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Best of Blogs Round-Up: Wednesday, May 3, 2006


"A recent study indicates that the richest Americans enjoy levels of health that are lower than the poorest folks in England. Especially in categories like heart disease and diabetes (12.5% of American adults suffer from it), the sickness of Americans is shocking. Forget the maintenance of the military machine and the economic firepower. Are we eating ourselves right out of the empire business?"


Featured Blog, I: Americafest Live
Among the Immigrants

In Union Square, in Manhattan, over at the immigrant rights protest, the Rude Pundit kept getting smacked in the face with the American flag. Walking among the tens of thousands of gathered immigrants, sympathizers, media, and gawkers, no matter where the Rude Pundit turned, someone was shoving the stars and stripes in his face. And if he wasn't getting slapped with Ol' Glory, he was getting poked by small sticks that held the flags. The American flag was ubiquitous, tied to other flags of other nations, placed on cardboard tubes with those flags, waved with fervor whenever anyone started a chant of "Si, se puede." Nobody was going to accuse these protests of being anti-American. It was the most pro-American rally the Rude Pundit's seen since the Republican convention. The American flag was selling for five bucks a pop from the dozens of vendors there. You could get flags of other countries, sure, for the same price. Each flag had a little tag on it that read, "Made in China."

People with their flags climbed onto the statue of a horse-riding George Washington at the bottom of Union Square. The statue commemorates Evacuation Day on November 25, 1783, when George Washington rode triumphantly back into New York City as the last British troops evacuated the city they had held for seven years and great swaths of Manhattan had been wrecked by the occupation. The population dropped forty percent after the British left. It would take the influx of European immigrants, assisted by laws like the Naturalization Act of 1790, which said that anyone - well, any "free white person"- who lives in the U.S. for two years may apply to become a citizen, to really make the population explode. Ah, sweet nation-building.

Yesterday, non-white persons ascended the statue and adorned it with flags from Puerto Rico and Ecuador. Then one swarthy protester braved the bronze to plant an anti-imperialism Che Guevara sign in Washington's stirrup. Yes, Che Guevara was everywhere, on signs and shirts, the de-fanged fashion icon presumed to still be a threat to the Yanquis, one presumes. There he was again, under George Washington's foot.

And, yes, there were those Michelle Malkin-ready signs, the kind that show up on her blog as a way of discrediting an entire movement. Unlike Malkin and her ilk-in, people who prefer to exist with their heads so far up their asses that they can lick their own uvulas, the Rude Pundit actually went up to the young Latino with the crudely written "Let's Kill Bush" poster and asked him why he decided to go with that sentiment. What he got in response was not a crazy, "fuck you, gringo" attitude. Instead, the teenager said, "Bush sends people to die, so, you know, an eye for an eye." Hey, what the hell - it's biblical, right? The Rude Pundit wished him luck with the cops and headed in the opposite direction in case batons started pummeling, only to get slapped in the face with an American flag. Read the rest at The Rude Pundit...

Featured Blog, II: To Suck or Not To Suck
Sexing Down the Language

Part of what's great about reading Lee Siegel is wondering whether he's slyly aware of how funny he is or whether the whole thing is unintentional, which in itself would require a massive, artificial, intentional irony reduction -- which, once undertaken, makes the author aware of his hilarity even if he isn't, because he's aware of its negation. (Siegel wins either way.) I especially adored yesterday's tirade against the cultural acceptance and proliferation of the phrase "to suck":

But I think something deeper is going on [with the popularity of "sucks"]. Pardon the following intimacy, but performing oral sex has a lot to do with the unequal distribution of pleasure and power. It's more satisfying for the recipient than for the bestower. Without love or emotional connection, it usually makes the bestower an instrument of the recipient's will.

So saying someone or something "sucks" is not just an expression of contempt. It's a verdict on that person or thing as being, literally, beneath contempt. It's a wish not so much to rise above others as to subordinate them, an angry anti-democratic retort to the nettleseome tides of democratization. After all, when someone "sucks," they can't talk back. Isn't that the bully's and the tyrant's timeless dream, to move among people who can't talk back? It's certainly the dream of a child's fragile ego. It could be that we are surrounded by adults who have the fragile egos of children. And I know exactly what those unwitting people would say about that situation.

Maybe, but my personal take is that "sucks" is completely the wrong term for this sort of analysis, because it's the one tawdry term that has essentially broken free of its literal meaning. When I say something "sucks", which I do all the time, I'm basically never thinking of it as a literal analogy to cocksucking (if I want to be literal, I'll use the term "blows", which has yet to bust out of its anological straightjacket -- and I use it rarely.) On the other hand, I use the term "money quote" -- Siegal's other example of creeping casual vulgarity -- fully or mostly aware of its meaning. Ditto even for a seemingly harmless phrase like "about to explode". As a rule, the more contemptuous I am of the person or phenomenon that I think is "about to explode", the more overt is the sexual metaphor. (i.e. "The real prospect of a war with Iran has the neocons gearing up to explode their half-baked panic-mongering all over the media".) The sexual slur is that the characters in question can't control themselves, they're just pure dumb instinct dressed up in suits and backcopies of The National Interest. Read the rest at Liberalism Without Cynicism...

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