Monday, January 17, 2011

The Times Loses It: Sense and nonsense about Tucson

It was a weekend of great sorrow. On Saturday, January 8, an insane young man tried to kill Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, injuring her horribly. The man then fired his gun into a small political gathering, murdering a nine-year-old girl, a federal judge, a congressional staffer, and three of Giffords’s constituents. Thirteen other people were wounded. In the midst of life we are in death. There is, in this world, no making sense of such events.

Among the worldly, however, there is a temptation to make nonsense. Thus it was that on Sunday, January 9, the New York Times provided a further grief, much less important than the death and mutilation of innocents but shameful nonetheless.

The Times ran, as its second lead, above the fold on the front page, a story about the Tucson shootings headlined “Bloodshed Puts New Focus on Vitriol in Politics.” The article, by Carl Hulse and Kate Zernike, contains almost nothing newsworthy. Nor can it be called news analysis, beginning as it does with an attempt to create a self-fulfilling prophecy: “The shooting of Representative Gabrielle Giffords ... set off what is likely to be a wrenching debate over anger and violence in American politics.”

If self-fulfilling prophecies were wanted from reporters — ​and they are not ​— ​a better one would have been “Bloodshed Puts New Focus on Mental Health Policies.” The person in custody for the Tucson crimes is, according to all accounts, profoundly crazy. For decades in America there has been an effort to ensure that the rights of those who are not sane are the same as the rights of those who are. Perhaps a wrenching debate over this should be had.

In the article’s second paragraph we are told that the accused, Jared Loughner, had an Internet site that “contained antigovernment ramblings.” The same may be said​ — ​at least in respect to ramblings against the newly sworn-in House of Representatives ​— ​about Internet sites posting speeches by President Obama.

But antigovernment ramblings coming from outside the government are so sinister that they are sinister whether they are sinister or not. “And regardless of what led to the episode,” Hulse and Zernike say, “it quickly focused attention on the degree to which inflammatory language, threats and implicit instigations to violence have become a steady undercurrent in the nation’s political culture.”

To maintain that there’s a lack of evidence for such a sweeping statement would be inaccurate since Hulse and Zernike themselves are doing what they claim is being done. And given the tight deadlines of a Sunday edition they have focused their attention quickly indeed.

Continued here (The Weekly Standard, dated 24 January 2011)

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

WikiLeaks: Were I An Alien ...

NPR asked PJ what aliens might think of the USA in light of the the WikiLeaks release:

Maybe aliens would think: What amazing lengths the vast right tentacled conspiracy will go to discredit Hillary Clinton.

Or maybe: Earthlings keep no secrets, so they hate each other! This will destroy Earth... every alien's dream!

Or maybe:

Continued here (NPR, broadcast on 8 December 2010)

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

General Motors should have gone bankrupt

PJ O'Rourke tells the BBC's HARDtalk's Stephen Sackur why he thinks the US car giant General Motors should not have been bailed out with taxpayers' money and explains why he believes US swing states played a large role in the outcome.

Continued here (BBC World News, broadcast on 7 December 2010)

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

PJ on Political Satire

Every day Five Books interviews an eminent writer, thinker, commentator, politician, academic on five books on their specialist subject. P J O’Rourke talks on Political Satire and selects classics by Swift, Huxley, Orwell and Waugh. He says we now live in the world of 1984 but, instead of being a horror show, a television that looks back at you is just a pain in the ass. It’s 1984-Lite. Sad in one way, but a relief in another.

Continued here

Monday, November 22, 2010

PJ's speech at IQ²

In the wake of his latest book, "Don’t Vote! It Just Encourages the Bastards", P J spoke at Cadogan Hall about the free market, the current economic crisis, Iraq, abortion and Sarah Palin’s prospects of making it to the White House in 2012.

"I'm not that funny," he informed us, "but I guess I am for a Republican".

In his speech, O’Rourke analyses freedom based upon positive and negative ‘rights’. He takes Isaiah Berlin’s distinction and renames them ‘gimme’ rights and ‘get outta here’ rights. The gimme rights, such as healthcare, education, housing and high speed broadband, are the ones that we expect the Government to provide for us, and the ‘get outta here’ rights, such as the right to bear arms and the right to privacy, are those which seek to provide us freedom from both government and our fellow citizens. O’Rourke is particularly concerned with the way in which the baby boomer generation failed to recognise the difference and the true cost of ‘gimme’ rights in both financial and political terms.

