Friday, January 04, 2008

The Paul / Brady Axis

Not a big fan of Ron Paul.

He's a politician, and even if he's got a looser tongue than what either party orthodoxy is usually willing to allow, he's still at some point had to sell any alleged soul to the campaign process, had to whore himself out to selfishly interested contributors and the idiot convictions of the masses. (Or worse, maybe he believes them). I'll stand by the "pick two" axiom in which politicians are incapable of simultaneously being, smart, effective, and honest. Paul's particular combination of stupidity, idleness, and/or corruption remains to be seen, at least by me. Maybe he'll mean well, but any bureaucracy has a habit of discouraging the ascension of leaders savvy or noble enough to oppose it, and if you think your boss is an idiot, imagine the what the army of office-chair surfers in Washington can winnow out.

I'm leaning toward honest but stupid. Paul's convictions seem genuine, but he speaks about them as a person who believes that under the right political conditions, people will become frictionless and spherical, and start acting like the rational self-interested creatures that Adam Smith in his most addled dreams approximated them. He adopts basic libertarian economic viewpoints on faith, at face value, including the "endowed by our creator" part, conveniently ignoring countervailing evidence, and just like anybody who uncritically shoves off dogma--even principled dogma--as thought, he's not to be trusted with power. He's got the special libertarian disease of arguing anecdotally and hypothetically to the best-case scenario, even when history has demonstrated it doesn't work like that. The resource-hungry free market has done dick-all for preserving the environment, for one example. It took legislative action to enforce responsibility on polluting private companies, which market forces had thus far managed to avoid. Perhaps Paul is also cognizant the tightly knit historical relationship with the government regarding the development of open land, from frontier policy to the highway system, and possibly he believes that laws that "allow" litigation of filthy corporations to be implicit, but he doesn't read like like he gets the irony. Paul's strong feelings toward respecting privacy and against foreign intervention end with immigrants, and he'd secure the borders and patrol the populace in order to police them, to protect us from terrorists and Latin Americans. Even giving him the benefit of the doubt with respect to racism (in which case his awareness of the last 150 years of immigration demonstrates mere ignorance), he evidently doesn't realize what sort of apparatus that level of security would take.

I suppose we do need to thank Paul for opening up a debate on surveillance, on state power in general. It's certainly taking a measure of glib out the libertarian arguments these days, even if there's no shortage of the stupid and earnest (see those comments) on that frontier either. And the catch is that while I have negligible faith that Ron Paul will competently pursue any of the things that he professes to believe, I feel pretty much assured that Hillary Clinton will not competently extend universal medical coverage, Mitt Romney won't stop the Mexican menace, and Barack Obama will certainly fail to unite the country under his warm benevolent glow. There's even a case to be made that Paul or Kucinich (see Jeff in Texas working 'emhere, for example), while loony on some things, aren't fundamentally loonier than other candidates' positions on other issues: if one must choose between bad foreign policy (in Clinton's case) and bad abortion policy (in Paul's), then at least that's a policy difference beyond the usual dreary popularity contest and impossible predictive evaluations of managerial acumen. I'm not for a second convinced by the legions who'd project saintliness and their own circuitous values onto Ron Paul, and like I said, he leaves a lot to be desired. But so do all of them. Maybe I'll write in Kucinich.


My high school didn't have a football team. While I'd have (literally) fallen all over myself to fail to make the hockey team that we also didn't have, football didn't draw me as a kid. What impressions I did have of the game came from movies and television, painting players as over-entitled meatheads, who effortlessly wooed the girls that in my youthful fantasies might have otherwise been interested in a somewhat quiet, somewhat obnoxious, somewhat good-looking nerd. In the universe of high school caricature, as I didn't experience it, the arch-enemy of the Dork is the Quarterback, the handsome white kid who has the world on a string, who gladhands his way through academics and grins his way into the pants of cheerleaders, effortlessly breaking the heart of any sweet but unpopular young thing in the process. This pigskin lothario has a cold, dark heart off the field, drinking and vandalizing and using people, while coming off scot free in the public eye, so long as he throws touchdowns. He's a consummate politician, a cult of one, dirty to the core beneath his charming dimpled grin.

Somewhere between that unlaid secondary school experience and now, I grew out of this childish antipathy. Maybe it was a continued failure to meet anybody that looked like that particular straw man, maybe it was the fact that I got along well enough with the couple football players I did know. Most likely it was because I started to enjoy watching the game on the teevee. It dawned on me over the years, that these guys, even though they're playing a silly game, were far more dedicated to it than I was (am) in any of my serious pursuits, and football, especially the quarterback position, requires a good measure of mental acuity.

I grew to appreciate the way that scrutiny from the media can magnify any stupid comment, and for a group of people who aren't trained for such a thing (except for those useless communications degrees), it's a credit to them that the stupid comments are as infrequent as they are. The better ambassadors quickly learn to get up on camera and make non-controversial assertions after the game about teamwork and effort in response to the reliably insipid questions of the sports press. My wife and I joke about Tom Brady doing this, guessing in advance what he'll say, if he'll ever top his bland quips ("well done is better than well said") borrowed from Ben Franklin and his dad. It's funny, because you see him talking shit to the opponents on the field, mouthing a "fuck" as often as not. I can't imagine Tom Brady cracking a joke in his lifetime, but it's hard to deny the man's passion off-camera, whether it's for the game or for its perks, like good living and supermodel nookie. You gotta love the guy because his raw athletic ability is so much less obvious than his work ethic and his focus--what kind of guy can keep that optimism alive when stuck on the second string behind the franchise guy? You love him because he says the right things when people are watching, and makes public efforts in all the right directions (the boyish good looks don't hurt). He's attended Bush's state of the union address, but his political skills are on more transparent display as he works the sidelines, encourages or congratulates every player on the team ("hell of a long snap, there Lonnie"). Mostly you gotta love him because he's just got winner written all over him. Hell, I'd vote for Tom Brady.

[And maybe this video is new to you. Offered in memory of The Poor Man.]

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