially among the sort of "conservative" who pretends he actually believes in solving problems? Yes, it's fucking inefficient. It's designed to be inefficient. It's like marveling, to the point of incontinence, that someone suggested tennis would be easier if that net wasn't in the way. I know; I'm asking too much. But why is the Missouri Compromise a practical guide, and not the Fourteenth Amendment, the 1965 Voting Rights Act, or Brown? How does the lesson of fine-edged steel applied to the Gordian knot of policy get lost in there? If the Founders hadn't settled for a piecemeal solution to slavery Henry Clay would have had to find a part-time job so he could pay his household help. It's common fucking sense, which may not be all that common, but isn't exactly miraculous. Whenever people start putting tactics above strategy you can pretty much figure it's the strategy they really have a problem with.
The worst thing about "comprehensive reform" efforts are that they shut the average citizen out of the legislative process by making bills so complicated that it is nearly impossible for the average citizen to properly evaluate whether on balance it is a wise or unwise measure. Who can predict all the effects of a 3,000 page bill spanning all manner of issues? Often times not even the legislature itself. Certainly not the press, which often focuses on bits of the legislation that won't actually have the most impact, sometimes because legislators themselves are deliberately obscuring what's actually at stake.

Jesus wept.

Again, and this time for all you NON-PARTY, NON-CLIQUE types: "conservatives" had effective control of the debate, and the legislative process, for thirty years. You and your DLC cohort shot down all health-care reform during that time. Where was your reform of the legislative process? I'm certainly not naive enough to imagine the shoe is now on something recognizable as a different foot, but all the same: shut th' fuck up about the fucking process. It's not complicated because someone imagined that was the way to go; it's complicated because it's the only possible way to get any support from corporate-owned poltroons like my junior Senator. And you could have preempted it any time you wanted to, but until three or four years ago, roughly the moment you became NON PARTISANS, you imagined you'd rule forever.

• Speaking of pudgy, overmatched amateur eyeglass models, no thanks at all to our friend R. Porrofatto for pointing out the Bloggingheads debate of health care featuring, On the Left, Matt Yglesias, and Out in Space, Megan-Jane McArdle. I'm not linking to the thing, because last time the EMTs said they aren't coming out here again for any more politics-induced anaphylaxis episodes, and I don't blame them. But word did inspire Susan of Texas to note (at Roy's ):
It's kind of scary to think these people are our intellectuals. It's like finding out the president of your company is a trained chimp.

And that's the thing. One could bemoan the erosion of standards, or shake his fist at punditasting sinecures that try to bound our political life between Scoop Jackson Boulevard and Ayn Rand Circle, if that were all that was going on, and yet feel the world was still on its axis, at least. But this stuff can only be described using cast-off High Concepts from 50s teevee sitcoms. How'd we get here, again?


John said...

"Olio" sounds somewhat dirty in this context.

R. Porrofatto said...

From an an overflowing goat's horn of wit, this one is just soooo perfect: sometimes forgets that The Atlantic and "Sherman Adams Junior High Eighth Grade Dance Decoration Committee" are near synonyms these days.

Much joy.