Friday, April 25, 2003

This Is SO Wrong

Okay, this week I've learned more about the sexual neurosis of Republicans than I ever wanted to know. Kos has been following the weirdness that is Santorum's messed up libido. Then I stumbled on this piece of nauseating news.

Paging Lorenzo Lamas.
Daily Show survives.

"The Daily Show" has increased its audience by 10 percent over the past year, mostly among viewers aged 18 to 34, who hadn't shown much interest in topical humor before, Hilary said.

"It's a unique show that has brought something different to comedy and news coverage," Hilary said.

Wednesday, April 23, 2003

Tuesday, April 22, 2003

I like the title of this piece in The Guardian. Short, sweet, and to the point.

Ultimately, though, the sustained popularity of SUVs represents a triumph of marketing. By the late 80s the car industry had identified a rich vein among the baby boomers. Their search was partly prompted by desperation.

The biggest-selling vehicle by the middle of the decade was the minivan. A perfectly practical car for anyone with a family but a disaster where car culture was concerned. With no sex appeal, danger, speed or power associated, you were left with a perfectly respectable vehicle that got you where you wanted to go and back again. With no invigorating image to accompany it, there was no premium a marketing team could attach to it.

But as pickup trucks and off-road vehicles shed some of their redneck image and started to become popular with suburban professionals, the car industry saw its chance. "Detroit marketers began to identify a new class of driver," wrote Paul Roberts in Harper's magazine. "A pleasure-seeking, self-oriented man or woman who liked to drive fast, cared deeply about a car's appearance, had an above-average fear of road dangers (including crime), and wasn't exactly eager to advertise his or her married status."

At the root of it was sex. "We have a basic resistance in our society to admitting that we are parents and no longer able to go out and find another mate... If you have a sports utility, you can have the smoked windows, put the children in the back, and pretend you're still single."

During the first Gulf war, when Hummers and dune buggies were bringing American values to the Middle East, SUVs were riding high in the popular psyche. Between 1985 and 1999, their sales increased tenfold. The fact that less than 10% of owners ever use the vehicles off road was irrelevant. With the adverts of big four-wheel-drive cars trekking through the wilderness you could aspire to outdoor pursuits even as you polluted the environment. Those who bought them were better educated, more prosperous and more introverted than the average American.

" 'Self-oriented' is the automakers' euphemism for self-centred," Bradsher argues. "SUV buyers tend to be more restless, more sybaritic, and less social than most Americans are."

Sitting up high and in such an imposing frame feels safer even if it isn't, says Bradsher. "It's a security blanket in an insecure world."

Monday, April 21, 2003

I've read the Slate Hitchens’ piece about three times and I’m still not sure what the point of it is except to get in one more feeble swipe at the anti-war left (incidentally which he allies to the reactionary right; that the anti-war left is reactionary is implicit). The left is angered by Halliburton’s contract to rebuild the oil fields, ergo the left prefers Saddam to Halliburton. This isn’t a leap in logic; it’s freefall.

It's interesting how Hitchens can’t come up with a compelling reason why Halliburton should be the first granted an award, other than,

...unless the anti-war forces believe Saddam's fires should be allowed to burn out of control indefinitely, they must presumably have an idea of which outfit should have got the contract instead of Boots and Coots. I think we can be sure that the contract would not have gone to some windmill-power concern run by Naomi Klein or the anti-Starbucks Seattle coalition, in the hope of just blowing out the flames or of extinguishing them with Buddhist mantras. The number of companies able to deliver such expertise is very limited. The chief one is American and was personified for years by "Red" Adair—the movie version of his exploits (played by John Wayne himself!) was titled Hellfighters. The other main potential bidder, according to a recent letter in the London Times, is French. But would it not also be "blood for oil" to award the contract in that direction? After all, didn't the French habitually put profits in Iraq ahead of human rights and human life? More to the point, don't they still?

Interesting, that French connection. Where have I seen that before?

According to the report, the Halliburton subsidiaries, Dresser-Rand and Ingersoll Dresser Pump Co., sold material to Baghdad through French affiliates. The sales lasted from the first half of 1997 to the summer of 2000. Cheney resigned from Halliburton in August.

If Hitchens honestly wants to trumpet the humanitarian cause of liberating Iraq he should know better to attempt to defend Halliburton. I guess I’m not surprised that he couldn’t help dashing off just one more reactionary hawkish screed. What surprises me is how utterly he misses the point. It isn’t simply about what we think this war is about. It’s about Middle East perceptions of our motives and to send in Halliburton before we’ve even slapped the “Victory” label on Operation Iraqi Freedom doesn’t do so much for winning hearts and minds.

Polling people in the street on the oil issue drew some angry reactions as the Iraqi capital recovered from the destruction and the looting that followed the collapse of the old regime on April 9.

"Oil? Is that all you think about? Look at us, we have nothing, no water, no electricity, no security, we can barely eat and you think about our oil?," said a woman, too angry to give her name.

It's not about Saddam or Halliburton. It's about priorities. And when the administration prioritizes oil security over immediate basic humanitarian need they are the ones being "oleaginous."
Josh says "Well, duh!" To the Washington Post.