Thursday, March 15, 2012

Amy Chua is Yakov Smirnoff Reborn

Plenty of others have already explained how Amy Chua is wrong, an asshole, and trading in urban legends not even other Chinese people believe anymore. I won't be doing that as I'm fairly certain all right-thinking folk can dismiss the substance of her arguments. There is none. But she's got style and an all too familiar style at that...

First, let's go back to that darkest of dark ages -The 80s. Hair is big, music is stupid, and the country has so given up on even the pretense of democracy that a professional liar is president. And all across America, households of middle class goobers are laughing at the comic stylings of this guy -

"They actually paid me for this shit! What a country!"

Yakov Smirnoff! A notoriously unfunny comic whose whole bit revolved around exaggerated juxtapositions of American and Russian stereotypes. "In your country, you wait in line at bank. In my country, we wait in line for bread!"

It didn't matter that his jokes sucked because Smirnoff was perpetuating self-serving national myths. Sure the factory closed and taxes were going up - quite often into space - but look at those silly Russians! All poor and oppressive and stuff. Not like us at all.

This reflected a national attitude that, while things were kinda shitty, we were finally the winners of the world again. Fast forward about thirty years -

There is not a single picture where this woman doesn't look constipated.

And not even the frenzied escapism of the GOP primary can convince anyone that we're winning at anything. We're done, folks. And we all know China's coming to take our crown. At least we "know" in that cultural osmosis way. Like how Koreans "know" electric fans will suffocate you in your sleep.

Amy Chua is the best known spreader of this meme thanks to her book claiming that Chinese children will totally beat up your children because their mothers were heinous bitches. Then there's her latest piece of "Look at me!" bullshit, all awash in happy grrrl power rhetoric but the central point is clear - the Dragon Ladies are coming! They shall rule all! They will be as 10,000 Steve Jobs with uteri!

Except that all four relied on something outside of China to build their fortunes. Because as an export-focused economy, China just don't have a lot to offer. In fact, they've been experiencing a downturn as the rest of the world can't buy their stuff anymore. Much as Germany did when they decided to force austerity on their own client states.

Chua is just the latest half-bright opportunist to latch onto a cultural sentiment. In the 80s, it was feeling superior to Russia. In the bad crazyness of the 21st century - after a decade of Bush and bailouts wearing down the national ego - it's feeling inferior to China. It has even less to do with reality than Smirnoff's bread lines but when has the average American been all that involved with reality anyway?

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

The Fourth Branch

Nearly three years ago, Barrack Obama was looking into how to withdraw American forces from Afghanistan. He had plenty of reasons to - it was a hole for tax money, the fight clearly wasn't working, American citizens were dying to prop up a transparently crooked regime of gangsters. Really, withdrawal was the only option for a responsible leader who cared about his country*.

Unfortunately, Barry had recently appointed Stanley McChrystal as the man on the ground. Now whether the media hagiographies went to his head or if he was always a narcissistic jackass is unclear, but General McChrystal fought his own President to not only keep American soldiers deployed in Afghanistan, but also pressured for more troops. And he did it in the manner of a passive-aggressive teenager on Facebook, "leaking" his feelings on the matter to any and all who would listen.

He won. You can thank Stanley McChrystal and his ego for every American who has died over there since late 2009.

How a General managed such a political goal against his own President is our subject today. Most Americans are still under the impression that we have three branches, the military being within the Executive and therefore beholden to the President. That's exactly what it says in the Constitution but as eight years of Bush should've taught us, that document is more of a suggestion.

The US Department of Defense is the biggest, wealthiest, and most widespread military force in human history. You don't get that huge without developing some political ambitions of your own and the DoD has had plenty of third-rate academics burrowing into its brain for years now, pitching such things as "full spectrum dominance" and an "American Century" that all pretty much boils down to "Pentagon Uber Alles."

And they are really fucking bad at it.

They were pretty impressive in late 2001. The Clinton Administration built up quite a warfighting machine that swept the Taliban out of power using this country's favorite tactics - bribes and continuous bombing. But then Jooner took that fancy car and rammed it into a wall in Iraq, hemorrhaging not just wealth and material but the few general officers who weren't careerist swine. Seriously, remember the steady wave of resignations in early 2003? It was an inspiring moral stance but it left the military under the control of self-serving ambition machines like David Patreus.

Patreus really turned things around in Iraq. Meaning he helped everyone forget about it. Much had been made of his Enron-style accounting of fatalities in 2007 but few have pointed out his biggest blunder - believing the insurgency was reduced by the SURGE!

Scooch in, kiddies. I'm about to teach you a little Guerrilla 101 - when the occupier is out in force, you go to ground. The insurgents were there because Iraqis were there and any honest assessment of that quagmire will admit that everyone besides Maliki wanted America out. The violence dropped because there was a better chance of being caught and killed. Guerrilla war is a nasty affair where victory goes to whoever can last the longest. This gives the occupied a home court advantage and the fact that a man so often celebrated for literally writing the book on America's counter-insurgency doctrine wouldn't admit this as a likely scenario proves he is either an amoral liar or a tremendous moron.

