Mad Citizen Kane

Mad KaneVia Crooks & Liars, I discovered Mad Kane’s Blog. Actually, she has a few—I linked to her humor blog. I haven’t spent much time with the blog, but it seems to circle around Madeleine Begun Kane’s love of limericks.

The limerick is an interesting art form. If you throw out all those that use the word “Nantucket,” they are pretty sweet.

Here is one of Kane’s called Dear Conductor:

Dear conductor, you think you’re elite,
But in substance, you’re always off beat.
You pressure musicians
With harsh admonitions.
To follow your stick’s no mean feat.

But I discovered Mad Kane via her political writing. She wrote a limerick about Romney’s continued use of the discredited claim that Obama has ended the work requirement for welfare (which would be a good idea; perhaps I’ll discuss it later):

For Romney, the truth holds no sway,
As his lies mount up day after day.
Welfare, health care and tax—
With the facts he is lax,
Treating voters like ignorant prey.

It is hard after you start reading these not to write them. This may have something to do with the reason I’ve written over 200 songs that you don’t ever want to hear. I like real poetry, of course. But this stuff if such fun. I commented with one limerick, but I later wrote the following that I think is better:

Everyone thinks it’s a pity
To disregard voters in cities
They vote Democrat
And we can’t have that
How else can we all elect Mittie?!

Anyway, there is good fun over there at Mad Kane. In fact, she has a weekly limerick contest if you would like to get involved. The stuff I read was really good. And it isn’t the kind of stuff you have to read many times to understand. So there’s that.

Shame, Shame, Shame

Niall FergusonStephen Marche just wrote an article about the whole Niall Ferguson brouhaha, The Real Problem with Niall Ferguson’s Letter to the 1% at Esquire. He notes that Ferguson charges $50K+ for public speeches, and that this is the audience he is going after: the super wealthy and corporation who can afford such outrageous speaking fees. I don’t accept this idea, but it is a reasonable contention.

I think that Niall Ferguson has allowed his ideology to harm his thinking ability. This more blinded thinking (which was always there as seen in his first book, The Pity of War), made him too cozy with conservative political elites. As we see with Fox News, once you get inside the echo chamber, you are lost. You don’t get good information and your arguments get soggy because no one ever questions them.

So I thought Marche’s article was effectively an apologia for Ferguson—a way of removing some of the shame of his recent work. But despite that, the comments on the article were hostile. The following quote really struck me:

Marche, I always read and typically agree with what you have to say, however can we get something in the near future about ideas to move forward. Nothing derogatory in the piece, just straight up ideas and answers? For all of the media I read and participate in, I think that’s what has been lacking the most. It’s what makes Pierce’s (among other pundits) pieces so brutal to try and attempt to read and take seriously. Maybe, how about an issue of Esquire focused solely on ideas moving forward without cynicism or blame?

This is typical “Look! I’m in the center! I’m reasonable!” thinking. Regardless, check out that last sentence, “How about an issue of Esquire focused solely on ideas moving forward without cynicism or blame?” This is exactly what we heard from Obama three and a half years ago. There’s a problem with it. Assigning blame is not cynical. Assigning blame is part of the healing process. Not assigning blame indicates that we believe what happened before was okay.

Societies need guidance. Personally, I’m not for major penalties. But I am for holding a person up and saying, “What you did was wrong.” I am for shame. Because shame is something that a society needs. It is something that I need. We all do bad things. When those bad things are public, the shaming should be public.

If Niall Ferguson is just to be forgiven without discussion, then Niall Ferguson and those who believe him will go on spreading lies. In fact, while we have our Very Serious discussion of “ideas,” Niall and his clan will be off in their echo chamber becoming more and more convinced that our society has become a socialistic hell that much be saved through armed revolt.

This I posit, is even more important than discussing the policy ramifications of the ACA. Shame on us if we insist on elevated discussions while the base of our culture crumbles underneath.

Two Who Pay Close Attention

If You're Not Outraged, You're Not Paying AttentionDo you remember this bumper sticker? It has always made a lot of sense to me. Just the same, I try to keep calm. In recent years, this has been more and more difficult.

There are two political commentators who I think of when I reflect on, “If You’re Not Outraged, You’re Not Paying Attention!” The first is Eric Alterman, who I write about quite often—most recently, Paul Ryan’s Holy Trinity. The second is Dean Baker, who I also write about often—most notably, Copyright is for Wimps.

Today in a take down of an Ezra Klein article that I haven’t yet read—Still Getting the Housing Bubble Wrong—Dean Baker has a parenthetical comment that I think is infinitely quotable:

Remember, the purpose of economics is to make simple things complicated so as to exclude most of the public from debates on the most important policy issues that affect their lives.

Who doesn’t love any professional who thinks lowly of his profession? We need more lovable curmudgeons like Eric Alterman and Dean Baker.

Infinite Crazy

Recently, Jamie Peck over at The Gloss decided to see if she could get away with being topless in New York. It resulted in this picture:

<%image(20120821-topless.jpg|334|259|Sunday in the Park with Boobs)%>

What is most remarkable about this picture is the book: Infinite Jest, David Foster Wallace’s masterpiece sort of about the search for a video tape that is so funny people stop doing anything but watching it. Stylistically, it reminds me much of John Kennedy Toole’s A Confederacy of Dunces. Both of these books seem so off the cuff that they would be easy to hack. Although I find that I can write genre fiction well enough, my sincere attempts to write something in the style of these men have been complete failures—and I have a plot that I think works (more Infinite Jest than Confederacy). I think it comes down to the old line, “I can’t be smart all of the time.” These guys were smart, creative, learned—all the time. And crazy.

It bothers me that both Wallace and Toole killed themselves. In Toole’s case, there seems to have been serious mental dysfunction. I don’t know what to say about it other than that it is sad. Wallace’s case more disturbs me. I think that some people take baby steps—inching ever closer to annihilating themselves. The brilliance of Wallace and Toole could indicate that the rest of us are safe. But I haven’t found that my own mediocrity makes me any more stable.