Inauguration

I could write the customary post about what this means to me, but I already did, when Obama clinched the nomination. It sums up my attitudes toward this occasion as well as it did toward that one.

I will add one thing, though. Just as I did when we clinched the nod, I feel a strong sense now of tribal solidarity with those others who fought for Barack when we were five points ahead of Edwards in national polls. June 3rd was a strategic vindication. The world thought we were absolutely bonkers in 2007 for not just hoping but truly believing that Obama would win it, that this rookie was so good that he would defy all expectations and defeat the Clinton juggernaut. We were right, of course, and the rhetoric we used to keep morale up and ourselves driven would be appropriated as conventional wisdom on cable networks and in newsweeklies. That felt damn good.

But today is an ideational vindication, which feels still better. Just as they laughed at our campaign strategy, the pundits laughed at Obama’s resumé, at his calls for direct talks with foreign leaders and strong action in Pakistan, at the very themes of hope and change. Now, experience is a non-issue, his foreign policy agenda is about to implemented (Lord willing), and there’s 24/7 effusive news coverage that takes hope and change seriously rather than as a target for mockery. We won the primary, yes, but we won an argument too. It remains to be seen whether Obama will succeed in implementing his (our) agenda; the stimulus seems a done deal, and health care is looking very promising, but I’m worried about climate change and a meaningful (i.e. troop presence in the four-digit range, if that) withdrawal from Iraq. But whatever the outcome, we’re fighting on fundamentally different turf than that of February 2007, turf significantly friendlier to progressive, and especially reformist, ideas. That couldn’t have happened without people in field offices in July 2007, trying to convince people that Hillary’s wasn’t a lock. So Dave, Lauren, Alex, Will, Sarah, Jack, Ali, Kristina, Leigh, Eva, Rob, Dan, Karina, Caroline, Jake, Tizzy and everyone else who was there in the beginning in New Hampshire and stuck it through – we won this. This one’s for us.

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Rock Snobbery Is Dead

From Pitchfork’s “The 50 Best Albums of 2008”, December 19, 2008:

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From the iTunes Music Store’s splash page, January 19, 2008:

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Granted, they played SNL this weekend, but still. When it takes all of a month for an album to go from the top of a Pitchfork best-of to the top of the iTunes charts, it’s pretty clear that there’s no marked difference between common and elite tastes.

P.S. Okay, the universe is just mocking me now:

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Andrew Bird, a Bon Iver EP, and Animal freakin’ Collective. What. The Hell.

The Perils of Higher Education

When I was sixteen, my family and I went on a cruise in Europe, starting in Copenhagen and going through the Baltic sea to Estonia, Russia, and Scandinavia before landing in Amsterdam. Among my favorite stops was Helsinki, not so much for the city itself (though it’s quite nice) but because my dad and I happened to land at the National Museum‘s exhibit on modern Finnish culture. Amidst Civil War-era photos of Mannerheim on horseback was a section on education in modern Finland. There, it was noted that upon receiving their degree, Finnish PhDs get a sword, a ceremonial rapier to be specific.

Being a 16 year old boy, I thought this was the greatest thing ever. Indeed, it was all I could talk about for the rest of the museum visit. And our stay in the gift shop. And the walk back to the ship. And at dinner with my mother, brother, and grandparents. This was so great, I insisted, that I would have to move to Finland to do graduate work. Eventually, the concept of me spending five or six years at the University of Helsinki proved sufficiently terrifying that my mother offered me a deal: she would buy me a sword, any sword, if I got a PhD from a university anywhere but Finland. This won me over, both because I didn’t really want to learn Finnish and because there are better swords than rapiers. Like katanas. Better PhD + better sword = better deal.

And then Ezra had to go ahead and post this:

If getting a PhD means getting Katana chunks in my stomach, I might just have to skip my starving grad student period. I’d do anything for the life of the mind, but I won’t do that.

Things I’m Glad Never Happened

“U.S. Rejected Aid for Israeli Raid on Iranian Nuclear Site.”

It’s a sad state of affairs when I perceive the failure to greenlight this monstrosity as a positive rather than the absence of a negative. Side-note: if this had actually happened, Iran would have responded by funneling enough arms to Hamas to make the current Israeli invasion even more doomed than it already is, if that’s even possible. Not launching a massively destructive illegal war of aggression: it’s good for Israel, too!