Noosphere Blues

[ Wednesday, November 26, 2003 ]

Recalling the early days of the New York York Review of Books Jason Epstein once said something like (to paraphrase) "During the NY newspaper strike of 1962/63 we realized how little we were missing without the NY Times Book Review." The blog explosion has made me pretty much feel that way about the NY Times op-ed pages. Nonetheless Maureen Dowd can turn out unforgettable one line quips. Like the pithily anthemic "We have nothing to fear but fear-mongering itself." What better way to start-off the glorious campaign of 2004.

I can't even remember what made me realize how little i've been missing in the New York Review of Books of late, meaning maybe two decades. But Thomas Powers investigative historical narrative of the combination of idiocy and shameless dupicity behind the neo-colonization of Iraq is worth not missing.

Bill Clinton- nothing if not a mean inside baseball political gamesman/strategist- crunches his numbers (in a candidly wonky interview with Michael Tomasky) and figures Democrats have a 45% hard-core national base among the active electorate going into 2004, 5% higher than in the 70s and 80s and about exactly even with the Republican presidential base. Though this isn't the Daily Kos (where I'll often go for a political junky fix in 04 I'm sure) I think he's about right. Meaning Republican fantasies of 72 and 84 landslides redux are highly unlikely even with the most lavishly funded smoke and mirrors show Rove can cook up.

Nonetheless Doug Ireland's analysis is a useful reality-check when one's hopes of not having to deal with a second-term Bush get too high.
Phil [11:46 AM]

[ Tuesday, November 18, 2003 ]

Writing in The Manhattan Institute funded City Journal Brian Anderson surveys what he sees as the triumphant rise of conservative counter-media, declaring that the populist right is winning the culture war over the “left’s near monopoly over the institutions of opinion.”

I object to his premises. What he and the armies of the right call the “elite liberal media establishment” is really more accurately described as an elite centrist establishment (whose “ideologies” are more professionalism, academic credentialism and careerism than “liberalism”, much less any kind of leftism). An (always overrated) establishment whose (probably always overestimated) power I’m happy to see eroded. I even agree the profusion of rightist outlets he celebrates are, simplistic and wrong-headed though they may be- a kind of fresh air. Of course what he doesn’t say is how much this vaunted populist insurgency has been shaped and engineered from above by very well-funded ideological impresarios and think-tanks like, say, The Manhattan Institute.

Acknowledging Anderson’s points will conservative polemicists now finally shut-up and stop whining about their victimhood.

Not content with political counter-revolution Anderson also tries to make the case for hip “South Park” republicanism as a new counter-culture evidenced by the rise of new comedy dedicated to searing boomer sanctimony in the forms of new age therapy, eco-fundamentalism, sexual-political correctness, identity politics etc..

Unfortunately for his analysis there’s not much he cites that National Lampoon wasn’t doing in 1973. The hippie-bashing he mistakes as a new wave is pretty old hat stuff after all, a knee-jerk cynical ethos/sensibility that’s becoming as stultifying as any pseudo-radical chic ever was. Archie Bunker (The Falstaff of the Silent Majority, a liberal-lefty derived character who transcended his creators and their ostensible politics), was a fresh antio-liberal pov, as was the Bunker-ite Punk Magazine circa 1977. What Anderson talks about is semi-successful, not very interesting formula. Not that I care, (not being a conservative, neo or otherwise) but I doubt anti-liberalism is really the basis for a sustainable conservatism .

Ron Jacobs remembers the semi-forgotten 1970 film Joe as a prophetic portent.

More allusive than a Dennis Miller Rant (and way more astute than Miller’s been lately since he got reborn as Dubya’s court jester). This has to be an op-ed record for the most pop cultural allusions and analogies in a single page.

Phil [1:31 PM]

[ Monday, November 03, 2003 ]

My favorite new phrase of the 04 campaign pre-heats-from Ron Brownstein. (thanks to Donkey Rising) Also like( and as a confirmed beer man) am looking forward to RB's characterization of the democratic race as a battle of beer track vs. wine track.
Phil [1:13 PM]

I've long been ambivalent about Paglia, liking the polemical style alot but often as not bristling at her smugness in passing off pretty commonplace critiques of easy targets of the academic-bureaucratic left as audacious and oh-so risky. But gotta say this Salon interview 9thanks to Rainondo for the link)shows her in top form, riffing perceptively and trenchantly on Bush, Iraq, Rumsfeld, Democratic pols especially Dean and Clark, Rush, Madonna and Sean Hannitty. She misses the point on blogs though seeing them as an (inferior upstart) new genre of essay or opinion writing (whihc they are secondarily I think) rather than as a radical new social/intellectual experiment in reading and intellectual distribution.
Phil [1:11 PM]