Monday, February 21, 2005

Liberal Social Harmony, "Aren't You Glad You Used Dial?" Edition

Wow... Rarely does one ever see the utter hostility and contempt that motivates the anti-consumerists among the Left displayed so nakedly as in this piece, which appeared in today's Daily Cardinal (the inferior, liberal-oriented, "official" school paper).

Ostensibly, Breezy Willis' target here is none other than the worst consumerist offenders of all - UW alums who attend hockey games. I kid not: After taking a seat at the Kohl Center, one has only to glance quickly around to get a good look at one of the thousands of red-clad consumption machines who are more commonly known as upper-middle-class Wisconsin alumni. They are easy to identify. Usually they attend games with their kind-looking, but submissive and clueless wives clinging to their arms, or with their stoic, spare-tire-sporting husbands standing at their sides and staring off into space during time outs.

Red-clad consumtion machines! I love it!

But the piece quickly loses whatever coherence it hoped for, and turns into a rant about the wretchedness of people who like to drive cars and who weigh more than the author thinks they should. It'd be very hard for me to pick out what I love most about this piece, but this part is priceless:

Typically, they [alums] are overly clean, and smell of laundry detergent, deodorant, cologne, perfume, lipstick, soap, hair dye, Rogaine, Viagra, blush and aftershave. Their hair is always neatly trimmed, and the men's faces are always scraped clean with razors on a daily basis, while the women's are painted unnatural Revlon hues.

Hmm... this is an odd thing to complain about. Something tells me that Breezy Willis, if I were to meet her (him?), likely goes without these things. Unshaved, messed up hair (maybe in white-boy dreads, at least?), and worst of all - no deordorant. Breezy, I take it, is never overly clean! If I meet Breezy, I need to buy her a T-shirt that says "Avoid Being Overly Clean." Of course, that would only be more consumerism, so he'd probably hate it. Can't please everyone, I guess.

And what, exactly, are Rogaine and Viagra supposed to smell like? Wait... don't answer that question.

Then there's the classic economic fallacy that undergirds egalitarianism in all its guises: "In a world with limited resources, one person consuming more means other people are consuming less. The evidence is everywhere; some starve while others grow obese, some live in massive, suburban homes while others patch together huts out of mud and sticks. Not only is the life that the unaware, materialist zombie leads unrewarding, but it is also cruel and thoughtless, since it directly impinges on the rights of other human beings to possess the basic necessities of life. One could probably buy food for a poor family for a year just by pawning the goods that could be stripped off a Kohl Center-going pair of alumni."

If universities across the nation intend to force incoming freshmen to take seminars on multiculturalism and all manner of PC nonsense, I wish they'd also require some basic economics as well. Just one essay by Julian Simon? Would that be too much to ask? Anyway, not only is the above literally the exact opposite of truth (people everywhere have more with increased consumption), it trades on a fallacious economic concept, the fixed pie of a zero-sum game. And what gives this piece such strong shades of totalitarianism, beyond its undisguised visceral hatred of middle class and overweight people, is that when you start talking about a pie, you have to start talking about who, and how, that pie will be divied up. Which is precisely, of course, the role our friend Breezy might want someday. Of course, maybe Breezy isn't that ambitious. Maybe she'd prefer to organize little groups of fellow "not overly clean" activists - they could all wear plain red, or brown, shirts, and they could mug some of these middle class alum as they exit games at the Kohl Center, pawning their stuff and redistributing the goods to poor people. Sounds like a winner to me. And it sounds like a great way to thank all those overly clean and well-groomed UW alums who graciously donate huge chunks of their over-taxed paychecks to make it possible for Breezy to major in International Studies and write a column for the "official" UW paper.

The thing is, this reads like a self-parody - like a really piss-drunk Peter Singer. If UW had a decent parody newspaper (not The Onion - something about local & college news), I'd expect a piece like this to run there. Unreal. God, I love Madison!

Friday, February 11, 2005

Revolutionary Communists of Madison, Unite!

Yesterday, I discovered this political tract in my box. Wow. I didn't even know there was something called the "Revolutionary Communist Party." Did they splinter off from the Communist Party, USA, as the Workers World Party splintered from the Socialist Workers Party? Aside from their own website, the only real info I bothered to look up on them came from here. This "Bob Avakian" fellow seems to be the author of the pamplet I received, and that he's referred to as "Chairman Avakian" everywhere is just a wee bit creepy.

Anyway, what I wonder is, who distributed this pamphlet to all the boxes in the department? My department is certainly oriented to the left (with me and a tiny handful as exceptions), but hardly to the Marxist left. I don't think anyone, grad student or prof, is a Marxist. (The one guy I'm not certain about is more of an anarchist, and he wouldn't distribute propaganda). The Marxists tend to go into other places that don't demand as much rigor, like English departments.

Whoever these people are, I realized that they didn't just target my department: these pamphlets proliferated in Memorial Union as well. Weird, wild stuff. God, I love Madison!

Monday, February 07, 2005

Return from the brink

Yes, I'm alive, as readers of my LJ can attest. I haven't really had time for posting news commentary here in quite some time. Even my Xmas break wasn't really a break, between grading, incompletes, and temp jobs occupying most of my time.

For the time being, though, I just wanted to direct attention to a piece that just appeared in the LA Times about George Bush's new budget. Initially, I was pleased to hear that for once, Bush was going to do something about runaway spending. After all, what buzz I had read and heard on NPR and elsewhere seemed to indicate that it angered and annoyed all the right people. (Rule of thumb - with the possible exception of some social morality issues, if it pisses Jack Beatty off, it's probably a good thing). But this piece, if accurate, means that my initial hopes were misplaced. The era of big government is back with a vengence. God help us.

This is one thing that makes life so much better for Democrats than libertarians. They can lick their 2004 election wounds and put their hopes in 2006 and 2008 (though perhaps not if Hillary runs...). Who do we libertarians have? None of the prospective Republican presidential candidates are even vaguely close to libertarian - Bill Frist? Rudy Guiliani? John McCain? Newt Gingrich? Condi Rice? (Maybe Rice is, not counting foreign policy, but I speak in hopeful ignorance here...)

I suppose that's the trade-off for Election Nights that aren't nearly as depressing for us as for Dems.