Continued here (dated 22 November 2010)

Saturday, November 13, 2010

I Think We Lost the Election

I think we lost the election on November 2. Every race was won by a politician. True, we elected some angry nuts. These are preferable to common politicians. Their anger provokes honesty, and their mental illness prevents honesty from being obscured by charm. (What a loss -Barney Frank would have been as an exemplar of the furious, insane left!) We also elected some amateur politicians. However, politics is like vivisection—disturbing as a career, alarming as a hobby. And we may have elected a few reluctant politicians. But not reluctant enough.

We will win an election when all the seats in the House and Senate and the chair behind the desk in the Oval Office and the whole bench of the Supreme Court are filled with people who wish they weren’t there.

In a free country government is a dull and onerous responsibility. It is a parent-teacher conference. The teacher is a pompous twit. Our child is a lazy pain in the ass. We undertake this social obligation with weary reluctance. And we only do it at all because the teacher (political authority) deserves cold stares, hard questions, and maybe firing, and the pupil (that portion of society which, alas, needs governing) deserves to be grounded without TV and have its Internet access screened and its allowance docked.

America’s elected and appointed officials ought to be longing to return to their personal lives and private interests. They should feel burdened by their powers, irked with their responsibilities, and embarrassed at their prominence in the public eye. When they say they want to spend more time with their families, they should mean it.

Continued here (The Weekly Standard, dated 13 November 2010)

Monday, November 01, 2010

Facts Meet Freedom: On the Air in Afghanistan

At dinner in Prague with Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty’s president, Jeff Gedmin, and half a dozen RFE/RL staffers, Gedmin said, to no one in particular, “Do you think at any time in the future history will look back and say, ‘I wish they hadn’t broadcast so much information’?”

It will be an unpleasant future if history says that. And it won’t be RFE/RL’s fault. Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty broadcasts information to Eastern Europe, Central Asia, and the Middle East in twenty-eight languages. Much of the information comes from the places where those twenty-eight languages are spoken. RFE/RL has five hundred and fifty employees in Prague—speaking the twenty-eight languages and then some—forty more back in Washington, and several hundred full- and part-time correspondents, editors, and technicians at bureaus in eighteen countries. Reporters are also working, sometimes clandestinely, in countries where RFE/RL bureaus aren’t allowed. The mission is to tell people living in those countries what is happening to them.

“I don’t know what’s happening to me” would be a statement of psychological or sociological distress in a liberal democracy, but it’s a plain statement of fact concerning the material world for anyone who doesn’t live in a liberal democracy. Government censorship of media, government influence on or ownership of media, and simple lack of infrastructure keep several billion people uninformed about the most important and intimate matters in their own lives. (And according to Radio Farda, RFE/RL’s Iranian service, the Iranian judiciary has ruled that psychology and sociology should not be taught in schools.)

The concept of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty is “surrogate broadcasting”—doing the job that independent media would do if there were any or enough of it in the places RFE/RL serves. Jeff Gedmin calls it “holding up a mirror.” It’s a Cold War idea. Radio Free Europe’s first broadcast was to Czechoslovakia in 1950, as the Communists were using show trials and purges to solidify their control in Prague.

Continued here (World Affairs, dated November/December 2010)

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Bloomberg grills PJ

PJ talks about his new book, "Don't Vote, It Just Encourages the Bastards", with Bloomberg Midday Surveillance host Tom Keene:

KEENE: What do you type at now? Do you do it like the original IBM Selectric, an old Royal?

PJ: I do. I do. I have three of them. As people go to computers, they give me their old Selectric and I've got one old guy, who used to work for IBM, who still knows how to fix them and when he goes I don't know what is going to happen.

KEENE: Can you get parts?

PJ: Apparently he knows some crazy company off in Indonesia or someplace who still make parts for these things.

KEENE: The emotion, "Don't Vote, It Just Encourages The Bastards." That's a great photo.

