April 13th, 2006

he's just a stereotype

Stereotypes I Have Invented In A Week And A Half Productions brings you: THE TWIN CITIES PRO & CON

FACT: There is not a huge amount of traffic here
PRO: It's pretty easy to get around, and if you're an aggressive driver you can own the freeways
CON: People take the speed limit way too seriously

FACT: The Twin Cities feature a lot of archery ranges
PRO: Inviting leisure-time activity for elves and white people
CON: Constant risk of drive-by piercings

FACT: My town has no sidewalks
CON: No sidewalks, man! Deeply unsettling

FACT: Minnesota has very strict liquor laws
PRO: Plentiful, cheap and well-stocked liquor stores
CON: You can't buy booze in grocery stores, or on Sunday

FACT: "Minnesota Nice" apparently died out a few years back, probably because of terrorists
PRO: I don't really like it when strangers are nice to me
CON: "Minnesota Nice" has been replaced by people talking about how "Minnesota Nice" isn't around anymore

FACT: In the last three days, the words "PATRIOT Act" were said to me by three different people
PRO: It was said in each instance with a sort of dismissive, sneering tone
CON: Apparently people actually enforce this PATRIOT Act, whatever it is

FACT: There is a big street up here called Cretin Avenue
CON: None

FACT: The Department of Motor Vehicles (sorry, the Department of Driver and Vehicle Services) is very boring
PRO: There are lots of DWI convicts to look at while you wait in line
CON: It takes about a month to actually get your driver's license ("PATRIOT Act")

FACT: The Twin Cities are remarkably, and a bit surprisingly, ethnically diverse
PRO: More selection of foreign foods than might be expected
CON: home food delivery options are lamentable; Chicago dog makings scarce to nonexistent

FACT: This is the coldest GMSA in the United States
PRO: It's April and unseasonably warm; I have a girlfriend
CON: In four months I will be working in an Igloo

Also, I went to the Apple store yesterday, in mortal fear that I would run into James Lileks. Happily, I think he shops at the one at the Mall of America, so my visit to buy an Airport Extreme card was unmarred by a dissertation about how the rappers have ruined everything and how '70s sci fi movies set the tone for the postmodernist destruction of American values.

And that young boy who nobody liked grew up to be...

As if to remind me why I find him so annoying, Lileks is rather completely and utterly full of shit today. After getting the class stuff out of the way early on (complaining abot the shoddy job done by burly workmen on his indoor water park and saying he could make a better steak sauce than the cheap-ass mass-market chemical crap he bought but declining to explain why he doesn't just do that), he launches into the political spiel.

First, he mischaracterizes (in order to attack) the argument against war with Iran as the "because we can't do everything, we shouldn't do anything" argument. Of course, this is nonsense: while we can do lots of things, we really can't do everything, and there are lots of historical figures who would like to talk to Mr. Lileks about the advisability of opening a second front in a war that you're already not exactly winning. But, like most conservatives who pretend that fringe, or even nonexistent, arguments are the mainstream of opposition thoughts, he likes to attribute extremist positions to people who have not made them. I can't think of anyone -- not even in my pinko inner circle, let alone the Democratic mainstream -- who has claimed we shouldn't do anything about Iran. Saying that just maybe an invasion is not a good idea is a million miles from saying we should just bug off and let Iran nuke whoever they please; "don't do something stupid" is a different argument than "don't do anything". Lileks is so blinkered by the possibility that he's been wrong all along that he won't consider the fact that if we'd approached Iraq a little differently, things might not be so fucked up right now; so he's perfectly willing to repeat the same mistake in hopes that he won't have to admit it was a mistake. (Curiously, he subverts his own argument later in the piece; he claims that people like Barbara Boxer, having discovered that Iran is quite far away from being a nuclear power, want to fritter away their time on congressional investigations into the (deliberately?) crappy intelligence that got us into the Iraq war, instead of invading Iran like we're sposed to. Uh, isn't that making the argument that since we can't do everything we shouldn't do anything?)

Later on, he uses some unnamed college roommate of his ex-girlfriend to bolster the patently absurd claim that American liberals were happy to see the Ayatollah Khomeini seize power in Iran. This is frankly ridiculous, and I'm not aware of any American writers at the time of any political stripe who were pleased that fundamentalist lunatics had taken power. Were there claims that the Ayatollah was better than the Shah? Sure. And, you know, in a lot of ways -- particularly bodycounts -- he was. Was there a lot of America-bashing? You bet. The fact is, the Shah was an unspeakably brutal, incompetent, greedy, bloodthirsty dictator who was only in power because the United States put him there. (Lileks and his ilk conveniently fail to ask why the Ayatollah's revolution was so popular to begin with, no matter how badly it turned out in the end.) But did any American leftists jump around and have parties in the streets to see a repressive, misogynist theocracy take over the country? Of course not. We want Iran to be free, and the best way to have ensured that would be not to have put a dictator in power; we just weren't surprised at the way it finally shook down. I guess mentioning that chickens eventually find their way back to the roost is anti-American these days.

Speaking of bullshit, consider this: the press shrugs and rolls its eyes when a million people turn out in the streets to protest the war, or when political figures run non-stop war cant despite vast majorities of their public opposing their policies. But if a couple of wind-spewing jackoffs cite the appearance of Mexican flags at immigration reform rallies as evidence of the existence of a sinister plot by brown people to take over America using the Protocols of the Elders of Chorizo, it is very quickly front-page news and talk-show fodder. What does this prove? That the media will listen to any goddamn bullshit thing, as long as a rich middle-aged white guy says it.