It could very well be both. If we learned anything from the Bush years, it should've been this culture's depressing habit of elevating those with neither brains nor shame. Patreus sure got elevated, all the way to CENTCOM where he was pretty much second to the president in the chain of command. It still stands as Obama's smartest foreign policy move, shifting that overhyped idiot first to Afghanistan to clean up McChrystal's mess and, when that naturally failed, sequestered him in Langley where his real skill - schmoozing - might actually prove useful.

But Patreus was just a symptom of something larger. Now we've got another potential cluster-fuck in the Middle East. It would be our third attack on a Muslim country and as Gary Brecher said, "we might as well paint red crosses on our chests." Because then it damn will be a war on Islam. A war we'll lose because Muslims are serious people with big families and the brassholes running the Pentagon are just the same monomaniacal imbeciles you find on Wall Street but with shorter haircuts.

*It should be noted the information leading to the assassination of Osama bin Laden was provided by a CIA snitch. "Boots on the ground," as it is commonly called was not a factor in the least.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

A Rush to Failure

Watching the primitive screwheads rebel against Emperor Seth's contraception initiative is hilarious as well as heartening. Not just because of the apparent truth that folks like Rush Limbaugh and Rick Santorum don't understand female anatomy, but because of the deeper truth exposed by this latest fiasco. A truth that's been staring everyone in the face since last fall but we've all been too afraid to admit it. As if articulating such a godsend will reverse it. But with this latest circus, I feel pretty comfortable in stating a simple fact -

The GOP is going to lose in November.

Commence the Freud jokes!

Not because Obama is the best choice. He may be better relative to the crop of extended-primary choices but he's nowhere near what this country needs to turn things around. And it's not because Americans have suddenly found basic human decency. No, the GOP is going down for the simple reason that they can't get their shit together.

They had a good run, trading on the spite of white middle-class losers who were still sore at the 60s for some reason. But that party's ending and we're all presently watching the awful collective hangover and shocked faces that all but say, "I slept with that!?"

The end began back in 2008. Something about losing to a Democrat - and a black one at that - just sent the Republican Party and their supporters into a tailspin of crazy. Several years of paranoid - and very stupid - rhetoric later and we've got a gaggle of has-beens, no-beens, and Ron "I Don't Understand How the Federal Government Actually Works" Paul desperately campaigning for the most reactionary and irrelevant corners of the American electorate.

While I hesitate to call this a victory, I can't help feeling all warm and fuzzy at the sight of this once terrible ogre hobbled by its own weight.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

2012: The Year Oscar Shit The Bed

I figured the Oscars couldn't get any worse than just last year. With True Grit and Black Swan to choose from, the Academy instead showered all the big Best This And That awards on the bowdlerized tale of some stuttering inbred git. With that in mind, Sunday night was a triumph of sorts - a sucking hole of wretchedness that achieved critical mass. A singularity of failure for all the worlds mediocrity to orbit, like the pipe-tooting demons that dance around Azathoth.

"Won't you join our grotesque sham?"

Let's start with the big winner. If you've seen the trailer, you've pretty much seen The Artist. It's a paint-by-numbers plot, only trading on the novelty of a silent film in the era of microphones. Never mind that this concept was done thirty years ago - and done brilliantlybut The Artist is now celebrated because it accomplishes that which Hollywood has been attempting since it crawled out of the primordial ooze.

Sucking itself.

To see the Academy fawn over this celebration of self-love is as cringe-inducing as that old SNL skit where Will Ferrell blows himself in a yoga class. And fundamentally, there's no difference. This is just pleasuring oneself to the exclusion of any and every outside consideration.

And total cultural tone-deafness is the only reason I can find for Meryl Streep's long awaited win for Best Actress. She said as much in her acceptance speech - another masturbatory affair but hey, that's the theme this year - all but acknowledging the win had less to do with her actual performance as Maggie "Iron Twat" Thatcher and more with the Academy showing some overdue recognition.

"I'll swallow your soul!"

Because if this were just about the performance, Rooney Mara would've won. Should've won. A culture that cared about art would want to prosecute the entire Academy for its flagrant snub of The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo.  Fincher excised all the terrible indulgence of Steig Larsson's book, leaving a solid thriller and arguably the best cinematic experience of 2011 besides the odd horror flick.

And it won Best Editing. A filler award.

"...Da fuck!?"

Mara's performance stood out even alongside Stellan Skarsgaard and James Bond, despite the two-dimensional source material she had to work with. That's rare - the Oscars are supposedly awarded to what's the best relative to whatever else came out in the year but one could easily argue Mara's performance will still be talked about years down the line. That's something deserving - demanding - recognition. But Streep won because she's old and she's been doing this a long time and raw nepotism always wins over merit in America these days.

A celebration of myopic nostalgia and praise for an old war horse because she's an old war horse. Who knew Hollywood was so full of reactionary morons?