PJ: I had my golf clothes.

KEENE: That's your golf clothes, nice tie. That looks like a bow tie I could wear, no question about that. There's the book. I want to bring up this chart which I think is the backdrop for your wonderful effort here, the humor, the Libertarian sense of it. U6 underemployment, this country is under employed and it a lot different than when you wrote "Modern Manners" in 1994.

PJ: Oh, yes, yes, when the country was over employed, way too busy.

Continued here (Bloomberg Midday Surveillance, dated 27 October 2010)

Saturday, October 23, 2010

They Hate Our Guts and they’re drunk on power

Perhaps you’re having a tiny last minute qualm about voting Republican. Take heart. And take the House and the Senate. Yes, there are a few flakes of dander in the fair tresses of the GOP’s crowning glory—an isolated isolationist or two, a hint of gold buggery, and Christine O’Donnell announcing that she’s not a witch. (I ask you, has Hillary Clinton ever cleared this up?) Fret not over Republican peccadilloes such as the Tea Party finding the single, solitary person in Nevada who couldn’t poll ten to one against Harry Reid. Better to have a few cockeyed mutts running the dog pound than Michael Vick.

I take it back. Using the metaphor of Michael Vick for the Democratic party leadership implies they are people with a capacity for moral redemption who want to call good plays on the legislative gridiron. They aren’t. They don’t. The reason is simple. They hate our guts.

They don’t just hate our Republican, conservative, libertarian, strict constructionist, family values guts. They hate everybody’s guts. And they hate everybody who has any. Democrats hate men, women, blacks, whites, Hispanics, gays, straights, the rich, the poor, and the middle class.

Democrats hate Democrats most of all. Witness the policies that Democrats have inflicted on their core constituencies, resulting in vile schools, lawless slums, economic stagnation, and social immobility. Democrats will do anything to make sure that Democratic voters stay helpless and hopeless enough to vote for Democrats.

Continued here (The Weekly Standard, dated 23 October 2010)

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

New Book: Don't Vote It Just Encourages the Bastards

Put the United States of America’s big, fat political ass on a diet. Lose that drooping deficit. Slim those spreading entitlement programs. Firm up that flabby pair of butt cheeks that are the Senate and the House. Having had a lot of fun with what politicians do, P J O’Rourke now has a lot of fun with what should be thought about those politicians. Nothing good, to be sure.

Instead of starting with deep political thinkers of yore such as Hume, Locke, and John Stuart Mill, in his new book, DON’T VOTE — It Just Encourages the Bastards, O’Rourke starts with a party game of late-night giggle sessions in all-girls boarding schools: “Kill, F@#%, Marry.” Pick three men — or, in O’Rourke’s version, three political ideologies, ie, Democrat, Republican, and Independent (aka Confused). Then you choose which to terminate with extreme prejudice, which to go for a roll in the hay, and which to settle down with permanently for a boring life in the suburbs.

This astute tool of political analysis works on the parts of government as well as on the political thinking that led to those parts: kill the Department of Education, screw Social Security, and marry the Armed Forces. The same for political policies: screw the bailout, marry a balanced budget, and kill health care reform before it kills you.

O’Rourke explores the basis of American democracy — the power, freedom, and responsibility that are the “Kill, F@#%, Marry” of liberty and self-rule. He favors — reluctantly, he admits — responsibility.

He goes on to examine the hilarious irresponsibility of America’s political establishment on every issue, from the woes of nation building to the financial crisis (“The best investment I’ve made lately? I left a $20 bill in the pocket of my tweed jacket last spring, and I just found it”), the bailout, health care reform (“Something doesn’t add up. Politicians are telling me that I can smoke, drink, gain two hundred pounds, then win an iron man triathlon at age ninety-five”), the stimulus package, climate change (“There’s not a god-damn thing you can do about it ... There are 1.3 billion people in China and they all want a Buick”), trade imbalance, the end of the American automobile industry, U.S. foreign policy and the Family of Nations (“Uncle Russia’s out on parole, drunk, unemployed, and likely to kill some folks next door again soon”), campaign finance reform, gun control, No Child Left Behind (“What if they deserve to be left behind?”), and pretty much everything else under the sun.

Continued here