Meta-Commentary

Algolagnia

Posted in work by Adrian Arroyo on August 15, 2011

Whatever their reasons for sampling it, both groups soon discovered that fried butter was less a food and more a form of gustatory algolagnia.

(The twelfth part of an ongoing series in which I attempt to use a word circled in David Foster Wallace’s American Heritage Dictionary appropriately.)

Alfresco

Posted in work by Adrian Arroyo on August 15, 2011

At the Iowa State Fair, fried butter alfresco proved surprisingly popular among reporters and candidates alike–the former drawn to its novelty, the latter to its authenticity.

(The eleventh part of an ongoing series in which I attempt to use a word circled in David Foster Wallace’s American Heritage Dictionary appropriately.)

Hangover: Narrative

Posted in culture by Adrian Arroyo on August 8, 2011

Gordon Lafer on “The Economic Cure That Dare Not Speak Its Name

Dr. Doom sees bleak future for Latveria America

Krugmanic Depressive

Douthat on the Holy Grail of the realigning election

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Westen

Posted in media, politics by Adrian Arroyo on August 8, 2011

Drew Westen’s article, “What Happened to Obama” is roiling the commentariat today:

But on most domestic policy matters, it’s important to understand that the president can only be as progressive or conservative as Congress. That’s the story liberals need to keep telling themselves, because until they really have it memorized, every liberal president who gets elected is going to turn out to be a profound disappointment. They should worry less about telling stories and more about winning elections. —Adam Serwer

The issue with Serwer’s account is that “telling stories” and “winning elections” are not unrelated, at least over the long term. Congress is not immune either. Republican intransigence on revenues is itself the product of a story about taxes and growth, a story that’s debatable in the best of times and irrelevant if not dangerous in the current moment. And yet that narrative has captured enough of the Republican Party that the Speaker of the House can make a credible threat to allow the United States to default unless their demands are met.

Serwer is correct to point out that there’s little reason to believe that eloquence would’ve moved Republican legislators, whose electoral foundation is laid among those who prefer resolve to compromise. But that preference is itself a frame, the product of a story about the role of resolve in politics and the returns that accrue as a result. And it’s a story that looks increasingly true each time Republicans are able to pry concessions from Democrats through legislative hostage taking.

As a critique of Obama, Westen’s editorial is a little incoherent. As I’ve said before, narratives are an essential part of politics in a democracy, and while they may not swing a given election or congressman they are part of an ongoing process that defines the boundaries of American politics. Westen’s powerful cri de coeur–with a tinge of “If I Ran The Zoo”-ishness–makes the fundamental error of ascribing this messaging failure to President Obama. Whether he realizes it or not, Westen’s piece is about the weakness of progressive and liberal institutions, which have become arbiters rather than advocates. It’s the bodies that aren’t tied to the election cycle that have the greatest responsibility for the sort of full-throated advocacy that Westen craves, not President Obama.

Aleatory

Posted in work by Adrian Arroyo on August 4, 2011

The audacity of hope turned out to be a surprisingly aleatory proposition.

(The tenth part of an ongoing series in which I attempt to use a word circled in David Foster Wallace’s American Heritage Dictionary appropriately.)

Super

Posted in politics by Adrian Arroyo on August 4, 2011

Chait:

But the reason Republicans couldn’t accept [Obama’s] deal is that it would require them to concede that taxes would go up. Imagine you’re John Boehner. Which is a better scenario for you — the tax cuts for the rich expire in 2013 over your objections, or they expire as a result of a deal you cut with Obama? The former is obviously way better. It’s the difference between conservative hating Obama for being a tax hiker and conservatives hating Boehner for being a tax hiker.

If Chait is correct that anti-tax orthodoxy is the defining characteristic of the current Republican Party, then the “Super Committee” created under the debt ceiling deal will fail to raise new revenues. Consider the incentives affecting a Republican appointee to the committee: if they agree to a deal that raises taxes, they’re selling out the party and will almost certainly draw a primary challenge. If they hold out and force the trigger provisions to kick in, there will be massive cuts to things that impact them in a less direct way. There’s no amount of legislative cover that Democrats can provide to change that calculation, because the trigger attacks Republican priorities that are less important than their position on taxes.

Washington Post:

“What remains to be seen is whether any discussion of taxes is appropriate,” Kyl said. “I think it’s pretty unlikely.”

Ailanthus

Posted in work by Adrian Arroyo on August 4, 2011

Drained of their metaphorical significance, Williamsburg’s Ailanthus trees linger on.

(The ninth part of an ongoing series in which I attempt to use a word circled in David Foster Wallace’s American Heritage Dictionary appropriately.)

Agrapha

Posted in work by Adrian Arroyo on August 2, 2011

Though the balanced budget amendment was destined for failure in the Senate, such constitutional agrapha had become the lower chamber’s stock in trade.

(The eighth part of an ongoing series in which the writer attempts to use a word circled in David Foster Wallace’s American Heritage Dictionary appropriately.)

Adumbrate

Posted in work by Adrian Arroyo on August 1, 2011

Adumbrated in the press for weeks, the final deal emerged on the eve of default.

(The seventh part of an ongoing series in which the writer attempts to use a word circled in David Foster Wallace’s American Heritage Dictionary appropriately.)